Scaling a coworking space is very exciting but it also brings a lot of challenges, doubts, and concerns.
Whether you’re about to open an additional coworking location, or you just want to scale your current one, there are some essentials you should consider in order to grow your business successfully. We invited Alex Hillman to share his experience on the topic.
Alex Hillman is the co-founder of Philadelphia’s Indy Hall, one of the longest running and most respected coworking communities in the world since 2006. Alex has hands-on experience from successfully growing, expanding, and even relocating their coworking space.
Alex is also a regular speaker at various industry events and consults with experienced coworking operators around the world. He’s known for his blog, Dangerously Awesome where he shares insights about the coworking industry and experience in the form of blog posts, videos, and podcasts.
Below you’ll find a recap and a link to the video recording of our webinar ‘Successfully Expanding & Growing Your Coworking Space’, where Alex shared lots of valuable insights, including:
- Where and how do you introduce systems and processes
- How do you get members engaged with the expansion process
- How to deal with having two locations nearby
- Ways to increase revenue and profitability without adding extra costs
Implementation of processes and automation when scaling
Although the implementation of processes is a needed step when scaling your coworking space, you shouldn’t overcomplicate it.
This step shouldn’t come too early, nor just for the sake of having processes. Instead, it should be considered carefully and made when really needed.
Take as an example the interactions between you and your prospects and members. Through the years, and with a growing audience, you might start losing that connection and therefore – the quality of your service.
If it’s getting harder to be consistent in your sales efforts, or you often forget to follow up the leads you’re getting, or you start losing track of the information you aggregate from them, it might be beneficial to set a procedure about your sales process.
Alex also shares that “…many coworking spaces make the mistake with the onboarding, for example – they meet the new member, show them the coffee machine and the printer, and then they leave them and make no other touch point with them.”
It’s important to keep human contact, even when you start introducing processes and automation to your coworking space.
“I think of automation and process as sort of some kind of iron man suit – it still needs a human inside. But a well-designed process or well-designed system is going to help that human do their job faster, more consistently, or just with more confidence.”
If you’re curious to learn more about the design and implementation of processes when scaling, check out our blog post on the topic.
Regular and consistent communication
Communication helps to stay connected, be more productive, and know what’s going on in the community, and within your team.
If you’re not the only one who’s running your space (which is probably the case when you’re scaling), you need to make sure your team is okay with the tools and processes you’re setting.
Alex suggests asking your team for opinion and asking them to get involved and take ownership of the processes.
“When we have new team members and we train them we say: Nothing is carved into stone – if you think something might be done better, we can have the conversation.”
Have a process about communication with your community as well and be consistent in that communication. Don’t let your members ask for the same thing different people and receive different answers, as if you and your team members don’t communicate with each other.
Also, know how your members are doing, how their business and needs change. This will allow you to know how you can be helpful to them.
“A common process that’s missing from growing coworking spaces is paying attention to the growth of their members. You need to often check in with those members because their needs change and you might eventually find yourself in a situation where your members leave you because they’ve grown, and think your coworking space doesn’t fit their needs anymore.”
Involving your members in the process of scaling
Growing your coworking space is about making a lot of decisions – on the building, on the design, on the meeting rooms, the list goes on…
Having your members’ perspective in the mix is precious. On top of making your members feel part of the community, it’s sometimes a way to find hidden options for shaping your coworking space even better.
But how to involve them without turning that into chaos? What if you don’t like their suggestions? What if their ideas are so much off the wall?
The truth is that you take the decision at the end of the day. Make it clear that you’re not going do everything they suggest or everything at once. Treat it more like a brainstorm session, where you’ll be collecting ideas, then pick the best ones, and implement them where possible.
You can involve people in the process even more. If you’re expanding with another floor, for example, involvement could be as simple as gathering people to paint a wall and have fun together. But remember that it’s really important to set up the right expectations: you don’t ask people to do things for you, but with you and each other.
Alex shares that the outcome here is key:
“The outcome is the difference between somebody who comes to a coworking space and uses it, sees it as a resource, a relative commodity, a thing to consume; where the difference between your coworking space and another one is the furniture, or the location, or the price.
But when somebody has helped paint the wall or helped design the kitchen layout, there’s a sense of ownership that people feel, and you see it when they show up, when they bring friends or colleagues. It’s not the coworking space where they work, it’s their coworking space”
Having two locations nearby – is that a problem?
Coworking owners often fear that having two coworking locations that are nearby might result in one cannibalizing the other.
That might be the case if you’ve built your coworking spaces based on real estate availability, rather than actual demand, and that’s definitely not the scenario you’d want to find yourself in. Renting a building just because it’s a really good deal, or because it looks great for a coworking space won’t guarantee success; even worse – it’s very likely to lead you to failure.
Instead, if you build an additional space based on increasing (or at least, a steady) demand in your area, you shouldn’t expect cannibalization between both locations, as there will be enough audience for both of them.
Another way for having two spaces near each other is by offering a different experience. If your first space is focused on growing companies and provides mainly offices, you might create a second one that offers more hotdesks and targets local freelancers and digital nomads.
If you want to explore that theme further, check out our the recap of our webinar on the topic of choosing a location and a business model when opening an additional coworking space.
Watch the recording:
As we promised, here’s a link to access the video recording from our webinar ‘Successfully Expanding & Growing Your Coworking Space’ with Alex Hillman.
P.S. If you want to share with us any ideas on topics you’d like to read more about, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, we’d love to hear your thoughts!