MarketScale Building Management Podcast 12/12/18

AgoraRDM Co-Founder Mike LaRosa was interviewed by MarketScale’s Building Management podcast on 12/12/18. This episode takes a look at the various ways that facilities can make the most of their available space. From music venues utilizing their space for multiple events, to automated parking garages, and coworking spaces, one of the objectives for each of these projects is to make the most of the limited amount of space at each particular facility.

A Crash Course on Coworking Spaces

Copied from the MarketScale Building Management blogpost:

Chances are you hadn’t heard of coworking spaces ten years ago, but you’ve almost certainly heard of them now. What caused this surge in the market? Mike LaRosa, Co-Found of Agora RDM, is an expert in these types of spaces. He joined the show to talk about the factors that combined to create an environment for growth and the best practices these coworking spaces should employ to maximize their success.

“As coworking has evolved, or as we like to say, space as a service has evolved, folks are identifying a slew of different ways to monetize under-utilized space,” LaRosa says. He calls the combination of factors that led to the explosion of coworking spaces as “the perfect storm”, referencing the downturn in the economy ten years ago, an increase in remote employees, and the desire of younger generations to free themselves from the tradition office setting.

MarketScale Building Management

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Looking to Monetize Underutilized Space?

Agora RDM integrates real estate management practices with the principles of coworking to provide all-inclusive solutions for flex-use or shared work spaces, community builders, institutional developers and investment trusts alike.

Beyond offering consulting services to shared workspace owners and operators, Agora RDM uniquely specializes in developing non-traditional shared space concepts in addition to offering facility management services.

Believers in the discipline of “Space as a Service”  with focus on the client’s overarching business goals, Agora RDM works with organization’s existing resources such as amenities and shadow or underutilized space to create new revenue streams and/or grow the sales of existing products and services.

Contact us today for a one hour complimentary space analysis to learn how you can monetize underutilized space, today!

The post MarketScale Building Management Podcast 12/12/18 was first published on AgoraRDM.

Your Team Needs Training Wheels

I’ve never met a coworking space operator that hasn’t lamented the difficulty of finding and hiring a community manager. Candidates are either too expensive, too inexperienced, or once they are settled in, they find a better gig somewhere else. You’re probably already rolling your eyes thinking “Duh, Captain Obvious.” Fine, then. Go ahead and roll them. But before you do, hear me out.

It’s been three years since a chance encounter helped me realize the extent of the staffing challenge our industry faces. I’ll never forget it. I’d just finished a tour of a space and stepped into the elevator with a young woman on the verge of tears. Not three floors into our journey, she broke down, sharing she’d just interviewed for a community manager role. The problem was she felt utterly unprepared for the interview.

A quick rundown of her work history and experience led me to realize she’d be perfect for the role. The problem wasn’t her. It was the fact that the space had an overly vague job description and little to no hiring procedures. On top of that, when searching “community manager,” she found information about online communities rather than a physical one.

In such an innovative or *shudder* disruptive industry of ours, there’s a learning curve for jobs that didn’t exist 20–30 years ago. What’s surprising, however, is the fact that operators (both big and small) are creating these pain points themselves. How? Simply due to a lack of foundational hiring and training processes. You don’t need a 300-page bureaucratic training manual to quickly and easily nip some of these problems in the bud.

It All Starts With A Job Description

Sure, there are plenty of Community Manager job descriptions that you can find online. But, are you actually taking the necessary time and attention to customize them for your space? There are plenty of folks that I’ve spoken with that say, “But it worked for them…” Sure, it worked for them, but do they describe your specific space? This industry is unlike many others, sharing knowledge via the Coworking Wiki or the Coworking Google group. We don’t stop to think about how our business is different from another’s space.

The amount of time you put into crafting a good job description will pay off ten fold when you find that needle in the haystack of candidates.

Be honest! I can’t tell you about the space (NDA) that was afraid to list membership sales in the roles and responsibilities section and then got upset when their new hires didn’t embrace that part of their job.

Be creative! I’ll never forget reading some of the original job descriptions from NextSpace way back in the day. Iris, Rebecca, and the team did such a great job crafting the description of each job’s role. What was really impressive was how everyone in the organization had listed tasks like, “Clean up any visible spills or messes.” It really displayed their focus on team spirit and how everyone contributed no matter their title.

Focus On Where You’re Looking

Personally, I recommend that you start your recruiting process by checking out local employees at coffee shops, recreation centers, or hotels. You might think you’re hiring for the real estate industry, but you’re actually hiring for a hospitality role. If you witness a barista that goes above and beyond for their grumpy, caffeine-deprived customers at 5 AM or a front desk attendant who is perky and friendly in the middle of the night, you’ve found someone who might very well be a fantastic community manager.

Candidates Are Interviewing You As Much As You Are Interviewing Them

Not everyone has hired people before, and that’s not a bad thing. That said, you need to have some sort of interview process in place before you start soliciting applications. We’ve all submitted for jobs never to hear back from the company again, or worse, to be told months later we didn’t get it. Yeah, no shit Sherlock. In this tight labor market, good candidates (i.e. the ones you want) are getting multiple offers. How you are presenting yourself, your space, and the team is more important than how much they impress you.

With as much sharing as there is in this industry, there’s not a lot of transparency when it comes to the actual interviewing process. That was, of course, until Indy Hall shared their experience. An OG of the industry, anyone who is anyone in coworking knows Alex Hillman, Adam Teterus, and the Indy Hall story. Recently they went through the process of hiring a new Community Manager and OMG! the insights they provided by documenting it are priceless.

Tell: They’ll Probably Forget. Teach: They Might Remember. Involve: They’ll Learn.

Ok, so your job description is spot on. You found a great candidate, and the interview process felt like a match made in heaven. What else is there to worry about? Well, the most crucial part of the process, of course! Training! Henry Ford put it best, “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.” 

Maybe you’re just so relieved to finally have someone help you manage your community and oversee your space that you drop them in without adequate training. Perhaps that’s how you learned the business or were hired/on-boarded yourself. Either way, I believe inadequate training is the biggest issue when it comes to employee retention.

What Starbucks Taught Me About Training

During my tenure as a store manager and training specialist for Starbucks, I learned the importance of respecting the training process as much as, if not more than, the hiring process. At every step, each responsibility was clearly documented and broken down into a process that built upon the next one. It makes sense right? It’s easier to steam milk to make a cappuccino once you know how to do so for a latte. Just as it is easier to sell coworking once you understand the different benefits of the memberships at the space.

It’s quite likely that this person has never worked for, or even been in, a coworking space before. Your job is to make them feel welcome and comfortable. Ensure that you have some type of coverage for your space while you’re training your new employee, or communicate to members ahead of time that you’ll be out of pocket for a few hours each day that first week. Far too many times I’ve seen someone come to their first day and sit around while waiting for the owner to “get to them.” 

When Training, Failure to Plan is Planning to Fail

Be sure you have all the admin/HR/login/paperwork stuff ready to go ahead of time. You also want to limit the amount of time spent on training and provide time for them to digest everything they’ve learned. Give them the lay of the land, introduce them to members, and have lunch. After that? Let them try out different parts of the space or send them home with some assignments to prep for the next day.

Go over the basics of the job and not just how it’s done, but why it’s done. Pardon the Starbucks references, but when you taste a bad espresso shot and a good espresso shot it’s way more likely that trainees wouldn’t skip out on steps once they saw the why. Build up to various responsibilities and provide them with tools that help guide them. You shouldn’t expect them to be flying on their own until at least a full week or two on the job.

Without diving too far down the rabbit hole, don’t be tempted to cut corners just because you think you don’t have the time for it now. The takeaway I encourage you to always remember is to put yourself in their shoes. Think back on a time when you had a less-than-stellar interview or perhaps no training on day one. This will help you remember the importance of properly hiring, training, and on-boarding your next new hire.

 The post Your Team Needs Training Wheels was first published on Coworking Insights.

Abundance vs. Scarcity: Why Collaboration Always Beats Competition

For most of my coworking life (the last four or so years) I’ve felt at best like a bench warmer and at worst like a spectator of a sport. Imagine I’m a fan of all the teams on the field which are all playing at the same time. Cheering for one person’s goal knowing that it’s because of another’s error or bad luck is complicated. I’ve had the privilege to work on great coworking projects, but none have been a space of my own. Being like “Switzerland” has allowed for a unique perspective of both operator and member alike.

Having a front row seat to the evolution happening to the industry has been exciting, although a little frustrating. Yes, the industry is innovative and growing fast, but many operators are doing the same things (both good and bad). Smart owners are focusing on what sets them apart rather than being the cheapest of “all the other spaces”. And the smarter folks are engaging with their peers rather than avoiding them.

Sure there are plenty of coworking conferences that grant you access to peers in the industry. These industry events are happening in more places more often, but what about your local or regional peers? Are you engaged with the other spaces in your town, city, state, or country? Do you know about all the different ways you can collaborate with other spaces rather than compete with them?

Associations, Federations and Alliances, Oh My!

The first way to collaborate instead of competing is through some form of alliance, federation or association. The Kansas City Coworking Alliance (KCCA) is an award-winning coalition of local shared spaces within the Kansas City, MO metro area. Benefits include meet ups and and passport-like services at multiple spaces. They even hit the world record of the most people to cowork at the same time. Melissa Saubers, owner of Cowork Waldo and a founding member of KCCA, shared that the spaces witnessed a “rising tide lifts all boats” type result of their efforts.

Upon further inquiry, she shared that all the space operators had an unwritten understanding. If someone wasn’t a great fit for their space, they’d be sure to offer a few other recommendations. Being partnered through an alliance such as this, and highlighting all their different offerings and locations helped drive overall demand for coworking. They created and contributed to a sales referral ecosystem.

This isn’t rocket science, folks. I hate to break it to you but hotels, event planners, residential property managers, and similar industries all typically have an industry association with local chapters. Networking with your “competition” is good for business when you realize they are your collaborators. Having a good contact at other spaces increases your ability to capture bookings that aren’t quite a fit for others in your area.

Apps and Communities

In Chicago, the app Deskpass has created a community of both space owners and coworking users. When a space is listed on the Deskpass platform, the owner is connected with other spaces around them. When they host coworking meetups, the events are usually at a new location and create a great excuse for users and owners alike to cowork and connect.

Nicole Vasquez, Chief Community Officer of Deskpass put it best: “Coworking is inherently about sharing, so as a coworking space owner, I found it natural to want to share my experiences with other owners, and learn from their experiences. Doing so allows for us to create better workplaces for our members and improve the coworking industry as a whole. I always seem to learn something new or find something unique at each space I visit, and it has greatly enhanced my own understanding of how to create memorable workspaces.”

Scarcity vs. Abundance

People typically have one mindset or the other and you can tell the two apart in an instant. It’s almost instinctual – something about the person you are speaking with. I’ve done my fair share of coworking events and have visited a lot of cities to see the latest coworking trends. Often, spaces are in a scarcity mindset, rather than one of abundance so they opt out of participating in a formal coworking organization, and thus because the organization lacks paid members it struggles to take off.

Besides KCCA, a few other regional/national groups stand out, such as Coworking Spain, European Coworking Assembly and the German Coworking Federation (GCF). Christian Cordes, Director at GCF, acknowledged the challenges in recruiting paid association members “…yes, most of the spaces would want to know how many [new] members they’d get for paying. What they needed to understand [was] that once they paid and joined it was then [that] they understood the benefits of being an [association] member. And those benefits have lead to helping grow their memberships.”

Pretty much, it’s a chicken and the egg situation. There’s evidence of the benefits of being a part of a formal organization, but that requires you to actively participate through volunteerism and/or dues.

To actively participate means shedding your scarcity mindset and embracing abundance – that there is more than enough out there for everyone. Christian acknowledged that while overall dues revenue is increasing, they also provide spaces with ways to volunteer their time if they are on a budget. Don’t let money be the excuse that stops you.

The 411

Basically, if you aren’t a part of your local or regional coworking network you need to be. It doesn’t have to be a formal, regional alliance. There are other apps and communities that offer opportunities to connect. If you don’t have anything like the above mentioned in your area then be the change you want to see; do something about it. Also, If that long list of coworking conferences isn’t fulfilling your professional needs or wants, redirect that money you’d otherwise spend. Perhaps toward local efforts might change the situation for the better? Save the cash on all the travel to conferences and put it towards hosting a local meetup, dinner or, unconference.

While hosting coworking owner meetups all over the world, it always surprised me how folks would commit if someone else did the planning. If you’re confident in your business and happy with where you are in life, then you have nothing to lose. That is, other than the opportunity to grow your business by collaborating rather than competing.

The post Abundance vs. Scarcity: Why Collaboration Always Beats Competition was first published on Coworking Insights.

Developing Flex-Use and Shared Workspace Business Models: The Agora RDM 3D Process

Coworking’s meteoric growth has led to the emergence of new business models, all with different applications and combinations of amenities, services and space design. Use cases have moved far beyond niche, industry focused or hybrid workspace providers such as shared kitchens or coworking paired with childcare. Organizations of all kinds have discovered that unique applications of flex-use and shared workspace models can prove beneficial in reaching their goals.

Define | Design | Drive

Whether it be a focus on the top or bottom line, a marketing initiative or simply staying competitive in an ever changing marketplace, there is one thing that is for sure: no two models are alike. Before launching a Space as a Service business model (primarily around work, productivity or community), organizations require a unique strategy.

When developing such a business model, it’s almost impossible to hear the word “space” without overly focusing on the physical location. After all, these strategies are often implemented to monetize or derive other value from a physical asset. Yes, good space design is important, but more important is what goes on in and around that space. Less focus on the “where”, and more on the “who” and the “what”. It’s with that perspective that Agora RDM has developed a “3D process” – Define | Design | Drive.

D1 – Define Your Goals

Mainstream operators expanding at light speed and securing more and more funding make it look easy. They are, however, in an ever increasing competitive market with little to differentiate them from each other. For those with vacant space, jumping to the conclusion that coworking is an easy fix might not prove true. Why not? Well, it all depends on whether or not the business model is in alignment with the organization’s overarching goals.

Before you can begin planning for a flex-use or shared workspace business model, organizations need to define their goals. Some might be looking to integrate coworking into their existing business as a new revenue stream. Others seek to increase foot traffic or “activate” existing properties. Then there are owners who need to vacant space or tenants trying to monetize space which is otherwise underutilized. Clear definitions of the physical (Space), the users (People) and amenities or services (Experience) provides the necessary information to develop a successful strategy.

While the idea of renting out office space at more than triple the market rate seems simple, the old “finger to the wind” coworking model design will no longer cut it. Before jumping to open a space, organizations also must assess the current market and available resources before they can even begin to run preliminary financial projections.

D2 – Design Your Space

Running a coworking space isn’t necessarily a complicated business, however it’s more than just furniture and wifi. If done in the wrong order, designing a physical location, benefits, services and amenities can quickly become a challenging process. It’s important to take into consideration all factors and elements of the business model. Balancing purposeful design (Space), with consideration of user engagement (People) and community or facility management (Experience) can lead to a complex list of questions and decisions.

Pairing a definition of the business model and goals with Agora RDM’s 3D Process Design consulting services, organizations can maximize their investment resources. Many times critical decisions are made without knowing there are missing pieces to the puzzle. Choosing a coworking management software without having finalized membership options, amenities or access control leads to more questions than answers.

D3 – Drive Your Business

Operating a single location coworking space is far different than integrating the concept into an existing business. Once an organization has defined and designed their model, the hard work has just begun. Managing (or driving) any type of space goes beyond simply launching the business.

Running such an operation can require constant sales and marketing efforts, customer service and facility maintenance. Proper hiring, training and operational documentation will ensure that standards are maintained and the users’ experience is consistent.

It’s not hard to do right; but it’s easy to do wrong. By implementing Agora RDM’s 3D process, organizations are able to better develop a flex-use or shared workspace strategy that best fits their needs necessary to achieve their goals.

The post Developing Flex-Use and Shared Workspace Business Models: The Agora RDM 3D Process was first published on Agora RDM.