Welcome to the second installment in my joint adventure finding, identifying, and evaluating co-working spaces. Together with my colleagues and friends, Scott Sakamoto (@scottssakamoto) and Kurt Sussman (@neophiliac) as we compare our methods and outcomes seeking our new joint workspace within the greater Portland startup communities – we are pleased you are participating in our journey.
My first installment (Working Spaces in a Knowledge Economy: Part 1) provides background on our project. You may find it helpful to review this before reading further.
Before seeking working space of any kind, I believe that investing in self-reflection and evaluation as to what you may believe will lead to a successful workspace and what should be avoided provides a superior experience. It is plain that with so many options available, each location will differ. Some will be radically different. Some will be MeTu copycats of other locations. What is right for you will likely be different than what is right for me. Regardless of our respective tastes, it is important to consider just these decisions may be reached in such a manner as to optimize our respective outcomes. 2
I believe the short list should include:
Location: It is a funny thing about a building and its working space. Some might call it Karma. Some might call it Feng Shui. Me, I simply refer to it as character. I will seek a location that has a “feeling” that fits. It isn’t necessarily logical or scientific. It is a lot like finding a lover as in “I can’t explain it but I found the one” kind of experience. A co-working space may be less significant than your love interest but it is definitely important to your business. Hook up with an inferior enterprise and your business fortunes take a beating. Accordingly, my senses will be heightened to find the feeling of belonging. 3
Layout is integral with the overall character of the space. How does the flow of the space work? Will it create communities or silos? Will there be too much foot traffic and desk noise or will it be morgue like? How are the cubicles, offices, desks, and couches spaced in and around the building? What about the windows and skylights? What about the lighting and sound? Where is the kitchen and what is provided? How about the bathrooms – are there ample options? All of these will be considered as I tour facilities.4
Leadership relates to the management and professionals that lead the co-working space. Are they entrepreneurs or landlords? What is their level of curiosity as it relates to they types of businesses allowed to participate? Do they sit with and converse with the participants? Are they organized? Do they maintain safety, security, and cleanliness? What type of toilette paper is provided (soft and cushy or rough and tearing)? I will be interviewing the leadership and the participants to ascertain just what type of people are leading the location that I will invest my emotional, intellectual, and financial capital. 5
Price matters. Value matters more. No one should overpay however it is frequently better to overpay than underpay. Value is subjective. That means what is inexpensive to you may be expensive to me and vice versa. So, while pricing is important – for me it is a secondary matter of importance. The value needs to be present or the space will be excluded, however as long as it is beyond a fair value received, I am not overly sensitive here.6
Transit: All of these significant evaluation parameters are important. Some criteria are more so and some less so. I live outside the City – and although light rail is near my home, I live towards the end of the line. Commute times are slow and my route starts late and closes early. So, parking will be important. It doesn’t need to be included (but that would be sweet), it does need to be convenient, ample, and safe. However, for clients, visitors, colleagues, and future partners, the location’s proximity to Portland’s overall excellent transportation system is important. What about parking for bicycles and ease for pedestrians?. All of these aspects matter. 7
Participation is the collective connections between and among the users of the space. There should be a cohesive community among the members that drive the success of all participants. The extremes of participation are death and for different reasons. If there is a lack of participation, then what is the difference between my home office or Starbucks and my co-working space? On the other extreme, if the community is more akin to a fraternity with its hijinks and keggars, then I am sure that besides losing progress on projects, the community will be an environment inconsistent with business. 8
Ultimately, choosing a co-working space is nearly as important as your business partners and investors. So, one must choose wisely. Also, there are always tradeoffs and never solutions. Each location will score differently on each scale and the ultimate decision will be the one that meets the best overall option.
My colleagues are drafting their thoughts and we are collectively evaluating our options and I believe we are about ready for some field trips.
Until next time, be well and enjoy your day. 9