How the HR Consultancy Firm is Embracing its New Downtown Toronto Home
Peninsula Group, a consultancy firm from Manchester, UK, offers human resources, and health and safety advisory services. An alternative solution to an in-house human resources team, Peninsula creates custom-tailored solutions for thousands of small-to-medium businesses (SMEs). In 2017, it opened its doors in Toronto.
Peninsula Group’s decision to open its first North American office specifically in Toronto was strategic: this business is the first of its kind in the GTA market (which has more than 416,000 SMEs (small to medium enterprises) province-wide, the majority of which are located within a two-hour drive from Toronto).
“When we first arrived, we weren’t sure whether the Canadian market was quite ready for our product – but then, we hit our numbers within the first month and we realized, we were here to stay. Hello Toronto winters,” laughs Des Shaw, CEO, Peninsula Group. “And so, in August 2017, we settled in a coworking space, and then started growing immensely, and soon, were taking over three offices in the same building. The sardine-like environment hampered our growth and hindered intraoffice communication, and it was at that time that we hired Scott Conly [of Colliers] to help us find the perfect Toronto home for our growing business.”
As the search began, there was a focus on finding a space in the very centre of Toronto, that would become the hub of Peninsula Group’s Canadian operations. Scott Conly, Sales Representative at Colliers International and the Peninsula team used real estate to implement Peninsula’s strategic business structure: the Peninsula office at 123 Front Street West is an innovative space that maximizes the company’s brand and enhances employee engagement. There is a strong emphasis on productivity, collaboration and creativity: the office has training centres; a vibrant and loud sales hub; and quieter, calmer operations and accounting areas, giving each of the core functions its own, appropriate space where team members can do their best work. The centrally-located, communal dining space serves as an ideal place to meet and enjoy time with colleagues from all sides of the office. And then there is the access aspect: the one-minute walk from the office to Union Station provides Peninsula’s workforce, the majority of whom are under 30 years old, the best commute. Employees can also find a safe haven in the Path that they are directly connected to (The Path is a network of underground pedestrian tunnels, elevated walkways, and at-grade walkways connecting the office towers of Downtown Toronto) during the aforementioned and somewhat feared Toronto winters.
Another crucial aspect of finding the perfect space was the emotional accessibility to clients, many of which are family-run businesses – just like Peninsula Group. “We focus on delivering an elevated customer experience and showing loyalty to our customers, so it was important for us to have an office that is smart and functional – for example, we don’t have a single server on site; it’s a true cloud environment – but one without opulence. It is essential for us to relate to our customers, the majority of which are SMEs working hard to grow their businesses. We want them to see us as an extension of their operations,” says Raj Singh, Vice President of IT with Peninsula Group.
The office at 123 Front Street, situated directly beside Union Station and opposite the iconic Fairmont Royal York Hotel, shows how well the Peninsula team is embracing its new city and the city’s unique culture. Every meeting room and office has a well-known Toronto street name assigned to it, with personal meaning behind each title, like the first streets the executive team lived on upon settling in Toronto.
Now that Peninsula has been in its new space for 6 months, its business is accelerating. Currently, the Toronto office is exceeding Peninsula’s record-setting Australia office in terms of the number of clients reached within the first year: as of the first 12 months, the Toronto operations were already exceeding 1,400 clients. The company’s hands-on customer approach allows it to respond to client needs using the experience and knowledge it has gained from its United Kingdom and Commonwealth operations with regards to building its brand in a new market and supporting its record-setting growth. Peninsula’s real estate choice has aided this effort tremendously.
“Without Colliers, we would have no one to lean on, so to speak. We were totally new to the city and the country and didn’t know much about the real estate environment and regulations here. The experience of Scott [Conly] and the project management team [Colliers Project Leaders] helped turn this $1.5 million project into a big success that continues to grow to this day, and will hopefully become a model for our future Canadian operations,” says Shaw.
Peninsula Group is due to open its second office in Vancouver in April of 2019.