Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Give Them What They Want or Go Home


As an owner of a coworking space I’ve found it both entertaining and enlightening to talk with creative professionals around the world about how they work. My agenda was as simple as it was transparent; I wanted to know what people were after in a workspace away from home. Specifically what would make them ditch Starbucks or their living room and actually pay money to work somewhere when for all intensive purposes they could just work from either of the above places for free? Words were not minced, and the demand for this market has been crystal clear so far. People want the café culture with the privacy of an office. They want to step out of a private room they call an office and mingle with people, share the conference room, network, and so on. Equally important to them is the ability to slip back into that private office whenever they have a call to make, a chapter to write, or an urge to be alone.

There are many parallels I could draw of how coworkers are wanting both ying and yang out of a workspace, here is one that’s fresh on my mind this weekend.

Being in Orlando recently I couldn’t help but notice the gusty winds that only seem to blow this hard in Florida. In Columbia the winds are subtle, often making a meager attempt to push away stubborn bouts of humidity that aren’t planning on going anywhere anytime soon. On the contrary in Orlando the winds are filled with crisp streams of air that invite you to stand in them for awhile, and for lack of a better phrase, enjoy the breeze. So there I was last night in the pool-centered courtyard of my hotel dipping in the hot tub, moving towards the pool, then back to the hot tub every few minutes. What made each so refreshing was the existence of the other. The hot tub was nice because when I was too warm I could hop into the pool and cool off. Conversely, when the pool got icy I’d hop out and spend some more time in the hot tub. All the while the Florida breeze was there to remind me that life outside these water vessels wasn’t half bad either. Coworking, and the relative demand for offices is a lot like this trifecta of fun. You can fully enjoy one because the other isn’t far away. You can be chatty in the common area because just steps away is an office with a door on it, a door will help block out unwanted conversation when it’s time to get down to business.

Rather than push people into membership plans they don’t want, or in other words, be “right” about what was first anticipated as a good way to create a coworking space, I am determined to give people exactly what they’ve asked for.

As I see other coworkers and owners discussing the merits and perils of offering private offices in their spaces I can’t help but cringe a bit at their lack of ability to understand what’s in demand. People will tell you what they want, and a good business will listen intently and respond as close to instantly as possible. A bad business will try to force customers to do things they don’t want, which never works because, in the end, they’re paying you for what they are after. If they want hot and cold, public and private, or anything else, it is the duty of the business owner to give it to them. As these businesses continue to ignore this request from their clients I simply hope others won’t. Coworking is a great concept because it allows people to work more on their terms, but it can be stifling if the powers that be won’t let them have what they seek, as it was in the first place the point of this whole thing to begin with.

Postscript- What does this mean for Clark’s Office? I’m not entirely sure yet, but I’m thinking along the lines of an open coffee shop up front and private offices in the back. For the several locations that I’ve currently been in talks with owners about opening I believe this hybrid model will also fit, if space is an issue look for a office-friendly coffee shop model to emerge. Either way, we’ll do our best to meet the need of those that sign the checks.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Authenticity Please


The mountains can’t hide who they are when the sun raises above them. They aren’t the beach, they aren’t a city, there is no way for them to disguise the bouldering truth, they are mountains. The trees that populate these hunks of stone are also caught red handed being trees. There is no question when the sun comes up a mountain looks like a mountain, a tree like a tree, and the beauty of nature is never really any more clear than at that very time. Coincidence perhaps that these gems of nature are at the finest of fine when light first exposes what they really are? I think not. Unfortunately people using the internet aren’t stuck in the ground waiting to be highlighted by a gorgeous sun every day, they can, and do work hard at convincing people they are something other than themselves.

As I’ve spent more and more time on social networks in the past year I’ve seen people I know, dare I say well, acting as if they’re somebody they are not. They’re not fooling me, but could they be fooling you? The beauty of the internet is that people are free to try anything they want, the danger of the internet is directly related to this principle as well.

Being authentic online will not only win you more readers to your blog, or followers on Twitter, but it’ll serve a larger purpose of creating true credibility for you and your business. Instead of pretending to be someone you’re not, which you probably aren’t as good as you think you are at to begin with, try being who you are in the real world when you go online. The more authentic you are the better you can expect your plans, goals and dreams to take shape.