Although we are certainly enthused to be living in this exciting time for the modern Entrepreneur and the rebirth of the small business development arena, we want to share some lessons we’ve learned from clients and peers who have worked in co-working spaces in an 8-point checklist of things to consider before you sip your first cup of joe at the crowded community latte bar in a trendy co-working space.
- Does the nature of your work require privacy with regard to clientele, proprietary tech, business models, or intellectual property? While co-working spaces are a vast source of networking potential, keep in mind that you – and your work – are quite literally in a fishbowl of sorts. People are always looking at you – and they are also looking at what you are developing, building, and ideating. As most people are generally good-natured in intention, we are creatures of curiosity, and it is hard not to talk about how cool so-and-so’s new widget thingy is – which is great…until that news reaches someone else who is working on what may be a similar version or offering of your widget.
- Does the co-working space offer additional private offices? If the nature of your work doesn’t necessarily require privacy, will you have a need to conduct business away from the community areas? If so, look into the possibility of renting a private office as an “add on” to your membership agreement on an “as-needed” basis.
- Does the co-working space have a policy that forbids covering office windows for privacy? We know of one national-brand space that does not allow for members to utilize shades or drapery of any kind – period. So if you do need an office that affords visual privacy, ensure this policy is not in place in your preferred co-working space.
- Do you need to be able to field presentations for a investors, shareholders, trade associates, etc.? Some co-working spaces offer dedicated conference rooms that may be reserved on a first-come basis, while others only offer a large, open space.
- Do you require stable and fast internet service? One major co-working space we know of advertises “lighting-fast” and “blazing” internet speed, when the local Starbucks bests it – by a significant margin. Needless to say, this can have a major impact on productivity, and in some cases, affect your ability to work if you require robust service. We recommend surveying others who work there about their own experience when it comes to this, in addition to test-driving the service yourself.
- Does the co-working space field events during the traditional work day that may interfere with your work, or work meetings? One cool factor that many co-working spaces offer is the ability for members to field events, and while most people enjoy the energy of the indie band who stopped by to entertain the community and have some drinks sponsored by the local brewery, the volume can have an adverse impact on the investors’ pitch you are fielding in the adjoining conference room. This actually happened to one of our clients who was pitching a Walt Disney executive.
- Do you have the ability to say “no” or have the mental chops to filter out the noise of a crowded environment? One colleague of mine ours (at the time of this writing) who has raised a little under one million dollars in first-round funding actually experienced daily occurrences of people randomly walking right up to where he was working on his laptop, stare at his computer screen, then boldly ask on what was he working! All day. Every day.
- Does the co-working space regulate how alcohol is dispensed during traditional work hours? While one of the greatest perks offered by most co-working spaces (rolled into the rental income they collect, of course) is access to beer, wine, and other alcoholic beverages, can you manage your focus if others around you become a tad bit too loud or intrusive before the end of the traditional work day?
Please don’t get us wrong – we absolutely love the energy, networking benefits, and social support many modern co-working spaces offer (who doesn’t love Morning Mimosas with a lively group of startup hustlers?); however, we have heard too many of our clients and associates say “I wish we would have known…” when speaking about what their expectations were for a shared space experience.
Good luck in your business grind. Make informed decisions. Stay caffeinated, friends.