You want more members, better members, hell – you want the BEST members to join your coworking space.
You want to make sure you’re prepared to grow your coworking community strong, surrounding yourself with people who want the space to succeed just as much you do.
You want to worry less about your competition and spend more time brainstorming fun and exciting ideas with your community.
Just under a year ago I launched a
workshop seminar that was meant to address many of the most common pitfalls and desires experienced by coworking space catalysts, founders, and leaders. The challenges and decisions that I’ve had to navigate, and have done with success for the last 5 years.
Every time we’ve opened & expanded our workspace (which we’ve done 3x now with Indy Hall), I’ve had that moment of panic that you’ve probably had too: “Oh no, there is NO way we’re going to fill this place up. We’re doomed.”
And every time – I’ve soon after smiled as we filled to (and beyond!) capacity & started a waiting list. We operate profitably and are indebted only to community members. We dream, we do, and we work the way we want to work.
And You Can Too. Others have.
I want to help people understand the coworking core values and how to use them to make their own decisions; I want people to better understand how to do marketing & community development; I want to help people understand new ways to look at coworking’s business models; and I want to prepare people to think about community structures for leading & problem solving.
A number of alumni with new communities & spaces put our lessons to good use quickly during their early community growth & workspace launches (including SeedCoworking, WorkHappy, The Bungalow, Sizeable Spaces, Canvas Cowork & Juicebox to name just a few of the over 100 people who took the seminar). Meanwhile, some veteran coworking space attended to take the lessons as an opportunity to reflect on what they were already doing well and what they could potentially improve or do differently.
Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, but I knew that I could do even better.
Everyone’s Gotta Practice
While watching a number of alumni continue beyond the seminar, I noticed the gap between “understanding” and “application” begin to show. With the first seminars being a lecture + Q&A, it was very easy to nod along and feel like you were getting it but when the time comes to apply what you’d learned, well you know what they say about old habits.
With a half-day seminar and a ton of material to cover, there wasn’t a lot of time left to really digest the meatiest of the material but more importantly, I found myself coaching a few of alumni through practicing the concepts with their respective communities. While happy to provide this coaching, it left me feeling like I hadn’t done my job completely during the seminar.
When I work with coworking spaces, it’s not so that they’ll copy our model and be successful. I want people to be able to make their own decisions as confidently as we’re able to make ours. You don’t have to make the same decision as us so long as you know how to make the right decision.
But without practice, we struggle to apply new skills even if we think we understand & comprehend them. Practice is the process that allows us to start out a beginner and work towards mastery of a skill. Practice is what has been missing from my coworking seminars, a process that would allow the participants to work on the new concepts & related skills instead of just listen to me talk.
It’s a little bit like an athletic workout routine as well – you start out easy, and as you build muscle/confidence, add more challenge to the practice. Trying to benchpress your own weight or run a marathon if you’ve never done it before is likely to leave you feeling uncertain about your abilities to ever do it. But if you work up to it, you can surprise yourself
I believe that by adding and focusing on this kind of practice to the coworking workshops, alumni can effectively become olympians of coworking.
Doing My Homework
Knowing that I wanted to make the seminars kick more ass wasn’t enough – much like knowing that you want to make your coworking space & community kick more ass isn’t enough. Luckily, I was able to reach out to a few friends for help.
I picked the brain of progressive educators from public & private schools, including one of my favorite high school principals Chris Lehmann. I learned from my dear friend Amy Hoy about the evolution of her product-based-business course 30×500 (I actually helped write the initial version of this course, of but Amy has overhauled the material & format to perform for SO much better for her students). I also led some private “hands on” workshop sessions with coworking spaces at various stages to get a better feel for what was sticking and what wasn’t, including a recent trip to work with the founding team of The Workben.ch in Sydney Australia.
I also took time to reflect on courses I’ve taken that had been valuable to me, and why.
And perhaps most importantly, I had to put in my “beginner brain” to lead the expansion of our own effort here at home, and actively remind myself of the “whys” and “hows” that help us grow with strength and resilience are the same ones that helped us get started in the first place.
A New Kind Of Workshop – The Format
During most its first year, the coworking workshop didn’t change dramatically. That’s no longer true.
Starting in September of 2012, the workshops are taking on a completely new & more interactive format, more like a course or a class. Most importantly, the process is itself collaborative – no more teaching collaboration in a fundamentally un-collaborative, one-directional format!
If this is sounding like it’s going to be more time consuming to take this new class, it is. Much of it will be asynchronous, allowing you to be more flexible with the time you use to work through material and practice. The class is multi-week, with new lessons being released every week as well as new practice exercise.
The time we do spend together (on email lists & chat rooms) is there so everyone has a chance to share their learning and understanding, their own insights and experiences, to the benefit of the other attendees.
A New Kind Of Workshop – The Focus
The other difference is that this course is far more focused on the community elements of coworking because I truly believe that they are the most valuable thing to get right. If you get the community part of coworking right, so many of the other business & logistic challenges become simpler.
This course teaches a style of leadership and decision making that becomes your ultimate toolbox for starting, developing, growing, and supporting a community. If you’re struggling with community, you’ll leave this course more confident. If you’re already doing well but want to unlock more potential in your community, you’ll leave this course more excited. If you’ve got other kinds of questions about coworking, we’ll work on them through the lens of community so that you can answer those questions and more next time without that sense of uncertainty.
The skills of leading and decision making for your community are just as critical on the day you decide to start a coworking space as they are years later.
Regardless of how long you’ve been working on a coworking space, and even if your community already kicks ass, we can take things up a level.
Who the hell am I to tell you how?
When Indy Hall first started, it was little more than a “call to arms“. Soon after, we barn-raised a modest workspace by the same name and were joined by a few dozen wonderful people in a matter of months.
That was 5 years ago. Much of the early community from that call to arms are still active members, and we’ve grown by more than 10x while still working hard to maintain the critical elements of community & culture that are our most valued offering. People have other options in Philadelphia to cowork now and they still choose to join Indy Hall at a remarkable rate.
I’ve worked with the founders & leaders of coworking spaces in a few dozen countries, and lets be honest, the press has been really nice to us. Oh, and I’ve consulted with some really amazing community efforts around the world, including the Las Vegas Downtown Project led by the CEO of Zappos.
And if that doesn’t impress you, I’m in the dictionary next to the word Karaoke. No, mom, I don’t know how they found that photo.
Okay, Sign Me Up!
I’m stoked that you’re stoked, but I’m not quite ready to sell tickets to September’s course. Sorry!
The previous workshops’ alumni are going to be getting the earliest access to re-take the course in it’s souped-up format, but open enrollment is coming very very soon after that.
In the mean time, you can visit this temporary landing page and sign up at the bottom (for free!) to be notified when early bird tickets are for sale. If you sign up on this, you list will get the best deal possible without already being an alumni, and seats are going to be limited. You’ll get a couple of email notices leading up to launch day, but that’s all, and you can unsubscribe anytime. If you can’t make this first course, that’s okay too, we’ll keep you on the list for next time.
So go ahead. Get on that early bird list and save a few ducats on the price of admission.
I’ll see you in September.
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