UK Coaching: Creating a “Sense of Place”

“We have downsized from 12,000 to 5,000 square feet, but as all the space has been used to the maximum, it works perfectly and almost feels like we have more space.”

With office-based working hanging by a thread for many businesses, why would an organisation invest time and money into brand new offices?

For UK Coaching, the answer was simple: to support and inspire their clients and staff.

UK Coaching’s problem

Our environment has a big impact on the way we feel and behave. When we feel at ease, safe, and energised, we are better thinkers, better communicators, and more connected to the world and the people around us.

UK Coaching is the UK’s leading charitable organisation for sports and physical activity coaches and has been running for over 30 years and employs more than 80 people. They represent, support and inspire coaches to bring great coaching to the lives of millions, building healthier and happier communities in the process.

Although based in Leeds, the organisation works with coaches all over the UK who are improving a person’s experience of sport and physical activity by providing specialised support and guidance aligned to their individual needs and aspirations.

So, when we consider that the team at UK Coaching are responsible for inspiring and nurturing people so that they can inspire others in their communities, surely their working environment should support them in their mission?

Unfortunately, their workplace was anything but inspiring.

“In our old offices, which were old fashioned and gloomy, we were three separate companies operating in three separate areas. This made collaboration difficult. We wanted to be one team so that we could bring all our services for the coach together.”

Neil Ashton, COO UK Coaching

UK Coaching was also facing the challenge of bringing their team back to the office after months of remote working throughout the pandemic, as well as providing a more agile and digital workplace that suited the business today.

“We wanted to create a unique working environment that aided collaboration within the business, and allowed enhanced agile work practices, while also future proofing the space. The project would also allow a change in the culture by creating a smarter and more digital workplace that was a great place to work and a more inclusive environment.

“It was important for us to create a ‘sense of place’ and improve the wellbeing of our team, and a workplace that assists in the attraction and retention of talent and makes us stand out from the competition. We needed to provide flexibility for staff to work individually, collaboratively, and innovatively, but also provide privacy when needed.”

Neil Ashton, COO UK Coaching

Enter RA Real Estate

UK Coaching’s project had three key elements:

  1. To find new premises that would facilitate this adventurous project
  2. A solid brief for the desired fit out
  3. To exit the existing property.

To kick things off, UK Coaching appointed Richard Ashmore of RA Real Estate, a commercial property expert in Leeds and the surrounding areas, who helped them to find new premises and develop a full technical brief and tender document for the fitout.

Next on the to-do list in September 2020 was the tender process, i.e., inviting design and build contractors to submit proposals for the project, and that is when they met the team at Absolute Interiors.

Absolute Interiors

Absolute Interiors, a design and build contractor, can fit out any commercial space but many of their projects involve offices, restaurants, and bars. In the current climate, they are working with businesses throughout the UK helping them to create a positive return to the office for their staff.

“We are there to bring our client’s vision to life and facilitate where they want to take to their business. We pride ourselves on our design choices being grounded in research and statistics, not just on aesthetics. For UK Coaching, one of the big challenges was moving the business from 12,000 square feet spread over 5 levels – which was not suited to collaborative working – to 5,000 square feet of flexible co-working space. It was also vital that we gave them a space that represented the brand, somewhere they could be proud of inviting clients, partners, and even family and friends.”

“Without doubt Absolute were the best to present. Not only had they matched the brief perfectly, but they ran the presentation more as a consultation engaging us from the start. The team all presented, and they all came across as knowledgeable, realistic, yet adventurous in terms of what we could achieve on a relatively small budget. Their imagination knocked us out the park.”

Neil Ashton, COO UK Coaching

Financing the project with Bluestone Leasing

When it comes to paying for an ambitious project like UK Coaching’s, while paying upfront in cash is an option, more and more businesses are choosing to be more creative in their approach. As one of our partner companies, Absolute discussed the lease financing option with UK Coaching during the initial proposal stage.

“We always mention the option to finance with Bluestone Leasing at the beginning of the process so that the client is fully aware of their options and can make the best decision for their current budget and future plans.”

UK Coaching decided to consolidate the costs and spread the payments over time via a finance lease.

In the midst of a pandemic, the option to finance over a number of years was preferable as it enabled us to release cashflow and therefore provide more support to more coaches during this difficult time.”

Neil Ashton, COO UK Coaching

Absolute Interiors introduced UK Coaching to Patrick Iyoyin at Bluestone Leasing who was able to arrange a finance deal that enabled UK Coaching to get the workspace they needed while still retaining their cash so they could continue to support to coaches in the UK.

“Our aim throughout was to tailor a bespoke finance solution around the specific needs and requirements of UK Coaching. This meant we utilised a banking facility that was flexible to allow for various fitout and furniture assets, but also IT equipment for their digital upgrade.”

Patrick Iyoyin, Regional Account Manager, Bluestone Leasing

“Bluestone Leasing’s service was good and the commercial rates were competitive, and we would use them to finance further assets in the future.”

Neil Ashton, COO UK Coaching

UK Coaching’s new offices and the future

The project was finished in March 2021, and while COVID restrictions delayed the team’s ability to make full use of their new space, the results have certainly been worth the wait. The organisation now has an innovative, unique, and agile working environment that includes:

  • A central break out space
  • Amphitheatre for pitching to an audience/presentations
  • Social areas for breaks and evening entertainment
  • Sound barriers above desks for staff who spend a lot of time on the phone
  • More private ‘snugs’ for project work or collaboration.

“What Absolute have achieved with the budget is amazing, the added value, the trimmings and the extra details are incredible. We really enjoy the space which is near the city centre amenities and transport links. It is conducive to collaborative work in a digitally minded world, but possibly the most significant achievement made possible by the fit out has been giving people a sense of hope and optimism after an isolating period.

“Just like our new offices, UK Coaching’s future is bright and dynamic. To all intents and purposes, we are a new and dynamic organisation, here for the coach. We will represent coaches as a collective, support their learning and development to inspire their participants and communities to be active.”

Mark Gannon, CEO UK Coaching

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