Scaling your coworking business comes along with plenty of optimization of your operational processes and while it’s often about expanding within your current building or opening a new location, sometimes it’s about relocating your entire space to another building.
Whatever the reason for relocation might be, if your current building doesn’t suit your needs anymore, it’s time to move. As the idea of moving might evokes tons of questions for plenty of you, we interviewed the team at betahaus Sofia—a client of ours that recently relocated their space (and even opened their second location a couple of months later!) so we can share their know-how.
betahaus Sofia is part of the international brand with spaces located in Berlin, Barcelona, Hamburg, and Tirana. Find below our conversation with Metodi Terziev, Managing Director at betahaus Sofia, on the challenges that came along with relocation and how the team managed to overcome them.
Metodi Terziev, Managing Director at betahaus Sofia
What was the biggest challenge of relocating your coworking space?
None of us have ever relocated a space before, so it was probably the unknown; the uncertainty. It was the uncertainty about the new—how would we handle the process—but it was also the uncertainty about the past—what was the best way to say goodbye to the old place, the vibe, the members that wouldn’t move to the new place.
There were tens of elements included in the mix—our community, our team, the logistics, the administrative processes, etc. In the beginning, you don’t really have clarity about how to approach them.
We relied on the experience we had gained as a coworking operator plus on the huge amount of feedback that we had managed to collect during the years and this came out to be a successful start.
Because we wanted to change a lot of things, our efforts were closer to opening a brand new space than just moving to a new location. We wanted to significantly improve the design and fit-out, and also polish our business model.
We also needed more precise access control in the new space as with the scale of our business and community, our needs became more complex—e.g. giving access to specific people only, to specific areas only, or at a specific time. SaltoKS turned out to be a great solution for us as it allows us all that and it also integrates with OfficeRnD.
How did you approach the relocation process?
During the relocation process, we had two main areas of focus:
- the structural set up: finding a building and investment, financial planning, improving the business model, etc
- the community set up: announcing the news, communication with members, the physical relocation, etc
For us, moving to another location was a strategic decision, that we had on our minds for a couple of years. For the last couple of years, we explored various options in order to find а building that would truly resonate with our brand as this was very important for us.
The typical business center in the suburbs, for instance, doesn’t suit us. Instead, we’ve always been interested in central buildings that possess historic and cultural value; vintage and even frowsy buildings that we can renovate by creating a modern and industrial but at the same time home-like atmosphere. And we see that it’s not solely the building (as a piece of real estate) that we give new energy to but the local people and businesses as well.
We also had to change some legal details around the company and our business model, so the whole initial process took us a bit longer. But as long as you work with like-minded people (whether it’s your landlord, lawyer, architect) things usually go smoothly.
In the process of renovating the new betahaus location
As for the community part, we had personal conversations with everyone—that’s essential. We started with the bigger teams and the offices. Relocating a bigger team requires more effort, especially for the team itself.
We wanted to make sure all our members had enough time in advance to prepare. We had personal conversations literally with every member or company of ours. We made sure to provide them with all the information that we had by that time so they’re as informed as possible.
During each meeting, we showed a presentation which explained the details around the move (when, how, what moving would mean to them, etc) and presented the new location (architectural plan, how the location would look like, the offices/desks options, etc)
For us, it was very important to have transparent communication with our members. We told them all the details around the relocation; if we didn’t know the answer to something, we were honest about that and this was appreciated.
We were available to anyone who had questions or wanted to share feedback—during the meetings or anytime later on. We wanted to make it as smooth and easy for our members as possible. Also, these conversations were great learning for us as they allowed us to better understand what’s important for our members.
The physical relocation itself is pure logistics. It wasn’t that complicated as there weren’t many things to move beside the usual office equipment so we managed to do this for a couple of days.
Our members left the old space on Friday and came to the new on Monday and had everything set up so they can effortlessly get back to work. We consider a huge success that 80% of our community moved to the new space.
A month after the relocation, we ran a survey asking our community for their feedback about the new space and how they were feeling there. Along with the good things, they pointed plenty of others that created friction, or that were essential but missing.
As soon as we outlined the issues, we rolled up our sleeves and fixed them. The moment we did this, our members were happy.
The new betahaus location on Shipka 6 str.
Is there anything that you would do differently if you were about to move now?
We would probably do one thing differently and it’s to engage our team a bit earlier in the process. In our case, we didn’t want to put pressure on the team until the contract was signed and it was all confirmed.
But, looking from the current perspective, I assume that the sooner you involve your team, the better. If people know early on, they have the time to set their minds, get into relocation mood. All of this can make the process less stressful for everyone.
What advice would you give to operators who are about to relocate?
Be open to your community. Really. Transparency and communication are what will ease the process both for you and for your members. Talk in person with your members. Be prepared and try to present the situation in as much detail as possible—this is what it will mean for them, this is how it will look like, etc. Be available to answer all their questions and show them that you care.
Also, know that you cannot handle this alone. There are plenty of elements in the mix and you have to work with other people—landlords, designers, lawyers, etc. It’s important to have the right like-minded people who really understand your business and share the same values.