There’s something even more thrilling than running your first coworking space and this is the moment when you start thinking about opening your second location.
But besides the excitement, there are also lots of concerns when you come to this stage of your business. Are you ready to expand? Does it make sense? How will you split your efforts between the two locations and still keep up with both?
And most of all – is it worth it?
Why open a second location?
If you’re still wondering whether or not this is a good step, here are a few reasons on why it might make sense:
Demand is rising. More and more professionals and companies are switching from traditional offices to coworking spaces. To meet the rising demand, you’ll need to provide more space once your first location reaches its full (or almost full) capacity.
Competition is rising. The tremendous interest in coworking leads to a huge rise in the number of coworking spaces slowly but surely making coworking the new normal, hence more and more competitors will rise up and fight for the attention of your members. Expanding your capacity and building on top of your product will help you to stay competitive.
Your members scale and their needs change. Depending on how you’ve structured your product, your current space might be focused mainly on flex and dedicated desks, with a limited number of offices (or none whatsoever). If desks are suitable for most starting companies, when they grow they’ll start looking for a separate office. If you can’t offer them what they need, they’ll have to leave you.
Before you make the decision to expand
Opening a second location is not a piece of cake. It needs a lot of effort, time and resources. It’s good to be sure you’re ready and really willing to expand.
Answering the following question can help you figure out if you’re ready to scale:
How is your current coworking space performing?
Analyzing your current situation is key. Is your space full? Are your resources being used at their maximum (or close to maximum) capacity – e.g. desks, offices, meeting rooms? Are your revenue streams stable (e.g. having longer-term memberships)?
If the answer is yes, think about the successful practices that led to this success and if (and how) you can replicate them. Investigate the ones that need improvement or totally failed and try to find the reasons why they didn’t perform well.
The ability to understand why certain things in your current space were successful and others were not is key to expanding.
Can your current coworking space operate without you?
Once you expand you’ll no longer be able to be “on-site” and as available as before if any issues arise. On top of that, your second location will require your time and attention much more than your first, especially in the beginning. It’ll be a full-time job added to your current duties.
- Is there something in your current coworking space that constantly requires your presence? Can you somehow change that?
- Are you willing and is it possible to delegate tasks? Here’s a good guide on how you can delegate tasks successfully.
- Do you have a clear plan on who will handle the new tasks? Do you have the right people in your team? If not, can you hire them? We’ve listed some hiring tips below.
*You’re not limited to these questions alone, but answering them will give you a better understanding of your ability to expand at the current moment.
Do you want to focus on providing the same coworking space as a product?
If your current space is focused mainly on desks and open spaces, do you want to replicate that in your second location? Or do you want to change your model and target a different kind of audience? Do you want it to be in the same town or not?
Here are 3 success stories of coworking spaces opening their second location providing food for thought in terms of location and business model.
Besides exploring real-life examples, examine the market, do research on what the other spaces close to your next location provide and try to find information on what the coworking audience needs. Is there a demand for a coworking space with more offices? Or your town is a crossing point of coworking nomads who prefer quick access to a hot desk and meeting rooms?
This will give you valuable insights on what location you should search for, how to fit it out, how to plan and distribute the space between open space and offices, how to plan meeting rooms, what services to provide, etc.
📍Extra note: How do you assure your first location’s members won’t abandon it because of your second one?
That’s something you cannot fully control. The main factor for members in choosing a coworking space is the location and the amenities. So if your new coworking space fits your members’ needs better and reduces their commute time, they’ll most probably move. There’s not much you can do about this.
What you can do here to ensure your first space stays intact is to gradually improve and renovate where possible – from the fit-out to the amenities, the service management, etc.
Let’s consider you’ve already found the location, signed the lease, finished with the fit-out and you’re ready for the next step.
Here are some important aspects to consider, that should help you expand in the most efficient way possible.
Multilocation operations management
One of the main challenges is to replicate all the things you’re doing – the processes, the routines, etc.
Up until now, you’ve probably had all this in your head. Now you have to structure it somehow and make it accessible to the rest of your team. Sad but true – you can’t be in both locations at the same time so you’ll need someone to help you.
Getting all the operational procedures down on paper is a good first step. This will allow other people to take ownership of some of the countless responsibilities you have.
You’ll have your 2 locations operating separately, but having the same procedures and rules in both will allow you to operate more efficiently.
📍Bonus tip: Once you start writing down all the procedures, there’ll be a lot of information to be structured. It’ll be essential to stay organized and keep everything in order. Here’s a useful app: Notion, recommended by SharedSpace, a client of ours, who used it to manage tasks when they were opening up their second location.
Once you have all your processes written down, it’s important to have the right people to relay them to. Let’s look at the important things to consider when staffing your second location:
Hiring new team members for your second coworking location
Your team is incredibly important as it’s the core of a coworking space. It’s what enables you to offer the services you offer, to meet your members, to issue their invoices, to manage cash flows…in other words: to operate.
Your team is the voice of your coworking space, brand, and reputation.
Hiring an Operations/General Manager (or giving this role to someone of your existing team) would be your best first step. You’ll need someone to help you with all day-to-day tasks, answer calls, meet suppliers and help you with managing subcontractors, visitors, etc.
Eventually, when you already have your first members, you might think of expanding your team with a Community Manager.
If you’re wondering if you should hire new people or relocate part of your team to the new location, there’s no rule of thumb. Still, consider the following 3 most used practices and evaluate which one will fit your situation:
1/ You relocate team members from your first location to your second
The main benefit here is that you’ll have someone who’s already familiar with your processes and will manage to deal with tasks quite easy and fast. Also, it will be someone trusted and experienced, knowing your space, operations, and community.
In addition, you can provide some of your employees from the first location with the opportunity to grow professionally by taking ownership of additional responsibilities.
2/ You hire new staff for your second location
This will bring people with new ideas and will give a fresh start to your second location. Of course, they’ll need time to get familiar with the processes in your coworking space, to adapt and learn, but if you and the rest of your team spend enough time and dedication in training them, things will fall in place eventually.
Of course, it’s good to find people who have experience in the coworking industry, but it’s not mandatory. Someone who simply has a passion for coworking and is highly motivated and eager to learn can be a great fit for your team!
Also, it’s good to consider not only the professional expertise of the people you hire but if they are a good cultural fit for your coworking space as well. Do they resonate with the company’s vision and mission? Do you share the same values?
Hiring people who correspond to your mindset will build a strong and well-performing team.
3/ You hire new staff and rotate your team members between the two locations
This well-established among coworking spaces practice applies mainly for operations/community staff.
New and old employees rotate on a regular basis between spaces, so they can learn from one another and be familiar with the processes, the members, and the challenges of both locations.
Rotation can be done on a weekly or even a daily basis – it depends on you.
If you want to learn how to master the hiring process, check out our webinar ‘Hiring and Building Teams for Scaling Coworking Spaces‘. Guest speaker Iris Kavanagh has rich experience in hiring and building teams for shared workspaces including leading the NextSpace team during initial expansion from 1 location to 9. Don’t miss to check out her tips. 😉
Scaling your community when expanding
You know how to reinforce the consistency of your brand in both locations with the design, the concept, the customer service of your space – you replicate them and implement the same procedures and practices.
But when it comes to community, how do you replicate that?
The truth is community emerges naturally. It can be neither replicated or forced, but you can try and imbue each “new community” with your vision and the same values that are driving you as a business.
For example, if one of your core differentiators is to be helpful with the service you offer and encourage your community members to grow, support that in your second location as well.
Probably you’ll end up with 2 separate communities which will be slightly different, but what’s important here is that they’ll share the same values. And that’s what gives the consistency of your brand.
Of course, it’s good to follow some essential best practices when fostering your community but have in mind a lot of it comes from you as a founder and your team. If everybody is on the same page about your vision and values, things should start developing on their own.
In the beginning, with a single coworking space, it’s quite easy to maintain this – your team spends almost all their time together – you communicate constantly with each other, you share tasks and activities, you gather for a beer after work, and everyone is involved in almost everything.
To keep that when expanding, hire the people who resonate with your values. Try to encourage the connection between team members. Think about how to have them involved in the processes that run in both spaces. Meet regularly – for sharing company updates and discussing important stuff, but for informal team gatherings as well.
Opening a second coworking location is a huge step. It’s a full-time job requiring a lot of dedication. During this journey, you’ll need focus on evaluating your first location’s performance, defining procedures, hiring the right people and ensuring your community stays authentic.
As long as you and your team have the right focus and well-established processes, and you share and spread the same values, things will start developing smoothly and allow you to grow successfully.
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