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How to Research your Local Coworking Market: 3 Key Indicators to Analyze

Are you exploring the market research process of launching a new coworking business in your local area?

We often hear the question:

How do I know if my local area is a good place to launch a coworking business? Is there a demand for coworking in my area?

In order to do some of the initial research in determining the answer to this question, here are three strategic guideposts to consider and some tactics to help you get started:

1. Identify the existing coworking businesses in your area

Of course, this is the most obvious. Find out the local players in the industry. Go to their website, read news articles, look on Yelp. Try to identify what their offerings are. What are their prices? What does their community of members encompass? e.g. are they mainly lawyers, graphic designers, tech startups, etc.

Research Existing Coworking Businesses Resources:

2. Identify the existing private office and meeting room rental locations.

Often these are executive suites, hotels, event businesses, and other coworking spaces, etc. Even though some of the listings you may find in your area are not direct competitors to you, it is an indicator if there is demand for offices, meeting rooms, and event rentals in your area. Research their pricing. It’s good to know these things so that you can price according to the market. It also helps you to know how equipped (or not equipped) these room for rent are with amenities, add-ons, etc. This will help you position your coworking value proposition compared to the existing market.

Meeting Room and Private Office Research Resources:

3. Identify the business, entrepreneur, startup, tech, etc communities in your area

It’s important to know about the scene that is there. Is there a local entrepreneur meetup? How about a tech startup event that happened recently? Where was it, how many people attended, etc? Who are the leader(s) of the local business community? The idea is that you want to understand the essence of the local scene. This allows you to make sure that you’re launching a business that is congruent with the local community. Doing desktop research is one way, but probably the most qualitative research you can do is actually attending events and ultimately, being a part of the local community. This makes it much more likely that your future space can be a local community hub, as it will be coming from someone that is connected to the main community hub, already.

Local Business Community Research Resources:

Macro Coworking Industry Research is helpful too

To supplement the specific local market research it’s also important to understand macro trends. Perhaps your local city or town is similar in some ways to the global trends or unique in some other ways. Below are some resource links as well as an embedded slideshow library with a number of decks dedicated to statistics of the global coworking industry created by coworking research expert, Carsten Foertsch, founder of DeskMag.

Coworking Industry Research:

start a coworking space

So, you want to Start a Coworking Space? 6 helpful strategy components to think about

coworking unstoppable So, you want to Start a Coworking Space? 6 helpful strategy components to think about

Image Source: Small Business Labs

The Coworking Industry is Booming!

It’s not too late to build your own coworking space. In fact, now is a better time than ever before. Before you buy a building or lease a space, though, it’s important to do your own research first. Below are some of the most popular pieces of the early stage strategy of considering whether or not to start your own coworking space.

Coworking Industry Growth links:

If you’re starting a coworking space, here are 6 components to address as you are strategizing your business roadmap.

1. Coworking Space Financial Model

Everything begins with the finances. Even though coworking began with the focus on community, ultimately these days, in order to compete and succeed in this growing market it is absolutely necessary that your space is well planned and managed from a financial perspective.

Coworking Financial links:

2. Coworking Space Business Plan

What’s in a coworking space business plan? Business plan formats have been around for years, and for the most part, they are the same for coworking businesses as they are for other businesses. The reason they’re becoming more popular (and needed) these days is that it is now possible to get a small business loan (or general investment) to begin a coworking brand. In the early days, the industry was so new, you had to self-fund it personally, so it wasn’t as necessary to “prove” the plan to anyone. A coworking business plan is essential if you’re looking to share your concept with a potential investor. Chances are they are not going to be focused on the passion, but are focused on the efficacy of the plan.

Coworking Business Plan links:

3. How to Design a Coworking Space

In the early days, this meant simply finding a space that was open and then putting some furniture in it.  Painting the walls, putting up some signs, etc. But now that financial models are tied to a plethora of private offices, it is necessary to ensure that your space has sufficient space allocation for high dollar private offices. This requires thoughtful buildout and construction plans. If you are not an architect, you will need to engage one. Fair warning- most architects do not have experience building coworking spaces, so you will need to make sure to stay actively involved in its design and planning.

Coworking Design links:

4. Coworking Space Business Model

The business model is driven by membership types (people) and resource types (space). For example, a member that is interested in hotdesking will be in an open space and will generate X amount per month. This user generally stays in the membership for Y amount of time. Building a reliable business model around hot desk users, though, is no longer financially feasible. Now that there is a huge uptick in corporate coworking memberships, the increase in private offices and team rooms in coworking spaces have skyrocketed. This is a fortunate thing for coworking space entrepreneurs as this allows the financial model to be a reliable source of consistent revenue. If you have the financial model solidified with consistent office rental, then the transient nature of freelancers and independent entrepreneurs will not destabilize your financial model.

Coworking Business Model links:

5. Coworking Space Calculator

Often people are looking for a quick calculation of projected revenues and expenses. For this you can hire a proper coworking consultant or you can also find quick and easy ways to calculate it yourself.

Coworking Calculator links:

6. Coworking Space Marketing Plan

If you build it, they will come….right? Well….it’s not so easy. Especially since financial models are based upon a lot of private office rentals. It’s necessary to focus on smart outbound marketing to the right type of user to fill up your coworking space. In addition to attracting new interest and memberships to your coworking space it’s also important to actively engage your existing membership, as often creating happy members can be your best marketing technique!  How can you improve engagement in your coworking community with online tools?

Coworking Marketing Plan links:

Corporate Coworking – Managing the Great Transition

Screen Shot 2017 08 18 at 2.40.38 PM Corporate Coworking   Managing the Great Transition

Coworking began as a framework for freelancers and startups to gain access to a productive work environment. Fast forward ten years…

Corporate firms look to embrace the coworking ethos in order to revitalize company culture and employee experience.

Introducing Corporate Coworking – a framework for the ‘great transition.’

As a coworking workplace strategy firm, we at OpenWork Agency focus on helping organizations transition into the future of work. Moving from ‘old ways of working’ to ‘new ways of working’ is a journey, not a simple 1-2-3 process. Our transition services help firms assess the working styles of current employees, as well as the workspace options available to them- both on campus and off campus. With an eye to maximizing both workspace utilization as well as employee engagement and productivity, our transition program is comprehensive, creative, and data-driven. Our goal is to help client employees find the right workspaces for them and their teams, and to empower them to do their best work.

I. KICK-OFF WORKSHOP – Corporate Coworking Strategy

This is a one day workshop that takes clients through industry data around coworking and the shared workspace industry, underscoring the high levels of employee engagement and productivity reported in these types of work environments. Situated in a coworking space near a client’s location, the goal of the workshop is to bring the right mix of people together to explore ‘new ways of working’ together. This includes personnel from facilities management, human resources management, a few senior leaders with budgetary authority, as well as a few young (Millennial) employees.

II. WORK STYLE NAVIGATOR – Employee Coworking

As a follow up to the workshop, we administer our proprietary WSN survey, which helps employees clarify which ‘type’ of worker they are and which types of spaces are most appropriate for their style of work. This data allows firms to sharpen their workplace strategy and begin the road to individualization of work styles.

III. STRATEGY ROADMAP – HR Strategy embraces Corporate Coworking

Based on results from the WSN survey, as well as feedback from the workshop, we put together a strategy roadmap that outlines a few viable workplace strategy scenarios that get clients to ‘new ways of working.’ Each firm is different, and there are no off-the-shelf solutions. We provide unique and company-specific recommendations that take into account company culture, history, industry, and work styles.

IV. SPACES – Send Employees to Coworking Spaces or Build Coworking Space On Company Campus

For firms ready to make the jump, we assist in both the placement of employees into appropriate off-campus coworking spaces and in the development of on-campus coworking environments.

Download our Corporate Coworking: Transition Services Brochure

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openwork agency logo square 300x300 Corporate Coworking   Managing the Great TransitionThe OpenWork Agency is a boutique workplace strategy consultancy with roots in the coworking industry. We help companies create more flexible and social work environments so they can better attract and retain top talent and empower them to collaborate and innovate more effectively. We have over thirty-five years of combined coworking operating experience in our team, and have backgrounds in corporate real estate, enterprise hardware sales, corporate culture consulting, and marketing prior to our involvement in the coworking industry. Our experience ranges across the value chain of the industry, and we offer a suite of services that addresses key changes occurring both in the corporate real estate sector as well as inside organizations as they adapt to the changing world of work.

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Finding the right coworking operator for your real estate project

We just published a new landing page, Coworking Operator Services, which outlines some of the components to consider in choosing the right coworking operator.

We elaborate a bit on the components below:

  1. Coworking Staffing

  2. Coworking Technology

  3. Coworking Space Allocation

  4. Coworking Target Market

As coworking industry has evolved, so has the necesseity for successful coworking operators to evolve their offering to meet and exceed market (and investor) expectations.

Asset Owner JV with Coworking Operator

It’s becoming increasingly popular for asset owners in the real estate industry to facilitate win/win joint venture arrangements with coworking operators to help ‘activate’ their space as well as share in the revenue. Often asset owners cover the front-end capital investments and the coworking operators provide the management, brand, and the experience.

finding the right coworking operator

Invest in Coworking

How do I invest in coworking?

We often hear from many people in conversations that ask us, “how do I get in on the success of the coworking movement?” Every week we see new headlines in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and local papers around the world that detail the latest expansion efforts of XYZ coworking space. The romanticism of coworking has reached new heights. No longer is it just about community but it’s now increasingly about making a buck (or $22billion). WeWork has certainly caused a stir and kudos to them for all the great work they’re doing promoting the evolution of the workplace.

So that brings me to how you can invest in coworking.

There are no publicly traded coworking brands. WeWork reportedly will soon IPO, but the jury is still out when that may be. Certainly, if you have an opportunity to participate in a future coworking brand IPO, get on it. The coworking industry is paced to continue to grow, in paramount amounts. That being said, in the meantime, you can best invest in coworking by either:

  1. Investing in a local coworking brand

    This may be the easiest way to support the coworking movement from a financial perspective. Find a local coworking operator that is successful in your area and sit down with their owners and chat about long-term goals. Perhaps your investment capital can help them grow and scale.

  2. Investing in a coworking chain

    Besides WeWork there are about 100 coworking chains that have aspirations of being “the next WeWork” or being in a category all to themselves. We’re seeing a lot of specialization in the coworking industry, so investing in a coworking chain that has a certain differentiator is probably the smartest move. They say that WeWork will begin acquiring competitive brands when they IPO, so a WeWork IPO may be your short-term exit strategy.

  3. Create your own coworking brand

    Work with a coworking consultant and develop your own coworking brand.

  4. Asset Owner + Coworking Operator Joint Venture

    Bring an existing coworking operator into a piece of real estate that you own. Landlord / Operator joint ventures are becoming increasingly common.

real estate portfolio

Optimize Real Estate Portfolio – Invest in Coworking Industry

The world of commercial real estate is evolving.

No longer are real estate investors simply doing business as they did in the past. With disruption and innovation happening at alarming (and opportunistic) rates, now is the time to make decision for the future.

Asset owners are often trying to optimize the future strategy of their real estate portfolio.

Many real estate investors are transitioning a percentage of their portfolio to leverage the success of the coworking industry. Statistics are released quite frequently that suggest that coworking spaces and the shared office model will be utilized at high levels in the future of commercial real estate. Long gone are the days of traditional office leases. Enterprise clients are requesting flexible lease terms and ready-to-go offices for their employees.

How can real estate investors get in the coworking game?

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Hotel Coworking – an emerging trend in the Hospitality Industry

Hotels Evolve: Enter Coworking

The trend is still emerging, yet innovative players in the industry are quickly experimenting with ‘activating their lobbies.’  Why has the coworking trend reached the hotel world? hotel coworking plus Hotel Coworking   an emerging trend in the Hospitality Industry

Coworking can help create a fully integrated ecosystem within a building, whether it is a hotel, residence, or office building. It appeals to guests as well as the public at large.  Need consulting for a Hotel Coworking project? 

Screen Shot 2017 03 05 at 3.06.53 PM Hotel Coworking   an emerging trend in the Hospitality Industry

Hotel Coworking Resources:

  • Smart business hotels where work meets play – CNNFeatured Hotel Coworking Brands:
    - Volkshotel, Amsterdam
    - Zoku, Amsterdam
    - Hotel Zetta, San Francisco
    - Ace Hotel London Shoreditch
    - Ovolo Southside, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
    - Yotel, New York City
    - The Epiphany, Palo Alto, California
    - Mama Shelter, Rio de Janeiro
    - M Beta, Charlotte, North Carolina
    - COQ, Paris
  • 6 reasons coworking hotels are the future of hospitality – USA TODAY“In general, we have started to see a major shift in the traditional definition of a hotel. It’s no longer enough to be a rectangular building with a traditional brand name; instead hotels need to keep up with the ever-evolving lifestyle and tech needs. Many are already changing by incorporating larger social spaces — like lobby lounges and  bars — and coworking spaces are the next logical step. If hotels aren’t considering demand for live-work spaces, they stand the risk of becoming one dimensional.” - John Hardy, CEO of The John Hardy Group and founder of Radical Innovation in Hospitality
  • Co-Working, but for Hotels. (Seriously) – Inc.“A layer of technology will also augment guests’ experience at Hotel Schani. One books a room online (obviously), but then also selects their desired floor and proximity to the elevator. Amenities, and even furnishing arrangement, may also be plucked from a menu in the future. The guest also checks in, and unlocks the door to their room, through an app.”

Learn about our Hotel Coworking Consulting services.

coworking for employees and freelancers

Coworking is for company employees, too.

Companies and employees have both begun to hear the buzz around coworking…

corporate coworking fork 726x1024 Coworking is for company employees, too.

And now there is a experimental methodology for companies interested in stepping into the coworking waters.

OpenWork Agency has recently published an article outlining a program that helps company employers incorporate the coworking model into their existing workplace strategy. Read it here: Coworking for company employees: What/Why/How. It explains the ‘Corporate Coworking’ program, an initiative that helps employees gain access to the network of coworking spaces in their area as well as provide options for employers to consider building their own coworking space inside the company building or across their corporate campus.

With employers beginning to embrace coworking, it will help them attract and retain young, Millennial talent as employees (and contract workers). Coworking is helpful at empowering the modern workforce to work according to their own natural rhythms.

We want to be tour guides, and provide a roadmap for helping companies go from the past (industrial) model of work to the future (sharing economy) model of work,” explains Drew Jones, management professor, author, and former partner and co-owner at Conjunctured in Austin.

‘Corporate Coworking’ Tweets:

 

 

The Coworking Industry: Then, Now, and Tomorrow

Screen Shot 2016 06 20 at 8.57.08 AM The Coworking Industry: Then, Now, and Tomorrow

The OpenWork Agency has published a new coworking white paper entitled The Coworking Industry: Then, Now, and Tomorrow. (OpenWork was founded two years ago by two Conjunctured partners.) Here are some excerpts from each section of this 15 page report. If you want to read the whole thing in full, simply download the full Coworking Industry Report here.

Coworking Industry (Then):

In the early days of the coworking industry, between 2006 and 2009, coworking entrepreneurs and landlords weren’t the best of friends.  When many of us presented our business plans to property owners and managers, they looked at us with a mixture of disbelief and amusement.

The whole notion of coworking, a membership based, community oriented sub-leasing model, was way too outside of the box for them.  They couldn’t get past the month-to-month part, or the fact that there wasn’t a single-company tenant that would use the office space.  It all seemed so different and uncertain that the whole industry almost didn’t happen.

By 2009-2010 it was clear to some that coworking wasn’t a passing trend or fad.  More business-minded companies, such as NextSpace and Green Desk (which would become WeWork), entered the fray and started to commercialize the industry.  Of course, WeWork has become the giant of the industry, taking its place alongside other sharing economy unicorns with a $15B valuation.  This phase of the adoption cycle also demonstrated that coworking could be turned into a profitable business, even though many of those spaces that opened during this phase of the industry didn’t make the final cut.  Cleverly, the ones who did make the cut and managed to scale their businesses did so by bottling up many of the ‘elements of cool’ that were manifest by coworking innovators, and packaging them for sale to a new round of customers.

coworking adoption lifecycle The Coworking Industry: Then, Now, and Tomorrow

Coworking Industry (Now):

As mentioned earlier, according to our research, we have now moved into the Early Majority phase of the coworking adoption life cycle.  Due to the WeWork Effect, building owners and property managers around the world want to get involved in the industry.  We receive inquiries every week from property owners and developers who now want ‘to do coworking.’  It is interesting to note how far we’ve come from those early days when realtors wanted to have nothing to do with coworking.

There are good reasons why many of these professionals have gravitated to coworking.  Increasingly, the numbers are working out.  Coworking chains such as WeWork and Industrious, with well-designed spaces and brand cache, fill up quickly and charge a premium for their office spaces.  When you do the math you can see why they are accelerating and why others are investing in the industry.

Screen Shot 2016 06 20 at 9.06.42 AM The Coworking Industry: Then, Now, and TomorrowGranted, not that many coworking operations can earn $200 psf, but the very possibility that these businesses can be profitable has convinced many in the corporate real estate (CRE) industry that it is no longer a gamble.  Because of this, we are seeing a proliferation of new independent operators, the growth and expansion of existing multi-location players, and now a vast interest among traditional real estate companies.  Again, as was the case with the Early Adopters, some incumbents will continue to thrive while some new entrants won’t.  One aspect of this phase is clear.  At this point in the process, brands do matter.  Because it is relatively early days, there is still a significant amount of education that needs to take place before coworking is a fully mainstream phenomenon.  Offerings such as WeWork will continue to have an advantage because they are frequently written about in the press and because they are…WeWork.  Most interesting, though, is to ponder what comes next in the Late Majority phase of the cycle.

Coworking Industry (Tomorrow):

The Unbundling Corporation: Leases, Recurring Revenue, and (REIT) Dividends.

For several generations the basic mindset/model of the CRE industry has been to lock large organizations into long-term leases, which has made complete sense for quite some time.   The default setting for leasing has been that each employee in a company is assigned to a fixed work station, so you can easily calculate a certain square foot footprint per employee and come up with the amount of space a company needs.  When it enters into a lease, that recurring revenue becomes the basis on which REIT’s (because of their preferred tax status) can pay such healthy dividends.  In this equation, each employee’s square foot footprint represents a small percentage of those dividends.  Financing mechanisms for large office buildings require predictable revenues and cost structures, so the whole process becomes frozen in place.  And thus, at this point in time, for the most part CRE sees coworking as coworking operators who are now capable of paying their rent.  They still, for the most part, don’t see, or don’t want to see, the future.

What is missing from this perspective is that what we call coworking is no longer just about Millennials, freelancers, startups, and small teams.  Large firms, themselves, are unbundling, and migrating to flex-work solutions, address-less offices, Activity Based Work, and other processes that are accomplishing three powerful things simultaneously:

  1. Radical reduction of real estate footprints (and costs)
  2. Radical improvement in the quality of workspaces for the spaces that remain
  3. Dramatic increases in choice and flexibility for knowledge workers

The implications for CRE are profound.

Turnkey Coworking? When Coworking Becomes Work and Work Becomes Coworking

As we are seeing it, the next phase of the cycle looks like this. Slowly, floor by floor, building owners will, via new turnkey coworking solutions, convert their properties from being occupied by fixed, large tenants who need and want massive footprints (which they decreasingly do), to open, agnostic, membership-based, multi-company campuses that are used (and paid for) on a month to month basis. New, robust software platforms- building operating systems will manage all of this. As we have already seen in the case of WeWork, when a place is designed in a certain way, and also has a sufficient amount of social atmosphere, a thriving ‘coworking space’ can actually out earn the standard lease rate of many buildings. In presenting coworking directly to their corporate clients (effectively bypassing the middlemen), certain functions and costs arise. Buildings will need concierge and community management services, but this can be paid for out of the revenue that otherwise would go to a coworking operator. As it is anyway, property managers spend much of their time showing prospective tenants around buildings, much of which will be unnecessary activity in the future. These professionals can easily be (re)trained to run such enterprise-focused coworking spaces. Furthermore, and most importantly, not only can buildings earn more money by going direct to their customers, these are the very spaces that customers are increasingly demanding. Not only is this demand already being expressed, in a few short years Millennials will be the largest generation at work and they are clearly expressing a desire to work in a manner consistent with other aspects of the sharing economy.

Download the full 15 page PDF here: Coworking Industry 2016 report by OpenWork.

Background

CONJUNCTURED 

Conjunctured was the first coworking space in Austin, Texas and is one of the oldest and most established coworking brands in the world. Today, there are 44 coworking spaces in Austin and over 10,000 spaces across the world. The partners of Conjunctured have been speakers at a number of global conferences related to innovation, coworking, and workplace strategy. In September 2014, after six years of coworking, the Conjunctured house closed its doors. Following its closure, in an effort to open the ‘coworking model’ into greater society, Conjunctured partners, Drew and David, launched a hybrid consultancy called The OpenWork Agency.

THE OPENWORK AGENCY 

OpenWork Agency is a boutique coworking consultancy. All of the partners and consultants in the firm are either current or former coworking operators, and we have (combined) over thirty years of coworking operating experience in the team. We also have a Harvard educated architect, as well as the world’s leading community manager training expert. Recently, in Kisi’s list of the ’30 Most Influential People in Coworking,’ five members of OpenWork’s team made the list. We have expertise in all aspects of the industry, and regularly work across the entire value chain. We formed to help others- real estate investors/developers and companies- understand, strategize, and implement coworking solutions in their own buildings and companies. This includes educating clients in the specifics of the industry, and helping others develop their own brands as a white label service.

reimagine ad agency

The Ad Agency Model Evolves, Enter #Coworking

Coworking began mostly in coffee shops. Then it migrated into coworking spaces. Eventually, WeWork happened, building immense awareness for the coworking model in greater society. When we closed Conjunctured a little over a year ago, we did so betting that coworking would transcend the traditional coworking space model- and enter into society through new ways. Fast forward to present day and the coworking model is maturing and evolving rapidly.

Now you’re likely to see coworking appear in some unexpected places, mostly embedded within existing larger ecosystems.

When it comes down to it, coworking is being adopted by industries that want to speed along the disruption+evolution life cycle. Industry pioneers know that people are always at the center of the experience. Coworking unlocks a new kind of people-powered pandora’s box, wherever you enable it. And what you begin to notice is that the intangible of the coworking experience often creates quite tangible things.

People talk about the magic of coworking, but what really gets me is the practicality of it. Bring a group of like-minded, complimentary-skilled people in a resource-rich workspace together, and things start to happen. This is the serendipity/the magic/the secret sauce that coworking enthusiasts refer to.

 

The Ad Agency Model -> Enter Coworking

Digital changed everything for the ad agency—and now coworking is helping agencies integrate freelancers and blended workspaces into their business model.  See: The Uber of Agencies: Why Marketers Want to Ride With a New Kind of Shop

It’s here in the (normally private) walls of a creative agency that you’ll find smart people, energizing vibes, unique ideas, interesting work, and probably a fantastic office setup.  But at the end of the day, it’s just for employees and client visits. Private. Secure. Do not enter.

What happens when you take a closed door ad agency office and swing the doors wide open to the greater community of indies within the creative field?

Well, we’re not sure yet, but we’re giving it a go. We were recently invited by local ad agency, Blackboard Co., to extend the coworking model into their office as a way to connect with the greater community of professionals in the local creative scene. We built them a website, wrote them a coworking ‘operations manual’, and are helping to invite members of the community to drop in. We’re collaborating on the initiative with one of Austin’s most active communities, Creative Mornings, to share the good word to Austin’s greater digital creative scene.

If you’re a local creative indie and you’re looking for a way to plug in to an agency ecosystem that can help you scale up your work, then please swing by and check out the space at the Coworking Open House, Oct 16 @ 9am.

bbco openhouse banner The Ad Agency Model Evolves, Enter #Coworking

Drew and David, Conjunctured partners (now with OpenWork), will be hanging out giving tours and chatting ‘future of work.’ It’d be great to see you!