Jeannine, I love thinking about cities and places in the way you wrote at the start of your email, would like to talk more and hear how you think about that, either on a phone call or online, whichever you prefer.
Could you say more about what all your places share and how they are different?
Oh, I can go on and on. I promise not to though. I think if you try to put the same formula in a differnt place, you get punished for violating its soul by the distance people feel from your business. And they are right of course, because it is not then in fact about them but about your formula. It can work or not work, but if it does work, you find that what works is a lot of people striving towards being something they are not. Or people who are displaced, feeling at home for once. Which is a differnt kind of distance.
Everywhere in Europe you will find a thing called an American Bar. I like them, actually, as I am an American in Europe. But there is an artificiality, which is what there is to like, about them.Its authenticity is a meta-authenticity: we are authentically playiong at having an American Experience in and as imagined by people who are not now nor do they really want to be American – except for that couple of hours.
It is a beautiful experience, But not an organic one.
In all of the locations in principle coworkers are renting the entire space on the basis of sharing it with everybody else, and our job is to manage the sharing so it is seamless and keep track of use and bill it out so everybody pays for what they use. All coworkers have the ability to move back and forth in membership plan from moth to month. They all pay in advance for a calendar month, and they all can cancel or change at any time durng a calendar month which is already paid. They all have access to the internal network.
In all our spaces the fiorst principle is to hire, recruit, buy and sell within a community of earned trust. We think the first place to look for anything is within the community.
In all of them every coworker is valued as a member of the community, whether they are at the entry level of membership or almost ready to graduate.
We approach the coworkers at each location as a community in its own right, but consider them allied to the other communities in the network and encourage cross-community contact.
How they are different might take me all day. The physically smallest setting is in Rijsenhout, a village with 3000 residents and the largest is, well, Amsterdam. But the physically smallest location is I think in Amsterdam (though this may not be true any more, just expanded from half a floor to a whole floor in the building).
You write ‘the Community Manager in the home space’ is the main organizer for each location; do you mean there’s one person at one main location for you, who is contacted for all the locations, or each location has a person who is physically there most of the time who is the organizer?
No, all our coworkers have the one point of contact, usually the Community Manager in their home space, who is officially responsible for arranging things for them. So if one of the coworkers in Kamer52 in Oosterhout wants to go to Amsterdam, the Community Manager in Oosterhout, arranges whatever needs to be arranged.
For my long term coworkers it is sometimes me still, because I was doing all the jobs when they came in.
By preference the Community Manger is a coworker on conhtract, usually somebody in adminstrative services, management services, or bokkeeping which I think is logical.
You write it’s a lot of fun when members start their own locations; could you write more about why/how it’s fun? (Collective Agency members have independently started at least 5 locations of which at least 3 are still continuing, plus private offices often modeled on us, often when there is a split in a requirement, like another city/location, a specific demographic niche, a corporate request, or when a certain ethos or experiment is desired by two or more members that wouldn’t fit within the Community Guidelines. Gangplank in Chandler Arizona has a licensing model that I always love hearing about.)
So far everyone who has started a new space has done it with some kind of relationship with the mothership as it were. For all of them we are a source of new members and information and so on. Most of them are branded as a member of the network, some are branded as independent offshoots with a different model. This is I think a function of the fact that we are not yet mature in terms of where I would like to go with this approach. I mean ultimately, I would like to have a kitchen table to enterprise solution. However, at the point that coworkers grow to needing multiple temas, they pretty much run out of room and have to be graduated to their own space. We have a party and everything. But some coworkers don’t want to switch to a traditional model entirely, so they rent a space with more room than they need and cowork some more.
My own approach is to be broad in membership because that’s what I like; but for example one of my coworkers is graduating soon and he wants to set up a coworking space in his new digs, but then with a theme: he wants coworkers in the same sector or related sectors as he is in. So I guess we will be doing that next.
I think starting out a coworking space with a new idea is fun, I hav eweird ideas about fun like that.
It’s helpful to hear about membership at one location and ‘as if membership’ at the other locations, people have suggested that. I’m wondering for key and alarm access, how that works? (I could see having the same alarm code at each location, or different codes at each location. To start, we’ll have different door key systems at each location; magnetic key fob at one, and metal key at the others.) Do you have one key and code for all locations, or are there resident members who open and close, and members at other locations can visit during those hours?
Oh heavens no. All the locations have different door requirements and technology. In the smallest village, population 3000 or something, the dog is likely to go get the person who needs to come and open the door for you, it’s that casual. The space where i am based has a keypad. The logistics/shipping and warehouse spaces have the most tightly controlled access I think. And in Amsterdam, just like all over Amsterdam, you have to ring to be let in.
How do people at the various places dream up ideas and make them happen? Do they ever do that without going through a Community Manager or you? Do you tend to have one person at a time or groups of people who come up with ideas and make them happen? What roles/autonomy do they have, and are their roles/autonomy broadly written down?
Do you know, I don’ t know? By the time I hear about it it is usually fairly well defined. I can’t offer a service or product I don’t know about so if I am offering it then they have come to me about it. The most recent examples are: a group shipping (one account to get enough volume to get better pricing and conditions); a return and pickup membership for web based retail; a shared storefront for web based retail that wants to explore the interface between online and offline retail. Lot of innovation in retail.
Right now with 2 locations I’m seeing confusion/disappointment sometimes, and joy/excitement/surprise sometimes (of all the emotions, it’s mostly excitement/anticipation), that one place is physically different with different amenities than the other.
We are not a franchise but a network, so they don;t really expect the locations to be the same I think. Or at least, I have never had anybody be surprised yet.
We have an Instagram account shown on all our website pages that seems to be a main emotional connection for many people. The disappointed people want either wood and brick Loft, or white-wall Gallery, but not both, and showing the second location reduces inquiries in the first location, and showing the first location reduces expectation for the second location.
So I could see having different Instagram accounts for each location, and show the main Instagram at the top, and the second Instagram below, and then Facebook and other more community/human things, to share, and the Membership page to share (as long as members at the third location want the same rates as the main location). Or I could see just having enough variety in the Instagram, the same way we currently have variety of photos with humans (which attract most people more) and photos without humans (which attract some other people more).
Either I have the wrong population for that, or something. It’s outside my experience. We only have Facebook, LinkedIn (which is really huge in the NL),Twitter, and the photos on G+ so people can see what to expect in each location.
Truth is, I only just really started on having one webpage for all the locations, and I expecty it will be nice once it is up. But the runup surely is taking a long time. sigh
Let me know if I made no sense or you want me to make something clear!