How to Build a Coworking Space That is Flexible and Enables Member Growth

As the coworking market has matured and grown, so has the sophistication of the customer. You can’t just offer trendy features anymore and expect everyone to come to what you’ve built.

The flirtation with plush amenities like coffee baristas has given way to a more mature desire for features that enable users to work at their best. The coworking provider that optimizes the space for productivity is more likely to attract and retain members.

Flexibility today means more than just moving partitions and rearranging the furniture; you must accommodate each client’s unique needs.

At Office Evolution, for instance, we had a client company that created custom golf simulators. They took a few offices, paid to tear down a couple of walls, and built their own golf simulator to bring their customers in to use on site. There was also a video production company that built a studio and a language school that created their own complete training center inside one of our spaces.

We’ve reconfigured spaces to accommodate a single large client and built scenarios like the office-within-an-office, where you have the owner and CEO on one side and several customer service reps over on the other side. And we’ve connected those offices with a simple sliding glass door.

3 ways to flex your market muscles

The more flexible your options, the more members you’ll attract. But how do you anticipate prospective members’ needs so you can offer them suitable options? That’s where you really need to know the market.

  1. Get your data straight

There’s no magic wand you can wave, so we do a lot of tracking of three KPIs – occupancy, leads, and revenue – to start to predict trends in lead flow. We look at how many leads each location is getting each month and whether they have a waiting list, and those locations that are sold out can give us a solid indication of what the needs are elsewhere in that market and what is attracting members to a location.

You’ll find it gives you much more confidence in talking to your landlord or when you’re considering expanding your space because you now have an actual wait list of members. And then once you hit that 100% occupancy, there are other revenue models you can offer such as community memberships, conference rooms, and day offices.

In figuring this out, it’s tempting to try being all things to all people – the more adaptable you are, the more members you’ll attract, right? Wrong. Instead, you risk being nothing to anyone.

  1. Find your niche

Instead, I think our industry should take a lesson from the hospitality business. When we were studying other companies to start building our brands, our case study didn’t include other coworking spaces, it was the Marriott hotel organization. There are 30-plus brands under the Marriott umbrella, and each of them appeals to a different niche – from Courtyard by Marriott for the business traveler to Starwood for the luxury-seeking guest and Residence Inn with kitchenettes that appeal to families.

Now, you are probably aware that a W Hotel is different from a Courtyard by Marriott. They’re both hotels with beds in a room that is rented by the night. But they’ve each curated a different experience by having tangible differences. You expect them to have different toiletries, different linens, different décor in the lobbies. And what was brilliant was that the hospitality industry developed the Star system so people would know instantly what their experience is going to be like.

We’re developing our brands in the same way. Office Evolution spaces average about 10,000-square feet, while Venture X locations are about 22,000-square feet, size options that affect how our members use the space. Maybe Venture X will have two 1,500- to 4,000-square feet of community space that doubles as an event space, versus Office Evolution, which will typically not have an event space but more often tends to be private offices.

  1. Stay up to date – but always relevant

We can also take a cue from hospitality in updating amenities on a regular basis. But we need to continue staying away from trendiness or things that may have a “wow” factor but offer nothing practical. I think there have been several things in this industry that were flashes in the pan. People saw what the big operators were doing and tried to fit them into their offerings, but it didn’t work for the members they were trying to serve.

The rule of thumb, I think, is a variation on an old movie quote: If you build what they need, they will come.

This article first appeared in Coworking Insights here.

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FLEXIBLE WORKSPACE AUSTRALIA

Flexible Workspace Australia is the peak body for coworking and flexible workspace providers and partners across all cities and regions of Australia.

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