AgoraRDM Co-Founder Mike LaRosa was interviewed by MarketScale’s Building Management podcast on 1/29/19.

Copied from the MarketScale Building Management blogpost:

On this episode of the MarketScale Building Management Podcast, we take a look at two areas of the industry that are constantly evolving: the workplace and regulations. Our first conversation is the final installment of a three-part series with Mike LaRosa of Agora RDM. He discusses the three primary styles of coworking spaces and where he sees the industry going in 2019. Our second feature of the show takes a look at how accidents drive regulatory changes and how building managers can keep up with the evolutions.


Coworking spaces aren’t the next big thing, they’re the now of the modern office. They’re influencing workflows, acoustic design, business models, collaborative technology, and the list goes on and on. For our first feature, we’re finishing our mini-series with Mike LaRosa of Agora RDM on the benefits, challenges and applications for co-working spaces, this time analyzing the three main styles of coworking spaces and which ones are going to see the most traction in 2019.

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People: Valuing Internal and External Community

In the context of coworking models, it seems obvious that the term “people”refers to your  members. After all, membership dues are the bread and butter of your coworking spaces’ revenu. This however makes it easy to fall under the misconception that focusing on sales and building your membership matters above anything else.

Internal and External Community

While we definitely agree that building an internal community is high priority, as it is pretty hard to have a coworking space without members, we encourage the notion that equal value and energy should be placed on building relationships with your external community, or Stakeholders

The most dynamic and sustainable coworking models are designed around the principles of embedded communities, or communities within communities. Your space should be focusing on creating the feeling of community for your Users, but you’ll also want to consider how your space fits into the peripheral community at large. Therefore, as previously outlined in our post on the complete 3D Coworking Model, striking a balance between focusing on building and maintaining your “Users and creating relationships with potential “Stakeholders is an absolute must.

Maintaining this balance will create a feedback loop: a continuous flow of value coming and going from your space. A healthy and supportive internal community is a value add to not only potential new users, but also an attractive asset to potential stakeholders. This could include anything from securing support of local government and economic development organizations, to cash or in-kind sponsorship from businesses. Having that external support gives you more to offer your Users and adds to the overall value to your Membership.

The Elements of People

As previously described in our post on the Six Elements of Coworking, and in our posts on the factors of Space {link} and Experience {link}, the 3D Coworking Model divides the factor of Space into the complementary elements of Users and Stakeholders. As you continue to dig deeper into each, you will discover these elements break down further into sub categories.

Users (Internal Community): The element of Users is a much more complex subject than the simple acquisition of new customers. The element of Users encompases technical decisions on what tools, platforms and strategies you will use not only to attract new members, but more importantly, managing day to day interaction and communication, with which to retain them. This element contains all of the business components pertaining to marketing strategies, your community development and lead generation, as well as member management strategies. (Note: we do not include programing or events in this element as those components reside within the factor of Experience {link} and the element of Engagement {link}) You can read a more in depth description of Users HERE

Stakeholders (External Community): This element breaks out to include relationships with just about anyone in the larger community who has any amount of vested interested in seeing you succeed. This can be anything from a partner-landlord who wants to see a return on their investment to support from local elected officials. This could also include any form of public or private sponsorship from local vendor partners or building relationships with third party booking platforms. You can read a more in depth description of Stakeholders HERE

Again, the key here is to determine the balance between both sides of the spectrum, which will best support a sustainable business model. Focusing on ways to grow and support your community while also continuing to gain support from those around you.

Experience: It’s About More Than Just Happy Hours

From the moment people walk through the door, they begin to process the experience you’ve created for them. Of course, the first wave comes from their initial impression of the environment you’ve designed, but quickly shifts to an evaluation of the services and opportunities you provide. The experience you provide contributes to the overall value proposition prospective members will consider when deciding to join a space.

The Elements of Experience

As previously described in our post on the Six Elements of Coworking, and in our posts on the factors of Space and People, the 3D Coworking Model divides the factor of Experience into the complementary elements of Engagement and Hospitality. As you continue to dig deeper into each, you will discover these elements break down further into sub categories.

Hospitality (passive): In the 3D Coworking Model, Hospitality incorporates the act of offering interactions, customer service and amenities which make guests feel welcome and well cared for in your space. This concept, when broken down into business model terms, includes everything from your hiring and training process to what service amenities you offer as part of your membership plans. Hospitality is highly affected by such things as smoothly running processes and procedures, so for that reason we also consider such things as operations to be included in this element.You can read a more in depth description of Hospitality HERE

Engagement (active): Engagement is ultimately about user experience: the ease of use when accessing the space and amenities for both users and their guests. This also includes the implementation of purposeful and well rounded events and programing which allow members to connect and engage with both each other and the space itself. You can read a more in depth description of Engagement HERE

Delivering a Service vs. Providing Opportunities

To the extent that a coworking membership is, in fact, a business transaction (exchanging dollars for experience) members want to feel comfortable and ‘taken care of’ when coming to your space. Consistency is important: the extent to which you can ensure members receive attentive service from knowledgeable staff, enjoy complimentary provisions  and reliable access to business services will set the bar for members future expectations. In the 3D Coworking Model we refer to this as the element of Hospitality, meaning the way your space interacts with your users.

Creating “community” however, involves at least some level of active participation on the part of its members. Depending on your model, this could mean something as simple as offering the ability to self-schedule meeting rooms and managing your own visitors, or something as big as implementing democratic governance. Encouraging the opportunity for active engagement is also something to consider when designing your spaces programing and events calendars. The 3D Coworking Model refers to these opportunities within the element of Engagement, meaning ways in which your users will interact with your space.

Inevitably, different people want different things, and they will ultimately self select a coworking model that has the combination of service and autonomy that feels right for them. Through Agora RDM’s DEFINE process, we’ve identified various member personas, each of which suggest a different combination of active and passive engagement. We encourage space operators to take this into consideration when deciding which opportunities they will utilize to actively engage members compared to services offered to make their members feel comfortable and serviced.

Ultimately finding some form of balance between these two corresponding elements will be the key in managing expectations and maintaining a healthy relationship where users remain both engaged in the community and satisfied with the experience you’re offering.