There’s a lot to think about when starting a Coworking or shared workspace. We’ve compiled a list of the top ten things to do before plunging into the game.
In this article:
1. Do Your Research!
Study the market up and down, inside and out. Read up on successful single and multi-site workspaces. Know which shared workspaces are in your area and what they offer. Understand the different leasing options and consult with a both a legal and tax professional before signing any contracts or agreements.
Connect with the leaders of industry associations and local workspace operators. There are a plethora of blogs, resources, studies and content libraries available along with in-person groups and associations such as the Global Workspace Association, Alliance Business Center Network, The Business Centre Association, and Global Coworking Unconference Conference. Registering as a member to these groups and attending their events will introduce you to a world of new friends and valuable business contacts. You never know what relationships and partnerships can arise from meeting new people! Sharing your business plan and getting insightful feedback from experienced operators will help you reposition your proposition.
3. Solidify Your Business Plan
Establish the vision and set the goals of your Coworking business. Determine how you will differentiate your workspace and what you will offer to customers that your competition can’t. Make a list of services and overhead you’ll require, from technology to staff, and start getting an estimate of what the costs will be. From there, determine an opening and maintenance cost for a determined period of time. Calculate the investment you’ll need to get off the ground and amount of revenue you must make each month before you break even. Having a clearly outlined business plan will help you get funding and investment. It will also keep you accountable to your own plan when the business seems to take over. You will need a well-structured business plan to present to a bank when you apply for a loan. Your business plan should include a detailed marketing, operations and financial plan as well.
4. Establish your Value Proposition
Coworking spaces are rampant nowadays, from the smallest towns to bustling cities across the globe. If you plan to open a new one it’s in your best interest to clearly define your value proposition to prospects and customers and how you differentiate from the crowd. This requires drilling down into your target market and executing a marketing strategy and corresponding tactics that communicate your services to the world. As the way people work continues to change along with the speed of dynamic technologies, differentiating your workspace by the quality of services and human attention you provide gives you a competitive advantage against longtime players that have lost their edge after years in the market.
5. Talk with local Governments and Chambers of Commerce
A recent trend in the marketplace is the increased implication of governments and area Chambers of Commerce in bolstering small business in local communities. Because Coworking spaces offer an environment where businesses can grow and flourish it follows that it is mutually beneficial for the two to forge a relationship between the two. A chamber of commerce provides resources and advice to startups and small businesses and can equally serve as a great way to get exposure for your Coworking space. Local governments want to see business flourish in their areas to offer opportunity to the people in their communities. Coworking spaces may be able to secure funding and advertising exposure via local government offices. The local economic development department in your city or town may be able to help you get started.
6. Hire the Right Staff
The best approach to managing your shared workspace – aside from seamless operations and smart finances – is to focus on delivering high-quality services to your members. To do this, you must staff your workspace with people who demonstrate good social skills, compassion, and hospitality. Remember that you get what you pay for. When starting a coworking space, you’ll need a community manager to curate the workspace experience for your members, be their main point of contact, and help them feel at home. Good people don’t come cheap. Money-aside, however, it’s important for your team to feel a sense of ownership to your brand and vision. Once you’ve got the right people in the right places, invest in their training of customer service and management skills that distinguish their interactions with your coworking members.
7. Create a Flexible Layout
It’s essential to factor into your design a slew of private office spaces for the customer who seeks complete privacy or a more formal office without sacrificing access to a community. However, one of the main selling points of flexible workspace is the ability to expand and contract along with a company’s needs. So, when starting a coworking space, the physical layout should be malleable to the space requirements of your members. From room dividers and portable partitions, there are options to allocate space into easy to consume areas such as classrooms, training rooms, meeting rooms or event space, which may also double as revenue-drivers.
8. Install Multi-Tenanted Infrastructure & Technology
From day one of starting a Coworking space, connect your workspace with enterprise-grade network infrastructure for better connectivity, quality connectivity, and improved member experience. For starters, don’t rely on a simple open wireless network for all of your members. Rather, install cabling at fit out and run connections to each workstation. As we’ve explained before , you’ll alleviate the strain on your wireless network, be able to offer VOIP to corporate users, and save money down the line. Your network will also be more secure to fend off malicious users. Enterprise-grade technology built exclusively for multi-tenanted buildings will enable you to allocate dedicated VLANs for each tenant, which ensures the safety of their connection and makes them feel at home in your workspace.
9. Market your Space Before You Open
Set up your marketing plan and begin executing your tactics three months prior to opening your workspace. The idea is to drum up excitement, interest and demand for your workspace so you can open with a decent occupancy percentage, build rapport with customers and increase occupancy via word of mouth referrals. Create a Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn page for your workspace and start building community. Publish content frequently and remember to leverage visuals and graphics to attract users. Implement a CRM tool to capture your leads and manage them throughout the sales funnel and subsequent status as your customer.
10. Workspace Management Software
Speaking of CRM, a comprehensive workspace management software platform can link your CRM with services, onboarding, billing and member portal. Integrating the multiple applications needed run your workspace not only makes your job easier as an operator and workspace manager, but improves your member experience. Overseeing each pillar of your business from a centralized platform gives you a 360-degree overview of your business, from billing and membership plans to sales and marketing. Decide on a software platform that is in constant development by an organization that understands the dynamics of running a workspace. You’ll want to implement well before you open your space to allow plenty of time to configure the system the way you want it to run your business. Configurations can be a long process but worth the wait once processes are automated and seamless.
11. Offer Competitive Amenities
There are certain amenities which are considered run of the mill in a shared workspace. Filtered water, unlimited coffee, a kitchen, telephone booths and common spaces are simply expected in a Coworking space nowadays. Budgeting in amenities that your competition doesn’t offer will give you a competitive advantage. A snack market, fresh fruit, a ping-pong and/or a pool table, and lockers are amenities that add value to your workspace, along with third-party discounts such as gym memberships, health insurance, phone carrier specials and more help to attract and retain customers at your workspace.
Once you launch your Coworking space and get well into the routine of things, you can tweak your approach as you see fit so long as it aligns to your immediate and long-term business plans. Just don’t lose sight of your members – the most integral part of your Coworking sight.
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