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What We Learned at the GWA Conference 2019

Sep 25, 2019 ∙ 4 mins read
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While the WeSaga is unfolding, the rest of the Coworking and Flexible workspace industry is moving forward blazing fast. Big thanks to the Global Workspace Association for organizing yet another awesome event where the most prominent workspace operators, vendors, and consultants gathered together to share ideas, experience, and good practices to grow sustainable businesses.

Focus on Your Team

There are so many problems while you’re building a fast-growing coworking company and it’s easy to focus on everything else but the team. Kane Wilmott from IQ Office Suites gave an amazing talk on ‘Leadership Systems’ and the key element that struck me was his full attention and dedication to the team that’s doing the heavy lift at IQ Office Suites. While some coworking founders are doing everything to become trillionaires ($1,000,000,000,000, yes that’s 1 with 12 0s) others are doing everything to make their teammates enjoy their job and feel good at their workplace.

“This might not be your last job, but I hope to make it your best job!”—it’s the mantra of Kane Wilmott from IQ Office Suites.

The focus on the team always pays off, especially in the hospitality business. When the teammates are feeling good about their job, believe in the company vision and mission, understand and are aligned with the strategy of the company, they will certainly deliver a better service to their communities. Easier said than done, creating organization clarity always pays off in the long turn.

While the opposite, if we’re fully focused on growth and revenue at any price, you may gain some momentum and create short term success, but this will always fire back in the long term (as you can tell by the WeSaga). If we can arrange the 3 very important Ps, they usually go as follows:

  1. People—your team should always come first;
  2. Product—what you offer and how you offer it is the second most important priority. Of course, if your team is if feeling safe and fulfilled will deliver the best possible product;
  3. Profits—having a great product inevitably leads to good profits.

Focus on your team, company culture and organization clarity and the rest will follow.

Differentiation with Technology

Is WeWork a technology company or not?—that’s the question the whole financial world is asking at the moment.
Every meaningful company will be a ‘technology’ company in the future. However, there’s a big difference between a technology-powered company vs. technology company.

The main difference is the capacity of the company to grow/scale fast. Technology companies can scale really fast due to the nature of the technology business—you built a product once and you can sell it unlimited times 100% virtually in the technology world.

On the other hand, technology-enabled businesses can leverage technology to grow faster. But, most of the time, they can’t scale and grow as fast and frictionless as the technology companies. You can’t add unlimited desks in an existing location, as well as you can’t open unlimited new locations instantly if there’s a demand, right?

But, you can use technology to make the process of growing your existing locations or adding more locations more frictionless and quicker therefore, the technology can certainly help you grow faster. WeWork as most other coworking/flexible workspace companies is a technology-powered and is not a technology company.

The big question we discussed at the GWA conference with the fellow panelists—Jack Richer from PlacePay, Brad from HubAustralia, Brendan from Open Box Software, Willian from OfficeEvolution—was whether it’s worth to build your own software or buy a commercial product to run your business.

I truly believe, for a technology-enabled business, you should always buy instead of build, unless you really have to. Then, you can blend, modify and extend the best of bread commercial products to ensure that you create an entire solution that best fits your business needs. If you are interested in this topic, you can read my post about ‘Building your Coworking Software.

Maturing Business

Another episode of the WeSage is about weird metrics they use as well as the hugely unprofitable business they run. However, it’s great to see that the rest of coworking and flexible workspaces are actually maturing as businesses and focusing more and more on operational excellence.

Some of the talks at the conference as well as many of the open discussions were around the financials, reporting and the focus on the maturity of the flexible workspace businesses. It was great to see that many of our large and growing customers are putting a lot of effort into making sure their businesses are profitable and running really smooth.

This might sound obvious but in a phase of hyper-growth, it’s easy to miss the profitability point and also, be a little bit more financially unwise for the sake of scale. Of course, after a period of high growth it’s good to pause for a little, take a breath and make sure your KPIs are there, as well as your financials are in check. Businesses that make money are good businesses.

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Thank you once again, GWA! You are awesome! We will see you next year. Before we go, make sure that you focus on your team first, then find the right set of products to help you scale fast and be different and make sure your financials are in check. Let’s show the world that flexible workspaces are here to stay and move the topic from the WeSaga to the value that coworking spaces are creating.