We had the good fortune of connecting with Flip Howard and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Flip, what is the most important factor behind your success?
That’s easy – it’s all about the people on the team, It sounds cliche, but attracting, empowering, and retaining the best people trumps everything else. I’d rather have ten great people than 30 pretty good ones. I truly believe that if my current business disappeared tomorrow, but you gave me my top handful of people, we could go into any line of business and find a way to be successful.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
WorkSuites provides private, productive, professional offices to entrepreneurs, startups and remote workers. We are more contemporary than a Regus, but more professional than a WeWork. I love what we do because I truly believe that there is underappreciated truth in our slogan: “Work is Good – where you do it matters.” I think that people are happier and more actualized when work is seen not as a necessary evil, but as an integral part of what makes us human and separates us from other animals. I also think that your physical environment really matters. As an analogy, think about the mindset difference between sipping a cold beer by the pool at a resort in Fiji, vs. doing the same thing at a roadside motel on I-45. I think the main thing that we have done better than our competitors is that we pivot when the market calls for it, and we are constantly trying to objectively look at ourselves and ask how we can improve while staying consistent with our core strengths. I started in this business in 2001 with one location at Central Expressway and Mockingbird. Back then, most clients came to us for secretarial services and photocopying. Then, we transitioned to a time when clients primarily needed an office for the T-1 internet lines, fax machines, and business phone systems. In the last decade. the rise of coworking has made community, energy and “vibe” the main differentiators between brands. I think running a business is like riding a bicycle on a hill – either you are moving forward or you are rolling backwards.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I like to focus on things that we do better than other places. I’m a greasy burger guy, so I would make sure they got to experience at least 3-4 of the best burger spots in town: Wingfileds, Maple & Motor, Angry Dog, Adairs, Snuffers, Midway Point, Kincaids, etc. Mexican is the next obvious choice. A night at Joe T’s in Ft. Worth is always memorable. Hugo’s Invitados in Las Colinas has the best Mexican dishes in town. And I love lunch tacos at La Ventana. For BBQ, even though other spots in the country do better pork, Texas brisket is hard to beat. Hard Eight in Coppell is my favorite, but Pecan Lodge in Deep Ellum allows for a fun walk-around before or after. And I have confirmed this with many business travelers – steakhouses in Texas are just a little bit better than those in Chicago, New York or anywhere else, so a visitor needs to go to Bob’s or Pappas Bros. And if someone had a full week, I would want to show them that Dallas can do more than just beef and Mexican, so I would mix in a few low-brow ethnic favorites: Mr Max Japanese in Irving, Hanabi Ramen or Hon Sushi in Carrollton, I’d end with Bowen house or Parliament for cocktails.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Yes – Paige and Nathan Watkins. The most valuable lesson I have learned is that I don’t always know the best way to do everything, and that was taught to me 20 years ago when Paige was an employee who was much younger than I. She ended up buying that company from me and running it with her husband Nathan much more successfully than I had. I try to think about that often when I am tempted to rely too much on my own ideas.