9 Things New Owners Need to Know to Grow a Successful Coworking Business

9 Things New Owners Need to Know to Grow a Successful Coworking Business

There’s a sense of pride that comes along with starting your own business–but that pride can quickly be shoved aside by a sense of anxiety and fear. When you’ve heard the statistics about how many small businesses fail, see the to-do lists for starting up a coworking space, or listen to one too many colleagues talk about a stressful startup experience, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by the seemingly constant barrage of demands.

Michael Everts recently joined coworking software company OfficeRnD as it US Regional Manager. Prior to working with OfficeRnD, Michael served as co-founder of Sharedspace. Throughout his time in both the coworking industry and his previous work in collaborative space design, he’s been able to see a lot of shared spaces start up. While he admitted the process of growing a successful coworking business takes a lot of work, he offered a valuable perspective on why it doesn’t have to be anxiety-inducing or overwhelming.

Here are Michael’s top nine insights for new operators trying to navigate the hectic, demanding season of startup for their spaces.

Set Realistic Expectations

The coworking industry is a service industry. It’s like being a restaurant manager: you’re expected to be there before members arrive and can plan to be there the entire day. You’re always on call. If someone is locked out, you have to go and let them in. You’re always expected to drop whatever you’re doing and take care of the space. The flexibility is great, though. Once you build out a team and staff you do have some flexibility in when and how you work. That comes with the territory.”

Know that you’re in the hospitality business

“More than anything else, it’s a hospitality business. People will try to tell you that you’re in real estate, but you’re not in real estate, you’re there to sell a branded experience: how you make people feel, the music you have. The hospitality environment is ultimately the business you’re in. Coworking is 70% hospitality, 20% technology, and 10% real estate. That might change for some of the larger shops because they got the system down but for boutique shops, you’re always going to be thinking, “how can I differentiate? How can I be special?” It’s important that you focus on pleasing the customer. The hospitality approach is the key differentiator for some spaces.”

Printing can be difficult

“It’s a topic that comes up a lot. If you put a lot of money into it, it can be done well. My advice is to reach out to an expert and let them manage printing. The best recommendation for members who print a lot and have private offices is to purchase their own printer because they can self-service it and it’s more reliable than the big company printer.”

Stable and consistent internet is a top priority

“The 3 most important items are the internet, a good coffee machine with good coffee, and power. Internet is the lifeblood of a coworking space, and it is very important to have stable and secure internet. People worry less about speed and more about stability.”

Event programming is just plain hard

“Rounding up groups of people that might have nothing in common and finding compelling content where they aren’t getting sold to is tough. When it comes to creating events, less is more. More important than frequent programming is having relevant content and speakers.”

Meetups and gatherings help build community

“Consistent meetups and gatherings work wonders for building community. The more your members like the people they meet and start to care about, the more they like your space.  Any type of weekly activity is important to build camaraderie among people who work together.”

Provide different work environments

“If your space is just one room it might work with some people. People work in different ways. Depending on what they do – whether writing a proposal or on a sales call, they need a variety of environments to do work. Give them the place they need to do the work they are doing. If you don’t have the place they need, they will go somewhere else.  Any business needs conference rooms. If you don’t provide that, you will lose people. You gotta think about the variety of work environments people like working in if you want to be successful.”

Invest in a coworking software management system

“A good coworking software management system is the backbone of your coworking space. It allows you to do less things manually. It allows your members to have a member portal to sign in, book rooms, and contact you. Having this is extremely important.”

Start a digital community

“A digital community is just as important as a physical one. Make sure your members have a place to connect on the internet once they are not in the space anymore. Slack is a great tool to connect community members digitally and allow them to chat when they are not in the space.”

While nine things to remember might still feel like a lot, it’s also important to remember that starting a coworking space isn’t something you have to do alone. Networking with local colleagues in the industry or with the broader coworking community through associations like the GWA can help give you the support network you need to be able to curate a supportive, vibrant community in your space.

As you continue to create your startup plan, check back in on your own progress, and fine-tune your approach, be sure to follow the GWA blog for more resources, and consider joining as a member for even more tools and networking opportunities as you develop your space.

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