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Coworking Location Lessons I Learned So You Don’t Have To 

The first thing people did when they stepped into “The Barn” was let their eyes drift up to explore the beauty in the intricate woodworking and architecture above them. Catwalk-like pathways, raised 20 feet into the air, spread out over the second level of the building connecting 5 different sections underneath a peeked wooden roof. 

The view in front of them didn’t disappoint either. A stone fireplace, sliding glass doors looking out onto a beautiful courtyard, and a variety of paintings from local artists. Hygge.

In hindsight, what I probably should have done was start a business just charging for tours. 

Explorations of the grounds led to the barn of every rustic wedding couples’ dreams, complete with stained glass saved from a church in Detroit and rows of antique pews. The old dairy stalls led out to a picturesque few from the back of the grounds and a little further down tthe long abandoned interior of the grain silos almost always prompted people to take out their phone for a photo.

The space sold itself, both in pictures and in person. I just had to get out of the way and let people imagine themselves there.

The problems arose after people paid to join.

First, the location lacked the amenities people crave throughout the day. And by amenities I mean: coffee shop, sandwich shop, and bar. People want and need to take breaks throughout the day, and even though we always offer free coffee (and there are usually some free drinks around somewhere) people still like to stand up, get out, and stretch their legs. 

Sure, it was only about a 5 minute drive to the nearest coffee shop. But once people get in their car and drive 5 minutes closer to home, suddenly home sounds better than work and they don’t return. 

After a few times of only spending a couple hours in their paid for work space, we would hear from people that they just weren’t productive or weren’t spending enough time utilizing the space and they would quit their membership.

This is why we are very strategic in picking locations that are within a very easy walking distance to everything a member needs throughout the day including the above mentioned beverages and snacks as well as green space or similarly pleasant areas to take a break and walk.

The second problem was that the architecturally fascinating layout and dizzying maze of catwalks looked amazing in photos but didn’t lend themselves to a space that allowed and encouraged people to work in a collaborative environment. 

Even simple things like passing by someone on the narrow walkways became awkward and difficult. Voices carried oddly and at great lengths. And more than a couple people started to realize they didn’t love heights.

I’ve seen this problem present itself in a number of manifestations in other spaces and the fact remains that just because something looks incredible in an Instagram photo doesn’t mean it functions incredibly on a day to day basis.

Lastly, at over 20,000 square feet of usable space, even filled with over a dozen people, the space felt empty.  

People don’t join a coworking space to work in isolation. They can very easily work in isolation at home in their basement, garage or any number of places that don’t charge them to be there. 

People join a coworking space to be around other people. People who share an aligned vision for how to conduct themselves in the space, who share similar ideas of how quiet is too quiet and how loud is too loud, and what amount of dust is the appropriate amount to have in a corner. 

I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth mentioning again today (and likely many more times into the future): not understanding the relationship between your physical space and your ideal members is one of the most expensive mistakes you can make in launching a coworking space. 

Whether you are a Chamber of Commerce, a DDA, a Main Street Manager, an entrepreneur or anyone else thinking about launching a coworking space, I implore you to take the time to think about all aspects of a space before you commit: the geographic location, the layout, the ease of updating, the size, the branding, etc, etc. and who you want your members to be.

If you or anyone you know, is thinking about turning an old barn, a granary, a warehouse or any other interesting building into a coworking space - or just thinking about a coworking space in general - please don’t hesitate to schedule a free, no obligation discovery call, we are here and happy to help!


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