I have “experience” having done exactly that but I’m not sure I can give you ANY good advice. I’ve really hit the wall this week and questioning my level of naivety in this venture.
I apologise if this post comes across as a whinge but I’m struggling to understand where I’ve gone wrong.
My space is comfortable in a roomy and well appointed sense but TINY when it comes to catering for a viable revolving door community of workers. We have a max. 8 fixed desks plus we can accommodate another 8 in the group-table, coffee-table lounge areas. Town population probably 3-4k people, high unemployment but a lot of early-adopters of innovation. It is not your typical office space being an old renovated hall. The space includes a residential apartment… so the lounge area has a large home-office ambience – an atmosphere that will suit some but not others.
We’ve been operating for a little over six months now… and haven’t grown much. I’ve needed to adapt my ideas and tighten up the rules a bit (not easy with those who’ve joined early) – but so necessary. Maybe this is the hardest part when you don’t have a stream of people lining up for a desk… because it’s the people who set and shape the culture of the community.
Regional populations in Australia are very small - so marketing is not easy. However I saw a need (not necessarily a demand) for affordable and social working options. While I’ve been prepared to operate at a loss for 12 months, with the idea of pricing products very competitively and attractively, I hadn’t factored in the heavy lifting involved in site maintenance. Rules around “cleaning up after yourself” don’t relieve me of the janitor role.
Pricing correctly (and sticking to it) is proving to be an issue. In particular because I have a group of people from a single organisation who are dominating – in the sense of “owning” the space, and over time becoming less mindful of others (solo workers). They have asked for and I have given the group concessions on their argument that they deserve discount for volume. That was the beginning of more demands and I’m beginning to feel quite manipulated. They now want 24/7 access without an increased rate adding that they would probably look for their own office space. I responded simply with the obvious – it’s a coworking space, there is no “lease”, people come and go as needed.
Two days later I was greeted with a bunch of flowers! and an offer to take over the whole space. I said I would think it over.
The feeling of manipulation is clouding my ability to think strategically. Yes, I am taking it personally. It confronts my original vision. I’m leaning towards a decision to increase my monthly rate (to better cover maintenance) and to revoke the “discount” with the suggestion they find their own office. I will take the punt that other coworkers will materialise. Do I stick to my vision or do I acquiesce?
I realise that part of my problem stems from starting out “soft”. I didn’t develop and deliver the Terms and Conditions from the outset. Don’t make that mistake. And I wasn’t clear in myself about the nature of offering a coworking facility. Do customers have a right to expect coworking to be a fully serviced option where they don’t have to worry about taking out the garbage?
I would really appreciate a no-punches-pulled reality check from more experienced coworking vendors.