6 Essential Elements of Coworking Success

Growing a coworking business can be both an exciting and a daunting prospect – there is so much to think about and even more to be done.

But fear not! The Coworking Canvas can help you and your team develop your ideas for building a quality coworking business and community.

 Above: The Coworking Canvas being put to the test

Above: The Coworking Canvas being put to the test

The Coworking Canvas provides a framework to examine and develop a quality coworking business.

It is based on over a decade of experience and testing, as well as research with the movements' pioneers and leaders. It articulates the fundamental ingredients of this business model - no matter what size of 'space' you chose. 

Ultimately, by providing this holistic combination of activities and values you can create a successful, good quality coworking business, and create resilient enterprising communities.

 Above: The core values of quality coworking businesses, as illustrated on the coworking canvas

Above: The core values of quality coworking businesses, as illustrated on the coworking canvas

Core Values at the Heart

All good organisations are built around a few core values, and quality coworking businesses are no different.

Whatever values you already hold, the canvas highlights three simple but hugely impactful core values shared by all quality coworking businesses around the world:

  1. Belonging: People unleash their potential and become resilient when they develop a true sense of belonging.
  2. Nurturing: People and businesses grow and endure when talent, relationships and opportunities are nurtured.
  3. Place-making: Communities thrive when people, spaces and places create a joined-up ecosystem.

The six essential elements of the articulate the core ingredients any quality coworking business needs to provide its clients.  They can be examined individually or slotted together to view the business from different perspectives.

Six Essential Elements of Coworking Success

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1 - SPACE

It may sound obvious, but you’re not a “coworking space” without having a space for people to work from.

It might be an office space, a maker space, a kitchen space – but what makes the difference is providing the right types of environments within your physical space, in the right proportions (just like the perfect recipe), along with the best tools and resources to meet the everyday needs of your community. 

Your space is also where your community will interact with your hosts and get their work done, so it’s critical to get right – both for your members’ businesses to flourish, and your own team to productively enjoy.

How do you practically design your space, and use it to communicate your values, beliefs and culture to your members and prospective members?
 
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2 - HOSTING

Hosting is a complex role comprising a range of key functions: receptionist, security guard, general fixer of things. But the cornerstone of hosting is getting to know who’s in your community – whether they are in your space five days a week or only drop in occasionally.

Actively hosting and developing people’s connections and relationships is key to creating a community and a true sense of belonging, and keep people coming back!

What hosting practices will add significant value to your space and community?
 
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3 - LEARNING 

You’re just a workspace if you only provide a desk… so as a quality coworking space, how do you help your members to grow themselves and their businesses?

Providing a variety of opportunities for learning builds your members’ intellectual capital and will help them grow their businesses, their relationships and deepen their loyalty to your space.

How do you provide opportunities for your members to share their knowledge, and bring expertise in from outside your community?
 
Alison and Melissa talking

4 - PEER SUPPORT 

Peer Support is all about developing a great culture in your space and community. It is also about building your members’ social capital – the connections that spark the fires and make things happen.

Simple things like people offering each other a cup of tea, being there for support when someone’s having a bad day, or knowing who to ask for a solution to a particular problem.

How do you build that warm and inclusive culture that your members wouldn’t get if they were working alone at home, or from a lonely serviced office environment?
 
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5 - NETWORK

Boosting your members' opportunities to expand their networks through your space is a core function of the value quality coworking can provide in a community.

You need to be an 'earpiece' and a 'loudspeaker' in order to help develop the networks and profile of your members.

How do you find out what your members’ needs are, help them make connections and build their networks?
 
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6 - CO-LOCATION

Finally, Co-location is about making a conscious choice to bring together people that share values, interests or needs in order to add value by their close proximity.

At The Melting Pot, for example, we focus on people who are innovating social change. Other coworking businesses might decide to co-locate technology companies, artisans or craft-makers or people from a geographically defined area.

Are you choosing to bring together a specific group of people? How can you spark potential value and develop a sense of belonging to your unique community?
 

How Do You Practically Use The Coworking Canvas?

The Coworking Canvas is designed to let you play with your ideas, so grab some sticky notes and markers and get stuck in!

A simple way to begin is to print out the Coworking Canvas PDF from our website and use it in your next meeting with your team.

There are many ways to use it, and we'll be sharing more suggestions from our Coworking Accelerator Network EXPLORE sessions as they happen.

For more examples of how to use the Coworking Canvas, become a member of the Coworking Accelerator Network for FREE... and take a look at our Resources section.

We'd love to hear your ideas too... connect with us on Twitter to share ideas from your space!

Claire Carpenter, Founder & CEO, The Melting Pot
& The Coworking Accelerator Network Team

EXPLORE QUALITY COWORKING – 2017 LEARNING EVENT

Setting up and growing a community-focused coworking business takes a lot of hard work... which is why we are delighted to announce our bespoke two-day learning event for new coworking space owners/operators – to minimise your risks and resources needed, maximise your success and accelerate your start-up process...

We have designed this unique two-day workshop so you can learn from highly experienced coworking space founders, explore the essentials of delivering quality coworking and develop strategies for your business success alongside other new space owners/developers. Topics such as:

  • Identifying and minimising potential risks at the startup stage
  • Informing the design of your physical space and services for maximum revenue and optimal utilisation
  • Securing investment
  • Attracting and retaining members and growing your community
  • Putting on impactful community building events
  • Building the best and most appropriate delivery team

EXPLORE Quality Coworking

JUNE 22—23, 2017

WORKSHOP: MAKE OR BREAK YOUR NEXT COWORKING SPACE

During the European Coworking Conference in November 2016, Claire Carpenter (Coworking Accelerator Network / The Melting Pot) and Ronald van de Hoff (Seats2Meet) ran a Masterclass for 50 experienced coworking space operators focused on best practices, team delegation and challenges for opening a coworking space.

CAN Launch Workshop

The lively session used the Coworking Canvas to explore the benefits and potential obstacles "to make or break your next coworking space" with attendees sharing their experience in running coworking studios (the participants had combined coworking space management experience of 201 years!)

We've collated the output from the session onto the Coworking Canvas and have now made it available to download as a PDF.

It's easy to miss what's obvious when it's hidden in plain sight. Hindsight is a great teacher, so it's great to be able to reflect, capture and share these critical actions – all gathered from practitioners who've successfully made a coworking space open, and are ready for their next challenge.  

So whether you're on your first or 4th new space - don't forget these actions which will make or break your new venture.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these key actions were considered during the session as overall most important to do / not do when opening a space. The full list is of course much more extensive!

About the Coworking Canvas

The Coworking Canvas helps existing and developing coworking studio operators to test their ideas across key areas including co-location, network, peer support, learning, hosting and space. It forms a central part of the Coworking Accelerator Network's EXPLORE methodology. For more information, please feel free to get in touch with us.