Colin Shenton, CEO of quirky workspace, Ziferblat came into the huddled office to tell us why Manchester is such a versatile place to live and work and what makes his business stand out from the rest.


Colin Shenton – Ziferblat Transcript

What’s your name, position and where do you work?

My name’s Colin Shenton the CEO of Ziferblat UK and Ireland.

Describe your business in one sentence.

Ziferblat is a unique, pay-per-minute space where everything is free except for the time that you spend.

What separates you from the competition?

Predominantly, it’s our business model which is pay-per-minute so people come to our Ziferblat spaces for events, for networking, co-working, meetings, hanging out with their friends. Everything in there, unlike a coffee shop, where you buy individual items, everything in there is free you just pay for the time that you’ll spend and that’s unique in the UK

What have been the highlights of your company so far?

Easily the best experience has been customer feedback. Facebook, Twitter, even places like LinkedIn have given us consistently positive feedback. It’s all about customer retention, customer experience and we’re rated in the top 30 of the 1800 venues in Manchester at the moment on TripAdvisor and our customers vote with their feet and all their feet are stampeding towards Ziferblat.

What qualities are needed to succeed in your industry?

I think in this industry to succeed you need the same qualities as in any industry, you need dogged determination, persistence, the ability to shake off failures and just to get up in the morning and enjoy what you’re doing.

Why do new businesses choose Manchester?

Quality of life. London has all kinds of advantages but Manchester is the place where you can live, work, play, rest and have a good time all within the same day. It’s easy to get around, the public transport is world class. It’s a fairly compact city centre where you can go to work, go to the cinema, go to a bar, go to a club all within walking distance. The quality of life is perfect in Manchester.

Who are some local companies you would recommend?

There are three which come to mind immediately. One is 92 Degrees which is a North West coffee roaster. We have a great working relationship with them, they’re highly recommended. Secondly, which might be an unusual recommendation, is our lawyer. It’s a national firm called DLA Piper and they have enabled us to avoid all kinds of pitfalls in legal contracts over the years and they’ve definitely earned their fees. And the last one is a little-known company based in Carrington called KB Engineering and they are our fit-out specialists and it’s thanks to them that we’re able to achieve the unique look that each Ziferblat has.

Who do you think are the most influential people in the local business scene?

Top of the list has to be Sir Howard Bernstein. He’s involved not just in real estate and town planning but in bringing Manchester towards achieving its long-held goal of being a 24-hour city and so he’s influential in sports and business and infrastructure and so on and so on. The next person I would probably choose is Mike Ingall who’s the CEO of Allied London. He’s delivered Spinningfields, is about to deliver the St John’s Quarter and also has taken on responsibility for building the London Road Fire Station development. All of these are key pieces of the jigsaw that Manchester’s needed to have filled in to an international standard for a very long time.

Do you have any advice for new businesses in Manchester?

Yes, one piece of advice: just go and do it. It’s too easy to persuade yourself that there are risks and dilemmas and putting up barriers so think carefully about what it is you want to do. Don’t take any unnecessary risks but the best way to learn is just to get on with it.

What’s the main benefit of working in Manchester?

I think it’s the same answer as the earlier question about why people enjoy working here as it’s quality of life. People here are able to not just have a working day and then go home and have a completely separate life but everything here interconnects. So this is one of the reasons why co-working is a growing trend. The lines between working, playing and living at home are being blurred and so as city living grows and people work in a more relaxed, remote kind of a way, they can work from coffee shops or offices or from home and these things become a way of life. And overall the balance between work and life is good in Manchester and I think that’s one of the reasons why we see people leaving London and coming north to Manchester as the BBC have done and making a huge success of it.

Where are your favourite places to eat and drink in Manchester?

Now I’m probably really fickle about this kind of thing so at the moment, the favourite place to eat is El Gato Negro on King Street. I think it’s great to see that street being revitalised and El Gato Negro is absolutely the forefront of that with the quality of what they’re doing and their great staff. And my favourite place to drink is probably Harvey Nichols Cocktail Bar. One time a friend of mine and I worked our way through the cocktail list – all eighteen of them – one after the other and from what I remember it was a really good night!  

Have you got any final words?

One thing I’d like to say is what a joy it’s been to put together and grow the Ziferblat business because it absolutely reflects the way in which people are changing the way they’re using physical spaces. So Ziferblat comes together for meetings, events co-working, hanging out with your friends, drinking coffee, stopping for a fag, whatever it is that you want to do during the day, you can do it in that space. It’s shared, it’s communal, the barriers are down, its big brother without the cameras and it’s been an absolute joy to be able to lead that business.

Thank you for watching I’m Colin Shenton from Ziferblat and this was huddled.

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