About Me

Hi, I’m Alex.

I build communities, started one of the longest running coworking communities in the world, write a crapload of words every day, tweet a little too much, coach people to be the best version of themselves possible, can't stop learning new things, and do my very best not to take myself too seriously.

I have one goal: to fill the world with truly excellent collaborators so we can all work together, better.

Because let's be honest...most of us aren't very good at it.

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Alex Hillman

How coworking can work for more people than you ever thought

Allow me to expand your mind beyond tech, startups, & remote work

First, take a quick peek at this mini-story about a new member joining a coworking space:

“We just got a new member who is not in the type of business I expected would be interested in coworking…but definitely has the needs of a coworker:

He started a cleaning business 6 months ago and spends about half his time on admin and commercial work. He was so fed up of working on the kitchen table between his wife and kids or in noisy cafés that he looked for another solution.

He was so happy when he left today saying he’d been super productive! Made my day!”

Getting stories like this make me smile like a goofball, partly because coworking has another happy customer but also because it’s clear that she’d been so surprised by this unexpected new member’s instant desire to sign up for membership.

There are SO many preconceived notions about who would want to work in a coworking space. I’d be willing to bet that sometimes you still get stuck trying to convince someone to pay for a coworking space when they know they could just work at home, in their underwear, for free.

So today, I want to peel back the layers of just one of those preconceived notions…all the way back to the deeply rooted core from whence it came.

In the “old world” of corporate jobs, everyone went to the same place to do the same task handed to us by the same boss. Day after day. Our work days were relatively certain, for better AND for worse. One particular benefit of that certainty – real or an illusion – meant that we could focus only on the specific skills needed to get the job done.

Meanwhile in the modern world of work – the one that coworking spaces are most connected to – things couldn’t be more different in that regard. In order for you to be successful today, in addition to whatever skill or craft you practice, there’s countless “meta-skills” that you need to learn including time and task management, communication.

Does it really make sense that ALL of your work is done best in the same kind of environment?

What would change if we learned how to choose an environment that was best suited for the task we were trying to accomplish?

Most people have NEVER learned the meta-skill of breaking their “work” into smaller components, so they can think about their work-day as interconnected but separate chunks of work.

And I can’t exactly blame them…where would you learn that skill other than to see someone else do it, and try it yourself?

Which is why my team and I so often ask people about their administrative tasks – like invoicing, paying bills, research, paperwork, etc. Let’s be honest: it’s not the work that we like to think about. In fact, it’s the work that many people would happily avoid…and many do, to their own detriment.

Even if someone’s not a freelancer or an entrepreneur, EVERYONE has chunks of time that they need to dedicate to slogging through that admin work.

But here’s the fun part: once you’ve got someone thinking about their admin work – something really magical happens when you bring up coworking. 9 times out of 10, it clicks for them.

“Oh, I could be sooooo much more productive if I carved out time to do that admin work, and did it around other people instead of letting myself procrastinate. Sign me up!”

Which is just like our friend with the cleaning service, who I’m sure you can easily imagine was thrilled to turn a dull, boring day of admin tasks into a productive, inspiring day of GETTING SHIT DONE.

The big lesson here is that a coworking space is more successful when it’s suited for a certain style of work, than certain kinds of people and professions. And there’s a good chance that it’s YOUR job to help people learn how to use this to be more productive, and happier at work.

That lesson leads us back to the big question – “why do people join coworking spaces?” which is a cornerstone question of the new workshop series called “Smashing the Stereotypes about Coworking & Collaboration” that Adam and I are super pumped to start teaching. Next week, we’ll be teaching workshops in Boston, New York, and DC. And on June 15th, we’re heading to San Francisco, then to Chicago, and Miami!

Which of these cities is closest to you? Will we see you there? :)

You can get $20 off the ticket price for any of these workshops with the code ALEX when you get to the Eventbrite page for your city’s event.

Even if we won’t see you at these workshops, I’d like to hear back from you!

What’s the most unexpected kind of work or profession you’ve seen from a member of a coworking space? Do they do anything unique to get value from their coworking membership? Reply and let me know!

How to get the best insurance for your coworking space

Insurance. A service you pay for that you literally hope you never need to use.

And even worse, there’s no way to know how good your policy is until it’s too late. There’s not really a way to kick the tires.

I was talking with my biz partner (not Indy Hall – this other thing I do) Amy about this as she was simultaneously dealing with a leaky roof in her 270+ year old home and preparing to get insurance for her business’ new office buildout.

For coworking spaces, getting insurance is doubly difficult…at least.

If you’ve set out on the path of starting a coworking space, you’ve probably found yourself needing to get insurance in order to sign a lease. Most commercial landlords require your business to carry at least a couple million dollars in liability coverage, and some require the same or more in other categories.

But if you call most insurance agents and tell them about your new office, you’re going to start getting quotes that seem outrageous.

And that’s if you even get that far. A lot of agents are literally just plugging your information into a computer program, so they’re thoughtlessly asking you for EVERY piece of information instead of the most relevant details about your coworking space, how it operates, etc.

After dozens of agents who didn’t have a clue, I lucked out and found an AMAZING agent who has consistently helped us get the coverage we need. That includes:

  • Our general liability policy
  • Coverage that allows other special events, on-site and off
  • Coverage that allows us to have alcohol at our events, on site and off-site (naturally we need to be law-abiding and cannot SELL alcohol or serve minors)

And a whole lot more. Over 8 years I’ve periodically called Diane with questions about one-off events that needed a policy, and she was able to save us money by showing how our existing policy already covered it. She’s gotten used to my strange requests, and even knows what to push back on.

(No, Alex, no slides. No fireman’s pole. No bouncy castle).

It’s weird to say, but I really love my insurance agent. 

And best of all, she’s helped tonsssss of US based coworking spaces get very affordable policies when other agents were quoting insanely high premiums. At least once a month on the Coworking Google Group, someone posts asking questions about insurance. I usually refer them to Diane.

I recently asked her why she’s able to help coworking spaces when other insurance agents seem to struggle. She said:

The problem that other agents have with quoting coworking spaces is that most insurance companies do not have an actual “cookie cutter” insurance classification available that fits a coworking operation and most agents don’t have a grasp on the understanding of the coworking operation which in turn, results in underwriters not having a clear understanding of the operation.

When the underwriters are not forced to “think outside the box” to see that a coworking operation will qualify for a different class code than a lessor’s risk class code, they nor their quoting system will allow it, resulting in preposterous premiums that do not accurately reflect the risk.

Thanks to working with you I have an understanding of how the coworking spaces operate and what it entails. In turn, I have taught some of my specific underwriters to have the same understanding, and to see things my way.

See why Diane is awesome?

She knows that she’ll sell more insurance policies if she takes the time to really understand who her customers are and what they actually need. Instead of retrofitting what she knew (or thinks she knew) about shared offices, she actually got to know our business and learned how to communicate it to an underwriter.

Frankly, Diane has done more work to understand coworking than most people do…including the ones who put a bunch of desks and chairs in a room and call it coworking.

She could’ve just gotten me the cheapest policy. But would I have the coverage I actually need? Most definitely not. 

She could have gotten me the most comprehensive policy, covering all of my bases including the ones I hadn’t thought of before. But how much money would I be wasting on our coverage? A ton. 

All she had to do is go a step above checking the boxes in a piece of software and actually THINK about the questions she was asking me. And not only did she get one happy (and properly insured) client…but I’ve referred her to countless other people.

If you’re based in the US (but not in NYC – sorry New Yorkers, Diane’s writers aren’t available there), and need insurance for your coworking space, I’d love to introduce you to my agent. I don’t earn any commissions or kickbacks, and I don’t have any personal affiliation other than as a happy customer. Leave me a comment with a way to get in touch with you, or email me directly – alex@indyhall.org.

If for some reason Diane can’t work with you – now you know what to look for in an excellent insurance agent for your coworking space.

And if you run a coworking space – or are opening one soon – you can learn a thing or two from Diane

Rather than checking the boxes of what you think a shared workspace should be, ask your community questions. Practice Tummling. Don’t just seek out what they want, find out what they care about (and why). Get them involved.

When you do, you’ll start to see your members become as loyal as I am to my insurance agent Diane.

How Tummling created one of the biggest Kickstarter successes in history

Yesterday morning I got an email from my friend Charlie.

Usually, when Charlie Bowden takes some time out of his day to share something with me, it’s because he’s found something that connects the stuff I love with something I probably haven’t thought about yet.

Yesterday he emailed me about Exploding Kittens.

I should probably explain.

About a month ago, a few guys launched a Kickstarter for a card game called “Exploding Kittens”. A month later, they had the 3rd most funded Kickstarter campaign in history clocking in at just under $9 million bucks.

Truth be told, this Kickstarter opened with a bang thanks to it’s creators’ networks, not the least of which includes everyone’s favorite internet cartoonist Matthew Inman aka “The Oatmeal”. And when I say “bang”, I mean that they beat their funding goal of $10,000 and had over $1 million pledged in the first 7 hours.

But it’s not just the financial milestone that’s notable, nor why Charlie emailed me.

What’s amazing is that Exploding Kittens had the biggest backer-base in history by a factor of 200%+…and that’s ahead of a campaign to bring back Reading Rainbow…a massively mainstream piece of nostalgia for millions of people my age, led by a real deal celebrity, LeVar Burton.

By measure of participation, a few indie internet celebs just crushed Geordi La Forge

So, back to Charlie. He emailed me this screenshot of a backer update, with the text,

“Interesting insight from the most-backed kickstarter ever: it’s a community.”

So…hang on. What’s the difference between any collection of backers…and an actual community?

Charlie followed on with:

Yes. I admit it. I backed Exploding Kittens.

I learned a lot form just committing a few dollars though. This Kickstarter was different.

The “community” was made up of backers (who contributed $) and were involved in helping spread the word.

During the campaign the team challenged the community with “tasks” to unlock stretch goals (so it wasn’t just about money). Most of the tasks were just-for-fun: Tweet photos of 10 people wearing cat ears, 50 people, 100 people, etc.

We’ll come back to this unique approach to stretch goals in a moment. But first, a little crowdfunding psychology lesson.

Kickstarter Stretch Goals have become one of the “best practices” for Kickstarter Success. The idea is that once you’ve hit the financial goal you need to call the campaign a success and actually collect the backer money, you can set new financial milestones to encourage more contribution.

For example, look at my friend and one of my earliest mentors film projects, “Bokeh” on Kickstarter. When Andy and his team passed the original $35k goal, he offered every backer a digital copy of the musical score from the movie when they hit $45k. They closed their campaign north of $48k. Success!

“Give us more money, and we’ll sweeten the deal.”

It makes sense, and it works. But let’s look closer. What do stretch goals actually do?

Two things:

1. Stretch goals entice existing backers to toss in a few more bucks

It’s easier to convince someone who’s already backed to back a little more, than it is to convince an entirely new backer.

The psychology of this version looks something like, “Well, if everybody pitches in just a few more bucks, we all get something extra.” So long as the extra goodies are on point in terms of being desire-able, it’s pretty easy to shake a couple of extra bucks out of a good % of backers.

I’d be curious what % of backers increase their amount to fulfill stretch goals. My best guess is that it’s a minority percent…I’d ballpark 10% as a generous estimate but I definitely don’t have data to back that up. If anyone does (hi, Kickstarter) I’d love to know!

2. Stretch goals entice existing backers to hook their friends into being backers

The other element is that the best person to convince a new backer to join a campaign is someone who has already backed.

The psychology of this version looks something like, “I want this sweet bonus, and my friend might too. If they join as a backer, we both get it.”

Campaigns benefit from their backers’ networks and their willingness to share a bit of their trust.

This is a MUCH, much harder sell to existing backers.

You’re putting the social burden on your backers to talk to their friends about spending money, something that many people find incredibly awkward. And even when people ARE motivated to recruit for you, you’re putting the trust in your backers’ comfort and ability to sell your campaign for you.

And let’s be honest – most people loathe feeling “salesy”, and many more are simply terrible at it.

I know that a big part of Kickstarter’s advantage is the network effect that they’ve built into their model, and that’s a big part of what carries many campaigns further than they could if they ran an identical fundraiser on their own website or even another crowdfunding website.

But I’m curious how the network plays into the performance of stretch goals. Again, this is pure speculation on my part, but I’d be willing to bet that existing backers recruiting new backers is a TINY portion of campaign growth during stretch goals. Again, I’d love to see actual data on that.

Both approaches have one thing in common: they’re all about the campaign. They’re designed to draw attention to the product, the object, the creation.

And stretch goals work. But what if they could work better?

A new kind of stretch goal: one that’s about bringing the backers together

This is what caught my eye in the campaign up date from the Exploding Kittens crew.

“We decided that everything we did from that point on would be to celebrate you guys, and help you celebrate each other.”

That, my friends, is the very practice that lies at the heart of Tummling.

No, not this:

But this:

I normally show that diagram to help people understand why their approach to “community management” is broken, but today, it does a great job of showing the difference between most Kickstarter campaigns and our new champion Exploding Kittens.

Let’s go back to where we left off in Charlie’s email:

During the campaign the team challenged the community with “tasks” to unlock stretch goals (so it wasn’t just about money). Most of the tasks were just-for-fun: Tweet photos of 10 people wearing cat ears, 50 people, 100 people, etc.

Although most of the tasks were silly, they also started conversations and helped foster connections. Several people followed me on Twitter based on retweets and favorites.

With only 30 days to complete a Kickstarter and not having the benefits of being within the same space with your community the degree of difficulty in creating that magical sense of “belonging” is much higher.

As the campaign came to a close this week, the exploding kittens team gave back beyond the boundaries of the community by offering to deliver pizza to any pet shelter that a backer would recommend.

Instead of focusing on the one or two outcomes that most stretch hope to goals generate – more money from existing backers and new backers – Kittens focused on the nearly infinite possible things that their backers could do and create together. They were constrained only by the 30 day window and their online gathering place, the comments section.

Speaking of the comments section…

This is how The Oatmeal and friends smashed the previous backer record held by Reading Freaking Rainbow.

And this is Tummling at it’s finest.

Unlike most Kickstarter stretch goals which put the focus on drawing additional attention to the campaign, the Exploding Kittens crew made it their imperative to draw as much attention as possible to the people who’d already helped make the campaign successful.

They made the missions absurd, playing to the strengths and interests of their audience. How did they know what their audience would enjoy? The fact that they spent money on a card game called “Exploding Kittens” is a pretty good clue that their backers would enjoy creative and funny activities.

These missions created value for backers, not just value for the campaign.

For a second, imagine dividing the Exploding Kitten Backer Community into 4 populations:

  1. Lurkers
  2. Audience
  3. Participants
  4. Champions

1. Lurkers is easily the largest population because it includes the people who backed but ONLY watched the crazy missions take place…it also includes those of us who DIDN’T back the campaign, but lurked while the the missions unfolded in the updates, comments, and on Facebook.

That’s important and I’ll come back to that in a second.

2. The audience are the lurkers who “show up”. Their presence is visible and important, but they’re not actually doing the missions themselves. Im the case of Exploding Kittens, the backer audience showed up in likes and shares on Facebook. And there’s lots of them.

3. Participants are the backers who are actually stepping up to do the missions, helping unlock the stretch goals. Compared to the Lurker and Audience populations, the Backer Participants is a much smaller group.

But without the participants, the backer audience wouldn’t have anything to like and share, and the lurkers wouldn’t have anything to watch.

4. The champions help participants participate. Of course, the Exploding Kittens crew themselves are champions of this community, but so are the individuals who organized the group challenges…like getting 10 batmans into a hot tub.

The champions are the enablers. And I can’t think of a picture that says “enabling” better than the one above.

Every single mission gave each of these 4 groups of people a new way to connect with each other in the way that best suited them.

My point about Observers including people who haven’t backed yet is important to consider because every mission being performed by hundreds and thousands of people became the most incredible invitation to be a part of the fun. Which is a much more exciting and enticing offer than “become a backer and get a funny deck of cards”.

Every observer is loaded with potential contributions to your project…including multiple potential ways to help the campaign succeed before they ever contribute a dime.

What you can learn from Exploding Kittens

You’re probably thinking to yourself, “that’s all great, but I’d never be able to get $1 Million in my first 7 hours so this TOTALLY doesn’t apply to me.

And you’d be wrong.

The fact that Exploding Kittens was successful out of the gate wasn’t their greatest feat. It was that they CONTINUED to be successful for the entire duration of their 30 day campaign.

So even if your goals and your existing audience are much more modest, you can use this Tummling-style approach to reach your goals faster, and make far better use of stretch goals.

Here’s two big things you should learn from Exploding Kittens:

1. Make your campaign about your backers, NOT about you or your project.

It’s not enough to say “this campaign is all about you, backers. We can’t do it without you.”

You have to celebrate them, and help them celebrate each other.

2. Give people more ways to contribute than money and “sharing”.

Rethink stretch goals. And goals in general.

Goals tied to short term financial milestones only have two potential outcomes: you reach the goal or you don’t.

Alternatively, inviting your community into participate in activities and to celebrate each other means that even if someone doesn’t contribute a dime, their participation increases the value of being a backer AND invites new potential backers to the campaign.

Beware of (exploding) copycats, and know your community better than anybody else

It’s going to be interesting to watch campaigns in the future attempt to recreate the success of Exploding Kittens. You can be certain that we’ll see people attempt to copycat the “achievements” approach to stretch goals, and fail.

The difference between success and failure with this approach is how well you know your community. Exploding Kittens missions weren’t successful because they were silly, they were successful because the community was silly and the missions matched.

EP11 – Thriving, the psychology of belonging, and what makes a sense of community

The science behind the feeling that everybody wants but only successful coworking spaces truly understand

So we’ve all heard about the “sense of community” that people refer to about the best coworking spaces.

But…what exactly IS a sense of community?

What are the elements? How do you know if it’s there? Is it even something you can create, and if so, how?

I’ve been excited to share this interview since it was scheduled back in January!

I interviewed two research scientists – Peter Bacevice and Lyndon Garrett – from the Center for Positive Organizations at the University of Michigan.

Their work has been published by the university but also by Time magazine!

Pete and Lyndon are behind a series of studies to try to understand the source of a sense of community, and to find answers to some of the more counterintuitive results that coworking is able to deliver. In this interview, these two shared a TON of valuable insights about what really brings people together in our communities, and suggest some reliably consistent patterns that can help ANY coworking space create a more valuable sense of connection for their members.

Their research included did a mix of survey research and immersive ethnography, actually embedding in and observing a Coworking community in action…which is where the most valuable insights came from.

We talk about the difference between working and thriving at work, the importance of choice, the need for “flashes” of community and even how a sense of community emerges at different stages of desire for community. Seriously amazing stuff to help shape all of our work and our members’ experiences.

Listen to this episode

You can also subscribe to Coworking Weekly in iTunes, or add http://dangerouslyawesome.com to your favorite podcast app and it should auto-detect the feed!

I encourage you to dig into their work even further!

EP10 – What NOT to do while building your community, and more on how to keep your team from burning out.

Live via Google Hangouts from a snowy Philly, I did this Q&A first Coworking Asia Unconference.

I really wanted to go to this event in person. I was still considering it as recently as the beginning of January…but nursing with an injury in the beginning of January and a full dance card working on the new version of 30×500 made taking a couple of weeks to adventure to Bali start to seem like an unwise choice.

Thankfully, co-organizer Steve Munroe agreed with my suggestion to do a virtual session via Google Hangouts. Given the time zone shift, my Friday night outpost at Indy Hall transported me to a session titled “Breakfast with Alex” (a perfectly casual title) in one of the most BEAUTIFUL locations I’ve ever seen.

It took a couple of questions before the crowd warmed up – funny, considering the climate – but once they did I got some GREAT questions. I recorded the session and posted the audio below, along with some photos and tweets from the attendees of the session. Pay no attention to the giant head on the screen – look at all of those beautiful coworking people and the Green School venue. Just wow.

Thanks for inviting me to visit – next year I’ll be there in person!

Listen to the Q&A

Answers include:

  • My #1 trick to get the most out of ANY unconference.
  • How to avoid burnout in your team members. (Note: many coworking space community mangers seem to crash after about a year)
  • Why coworking space acquisitions are rare, and consistently fail
  • One of my favorite examples of using lessons learned in coworking to create new successful ventures
  • What NOT to do when building your community

You can also subscribe to Coworking Weekly in iTunes, or add http://dangerouslyawesome.com to your favorite podcast app and it should auto-detect the feed!

Relive the event vicariously with these tweets and photos

Seriously the coolest venue I’ve ever presented in, virtual or otherwise! Thanks to everyone who helped share the experience.

EP9 – I was so close to burning out, I needed help.

Coworking spaces are supposed to be a better way to work.

Freedom, flexibility, collaboration, and choice.

For everyone…except for the people who are hired to work there.

No matter what kind of business you’re in, adding someone new to your team is a tough thing to do well. But in a coworking space, it’s a special kind of challenge for a couple specific reasons:

1. New hires in a coworking space don’t know exactly what they’re getting themselves into.

I talk to a lot of people – including many of you on this list – about what they expected when they signed up for the job to be a community manager/community catalyst/community activator/whatever.

Nearly everyone admits that they didn’t really understand what they do well enough to explain it to someone else…even after weeks or months on the job.

And with job descriptions that read like this…

…I’m not exactly surprised. 😉

So how is someone supposed to feel good about doing a job when they don’t even know what SUCCESS is supposed to look like or feel like, for them?

2. The staff of a coworking space are often the only people in the room who HAVE to be there – because it’s their job.

Contrast that to a room full of entrepreneurs, freelancers, and even independently-minded employees…what’s expected of you as a staff member can get confusingly mixed in with the messages of entrepreneurship.

In order for team members to feel a sense of SUCCESS for themselves, they need to know that their job is more than simply to show up and punch down a list of to-do’s.

Adding someone to your team just by throwing tasks at them doesn’t really send the, “hey, welcome, we’re glad you’re here” vibe.

How do you give someone a job description, but still give them the agency they need to succeed for their own satisfaction?

Today I want to share how I learned to bring people onto the team at Indy Hall in a way that’s made a HUGE difference in both of those areas.

This approach has made it possible for the people who join the Indy Hall team to feel a sense of ownership over their work in a way that you couldn’t simply by going down a checklist of “things to do”.

In this episode of The Coworking Weekly Show – which takes a slightly different format than previous episodes and is a much quicker listen at just under 17 minutes – focuses on how we introduce new people to the job they’ll do to take care of Indy Hall…and the promise that we make in return. The technique you’ll learn in this episode can be used in all kinds of hiring and team building, including the examples that I open the show describing. And best of all, you’ll hear from someone who actually took my advice and applied it successfully in a business totally unrelated to coworking.

Listen to this short episode on how to grow your team and avoid burnout

Are you the person who has been hired to work in a coworking space? I’d especially like to hear from you!

  • What do you think about this episode?
  • How were you brought onto your team?
  • How would you have felt going through the process that I described in the show?

You can drop a note in the comments, or if you’d prefer to keep the discussion private, email me directly: alex@indyhall.org

Coming Soon: My tips for avoiding team member burnout, and what NOT to do when building your community, drops later this week!

This past Friday I went to the first Coworking Asia Unconference in Ubud, Bali. The bad news (for me) is that I only got to participate for about an hour via a Google Hangout, answering questions from the audience.

Answers include:

  • My #1 trick to get the most out of ANY unconference.
  • How to avoid burnout in your team members. (Note: many coworking space community mangers seem to crash after about a year)
  • Why coworking space acquisitions are rare, and consistently fail
  • One of my favorite examples of using lessons learned in coworking to create new successful ventures
  • What NOT to do when building your community

Got feedback? I wanna hear from you!

I’d love to hear what you think about this format – it was considerably more work to create an episode that’s much, much shorter. But if you like it, I’d like to do more like this in the future. So hit me up and let me know! @alexhillman on Twitter or alex@indyhall.org

6 automated workflows that make our coworking space better every day

Thanks to Zapier + Trello, these workflows will improve our communication, keep things running smoothly, and make eeeeverybody happy.

I haven’t shared much about the tools that Indy Hall uses, and has used, over the years. Many of the tools we use now either didn’t exist when we were getting started or wouldn’t have made sense to use when we were started.

So in many cases, my answer for what we use now isn’t all that helpful for most of the coworking spaces inquiring (who are, of course, just getting started :)

But this morning I had an “ah-ha” moment that led to me talking through some of our workflows with the team, and before the day was done, I had whipped up a new solution that is going to improve at least a half dozen of our every day workflows related to the entire lifecycle of someone’s membership.

I’m so jazzed about this stuff I just had to share, and so I recorded a brief…okay not that brief overview of exactly how I built these workflows and how we’re going to use them.

Automation can be a tricky thing in a coworking space. Our success is very, very heavily correlated to our focus on thoughtful and intentional person-to-person communication. So it’s INCREDIBLY important to be careful about the things that we automate, and make sure that we’re not automating the humanity out of our work as so many people do.

In the case of these workflows, we’re making these improvements specifically so that we can have less things fall through the cracks and put MORE energy and effort into better communication.

The 6 workflows that I’ll show you how to automate in this video are:

  1. Adding new tour sign-ups to a Trello board for better post-tour follow ups
  2. Adding new drop-ins to a Trello board for better post drop-in follow ups
  3. Adding new interested members to a Trello board to better prepare them for sign up
  4. Connecting Trello to Trello (TRELLOCEPTION), creating a seamless connection between the 3 previous workflows into our Member Onboarding workflow
  5. Adding cancelled members to a Trello board to make sure we remove people from GroupBuzz, Slack, etc.
  6. Adding failed credit card charges (via Stripe) to a Trello board so we don’t lose track of reminding people to update their cards

Ready?! Let’s go!

Zapier + Trello = Coworking Loooooooove

This video is probably best watched in full screen. :)

Links to tools and stuff:

If people really like this video, I’ll do another one soon about all of the stuff we’ve built into our WordPress powered member site. It’s a bit more work upfront than the “off the shelf” tools out there, but all of those tools focus on “renting desks” and “booking conference rooms”, meanwhile they don’t really do anything to make our community better.

If you have other questions or ideas for things I can share about software and workflows that we use, fire away in the comments so I know what you want to learn!

EP8 – The [Literal] Art of Community

Who’s on your walls?
No, not what. Who?

One of my favorite sessions during the Coworking Unconference in Lisboa was “The Original Coworkers: On Artists and Coworking”…but the discussion also reaffirmed a HUGE blind spot that a lot of people still have about coworking in general.

In one of the hallway conversations earlier that same day in November, I’d been speaking with a couple of guys from Montreal and when they found out that the next session I was going to was the one about artists and coworking they asked me if Indy Hall rents studio space to artists.

I laughed, and shook my head no. “We don’t rent studio space.”

Their puzzled look was familiar to me. People assume that coworking = renting desks.

It’s not.

I explained to the guys from Montreal:

“Let’s be honest…I love my artist friends but they’re not exactly famous for having a steady income or cash on hand for renting workspace.

“But that’s not actually why we don’t rent studio space to artists. It’s because the word ‘rent’ doesn’t exist in our vocabulary. We don’t rent desks, we don’t rent conference rooms, we don’t rent event space. Renting is a transaction.

“Does renting a house make a neighborhood feel like home? Or does a neighborhood start to feel like yours when you get to know your neighbors, when you get familiar with the local hangouts, and when you get involved in local community activities?

“We’re more like an awesome neighborhood for people who can work from anywhere, but would rather not be alone. 

“Meanwhile artists are some of the most community-minded people you might meet…so we’ve put our focus on helping them see each other , and discover new ways to be a part of the community even when they don’t want or need studio space.

“That includes artists creating and displaying their work, but also the business of being an artist and countless other ways that artists can shape how people connect.”

At this point, I can’t imagine Indy Hall WITHOUT the artists in our community. There’s too much value that to artists can get from coworking that framing it as “renting studio space” seems to cheapen their existence.

I’m not sure if the guys from Montreal got it, but it stood out in my mind as a moment when I realized just how much I’d learned about how artists can influence a coworking community.

For one, and this might be the least obvious to even the artists themselves, is that many of them do more than create art. And once you look at things through that lens, things start to look a bit more familiar:

  • There’s the business of being an artist – and artists can stand to learn a thing or two from their business-owner peers in a coworking space.
  • There’s marketing and promotion – no matter how big or small your following, artists struggle with a lot of the same challenges that businesses do when it comes to getting new customers and clients.
  • There’s a need for inspiration and socialization – most of the artists I’ve met crave collaboration and inspiration from peers, but in reality, find it very difficult to be surrounded by other artists who are supportive of their work because resources are scarce and competition runs rampant.
  • Not to mention there’s the need for other unrelated professional support like legal council and getting insured.

…and that’s just barely scratching the surface. See what I mean by familiar?

Artists do so many of the same things, and have so many of the same needs, as the majority of the mainstream coworking population…but many of them see coworking as something “for the tech and business people”.

Which is a damn shame. And not just for them…but for everybody. 

Because – equally as important to how coworking can help artists succeed – having artists in a coworking community can have a profound impact on the way the members of that community connect to the place they share, and each other.

Artists create experiences, no matter what their medium or craft. Inviting the artists in your community add to the walls isn’t simply inviting them to adding colors and shapes and interests, it’s inviting them to share a little bit of themselves: their stories, their moods, their creativity and inspiration. These are the things that leave a lasting and positive impact on the community that experiences the art.

A lasting and positive impact which – to continue the comparison of a coworking space to a neighborhood that I mentioned before – reminds me a lot of the impact that artists have on neighborhoods and shared public spaces.

Why all of the preamble about artists and coworking?  

Because this week’s episode of The Coworking Weekly Show is all about the impact of art and artists on our coworking community and space.

On this episode, you’ll get to hear how one artist in particular has built an amazing subcommunity of artists who are thriving within Indy Hall, and some of the ways it’s shaped our community for the better, and how being intentional in designing an event can turn something as simple as looking at an image hung on a wall into a transformative experience.

Listen to my guest Sean Martorana and I explain how artists and their work have become such a huge part of the Indy Hall community…and what’s next!

Next week’s episode might be my favorite one that I’ve produced yet. It’s a totally new format, mixing a few different styles and techniques that I’ve learned over the last 8 episodes. It goes live next Monday :)

Enjoy, and have a great week!


p.s. if you haven’t had a chance to do it yet, I’d be so so so thankful it if you left a review for The Coworking Weekly Show on iTunes. I know it can be a pain to launch iTunes, but fresh reviews help a lot and really make my day :) <3 <3

EP7 – Fractals, Adulthood, Trust (and Tentacles)

After a brief holiday hiatus, The Coworking Weekly Show is back with a new installment of a kind of episode I affectionately refer to as “The Stack”.

In case you missed it the last time, The Stack is an experiment in conversation (and you might know that know I love experimenting with conversation) with yours truly and one of the most knowledgeable community builders I know. Her name is Vanessa Gennarelli, and she’s a community designer & researcher who focuses on how people learn in communities.

What makes “The Stack” experimental, you might ask?

In the weeks leading up to recording, Vanessa and I collect a Stack of things that tickle our brains. Then, we choose three seemingly disconnected ideas form our Stack, and make it our mission to somehow wind and weave them into a cohesive discussion.

This week Vanessa did the choosing, and our Stack going into this conversation was:

  • Fractals
  • Adulthood
  • And trust

Fractals and trust are two ideas that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about related to coworking and community building and looooooove talking about. Adulthood, on the other hand, isn’t something I’ve thought about nearly as much.

But that left a lot of room for me to explore adulthood – or as Vanessa points out, the plural adulthoods – with freshness of perspective, and I really enjoyed the corners where where this conversation was able to reach.

What does it mean to be an adult? Vanessa and I don’t TOTALLY agree…

Find out what we think on latest episode of The Coworking Weekly Show.

I’d love to read your review of the show on the next episode

I started doing something new in this episode, too! At the end before my signoff, I read one of my favorite reviews of the show from iTunes.

This week, I read a review from “Uh, Mike”:

Leave a review so I have new ones to read it on the show – and I’ll mention your name and coworking community if you include it!

I want to make sure you’re leaving and honest review and have listened to at least one episode, so tell me what you learned or loved hearing about. :)

Coming up on next week’s episode…

You’re going to meet someone who you might never expect to find in most coworking spaces…someone who started and leads one of the most active and diverse sub-communities within Indy Hall.

It’s a sub-community that I certainly didn’t imagine would ever be a part of Indy Hall, but today it’s one that I can’t imagine Indy Hall without, and that I’m going to be paying a lot more attention to this year!

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