Understanding the coworking customers

We’re in Canada, so we may not be able to participate, but we’re definitely interested in a study. We’ve been interfacing with local, regional and provincial leaders consulting of how the service based companies or SME (Small, medium sized Enterprises) community is the true economic engine for communities. These SME’s start, grow and stay in their communities, while startups tend to move out. Service based small business end up buying homes, raising kids and contributing to the culture and economy. Some startups do, and more and more BODs are seeing the benefit of keeping their startups in the community they birth in. it’s a cool trend.

The point is, it’s the SMEs that drive a local economy. Start ups are sexy and can help grow a digital sector, and create buzz and should be given attention, but the long term effect is still in favor of SMEs I suspect. Our space has both Service based and start ups, but mostly SMEs.

I’m pitching for a public private partnership with local gov AND incorporate incubator and accelerator programs all together and am getting some traction with some municipalities, but it’s not an easy go.

Last point… Don’t wait for or rely on government to get it or help or whatever. They have resources to help, but as Brad Feld says, the entrepreneurs have to lead the way. The strong, sustainable startup cultures are seeded by grassroots efforts and lead by passionate entrepreneurs.



On 2014-05-11, at 1:26 PM, Katherine Warman Kern [email protected] wrote:


I’m writing because I am the dog who caught the car. I need help.

Recently, I met with the economic development staff person for our congressman, Jim Himes.

We had a long talk about why our focus is on the Independent Creative Professional community rather than being a start up incubator.

I don’t have anything against start up incubators. But we started COMRADITY because we are independent marketing creative professionals and we wanted a place where we would want to work. We not only took a risk by signing a long term lease and investing in the facility. We are committed to using our business network and reputation to make our members more visible. We are dedicated to helping them connect with businesses who aren’t looking for the cheapest way to repeat what they did last year, but a fresh new idea that is specifically relevant to their business situation and the results they are aiming for.

Over time I have become increasingly aware that the government, businesses, and the community don’t “get us”. And this conversation with our congressman’s economic development staff person was no different. Except that she was very curious to learn more. So I sent her an email with a write up of everything I’ve learned about the world of independents.

I never heard back from her, until friday, when she called to say that Congressman Himes wants to come for a tour and is putting it on the press schedule . . .ON MONDAY - that’s tomorrow.

So I’ve written a post here: http://www.comradity.com/comradity/2014/05/labels-schmabels.html

Here’s what you can do to help me. I’d like to recommend to Congressman Himes that the government fund a study of coworking members to better understand their economic impact, the hurdles they face and what it would take to lower their business risks. I’d like to tell him that this community would like to collaborate to design and field the study.

So, what’s the fastest way to find out who and how many of you would participate in the design of the study and the fielding of it?

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very good insight about SME's Thanks

This is very cool, Katherine!

It sounds like you’re somewhere between relief (somebody is finally listening!) and panic (omg what if this is our only shot?!).

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t mistake the quickness of their meeting scheduling with their quickness in…well, in any other capacity. Over and over, I’ve seen people in gov’t and pseudo-gov’t bodies get excited about doing things with us, but when it comes time to actually get the doing done…slower than molasses. Their default speed is very different from yours, and they don’t really respond to any sort of deadlines except for when the polls close.

  • Don’t get wrapped up in doing “big things”. Gov’t folks are used to having to work at a scale where, frankly, most things don’t work. That’s why it always feels like they’re not getting anything done. It’s so expensive for them to get approvals & buy in that the things they’re used to doing MUST be at a certain scale, other wise it’s not worth it. Resist getting wrapped up in their need for scale. Think big, but act small.

  • Focus on helping them deliver a single small result, more specifically, a single small win. Related the the “big wins” mindset that gov’t folks bring to the table, they’re also not used to success. It’s AMAZING how the conversation can change when you can help them deliver a tiny success. Note the difference in what I said: not for you to deliver that win, but help them deliver the win. They need to feel it for themselves. This is the ultimate quick-start for building real trust, and getting a sense for how you might work together in the future.

  • To that end, trying to do a large-scale study is the sort of thing that I wouldn’t do as the first project together. Do something smaller, focused, local, etc. Win-able.

  • When talking to the press, keep the message laser-focused on what’s already been done, and avoid talking about “what could be” or “what will be”. This will keep you (and your political partner) from making promises that you can’t keep.

I’ve got a lot more that I can share on this topic, but I know that you’re feeling time-crunched right now so I wanted to get the most salient points in your hands ASAP.

Oh, one last thing - don’t forget to have fun. :slight_smile:




coworking in philadelphia

On Mon, May 12, 2014 at 5:47 AM, Katherine Warman Kern [email protected] wrote:

very good insight about SME’s Thanks

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thanks alex. really good advice.

Jim spent over an hour in the space and in addition to taking the time to understand what we are doing - catering to the independent professional rather than the startup gov't funded incubator like the Stamford Innovation Center in the neighborhood - and talking to members who certainly demonstrate they've got some chops.

Jokingly he described it as "Andy Warhol's Factory without the drugs" - but seriously got the idea that there is a lot of great talent out there which if accessed by businesses and brands without a power brand budget, could have economic impact. And he looks forward to coming back to see the effects. So we accomplished the little thing you suggest: We started a conversation.

Separately, since we just got our Certificate of Occupancy after several rounds with the fire marshall - we actually got some great images and video of the space with lots of people in it to put on the website (which we will refresh in a week or so).

Alex, I totally agree with your advice about being local and true to our community. After GCUC I wrote about the diversity and originality that comes from it and warned against the temptation of trying formula-ize to replicate at scale.

I commented in the post GCUC survey that I enjoyed sharing and commiserating with fellow coworking owners/operators, but wished I had heard more about the members- understanding their needs, opportunities for improvement. Learning about pockets of members that I didn't know may exist in my community to welcome into the fold. A member survey could reveal some juicy (excuse the pun) stuff.

In addition to helping us understand what makes each of us different - it may also serve to identify some common needs which our combined critical mass could benefit - from purchasing power to political policy making.

Design of the survey is everything. I know there was a survey fielded at the event by a grad student. But what it revealed most to me is how little folks outside of our realm understand about this "indie movement". For example, the "outsiders" seem to think we're all "between jobs"

Some food for thought.

Meanwhile, to the extent we can gather stories of ways our members have added economic value to their community, I think it would be a great way to build a case to Jim, as we continue to have this conversation, that funding a study to better understand this movement may be a good investment from a political policy point of view. Maybe there's a place to curate them here?