People

Meet Adnan from Johnson Corner.

Introducing the founder behind Johnson Corner.

We recently had the pleasure of getting to know Adnan Belushi, the founder behind Johnson Corner - a sustainable, forward-thinking flexible workspace.

We talk with Adnan about Johnson Corner’s newest space in Highbrook, Auckland, the team that helps drive his business, and his exciting vision for the future.

View Johnson Corner’s Highbrook space below.

 

VIEW SPACE 

 

Adnan Belushi 4

 

What inspired you to create Johnson Corner?

To accelerate the transition towards a sustainable world at work. To be part of a global mission changing the way we work. Our vision is to productise built environments using new design, manufacturing techniques, technology engineering, and consumer-focused experiences to enrich the lives of people and places. 

We see you’ve just opened a new space! What drew you to Highbrook for your first Auckland location?

East Tāmaki District is a manufacturing and distribution hub with 2000 businesses and 45,000 jobs, contributing $3 billion to the New Zealand economy every year. This industry is rapidly transforming with Industry 4.0, requiring new ways of working, adopting new technologies, and developing new human skills. Johnson Corner is well-positioned to enable this industry and District by providing new work environments and enriching the ecosystem. 

The other reason was to partner with Goodman, an iconic New Zealand company, an entrepreneurial and forward-thinking organisation. We wanted to build a flexible workspace facility guided by the Green Property Council’s Green Star Framework. The goal was to make furniture, fitout, consumption, and services sustainable. This has given us invaluable knowledge for building flexible office facilities sustainably. 

I wanted our first landlord partnership in Auckland to set a new standard for how flexible office operators and landlords can work together using creative leases and revenue-share management agreements. Goodman’s global presence and innovative thinking presented this opportunity. We have now established that, and I’m confident that similar partnership models can become the norm between landlords and operators and accelerate our industry with productised office offerings occupying at least 30% of the office stock in New Zealand. 

Lastly, the ‘15-minute city’ trend will likely see life in Auckland split into smaller urban centres, each having its amenities for work, living, socialising and exploring. South Auckland is a growing corridor of Auckland. Our offering is an excellent amenity for everyone living there as they can now commute less to access world-class flexible workspaces. Our space caters for all types and sizes of businesses. I see Highbrook Business Park as the CBD of South Auckland with an excellent business scene and hospitality-focused amenities, hence, an ideal location for us long term. 

Johnson Corner002

 

Johnson Corner005

Johnson Corner Highbrook, Coworking Space.

 

Aside from coworking space, what else do you offer?

The flexible office industry has accelerated rapidly over the last two years with businesses wanting similar solutions for larger teams and with the ability to configure to their needs, and have everything delivered by one vendor. I see coworking as one part of our offering. 

We have expanded our workspace offering to include private offices with shared amenities, private suites with private amenities, and white-label full floors that are configurable. 

Under our Build & Manage solution, we develop custom workspaces for top organisations using in-house design and project delivery teams on shorter lease terms. So businesses can focus on what they do best, instead of hiring an architect, signing and managing the lease, and hiring staff to manage their office and activate their workplace experience. We can deliver this as a productised solution, and customers get to deal with one vendor. 

To further expand our offering, we have recently launched our tenant experience management solution for landlords who want to improve the worklife of tenant users in their commercial buildings. We deploy tenant experience managers and technology to welcome people back safely, provide concierge support for remote workers and everyday users, create engaging content, introduce hospitality-focused amenities, help with meeting and event bookings, deploy our app for digital engagement, turn vacant space into flexible offices or coworking environments, understand tenants better with data insights, and unite tenants with community event programming. This solution is designed to also integrate with the existing property and facilities management services for a commercial building.

We have upgraded our meeting and events offering to cater for new demand from businesses that have adopted remote working. Instead of just renting a meeting or event space, we assist with the production of events. We work with our clients to plan a regular programme of events, help coordinate this programme with all attendees using our tenant experience expertise, organise catering, provide technology, and support staff to deliver events at our facilities. 

It has been a 4-year journey to develop our product architecture and re-brand to reflect product-market fit. Now we are ready to execute our Master Plan of bringing on more landlord partners and delivering an integrated, sophisticated, and dynamic range of solutions to top organisations. 

 

Johnson Corner001

Johnson Corner Highbrook, Kitchen Space.

 

Johnson Corner010

Johnson Corner Highbrook, Private Office Suites.

 

Tell us about your background/experience and how this has helped Johnson Corner’s success.

Johnson Corner’s founding team was crucial in laying down the foundations that will see us scale into a global workspace solution provider and succeed in the long term. It was a family affair with deep connections to Taranaki. That led to settling on a name with meaning. The Johnson family have been in business for over 100 years, and the Corner refers to a special place in Taranaki where we established our first location. The merging of people and place is how the Johnson Corner name came to be. It inspires us to care for people and places. 

Harvey Dunlop, our landlord in New Plymouth, has played a critical role in helping regenerate New Plymouth’s CBD by restoring the iconic White Hart Hotel. His philosophy has been invaluable for our success because regeneration and restoration accelerated the flexible office industry; vacant space is utilised in a creative way to meet new demands. For instance, all Johnson Corner's existing spaces were made vacant by banks closing down branches. With a complex work-from-home culture on the rise, the office faces a new challenge. Harvey's regeneration and restoration wisdom can help us showcase the value of forgotten physical environments and how invaluable they can be for improving human performance, business success, and regenerating our neighbourhoods. 

Elle Belushi developed our design and style standards. We incorporate styles such as; Uniquely New Zealand, luxury, contemporary, and mid-century modern in our designs. We work with New Zealand artists to create exclusive furniture and fit-outs for our spaces. The design aspects also consider the user experience of every space. We have partnered with the Govett-Brewster Foundation to work with the Govett-Brewster Gallery and the Len Lye Centre to promote the intersection between art and business and great design  (a philosophy that helped Apple design great products). There is a lot of ugliness in the world thanks to compliance-based and finance-driven design, and this is something we do not tolerate. We want our cities, neighbourhoods, and spaces designed beautifully in a sustainable and accessible fashion, and Elle’s early guidance has set us up for long term success. Elle has recently embarked on a new journey to become a coach to empower women. Her wisdom in this space continues to inspire us to design inclusive environments. 

My experience is in creating human ecosystems in large organisations to drive change. I have led digital transformation projects and completed my Masters in Business Administration from the University of Reading. I have realised that the physical environment is the most crucial element in any ecosystem. The physical environments and their locations allow us to build complex human networks critical for our survival and progress. My passion is creating a company where talented people make great products and one that lasts a generation or two. 

Do you have any exciting developments happening in the near future?

We are expanding in Auckland with more sites to announce soon. We envisage having a presence in Taranaki, Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, and Christchurch. 

The exciting development for me currently is figuring out our offering in the overseas markets. The workplace is now a destination that must attract people, just like tourist destinations such as New Zealand. Johnson Corner can do that by providing dynamic solutions, authentic user experiences, best-in-class hospitality, great locations that are accessible, and desirable design. When studying our points of difference in a market such as the United States, I realised that the New Zealand work culture, food, hospitality scene, indigenous culture, sustainability culture, premium design, FernMark, and our innovation stories, are unique. If we can integrate all of that into our offering, it will be compelling for landlords who are looking for upcoming operators to partner with and top organisations who are looking for new high-quality workplace providers for their talented employees. So Johnson Corner decided to work with New Zealand Story and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise to explore opportunities in the United States and Dubai (my hometown). The response has been very promising. I can’t wait to see the company expand overseas. In the near future, a by-product of this can be that New Zealand companies can access our environments overseas that have deep local knowledge coupled with New Zealand cultural nuances to test their products and explore new markets. 

Lastly, at Johnson Corner Highbrook, we have launched our new workplace experience framework—Sustainable Worklife. It is designed to help all users and businesses to reach sustainable high performance with wellbeing at the core of it. We can all have a sustainable worklife by being clear on our core purpose, eating healthy food for mental and physical energy production, having sufficient sleep and rest to recuperate, regenerate, and perform sustainably, exercising to avoid physical limitations, understanding our health and learning better everyday habits. Through our community and tenant experience managers, we can distil this philosophy in our customers, enrich their lives and improve their performance. This framework will be the foundation on which we will deliver tenant experiences. I’m excited about this. 

 

Johnson Corner008

Johnson Corner Highbrook, Meeting Space.

 

If you could pick, what three people/brands in the world would you choose to work with?

Elon Musk / Tesla — Taranaki is an environment with 10,000 + engineers and has an energy industry, leading New Zealand’s mission to become carbon neutral. East Tāmaki is a top manufacturing and distribution environment. If I can encourage Tesla to build a presence in New Zealand through Johnson Corner and collaborate with New Zealand’s energy ecosystem, that will be a fun project. As Johnson Corner expands, we will develop a valuable network ecosystem that global companies will find valuable. I’m also excited to see Tesla’s Optimus prototype showcased at Tesla AI Day this September. The early use of Optimus will be to address a shortage of labour in manufacturing. This can be a game-changer, reducing costs and making the affordability of critical products accessible in a future that is exciting and abundant for all. I would love to be involved in creating such a future. 

Max Hodak / Neuralink — In the next 10 years, Neuralink can become the next revolutionary device since the iPhone. Current devices are an extension of ourselves, and we mostly use two fingers to input data into a machine that can do certain tasks for us, which is slow. Also, our brain processes data slowly compared to a machine-powered brain and memory storage is our brain’s weakness. This wearable device can truly create human-machine symbiosis. It will also repair injury-based trauma caused to the brain. It can also increase processing speed and solve memory storage issues, so the collective human intelligence remains closely coupled with the collective machine intelligence. In the future, it may make telepathy a reality. I would love to work on this project. A peaceful future existence where machines are devoted to protecting and advancing humanity. 

Hans Koenigsmann / SpaceX — SpaceX is currently focused on scaling the engine production for Starship to transport 1 million people to Mars and start building a civilization that makes humanity a multi-planetary species, reducing the civilisational risk of humans going extinct. The newly created Johnson Company (parent company of Johnson Corner) is exploring the building and management of diverse built environments such as homes, co-warehousing, giga factories, smart cities, etc. With the expansion of our offering in the next 30-50 years, I would love to be in a position to help make this a reality. 

Can you describe your life outside of work?

Enjoy life with my whānau, tweet sporadically, binge watch TV series, read books, explore art galleries, watch Formula 1, listen to music and podcasts, and walk 10,000 steps a day. I just started learning how to swim; growing up in the middle of sand dunes in the Emirates, navigating the ocean was a lost skill that my forefathers mastered in the Arabian Gulf. I recently joined Masterclass and I’m enjoying learning skills outside of my work domain; I just did a 30-day course learning epic floral arrangements by Maurice Harris — which helps maintain neural plasticity. 

 

Adnan Belushi 2

 

Adnan Belushi and family

Adnan and his whānau.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start up a flexible shared workspace? 

Make sure every detail is well thought through and stitched together beautifully—name, design, business model, workspace solutions, customer experience, the founding team, employees, technology, purpose, brand, location strategy, landlord partners, occupier personas, expansion plans, experience philosophy, sales & marketing, capital raising, etc. 

You’re getting into an industry that is in the early stages of its life cycle, so keep up with navigating rapid changes, instability, and conflicts of interest. Remain focused on performance. Treat every vacant space or desk as evil. 

If you’re setting up your first space, apply ‘First Principles’ thinking by reverse engineering every decision you have to make, reducing the probability of things that can go wrong and increasing the odds of your success. Budget for making many mistakes and correcting them. Knowing how to deal with your ‘not-knowings’ can be a handy skill. And, remember to have fun, life is not always about solving problems.

 

 Johnson Corner006

 

 

Enjoyed this article? Read our People Behind the Space feature with Meredith and James from The Settlement - Wellington.

 Asset_2-80.jpg  Asset_4-80.jpg  Asset_1-80.jpg  Asset_3-80.jpg