Tips and reflections from The Shed Coworking
The Shed Co is a coworking space located in the heart of Madrid that opened in 2013. It is a building of 1062 m2 that has been occupied as the community grew, with a capacity for 150 people and targets companies, entrepreneurs and freelancers.
We asked Gonzalo Navarro the CFO of The Shed Co to share his experience running The Shed during these past 6 years. The mistakes, learnings and achievements, everything that a coworking operator should have to know in the coworking managing business. This is his story:
I remember 6 years ago when the first coworker came at The Shed Co, the space looked like an empty parking garage (you have too many free spots and you do not know where to park). In any case, at that time it was the coolest space in the city. This reminds me of our journey and challenges successfully overcome since we opened our doors. So, I would like to tell you how we have evolved our coworking space from the small space where we started to what we have become today.
In the beginning, we tried to get members by doing some SEM campaigns and organizing several free events. We targeted everyone with no filter, thinking that this policy would bring us business, this was a mistake.
When we did the first SEM campaigns, we found out that the sector was not professionalized and was not easy to convert clients with a payment campaign at all. We also learned that payment campaigns were more complex, and we had no experience. That’s why we focused on what we knew how to do, SEO.
At that time, there was an Online Marketing company specialized in buying traffic that told us “if you want to fill up the space, focus your efforts on something else” as we were spending money with no results.
It is true that coworking was a new concept, and we were new in the business as well, we didn’t have any idea about coworking and online marketing, but little by little we were learning when overcoming the problems.
Regarding the events we organized, we learned by trying and making mistakes. We found out that there are experts in different fields happy to facilitate a free talk or workshop, and on the other hand there are other people looking only for getting free learning experiences and nothing else. Over time, we also found that there were coworkers who came to use the rest of the coworkers and did things “for free”, while they never have time for anything or anyone. You have to be very careful with these kinds of people, we call them vampires, they can be the reason for your coworkers to drop out.
The truth is that there was no time to get bored and experiences have given us the ability to detect each kind of person. But well, these are anecdotes to warn you that everything that glitters is not gold.
Therefore, to manage a coworking the first thing that must be taken into account are the following points:
- Size Matters.
- The community must be diverse.
- Your space has to be different, I do not say better but different.
- Clear accounts, Cash is charged and all 1st day of the month.
- Your time has a price.
- Your team has to follow your philosophy.
- What else do you offer?
Size is one of the things you should consider when setting up a coworking space, there are more options to scale the business when the volume is bigger. It is necessary to have a minimum of square meters to obtain economic returns that do not danger your business. From my point of view any space of less than 2.000 m² will not work unless you run the business as a complementary activity. The goal is to capitalize the business and make it sustainable.
The community is the most important asset of your space, to offer a comfortable environment where people want to work, you have to think about who you want to target. Forget having a very diverse audience of 25 to 55 years when there are professions from “web designers” to patrimonial lawyers.
That does not work, people want to feel comfortable and belong to a group or community. To meet their expectations, the group usually have the same concerns, so do not try to mix a 25-year-old bachelor who lives with 4 friends in a flat, who is a programmer and with totally different needs from a professional or consultant who is the father of Family of 35/40 years with 2 children. The first one fancies going out for a drink and the second thinks in what he is going to do the weekend with his family. This without entering into other genres and types of family. For example, a mother, whether single, married or divorced, will probably have the morning to work and at 4 o’clock in the afternoon will leave to pick up her children. Each group has its own priorities and also remember that they come to work and network, not to hang out.
Coworking is becoming a commodity, nowadays, new spaces open every week in big cities, they are like mushrooms. Real estate large companies with funding are setting up flex workspaces that seem from another galaxy with automatism, artificial intelligence, flows and above all a lot of money to spend on buying data traffic and advertising. These spaces target large and powerful companies or clients with high purchasing power. But they have a problem, which is standardization and customer treatment. You will ask yourself: do I treat clients? Well, yes, the treatment that you can give your client, can be more personal and closer than these monsters and although the standardization is fine, there are clients who seek the opposite and that is where you should be. It is very important that you find your differentiation and exploit it.
Every business needs to be healthy and it really is a subject that must be taken very seriously. Your business is based on renting a space and paying some suppliers that are not going to trust you and that will demand payment almost cash. Your client has to know that it is a business and that you and your workers depend on him and that he is healthy is fundamental, just as they try to collect in a timely manner. You have to do the same and it’s not worth delay or absurd discounts. It is very important to remove any customer who is late in payment or who is raking you each month. The most important thing is to charge on time because that way you can give service and guarantee your subsistence.
You will realize that a coworking is a complicated environment since you are continuous with your client from the morning to the night. Therefore, you will encounter complicated situations and the only solution is that you organize your time well and that the customer service is headed. You can not be at all hours and giving immediate attention. Planning is essential to get things out and properly manage each employee will be the difference you end up or not stressed. Every effort you make has to be measured and calculated. It is imperative that you have healthy time management habits.
If you assemble a team, you have to know and suck your philosophy, it is imperative that all your employees are imbued with your idea of management and dealing with customers. Your team is you and if you do not do what you would do, your project will be blurred until it is another space ending with your differentiation and that which you have to avoid at all costs.
Your Value Proposition
Apart from all the above, your company has to be different and offer something that the rest does not offer, in this section you have to look for what you can do that the rest does not do. Whether it’s something that makes your offer different from the competition and that your customers value more. It is important to think outside the box and see what you can offer that the rest do not do it and have a maximum value, I do not mean that it is expensive, but that it has value. It is essential not to fall into a space like others.
In short, we are no longer in the first years that those who were autonomous in a space were looking for a creative environment, different and outside the big companies. Today they are the ones who are trying to make their departments do that, collaborate and exchange ideas to be more productive and creative. They look for what we do and open many opportunities.
YOU UP FOR IT?