The rise of coworking conglomerates with large investors has made it difficult to compete with marked down prices and pricey amenities. Small, independent coworking brands like Brooklyn Creative League (BCL) have to find a way to succeed in a competitive market with big pockets. Their blog post, “Culture and Community: How Independent Coworking Can Beat Corporate Competition” by Neil F. Carlson shares their story on making it in a cutthroat market by finding their niche and creating a community that can’t be replicated.
In order to compete, BCL decided that they would have to develop their niche to offer a unique and personal experience, something that their members appreciated over say a foosball table. In our 2017 Financial Study report, we saw that 12% of respondents reported being a niche space and we imagine that number is rising. Members are finding more long-term value in a community that values, trust, goodwill, and mutual benefit, rather than saving a bit on a promotional sign-up cost. When interviewing their members Carlson said,
When we surveyed our members about why they chose BCL over the competition, they pointed to two things: customer service and community...As an owner, it also reinforced our idea that great service IS an amenity, one that a smaller operator like us could get an advantage.
How can you create a culture?
These sparkling communities seem like an idyllic utopia that is difficult to achieve, but there are many ways to create a culture that reflects your member’s values. At BCL they made it easy for their members to understand their underlying values:
A few years ago, Erin and I realized that we needed to imbue our employees with our unique culture and community, so we created the BCL Business Perspective, a simple one-page distillation of how we do business. Our vision determines our overall direction, but the business perspective shapes how we approach the day to day work — balancing principles, people, systems, and culture to achieve great results.
By instilling a foundational sense of community values it makes it easy to build upon that and continue cultivating the culture. Being clear on the community guidelines has shown a huge impact on their community. Here is what they said about their conflict guidelines:
We also give members the tools they need in order to be good neighbors. Earlier this year, for instance, we rolled out our “conflict guidelines,” a document that outlined how we expect members to deal with the disagreements and conflicts that inevitably arise in any community.
This unique perspective on community and culture drives home the importance of niche workspaces such as the Brooklyn Creative League. Take a look at your space, your members, your community and find what makes you special and how to develop that.