Having a strong community is the foundation of every successful coworking space. Regardless of the size of the town or city, people have an intrinsic need for each other. Space is an artifact of that need, but that changes how you need to tap into those people.
Before opening a coworking space, focus on finding 10 people who want it. More importantly, find 10 people who want to be around each other, but don’t have a good way to do it. Find 10 people who have a common goal that’s bigger than the coworking space. This is a small but attainable goal for the foundation of a community.
Another other common problem is a lack of differentiation. Creating a shared space without a common goal means that there’s no identity, which means that there’s no way to know if someone should be there or not. There’s no context for connections & relationships. If there is a reason to walk in the door, there’s not much of a reason to stay.
One more common kill-shot in coworking spaces is that the founder spends more time doing things for their members than helping members do things for themselves. This leads to exhaustion and resentment regardless of how the community grows. If they don’t grow, they feel like their effort is wasted. If they do grow, they feel like they need to be responsible for everything.
Finally, have a sustainable business model. Breaking even isn’t enough. You don’t need to get greedy but you do need to have money to reinvest. The best coworking spaces have a model that allows for financial growth and reinvestment. Further, the model depends on the community’s success. If the community is healthy, so is the business. That way, you can focus on the community knowing that if you get that right, the business will grow as well. This helps you avoid common pitfalls like “maximizing for profit” because the easiest way to do that is to “maximize for the community” knowing that profit can come along for the ride.
So the community and its related changes in how you approach leadership, far more important than most of the “tactical” elements because without a community, there’s nobody for you to be tactical for.
Here are few pointers:
1. Aim for excellence: be extraordinary
The first step to building a strong community is to give the members a reason to be there. Your community centers around the product, and if it is not amazing, the people won’t come. Invest time into developing an extraordinary product, with all of your developers in the same room.
2. Invite them into your company’s family
Making your Coworkers feel at home and part of a bigger community should be your ultimate aim. The business always follows. Make them feel like part of your business family.
3. Say you care, and mean it: make your community feel special
Appreciation and fan-mail should go both ways. If a user tweets about your product or compliments you, show them that their feedback is valued by sending them a token of your appreciation.
4. Love all equally
Love all of your community members, regardless of how involved they are in the company. Whether you’re a free user or have a pro account, Sharif stressed that they are all part of the same community. ‘Community is for everyone!’