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.

The Six Elements of Coworking – A 3D Coworking Model

When designing a coworking space, many are under the false impression that it’s as simple as outfitting a space with some desks, WiFi, and decent coffee and the members will start rolling in. Maybe at one point. However, as this industry grows and coworking models become more complex, so does the design process. At Agora RDM, we’ve developed a comprehensive 3D Coworking Model based on our 3D process: Define | Design | Drive . This model incorporates six elements to consider when designing a flex-use or shared workspace.

The Six Elements of Coworking

More Than Shared Workspace

The rise in collaborative consumption and the sharing economy movement have spurred an increase in popularity of flex-use and shared workspace models. Pairing Space as a Service with assorted business resources, these facilities provide countless benefits to all who use them. Today, you’ll find coworking models of all different shapes and sizes. While there is much debate about the necessity of various bells and whistles some spaces offer, there are three basic factors which must be present in any coworking model.

A driving force behind the popularity of coworking is the ability for individuals who work alone to engage in much needed social interaction. Social or professional groups based around a common interest or skill set, have formed, providing a network to solo workers. Networks can exist in various forms, virtual or in person, however they maintain their integrity regardless of geographic location. When introducing designated space into the equation, you have what Ray Oldenburg, author of Great Good Place calls “Third Space”. Traditional Third Spaces include places such as: coffee shops, internet cafés, libraries, and business lounges.

Defining Differentiating Factors

The differentiating factor between a coworking space and a traditional Third Space is the implementation of intentionally curated experience. These experiences often come in the form of programing and events designed to benefit the user. They also provide operators with benefits such as marketing and additional revenue streams.

To state this in its most simple form:

  • A person working alone is missing out…
  • A person connecting with others creates a network…
  • A network with a space, is a Third Space…
  • A Third Space with purposeful experience, is a coworking space.

We admit, the line between third space and coworking can appear blurry. While the question “What is real coworking?” is often a heated debate within the industry, it’s widely accepted that coworking, no matter the business model, must account for each of these 3 factors: People, Space, and Experience.

Elements = The Tangible & Intangible Components of Each Factor

Each one of these three factors are in reality a spectrum, rather than a fixed concept. Through defining each factor, we have identified pairs of corresponding elements which represent tangible and intangible end of that continuum. Each element itself is then made up of various conditions.

In doing so we find:

  1. The factor of “Space” includes the physical (your Facility, and all aspects that come with it) as well as the intangible (referred to as Purpose, or your “why”).
  2. The factor of “People” includes the spectrum of both internal and external communities. With your members (referred to as Users) being at one end and Stakeholders represented at the other.
  3. The term “Experience” includes both active and passive engagement. How your members interact with your space (the User Engagement) as well as how your space interacts with them (Hospitality).

Understanding the spectrum present within each of these three factors is of vital importance when valuing the elements as corresponding components.(ie; a facility with no purpose is essentially just shared real estate, whereas purpose with no facility is a pipe dream)

When applying this thought process to all three factors at once, you’ll see the image begins to form a 3D cube. The factors of Space, People, and Experience all act as height, width, and depth. The corresponding elements of each factor thus account for parallel sides of the cube. Define, phase one of our Define | Design | Drive process provides organizations with data to be used when charting where their elements fall on each factor’s parallel planes.

Thinking about developing a flex-use or shared workspace business model? Our Define consulting services can provide you with the insight and guidance to mitigate financial risk. Contact us today!

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.

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