Fledgling businesses are often born in a home office.
But as these enterprises mature, they often need a stepping-stone between that home office and a traditional office space.
In many cases, co-working spaces are a fitting solution.
Brad Neuberg (considered the “father” of co-working) defines a co-working space as, “a work space that combines the freedom of working for yourself with the community and creativity of a traditional job.” But in addition to providing a physical workplace, these collaborative environments also give homegrown entrepreneurs the tools, relationships and resources they need to grow their businesses.
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Consider this: Research shows that startups operating from a co-working space are four times more likely to succeed than those that don’t. A study from Deskmag.com also found that 85 percent of people who use co-working spaces report being more motivated, while 88 percent say they interact better with others. Forty-two percent even reported higher income.
Based on these facts alone, it’s evident that a co-working center can be a boon to small businesses. But not all co-working spaces are created equal. Do your research before you select a place to move your business, and make sure these five things make your co-working space wish list:
1. A Network
The community provided by a co-working center is just as critical as the physical space. Formal, organized networking functions are ideal opportunities to meet entrepreneurs. However, a worthy co-working space provides more than just happy hours.
As a central hub for small businesses, startups and independent contractors, co-working spaces can cultivate opportunities for networking that result in profitable partnerships, collaborations and new business ventures.
Launch Fishers, for example, hosts series of get togethers, from weekly informal coffee meetings to monthly business pitch meetups. Members have the opportunity to build relationships with investors and developers—players that can bring an idea into being. These kind of encounters are transformative: x members have capitalized on the network developed at Launch Fishers, growing out of the space as thriving businesses and active community participants.
When entrepreneurs work out of a home office, they might miss a sense of camaraderie. Other small business owners face the same hurdles as you do, and have empathy for your challenges. This shared experience can be invaluable when it comes to troubleshooting or brainstorming solutions to various small business problems.
2. Mentorship Opportunities
One of the most significant benefits of co-working space can be gaining access to mentors. This is sometimes one of the selling points of a space, other times the opportunity comes about in a more organic fashion.
Co-working incubators, for example, combine the principals of a co-working space and business incubator. Targeted to young, growing companies, these environments help entrepreneurs find funding while providing access to rental space, shared basic business services and equipment and technology support services. But the main hallmark of an incubator is mentorship and guidance from an overseeing individual or business. You may receive council in areas core to your business and supporting, including taxes and legal matters.
Traditional co-working spaces, which provide open workspace, provide indirect mentorship opportunities: you may meet possible mentors just by proximity, but entrepreneurs must be proactive to develop relationships in these spaces.
Look for a diverse membership with various degrees of success and experience when seeking out a co-working space. Mentors should be able to provide a new perspective on your business.
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A successful entrepreneur never stops learning. With that philosophy in mind, look for a co-working center that offers educational opportunities that can help you grow your business. Some centers provide introductions to new technologies, while others might offer workshops catered to developing entrepreneurship in underrepresented segments of the population.
Educational opportunities can be offered as a series classes presented over a period of time, or as a singular event that draws an audience beyond the membership.
Today, many co-working centers are taking a page out of the book of companies like Google, and have used amenities like nap rooms, dog-friendly policies and complimentary gourmet snacks to create a workplace environment people don’t want to leave. These types of amenities are nice add-ons, and they can make your time at the co-working center a little more comfortable and enjoyable. But in the long run, treadmill desks or the ability to get a double shot latte on site don’t make a successful business environment.
A co-working space should provide amenities, but it should also be part of a larger ecosystem with the infrastructure and other resources to support both your business and personal interests. When searching for a co-working space, make sure to choose one in a community that provides the infrastructure your startup needs, whether that be roads, bridges, power connections and the local resources that mean the most to you and your family, like open parks, good schools and safe neighborhoods.
Entrepreneurs can benefit from tech investments many co-working spaces are making. Fiber-ready spaces are emerging, and this type of reliable high speed internet connection is critical as a business is ramping up.
Nap pods are great, but successful co-working spaces don’t exist in a vacuum, they happen in communities with other the infrastructure and resources necessary to support entrepreneurs.
5. Shared Goals
Though they provide entrepreneurs with the freedom of being your own boss, co-working spaces should also provide community. To build a strong community, you need more than just physical proximity, by also common attitudes, interests and goals.
When looking for a co-working space, seek out a community, which has a mission that aligns with that of your company. That mission could be anything from improving overall technology offerings in a specific industry to helping develop the next generation of entrepreneurs though a high school fellowship program.
Co-working spaces offer numerous opportunities startups and other entrepreneurs, however before you jump to join the nearest co-working space, make sure you understand what one of these organization can offer your business and what factors are most important to you.