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Ohana and innovation in a virtual world

Ohana and innovation in a virtual world

Flexible workspace provider Office Evolution stands ready to inspire the dreamers, risk-takers and doers to succeed with a family of franchisees committed to the communities they serve, says Andrea Pirrotti-Dranchak, Chief Marketing and Development Officer.

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Thanks to lockdowns, a global workforce pivoted to virtual working roughly one year ago and the great work from home (WFH) experiment for millions began.

As we embarked on this new journey, sitting in what we affectionately call our ‘Zoom Bubbles’ and making every effort to connect and instill a sense of normalcy over the geographic divide, we quickly learned that inherent in a ‘bubble’ is a fine layer that separates.

Focus shifted both from a human and business standpoint. At the onset of the pandemic, the initial objective was indeed survival, but at the same time we never lost sight of the need for innovation. Innovating to support our team members, our franchisees and their members to provide a sense of ‘usual’ in a rather unusual time.

And while the greatest segment of our effort was aimed at providing immediate help and support, we also kept a keen eye on the future.

What we learned during this time is that the power of our culture, which is based on the principles of Ohana (Hawaiian for family), has been our connecting force that breaks down the separations inherent in a bubble, allowing us to drive innovation.


Studies by McKinsey, Deloitte and SHRM all confirm that culture matters. In fact, organizations rooted in a powerful culture outperform those who don’t make it a priority.

The way in which we engage, formulate decisions and represent is rooted in Ohana. It is this culture that guides us to deliver on our promise to our franchisees, team members and partners. Ohana is a culture that fosters collaboration, creativity and innovation. A pandemic could not stop this; rather, the pandemic enhanced the power of it.

Four pillars make up our Ohana: respect, authenticity, ownership and a belief that every win benefits us all. Now more than ever, our culture matters.

We have drawn upon the power of our culture to bridge the distance between team members, as our inability to meet face-to-face has been impacted. Like all businesses, we’ve heavily relied on technology. The pandemic disruption wasn’t a setback because we have a foundation in place that keeps us connected and grounded in our goals, even when we are apart.

A recent workplace analysis revealed that more inclusive companies were 1.7 times more likely to be innovative leaders in their field. The business impact of inclusivity in higher-performing companies will quickly separate them from the competition.

Earsa Jackson, Chair of the Diversity Institute of the International Franchise Association, reinforced the importance of inclusion and innovation.

“Many of your customers and clients will advance the discussion even if you don’t, so get ahead of the curve,” said Jackson.

“In my role as chair of the Diversity Institute of the International Franchise Association, I am privileged to talk to many companies in the franchise industry. I am pleased to report that I have seen overwhelming interest from companies exploring how to improve diversity, equity and inclusion.”

At Office Evolution, our development, real estate, construction and brand team is a mix of ages, geographic locations and professional backgrounds. It’s this blend of individuals that keeps Office Evolution’s ideas fresh. This way of thinking internally is resonating with our external audiences of potential franchisees, who are impressed with the company’s level of commitment and support.


Given the uncertain times we are living in, it is important leaders at every level consciously commit to nurturing inclusive behaviors and the need to evaluate how technology can support these goals.

As Jackson expertly notes, technology is the medium that will foster innovation.

“Technology takes away the excuse that it is too expensive to invite a younger, diverse colleague to a meeting,” said Jackson. “In seconds, you can invite someone to a meeting. You have your team front and center like the Brady Bunch. This is a good time to assess what skill sets and perspectives might be missing from your team.”


What I’ve learned from the work from home experiment is that it doesn’t work all of the time.

Think of where you do your best work. I would argue that people want the option to work from home some of the time; most do not want to do it all the time. It can be isolating or downright chaotic - especially if you have kids, a spouse or pets at home.

At the onset of the pandemic, workplace experts touted flexibility would be essential for businesses as the eventual return to the office begins. As part of their strategy to bring workers back to an ‘office’, employers are considering a variety of options, including offering staff the ability to have a workspace outside of the home, but without a lengthy commute to the head office.

Employers are re-imagining the future of work, innovating in real-time and looking for partners who share in their quest to provide some stability during tremendous uncertainty. Coworking is uniquely positioned to fill this need.

Office Evolution is the nation’s largest provider of locally owned and operated flexible workspace locations close to home that are safe and affordable.

We’ve been franchising since 2013 and our network of on-demand locations provides a mix of private offices, conference rooms and community spaces to accommodate the rise in solopreneurs, small business ownership and corporate America’s shifting work habits.

Based in Colorado, we currently have more than 70 suburban locations open across 26 states. We have been consistently recognized by Entrepreneur Magazine and have remained on the Franchise 500 best of the best list for five consecutive years - having leapt from 267 to 126 in 2020.

Deemed an essential service, Office Evolution’s development, real estate, construction and marketing team locked arms virtually to overcome challenges and leaned into our Ohana - and are looking forward to the next phase of the business.

Emily Larson, Chief of Staff at Office Evolution, has been with the company for over a decade and has been instrumental in driving innovation by implementing the Entrepreneurial Operating System®.

“It’s important for us to create synergy within the organization and the EOS system has helped us collectively stay on track,” said Larson.

“We actively elevate our team members, empowering them to take ownership and be accountable. When we all embrace our vision, we can effectively execute across the board and succeed as a team.”

We find ourselves at the intersection of innovation, expansion and rising demand. I love talking to savvy entrepreneurs who realize the potential of our coworking franchise model as small to medium-sized businesses around the country reevaluate their real estate needs. Our brand’s model fills a niche for suburban-based workers looking for a professional environment minutes from where they live.

Bucking the trend of coworking operators who closed locations and struggled last year, Office Evolution’s growth is directly tied to our core values, which allow for everyone to have a seat at the table and for every voice to be heard.

Office Evolution’s innovative franchising model is paving the way for new entrepreneurs to start their own coworking locations.


Office Evolution has a pipeline of 140 franchise locations sold and in various stages of development.

This opportunity is perfect for the seasoned franchisee looking to diversify his or her portfolio or for the serial entrepreneur looking to start another business. This is a franchise opportunity that easily fits into an entrepreneur’s lifestyle. The coworking location operates during normal business hours, with only one employee, enabling our franchisees to achieve work-life balance.

The simple, single-employee business runs with 93% recurring income. As a business-to-business service, franchisees are working with professional clients just like themselves. In addition, franchisees never need to worry about food, expiring inventory or cash. Franchisees also receive back office, lead generation, call center and billing support.

Office Evolution franchisees have the incredible opportunity to build long-term wealth while operating other businesses, owning other franchises and, in many cases, keeping a corporate career.

Karen and George Fisher, Office Evolution franchise owners out of Woodbridge, NJ, have solid business backgrounds and are true assets to their members. When looking for an opportunity that would fit their lifestyle, Office Evolution became an obvious choice.

“OE fit the bill, with its focus on Ohana and its commitment to building connection between members and helping them achieve their dreams of success,” said Karen. “Our members often compliment us on the warm and inviting environment we have created.”


The learnings and ideas curated during brainstorm sessions benefit Office Evolution’s franchisees.

My team and I connect and draw from our franchisees for ideas, inspiration and, indeed, a reality check. These franchisees come from a variety of industries and are at different career stages.

Franchisees are often part of brainstorming sessions, as they are on the front lines of the coworking movement in their communities. Their experiences and perspectives are welcomed and spark additional ideas for the marketing and development team.

Martin Gruszka opened his first Office Evolution location in March 2019 in Herndon, VA and is thrilled with his decision to become a franchisee.

“As I looked and researched different franchises, Office Evolution presented a perfect opportunity to take the next steps in my career,” said Martin.

“Office Evolution is a great company with top management, fantastic resources and a solid support structure. It allowed me to engage my creativity once again - first to build a center, then grow it and finally to support its members.”

Business owners can also reap the rewards that come with owning multiple Office Evolution locations in an industry primed for robust growth.

By 2030, shared office space will make up nearly 30 per cent of commercial real estate, according to a report by JLL, the real estate services firm that also projects flexible workspace to soar in a revived post-pandemic market.

Office Evolution stands ready to inspire the dreamers, risk-takers and doers to succeed with a family of franchisees committed to the communities they serve.


Mark Hemmeter, Founder and CEO of Office Evolution, often says: “The office market is way overdue for a transformation in order to keep pace with the changing nature of work.

“For anyone interested in a business with growth potential, the opportunity is here for the taking.”

*This article is not intended as an offer of a franchise, as franchises are only offered pursuant to Office Evolution’s Franchise Disclosure Document.

Image: Office Evolution’s Marketing, Development and RECON team: Andrea Pirrotti-Dranchak (center), Jeff Hensiek, Tamara Atkin, John Lijoi and Emily Larson.


Established: 2003

Number of franchised outlets: 140 locations awarded; 73-plus open

Location of units: US

Investment range: $374,000-$1.6 million

Minimum required capital: $500,000 liquid capital; $1 million net worth


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