Truth be told, I worried a little about writing an article like this. I really don't like to frame things negatively and I'm not a "do this, don't do that" kind of guy.
But. I'm also not a waste time and money kind of guy.
So we are pushing through the uncomfort and diving into the top 3 mistakes I see community leaders making when launching their coworking spaces in hopes that you can avoid the same pitfalls.
#1: Don't Commit to a Location Too Early
I recently left a town just a little outside of Flint, Michigan. I was invited by a group of amazing and involved local business owners who had the idea of coming together to launch a coworking space to help revitalize their downtown.
Motivated by a contagious excitement about the project, the group had already secured a building and furnishings and then....they called me.
A location has to make sense in more ways than one. Financially it has to make sense. But also, location, aesthetic, layout, and it has to makes sense for the type of coworking member you want to attract.
This location made sense financially. And, to be fair, it made some logical sense to the group of business owners - none of whom have ever been or planned ot be members of the space. But it was not attactive to the people they were hoping to attract to the coworking space.
I should say, I do believe that most locations can work - but not every location can work for any type of coworking member.
This group was hoping to provide a community resource to young, creative professionals - many of whom might be spouses of the manufacturing and industrial employees the area primarily attracts and ultimately, this space was never going to be that.
In the end, as a part of my services, I worked with the group to design an alternative use for the space. We are still on the hunt for the perfect coworking space and now, armed with a deeper understanding of what their future members are looking for, I'm confident that the next time they make an offer on a building it will be the right one.
Fortunately for this client, financing was not a large hurdle. But not many of the groups I work with can afford to purchase the wrong building.
It's incredibly important to take the time to understand your desired outcomes, your desired end users, and some basics of boutique coworking spaces before committing to a location.
#2: Don't Hire an Architect to Design a Coworking Space
To all the architects I know, sorry not sorry. I'm not a believer in absolutes, there are probably some incredible architects who design amazing boutique coworking spaces.... I've just not come across one yet.
In fact, I've worked on mutiple projects that hired an architect to be the primary designer of the coworking space and at this point none of them have gone with the archictect's layout. Thousands of dollars of unused work and mutually feelings of frustration.
The issues I've seen have fallen into two primary categories: an attempt to maximize the most "efficient" use of the square footage without taking into account the intricacies of the coworking model and/or recreating a WeWork or Regus design in a boutique, small town space which ends up feeling flat and inauthentic.
I've written articles before about the thought processes that go into our design. It's not all overtly intuitive at first. There is a lot of strategic thought that goes into how to layout a space, which needs to take into account who your ideal member is, how you are structuring your pricing and membership offers, and all of the revenue streams you want to capitalize on in the space.
In my experience, the architect's services are best harnessed after the details of the coworking space have been thoroughly researched and there is already a plan for how to best utilize the space. Let the architect use their expertise and knowlege to help bring your vision to life - don't rely on them to tell you what your vision should be.
#3: Don't Try To Cater To Everyone
It may seem counter-intuitive, but you don't want everyone to see themselves thriving in your space. This is in terms of location, aesthetic and layout, and branding but also in terms of pricing, membership offerings and amenities.
One of the first things you need to think about when thinking about launching a coworking space is what is your end goal and what members do you need to accomplish that?
Are you trying to build a community resource for people who are already in your town? Are you trying to create a space that will put your town on the map for travelling professionals? Do you want to attract technologically savvy entrepreneurs or more artist and creative professionals? Are you catering to seasonal tourists or year round residents?
We also need to think about the marketing strategy and capacity to execute - are you relying on organic google searchs? If so, naming and branding needs to be transparent and informative. Are you planning on utilizing events based marketing? Better make sure that the communal space is easily transformed to accomodate groups and there is a plan for places for members to work during events. Want to focus on social media marketing? Visuals are key and you'll need to ensure your space has plenty of "instagrammable moments".
It's intimidating to be launching a new venture and embracing elements that you know will turn off potential customers. But for a small town, boutique coworking space to survive and thrive it needs to establish a meaningful connection with it's members and that can't be done without determining who those ideal members are and what they are looking for in a coworking space.
I genuinely believe that pushing pause on your project to consider these three points has the potential to save your team tens of thousands of dollars and critical time.
Purchasing and locking up the wrong location is not only a costly mistake, but could easily tank the whole project. Inappropriately relying on an architect (or for that matter any professional service) can cost thousands of dollars and result in delays and/or a poorly designed work space. And establishing a space without establishing a niche that make sense for your town and your team can lead to stagnation and frustration.
If you are considering a coworking space for your town, please consider setting aside a little time to have a discovery call. If nothing else, it might change your perspective on key items in your project and that alone could save time and money.
You can DM us on social media, email us at email@example.com, or leave a voicemail at 2489859613 to set up a free, casual (maybe even fun!), no obligation discovery call today.