Co-working Operator's Guide to Jumping the Puddles
By Paula BlairSOAR Co-Working Inc.Chief Executive Officer, Community Wrangler and Space Dreamer
Full disclosure here…I am in my 9th month of operating SOAR Co-Working, and things are really good! I fell in love with the co-working concept by reading about it. I had never set a foot in a co-working space before starting my pre-launch research. Everything about launching and operating a space ticked every "have fun, be challenged, help people" box that keeps me smiling on my way to work and home every single day.
After all the funding, location scouting, renovation, and grand opening hoopla, I discovered two things that I should have done differently. Would I be sitting in the same space at the same desk with the same co-workers if I'd gone a different direction? Possibly! But the point isn't that things could have been different for me, but rather they could be different for you if your brain matter is processing the idea of launching a co-working space (or expanding your co-working space).
Maybe what I learned will help you capitalize on opportunities and jump the puddles full of mistakes. I'll share two things in the order that I discovered them.
I WAS UNAWARE OF A HUGE NEED
When you don't know about a need, you don't provide a solution, right? During the first couple of months the phone rarely rang, and emails were rarely received. That's not too unusual for a start-up. But what had me wringing my hands was that the interest we did get was for large meeting and training space. Several calls came in from people looking for space for 20, 30 even 50 to meet. While our 5 meeting rooms provided a solution for those needing a professional and private place for meetings of 10 or fewer, I had nothing to offer for larger meetings.
At the time, I was wishing I would have done more research on the market needs. I based my build out on my personal experiences and didn't dive deeper. I hope your takeaway is to talk to more people in the arena you're entering to learn about their requirements. This mistake didn't really cost me anything other than a missed opportunity. I've since wrapped my head around the fact that I can't be all things to all people, and I now have places I can refer people to with their large meeting needs. HOWEVER, you can bet a paycheck that I've got a plan to expand if the opportunity presents itself!
I OVERESTIMATED A NEED
I worked for a church for 12 years, and several of those years the church had been portable (translation…no building…met in schools, YMCA, movie theatres, etc.) During the portable era, I spent more time than you can imagine trying to find good places to have meetings. There was, and still is, a huge shortage of available meeting rooms in my community.
Let's turn the page to the phase of my start-up where I estimated income and expenses for purposes of knowing my spending limits and pricing the co-working packages, offices and meeting rooms. I knew groups of people congregated at local cafes and coffee shops for business meetings in an atmosphere that was not at all business-like. The Wi-Fi was sketchy, the room was loud, and whispered private information all mixed together made for an unimpressive and unprofessional presentation.
My meeting room calculations were based on all 5 meeting rooms being 60% utilized after six months. Wow, was I wrong!!! Meeting room utilization started to pick up after seven months, but is still far below my original estimate.
What went wrong? Again, I did not do enough market research. As a result, my income projections were overstated, and the date on which I expected income to cover all the expenses came and went leaving a gap that had to be met with personal funds. Thankfully, we were prepared to cover the shortfall. I hope this blog helps you avoid some puddles and capitalize on your opportunities!
To see how SOAR Co-Working has turned out, visit www.soarco-working.com.