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Alex Hillman

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Tips for Building Community After Opening a Coworking Space

2 minute read
by Alex Hillman

Have you ever gone grocery shopping while hungry?

This comic might remind you of how it goes:

Waiting to build community after you open a coworking space has similar risks.

That’s right, I’m talking about junk food members. Empty calorie members.

The person who pays to rent your space rather than participate in a community. The person who comes to your space for the printer, rather than the people. The person who comes in, puts on their headphones, talks to no-one, & leaves a mess in the sink for others to clean.

Junk food members are individuals who don’t participate, aren’t open to sharing, act only in their own self-interests, and only consume your resources rather than actively work to help replenish them. They bring fiscal capital (yay!), but are a drain on social capital (boo!).

Much like the tasty treats you brought home from the grocery store after shopping on an empty stomach, these kinds of members can lead to unhealthy (community) consequences.

What’s worse, we all know that it’s a LOT easier to put on the pounds than to take them off.

When you’re hungry for paying members because of need for cashflow, or because your beautiful space is full of empty chairs, your definition of “prospective community member” starts to change towards shades of “prospective renter”.

How to build community after opening a space

Maybe your excitement to open a space got the best of you, or you got the “build the community first” advice a little too late.

It’s okay! There’s more than one way to succeed, and so long as you’re committed to building community, you’re already step in the right direction.

I’ve got a few tips to help keep the oreos out of your grocery cart, if you catch my drift.

1. Realize that you’re hungry.

You are more likely to shop smart if you realize you’re hungry. Keep that sense of awareness front of mind until the hunger has subsided.

2. Have a meaningful goal for the community.

My trainer recommended to me that I set meaningful goals instead of weight loss milestones, like “I want to feel better when I wake up.” Remembering this meaningful goal and its impact on my life makes it easier to grab a piece of fruit instead of a candy bar.

Actively sharing your “meaningful goal” will act as a magnet for great community members, and also help keep you from attracting junk food members.

3. Help form relationships that matter, not just more connections.

It’s tempting to flesh out your network with as many people as possible, effectively “casting a net” for potential community members. Now’s not the time. Your focus with every new person who makes it through your “meaningful goal” filter is helping them find opportunities to form a meaningful connection with at least one other member.

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Hey, thanks for reading!

Alex Hillman I am always thinking about the intersection of people, relationships, trust and business. I founded Indy Hall in 2006, making us one of oldest fully independent coworking communities in the world. This site is packed with the lessons and examples I’ve learned along the way. You can find me on Twitter, too! 🐦 Say hi.