REDLANDS Business Centre is the jewel in the crown of the property business that Abdul Khayum has built up with his brother, Dr Amir Afzal.
Tapton House Road-based Redlands has overcome the malaise that has afflicted many rivals during the recession.
While some centres have been less than 50 per cent occupied, Redlands was fully occupied throughout 2009 and has never been less than 80 per cent full in the five years since Mr Khayum and his brother shifted their focus from residential to commercial property and took on their biggest venture yet.
Abdul Khayum puts much of the success down to Redlands’ location in a quiet residential area and the character of the Victorian building which has served as a private house, a prestigious hotel and British Steel offices before becoming a business centre in the 1980s.
“It’s not huge, so it’s very homely and has a friendly atmosphere,” says Abdul Khayum
“The other thing is we operate very flexible terms. We don’t tie people in to long term leases and that suits a lot of people, particularly if they are starting up a business and they don’t know how things are going to pan out.
“They may have started the business in their home, but now they need separate offices. The other tenants are fairly long-term tenants.
“We have at least four who have been here for 15 years and don’t desire to move on. All the current long term tenants have expanded their businesses in the centre, taking additional offices, and we have one computer business that has been in every single office in the building.”
Although Abdul Khayum and his brother have improved the premises since they acquired it and make a point of upgrading facilities whenever a unit becomes vacant, they have steered clear of installing shared communications technology.
“We have left the technology to the tenants themselves. We let people develop technologies to their own level,” says Abdul Khayum.
“Some want a laptop and basic facilities and we have two or three tenants that work in IT, who install their own servers and develop their own technology to the levels they require.
“If we started installing telephone answering systems and IT facilities, we would have to charge for it, whether people want to use it or not. Why rock the boat when it’s going very well? This way people pay for what they want and we are able to keep the rents low because we allow them to develop their own technology.”
Abdul Khayum reckons that his being on site also helps.
“I am here, our tenants know that and we have a very good rapport. If a decision needs making, it doesn’t have to go through a middle man. They know they are talking to the person who owns the building, and that helps,” he says.
Tenants couldn’t agree more. “Abdul is very, very good to do business with,” says Ian Hemingway, the former head of defamation at Irwin Mitchell who runs Hemingways Solicitors, the specialists in commercial litigation who focus on disputes involving company directors and shareholders and are based at Redlands.
“He’s very straight forward and pragmatic in the way he deals with issues and very accessible.”