Each year essensys are proud Platinum sponsors of the Global Workspace Association’s annual conference. This September’s flexible workspace event in Miami proposes a fresh take on industry content to meet the needs and answer the new questions emerging around today’s rapidly changing market. With the increasing shift towards flexible and short-term space-as-a-service models by Commercial Real Estate and generalization of Coworking across markets, industry collaboration is more important now than ever before.
At this year’s GWA conference, essensys is happy to bring you the “Build Your Business” workshops presented by Casey Clark of Cultivate Advisors. The two sessions on the agenda are focused on key business areas: leadership and sales. As always, our goal is to help owners and operators of shared and serviced offices to manage, grow and differentiate their workspace business. And with over 16 years of success and experience in this industry, we think we have quite a bit of knowledge to share on both of these topics and more.
Key Tips to Grow Your Flexible Workspace
Whether you’re the owner or manager of a shared workspace, you can’t do it alone. Staff your space with people who are trustworthy and equipped with the personality and skills akin to the hospitality industry. One of the key things operators must understand is that ours is a service-based industry. While real estate plays a huge part in terms of assets, the most valuable resource you have for your members is your staff. Polite, hospitable, welcoming, sociable, patient, friendly, professional and efficient are just a few of the traits you should be looking for. For a community manager, those applicants who have worked previously in hotels or restaurants are particularly of value to you. They will have the tact and grace needed to not only provide services to your members but to offer a positive member experience.
Empower your employees with training that focuses on educating them about the industry and providing excellent customer service. If they don’t know the market, they serve they won’t be able to appreciate the importance of individual responsibilities. Invest the time, energy and resources, where necessary, in training each staff member. Teach your core workspace values in them and require the most professional and courteous of customer service and attention to your members. In this article, we explained the importance of in-life customer management. It will help with customer retention and therefore increased revenues.
Cultivate Advisors, who will present the Build Your Business workshops at the GWA next month, have worked with multiple shared workspace operators on polishing operator leadership skills and improving the sales funnel. We’ve compiled a quick to-do list to ensure you’re hitting the most important pillars for an effective sales funnel.
- Lead Generation
Giving your workspace the greatest visibility possible is the best place to start. List your space plans with brokers, invest time in keyword research and building organic SEO, and dedicate a budget to AdWords. Be sure to report on the ROI of each channel so you can evaluate your marketing strategy and budget based on actual results. Broker integration allows operators to easily de-duplicate incoming leads and reporting functionality in workspace software will demonstrate which brokers receive the greatest quality leads.
- Easy Tour Booking
Booking a tour should be easy and painless. Direct traffic from your website can easily convert to a tour with seamless web-to-lead integration capabilities. Be diligent about following up whether by phone, email, or automated SMS using your workspace management software.
- Tour Experience
Once you get your prospects through the door you must wow them. Keep your space in excellent shape, listen to the needs of your prospect and introduce them to members who happen to be around, without being invasive, of course.
- Seal the Deal
Be agile and efficient in following up with prospects who have toured your space. Workspace management software that integrates CRM features with quoting capabilities allows your sales reps the ability to quickly and easily send pricing and license agreements for prospects to sign electronically.
- Simple On-boarding
From the moment a prospect signs and becomes a customer, automation triggers the onboarding process. Send payment processing information, portal access and turn on services with a simple click of a button using workspace software automation.
- Develop Relationships
Remember that the sales funnel doesn’t stop when you get the signature. Once your prospect becomes a member, continue to grow the relationship without being invasive. Understand their business and plans for growth to gauge the long-term value potential they have at your workspace.
Metrics & Reporting
Building a flexible workspace business from the ground up is an exciting venture in today’s market. Beyond the design, infrastructure, and community, workspace operators must keep a keen eye on core business metrics that will help them understand how the workspace is operating and project into the future.
- Occupancy and Revenue
Especially at a small flexible workspace business with a bootstrap budget, operators should keep the occupancy and revenue reports front and center. Understand both rentable square footage and workstation revenues to determine your break-even and profitability numbers. Do you have a granular view of what your rate per square foot is? That with the cost of your rent and overhead gives you an accurate prediction of the number of clients you must acquire to not only break even but reach profitability.
- Sales and Marketing
If you aren’t meticulously tracking sales and marketing metrics, you could be wasting money on futile tactics that don’t bring you business. Use flexible workspace management software to track incoming leads and conversion rates, and marketing campaigns and promotions or discounts. Understand where your efforts and budget are allocated and showing a return, and where they’re not performing so well.
- Customer Value
Capture your customers’ footprint throughout your workspace. From move-in date to renewal dates, workspace software keeps track of customer activity all in one place, allowing you to project financial impact current and potential customers can have on your workspace. Knowing the average length of stay per customer helps you to understand where you can improve in your business to keep a customer in your space longer and potentially increasing prices, boosting your bottom line. When it comes to community and events, understand what investment you’re making on events and just how profitable they are for you.
- Financial Metrics and Reporting
By nature of the Coworking model, the flexibility and dynamics of the business model demand regular reporting to make sure you’re in tip-top financial shape. Finance gurus across the board endorse the following reports for Coworking operators to wrap their heads around the finance numbers. Contracted revenue and actual revenue must match. If they don’t, you’ve got a revenue leakage issue. Keep an eye on aged debtor reports and outstanding balances owed to you by customers. Too much debt? Decide how long you’re willing to wait for payment and then cut their services.For more information on detailed metrics and reporting read the full Metrics for Workspace Success eBook.
Wi-Fi and Infrastructure
The most basic amenity at a Coworking or flexible workspace is your ICT services. Ultra-fast and secure internet is a must. This means offering both a wired internet connection and a secure, reliable wireless network. Without going into the technical details of how Wi-Fi works, operators should have a holistic understanding of what to avoid when implementing an internet solution. For starters, think ahead. Plan your infrastructure from the moment you build out your site.
With the influx of corporate Coworking, cable your space from Day 1 to accommodate VOIP phone systems. Small single site Coworking operators may not see the value in cabled internet initially, but down the road, it can save money and deliver better Internet connectivity for your members.
Avoid letting your customers install their own access points or configure their own Wi-Fi networks. These devices will interfere with your own network. The best course of action is to offer member-dedicated VLANs for private connections that prevent risk and guarantees the security of your member community.
Spin up a separate guest and visitor network for those members who are just passing through your space. Investing in the proper infrastructure from the start will avoid costly problems in the future. A workspace network that is specifically designed for flexible and multi-tenanted spaces is the best way to ensure a high-performing technology for your members.
For more information about Wireless and Internet for shared workspaces and Coworking sites, read the full ebook Wi-Fi 101: The Must-Know Guide for Coworking and Flexible Workspaces.
See you at the GWA!
Running a flexible workspace can be a complicated business, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right guidance, resources, and tools, you can manage, grow, differentiate your workspace in the market. We look forward to Cultivate Advisor’s take on bolstering the sales and leadership pillars of your company. For these and other questions about managing, reporting, or technology crucial for a smooth-running and profitable workspace business click below to meet us at the GWA.