Having a strong community is the foundation of every successful coworking space. Regardless of the size of the town or city, people have an intrinsic need for each other. Space is an artifact of that need, but that changes how you need to tap into those people.
Before opening a coworking space, focus on finding 10 people who want it. More importantly, find 10 people who want to be around each other, but don’t have a good way to do it. Find 10 people who have a common goal that’s bigger than the coworking space. This is a small but attainable goal for the foundation of a community.
Indy Hall’s been at this for 6+ years and it took us almost an entire year to build up the community we needed to open, and that was in a large metro. So you also need some patience.
The thing you have now that we didn’t have 6 years ago is that coworking has some traction as a word and a concept. But it’s up to you to show that it’s worth more than just “sharing desks”.
Watching carefully across the international coworking scene, the common death-knells are just that common. Coworking spaces start without communities and then they have to go “shopping while hungry”
Another other common problem is a lack of differentiation. Creating a shared space without a common goal means that there’s no identity, which means that there’s no way to know if I should be there or not. There’s no context for connections & relationships. If there is a reason to walk in the door, there’s not much of a reason to stay.
One more common kill-shot in coworking spaces is that the founder spends more time doing things for their members than helping members do things for themselves. This leads to exhaustion and resentment regardless of how the community grows. If they don’t grow, they feel like their effort is wasted. If they do grow, they feel like they need to be responsible for everything.
Finally, have a sustinable business model. Breaking even isn’t enough. You don’t need to get greedy but you do need to have money to reinvest. The best coworking spaces have a model that allows for financial growth and reinvestment. Further, the model depends on the community’s success. If the community is healthy, so is the business. That way, you can focus on the community knowing that if you get that right, the business will grow as well. This helps you avoid common pitfalls like “maximizing for profit” because the easiest way to do that is to “maximize for the community” knowing that profit can come along for the ride.
So community – and the related changes in how you approach leadership – are far more important than most of the “tactical” elements because, without a community, there’s nobody for you to be tactical for.
There are at least 5 things that you should consider when looking for co-working and shared office spaces. These are as follows:
A coworking community does not become successful because of some standard set of attributes it provides but rather because of those non-standard attributes it provides which can make it unique and cause it to thrive. The concept of creating the community first – before opening the coworking facility – lends itself to that uniqueness which draws others into a community they will enjoy being around. For many, the uniqueness of the people doing business there is what is most attractive. And in that case, no two coworking communities are exactly alike.