Tiny Coworking Spaces Around the World You’ve Never Heard Of

Every so often, the Cohere Coworking team deploys a set of bots (it’s just Angel) into the world (the coworking google group) to find the coworking communities you’ve likely never heard of. They are the ones you never see listed on the “Best Of” lists and the ones quietly doing amazing things in tiny towns or tiny spaces. We recognize you, tiny spaces. We salute your wee stature and appreciate you!

CoWorking Mullumbimby | Mullumbimby, New South Wales, Australia
This place is tiny by comparison to most – it will cap at 18. “I’m growing extremely slowly – in a small town/village so at the moment we only have 4 permanent members and the day/week guests. The coworkers were all strangers until we met here. They like it… because it’s a bit different. It was an old community hall converted into an artist’s residence with studio gallery and now a coworking space with 2 bnb rooms. So it’s still set up like a home with comfy lounge-work areas, full functioning kitchen and vege garden plus the large gallery-office area. It’s a coworking home-office away from home. We walk 3-minutes down a quiet dirt laneway into the centre of town… what else. We have a play room with a drum kit, PA and amps, guitars etc. and a punching bag.” -Kerry Gray

Bonus points from Cohere: hosting a yoga photo session with kids.
Mullumbimby

 

 

Valley.Works | Waitsfield, Vermont, USA
“Valley.Works opened on march 1st in central Vermont. My space is about 350 square feet but accommodates up to 9 members at a time with 2 printers and 2 permanent creative work stations. It was a challenge to make the space as productive as it is, the bookcases and couch are on wheels, and the desks can be re arranged into a conference table. We are brand new an membership is low but our small rural community of about 5,000 people is almost 50% telecommuter and has a large community of creative entrepreneurs and working artists, so I am hopeful that the Valley.Works membership will grow!” -Samantha www.valleyworksvt.org.

Bonus points from Cohere: trees in the view!!

Valley Works

Scribble Space | Windermere, Florida, USA
Our space is surrounded by dense rural apartments, townhomes and single family homes – lots of families so our space gets used for professional uses as well as kid, family and mom events and there’s even a farmer’s market now on our doorstep as well as vendors setup inside. We are adding a fresh coffee vendor inside at this week’s market. Our Facebook is full of photos and links to the events and the market – can find it easy searching for ScribbleSpace. :)

Bonus points from Cohere: discussion over catered lunch!

ScribbleSpace

 

Frontal Lobe | Howell, Michigan, USA

Frontal Lobe is Livingston County’s first coworking space and hosted their anniversary party in the alley. Also, I think this space is directly next to a Dairy Queen. WHUT?!

Bonus points from Cohere: This space reminds me of OG Cohere. Tiny, brick and a couple people hunched over a monitor. Good work Frontal Lobe!

Frontal Love

 

Shhared | Hamburg, Germany
If you’re ever in Hamburg, head over to Shhared. They have pictures of people on their website! You guys are crushing it.

Bonus points from Cohere: their website and Facebook page featured the most pictures of their members and people in their space. Good. Job.

Shhared

If You Don’t Have These 7 Types of Members, Your Coworking Space Will Fail

It takes all kinds of people to make a coworking space go ’round. Does your coworking community have all SEVEN  types of critical members? If not, you better manifest them in a hurry!

  1. The Connector: Forget 7 degrees of separation. This person probably had lunch with Kevin Bacon yesterday. Your super connectors take pleasure in connecting two people together on a theme. The more bizarre or remote the connection, the greater the thrill for a connector. Question you are most likely to be asking a Connector, “do you know anyone who (jumps rope while singing, used to work at that one company that was over on Riverside?)…..??”
  2. The Attentive: This member knows a little bit about any topic. You’ll find them frequently scrolling social media platforms and reading a wide variety of headlines (they probably don’t read the actual article). That thing you mentioned about baby pigs in passing? She stored it for later use. An Attentive makes a wonderful community manager because she remembers all the small details about members (and who hates coconut on their donuts). Question you are most likely to be asking an Attentive, “Hey, do you know anything about LED bulbs/composting/SEO/best chocolate….?”2015-06-26 17.05.52-1 (1)
  3. The Sarcastic: The eyeroll and upside down face emojis are this member’s best friend. They are extra quick with the quips. Any new member who can survive a day coworking next to Mr. Sarcasm will be a member for life.
    Notable: The Sarcastic usually pairs well with a Counselor (if you’ve got one in your space).
  4. The Extrovert: You don’t need very many extroverts to make a coworking space work. In fact, I recommend a max of 3 and never in the same room at the same time unless you like to hear 3 people talking at the same time all day. Your Extroverts are perfect for social events and getting conversations started. Disclosure: I’m an extrovert and banned from our quiet coworking areas.
    Question you are most likely asking the Extrovert: invalid. They will ask YOU the questions.
  5. The Caretaker: Sometimes referred to as a “Work Spouse,” this person attends to the earthly tasks of the space. Taking out trash, changing lightbulbs and tightening door handles all come with the territory. Some Caretakers actually enjoy this (mindless) work as a way to take a break from the hardcore analysis/thinking of their day job.
    Statement the Caretaker is most often telling you, ”people aren’t washing their dishes again.”
  6. The Empath: It’s hard to find an empath that can actually function in a coworking space for long periods of time since they can be quite drained by being around a lot of people all day. If you are lucky enough to have an Empath, love them hard while they are there. The Empath will sooth nerves and validate the other members’ emotions. They’ll see your soul with merely a glance and are easy to talk to.
    Question the Empath is asking you: they will ask you about the thing you least want to talk about at that moment but you need to.
  7. The Catastrophizer: Arguably my favorite type of member, the sky is always falling. Changing a lightbulb? According to the Catastrophizer, you’ll probably drop it, it’ll shatter and we’ll all inhale some carcinogen. Launching a business? This is the member to buy a six pack for and let him run down all the ways you’ll be homeless by next Tuesday if you do anything. The Catastrophizer is great with safety checks, emergency plans and alerting someone when the toilet paper is low.

Do you have all seven types? What other types would you add?

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Coworking and Suicide: What the Spirograph Can Teach Us About Community

There are a thousand resources to learn how to be a community manager in a coworking space. But in all my six years of learning I never came across the chapter entitled, “How to handle the suicide of a member.” So I’ll write that chapter now and tell you how I was only able to put words to my feelings by using a Spirograph.

The Spirograph can teach us a lot about coworking, community, interaction and how we all weave an invisible net under people.

But first, let me tell you about Bill.

For the purposes of family privacy, I’ll name our member Bill. Bill came to Cohere in early 2014 to work on his freelance software project while attending school. He was always smiling, quick to chat and super excited about Cohere’s Pinball party. We all shared tacos at La Luz with Bill last May 24th. It was a really good night.

Bill stopped coming to Cohere and then in October emailed me to let me know he’d be cancelling b/c he had another office in town that required his presence more often. That’s a pretty typical scenario and set off exactly ZERO red flags for me. He told me he’d like to return in the spring. That would be now if he were still here.

My last email to him read, “Thanks for the note! It was good to see you the other night at ***. That’s neat that you have an office at ***! Congrats. I hope to see you in the summer.”

Earlier this week Bill’s wife messaged me to tell me that he had ended his long battle with depression in late January. I told her that he must have been in so much pain and was surprised that I didn’t notice. She told me that only two people in the world knew he was struggling. TWO people of the hundreds he interacted with over the past several years. Two. How could we not notice? How could we, as a community, have failed to spot the warning signs?

All I can say is that people with depression develop a helluva toolkit of coping mechanisms and mannerisms that defy their truth. It’s necessary. Society gets squeamish at the first hint of mental illness and it’s typically not a topic that will come up at the coffee pot, least of all at work.

So let’s remember Bill while we talk about the Spirograph. The Spirograph can teach us a lot about people, safety and coworking.

I borrowed this vintage set from Bryan and Maggie. Thanks, you two!

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To use the Spirograph, you have to pin down the primary ring onto a piece of cardboard using 4 pushpins. In the world of coworking, this ring is your coworking space. It’s the physical space, the container that holds all the neat things that happen every day. We can put your communication software in this container too. Your slack channel, your Facebook group, your Cobot, your Group Buzzio. The four pins become the holy quadrangle of coworking space amenities: wifi, coffee, electricity and redundant wifi. Those four things anchor a community to one physical space.

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Next come the plethora of little gear doodads. Those are your members. Each gear is a type of member and each gear has between 5 and 33 holes. Each hole makes the gear do something different and each hole is an emotion or behavior.

Next you need some pens. Not only does each member become a gear but they also each get their own unique color. Cohere would need 55 colors today. One for each member.

As you begin to rotate the pen in a gear, you’ll find that it’s actually quite hard. There’s a fair amount of concentration required. Here’s my first attempt. Yikes. That’s a little like being a new community manager. You try really hard but still fuck up at first. It’s normal.

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In my second attempt, everything becomes clear. With every color change, I change gears and holes and a unique pattern emerges. Each color and rotation of the gear makes loops that intersect with every other color that’s already there. Those intersections are the interactions between your members. See how many there are? Thousands, maybe even millions.

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At each intersection, we would hope our members are truly seeing one another, listening and helping each other. After only 3 colors, you’ll see how utterly complex the design is. That’s the web of safety that communities are striving to weave under one another. That web is made up of high fives, hugs, sharing, listening and laughter.

Who knows if Cohere could have held him if he’d stayed at Cohere for an extra 2.5 months. We’ll never get the chance to find out. So my fervent plea to you, out there in the world today tackling your to-do list and worrying about what’s for dinner is to SEE your fellow members. Ask and listen and hug and laugh and BE THERE. Weave a tight web among yourselves that is unbreakable even by the worst depression. If you have depression, fucking SHARE that with your community no matter how terrible it seems and hopeless you feel. Find 3 people to put on speed dial for the darkest of times.

Since announcing the death of Bill, we’ve had members come forward to share their own struggles with depression. That shit matters because we can tighten the net for them. We’ve opened the door to this oh-so-hard conversation and now we can build interactions around that.

Coworking, like the Spirograph is complicated, “It is possible to move several pieces in relation to each other…, but this requires concentration or even additional assistance from other artists.” -Wikipedia

Even the Spirograph, a child’s toy, admits you might need help from a friend to do the hard stuff.

Today we remember Bill. Today we have a Spirograph out for anyone to try but it’s okay to ask for help. We’re here for you. And here’s the National Number to call if you’re in crisis right now. 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Hey Neighbor! Meet The Birdsong Katz Team

We’re resurrecting Featured Member posts. These Q&As let you peek behind the curtain of Cohere. Find out what makes our members tick and why, in a world (Fort Collins) of almost limitless work choices, they choose Cohere as their preferred shared office community. This motley crew resides in the former “Estrogen Den” on the lower level of Cohere.

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From left: David, Ryan, Stuart.

How long have you been in the neighborhood, and what brought you here? Why choose Cohere over any old office?

David: We have been at Cohere for 3 or 4 months.  We love the location and the more laid-back atmosphere.  The sight of cubicles make me nauseous. 

Ryan: I’ve been in Colorado for over 5 years. 1 year and a half of that in Denver. The rest of the time I’ve lived in Fort Collins. The mountains, progressive eco-mindset and the promise of new adventure brought me here. Cohere is so much better than a totally empty private office space and offers the benefits of synergy and people to visit with when you are going cross-eyed from staring at your computer screen. Plus doggie friendly :)

Stuart: I’ve been in Fort Collins for 6 years. Moved to escape the wind in Wyoming, although I do miss Wyoming. We chose Cohere because we liked the idea of sharing Peanut Butter (Crunchy of course), proximity to all of my vices Harbingers, Lucille’s, 415, Dam good Tacos'(I am fat now as the result of this) and of course Angel’s dry sense of Humor. Truthfully, we liked the flexible lease terms and overall idea of co working. We have thoroughly enjoyed our time being here. Editor’s note since Stuart is a Realtor and we’ve been over this before…this isn’t a lease. It’s a membership. Remember?!

What do you all do for work … and play?

David: We are real estate professionals that help people develop opportunities for themselves and their family’s.  For play, I can only speak for myself…. If I could ski or saltwater fly fish every day I would be “OK” with that.

Ryan: Work for Me = Executive Administrator – We can’t ALL be at Harbinger -So I handle overseeing file completion, marketing design & execution, business & marketing consultation, social media, research, managing web presence, creation of team systems and creatively thinking out-of-the-box for our clients. I truly enjoy properties, details and research. Real Estate is full of new obstacles and unique situations. I really enjoy complex problem solving and helping others. Play for Me = hiking, mountain biking, yoga, thrift shopping, painting and ceramics.  

Stuart: Full Time Parent and Real Estate Investor/ Broker. I love to Fly Fish, Ski and any activity in the outdoors that doesn’t involve Horses.

What makes this neighborhood unique?

David: The neighborhood is in walking distance to 3 of my favorite places to indulge. Lucile’s, Harbinger Coffee, & Damn Good Tacos.

Ryan: Super friendly people, “house” businesses that Colorado loves so much, the train running down the street, mix of businesses and homes with a focus on local privately owned businesses.

Stuart: Angel,… duh

What makes YOUR team unique? (hidden talents? odd habits? guilty pleasures? etc.)

David: Unique?  Have you met Stuart?

Ryan: Our team is unique in that we each have a valuable yet specific skill-set. We all really excel in our areas of expertise with little overlap and that has allowed for a natural, sustainable role-creation. We also have a similar sense of humor which never hurts a group dynamic. Dave and Stuart like to drive around in their matching trucks and talk smack to each other at traffic lights. They also have several “bro-mances” in the industry besides their total ‘old married business couple’ banter. Sometimes they have very differing opinions on things but that has created an environment where we don’t fear but embrace the progress of conflict. This is a necessity of a functional team. Dave and Stuart love to play- travel, ski, bike – etc. What makes our team unique is that they think that is just as important for me to go play and have that balance as well. Dave and I are both junkies for new industry and business techniques, ideas and approaches. Fun Facts: Dave has a strong weakness for chocolate and an affinity for electronics- destroying them upon touch. Stuart is a master at old man noises. Also, Stuart serenades me daily ;) Ask for a personal song – I’m sure he’d be happy to share his massive, massive talents.

Stuart: Dave and Ryan may be the loudest speakers in the building. Thankfully, we are in the basement. Ryan is a surprising Do-it-yourselfer; She can rebuild dishwashers, stoves and any electronic appliance you cannot figure out. In addition to that, she is an exceptional communicator(other than loud speaker) and makes our business run flawlessly, despite Dave and I’s obvious quirks. Dave, on the other hand, is not allowed anywhere near electronics (It will most likely combust in his presence). Truthfully, Dave is all about Self Motivation and Personal Development. He genuinely cares about the people he works with and has a 110% commitment to being a great Dad, Husband, and businessmen. Our team is awesome, despite me, and I am thankful to work with them every day.

Favorite neighborhood haunts (nearby restaurants, stores, businesses you frequent)?

David: See above.

Ryan: Flamingo Boutique and Find Of The Day – Told you i was thrifty ;)

Stuart: I go to Harbinger Coffee 6 days a week(and Thanks for the 10% discount) and Lucilles once a week with my Wife, Cassady, and Daughter, Stella, strictly for the weekly pancake special.

In your opinion, what makes a good neighbor?

David: There is some old book that says “help thy Neighbor” (or something like that)

Ryan: “All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors—in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.”
Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers (Just for you, Angel)

Courtesy and kindness are just as powerful as anger and alienation. We’re all in this environment for different reasons/purpose. The next Cohere member’s purpose/mission and mine are different- each day. My mission doesn’t really help their mission or vice versa. People could easily not be friendly because they don’t have a specific reason to (i.e. no negative consequences from HR, trouble from your boss, etc). Yet, in this environment we are helpful to each other- with no real benefit to ourselves. That to me, is what makes a good neighbor. No strings attached – no personal benefits up your sleeve – truly just being helpful and courteous to your fellow man.
Plus the consistent flow of donuts into this building may be related…

Stuart: A smile and a hello, when you see them.

What’s your favorite part of Cohere?

David: Angel…duh.

Ryan: The witty instructional notes, environmentally conscientious, random silly surveys on personal hygiene, dog friendly environment and the opportunity to connect with others.

Stuart: Everything.

Coworking: The True Preferences of Members

 

After developing and managing a coworking community for over 5 years, I feel like I’ve learned a few things about member preferences. I’ve done extensive yet non-mathematical A/B testing on a variety of variables that make life with coworking even better. Here’s a light-hearted take on what really matters to the Cohere Community members.

  1. Never ever put out plain M&Ms when you have peanut M&Ms in your desk drawer. If the coworkers find out that you’ve been holding out on them, certain death will follow.
  2. If you have to choose between buying plain Hershey’s Kisses and Almond ones, always choose the Almond ones. The plain ones will last in the bowl longer but you’ll suffer o_O squinchy eyes for your frugality.
  3. It’s always worth it to splurge on Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Basil scented hand soap. The members prefer its scent to any other hand soap that has ever been or will ever be available in the domestic United States. Shockingly, hand washing percentages go up and the incidence of infectious disease plummets when they can scrub with basil goodness. (I’m serious, more people washed their hands more frequently when this soap was available. Don’t ask me how I know this, that’s why I’m the community manager).
  4. Give all members 24/7 access. Just because I can’t function after 8pm or before 6am doesn’t mean they can’t.
  5. When planning an event, make sure that food is available and not just any crappy food but really good, delicious food. Our most successful social event is DONUTS. Don’t overthink this one.
  6. Give them communication tools or give them death. Cohere members use no fewer than 6 ways to communicate with one another…sometimes at the same time and sometimes while they sit next to one another speechless, typing.
  7. Don’t underestimate the power of a group lunch. Coworkers prefer to eat together instead of alone. Always forego your lunchbox when the opportunity presents itself.
  8. Never use an image in a blog post that makes sense when you’ve accidentally come across a gem like today’s.

Image credit: Ashley Dryden

Down & Dirty with the Cohere Members

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by Cohere Member Rachel:

A conversation about a member’s broken shower and Christian Rudder’s book Dataclysm sparked a full on investigation of hygiene habits at Cohere and the creation of the Statistical Analysis Department (S.A.D) staffed entirely by people who dig data. Coherians were asked to plot their shower and deodorant/antiperspirant use on a scatter plot. In full disclosure, each respondent received a free donut for participating. The initial plot asked people how many days between showers and deodorant/antiperspirant use. During analysis the data was re-coded for ease of plotting to reflect use per week. The sampling resulted in 24 data points.

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The most concrete conclusion we can draw from this data is that (58%) people at Cohere shower everyday (Cohere’s Mode-us Operandi if you will). Some take it a step further, 16% shower more than once a day. Four days between showers is as long as anyone will go without showering.

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Regarding Deodorant/Antiperspirant use, Coherians are evenly split between the two options (42%,46% respectively). There is a smaller tribe of folks (13%) that abstain from either product and go Au Naturel. However, of the 13% that abstain from product, 100% of them shower daily. Deodorant use may be mildly correlated with shower use, possibly meaning people only apply it as often as they shower. Antiperspirant use is likely not correlated with showering, meaning some use it in lieu of showering or vice versa and others as use it as often as they shower.

Rachel Ridenour is a CSU College of Natural Resources Alumni and is currently a rangeland ecologist and wetland specialist with Cedar Creek Associates, a Colorado based private consulting firm specializing in mine reclamation. #distractinglysexy

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She digs data.

Coworking: Must-Have Supply List

Five years into running a coworking space in Fort Collins, I’ve finally compiled a list of the most game-changing items you can purchase for your coworkers. From desks to dishes, Cohere has the scoop on everything from power strips to parchment papers.

We’ve had our fair share of desk iterations at Cohere. From highly customized and huge curvy desks with integrated power to bomb-proof dorm desks, I’ve finally found the best option for us and they are $99 each. Sweet. Please raid your IKEA accordingly. (IKEA is not paying me for this post. In fact, I was so wary of yet another desk that would fail me, I only bought two so the coworkers could test-drive them for several weeks).

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The IKEA THYGE desk measures an ample yet space saving 24″x 48″. Its legs attach with some effort but the overall effect is one of total stability and feels high end even though you’ll be giggling over your frugality. The legs ADJUST from 23″ to 35″ making it comfy for even the most stubby-legged members. Once our desk transition is complete, we’ll have 2 short, 2 medium and 2 tall desks for members to choose from.

The smooth uncluttered surface provides lots of spare room for your flex-deskers like remote software developer, Ian, above and enough room for the permanent dual monitor setup of remote software developer, Kevin, below.

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The thing we’ve missed most from the early days of Cohere is the integrated power we had in our custom desks. IKEA finally solved this problem for us by creating a clamp-on mount ($10) and pairing it with their power/usb strip ($14.99). Add their cable storage under mount basket for a nearly seamless office experience. For those of you doing math, that’s just $128.99 per workstation (you only need 1 cable storage basket per two desks).

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Cons: these desks aren’t on wheels but the feet of the legs are smooth enough that they are easy to slide around on carpet. If any of you have found a wheeled desk option that is this high quality for the same price, I’ll eat my bank statement.

Now that we’ve got your members working productively, they’re going to need snacks. Member Laurel casually asked me one day, “hey, for the next version of upgrades, can we get a toaster oven?”

Seven clicks and two days later, we unwrapped this beauty ($24.95). Laurel originally thought it would be a nice supplement to our stocked PB&J bar but I doubled-down on the idea and bought cookie dough.

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I’d love to say that we have exercised restraint and reserve warm cookies-on-demand for Fridays or Mondays but we don’t. Someone bakes goddamn hot cookies every damn day and it is spectacular. I highly recommend these mini break-aparts by Nestle. Pair your new baking members with parchment sheets ($5.89) for easy cleanup and an adorable mini-spatula ($8.99). Ignore the review where the lady says the spatula is “too tiny.” She is absurd.

Last but not least, I give you the thing that a member bought and put on my desk with the note, “Angel, this dish brush will change your life. Trust me.” -Lucinda

We’ve never had a dishwasher at the Old Town Cohere locations so we soldier on by hand-washing; never quite satisfied by other dish brushes, sponges or scrubby things.

The OXO brush not only takes the cake, it obliterates the cake with a swipe of the wrist and the push of a button.

I know you are super stoked to read about the features of a dish brush. Here they are in no particular order: it sits up in a stand that collects its own drips (I wish my baby did this), it only dispenses soap when you press the button on the handle, it never gets smelly and it really cleans the dishes!

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Bonus item: a little whiteboard above our sink. This has been the most effective message to date. It’s also a decent reminder to me that even if I have to wash a couple of spoons every morning, I’m doing a job that I LOVE alongside people I LOVE. No dirty dish stands a chance against that kind of happiness.

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Why I use Cobot to Manage My Coworking Space

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This picture has nothing to do with Cobot. I just really like photos of Ian clapping in rooms.

People often see Cohere’s logo on the Cobot website and ask for my thoughts on this coworking space management software. I LOVE COBOT. Cobot saved me from a few poorly managed google spreadsheets, post-its and multi-platform invoicing tools. Cobot saves me time and money. I imagine I’ll use them for as long as Cohere lives. I feel like Cohere grew up with them. Cobot and Cohere were both founded in 2010 :)

Here are my responses to the most asked questions:

What do you like? 

After an initial learning curve, I find it easy to use and not too fancy. I like that the Cobot team will make global changes for me, (like when I needed the new membership agreement to be on every plan and attached to all current members) a task that would have taken me 2-3 hours.

What do you dislike about the software?

Sometimes my currency shows in pounds but it’s an odd little glitch that doesn’t impact anything.

>>>Update: a few hours after reading this post, Cobot emailed me and asked if they can fix the currency issue :) See?! That’s why I love them.

Which are the most useful features?

I integrated it with Stripe (credit card processing) so when a member chooses that it automatically charges their card on their invoice day. I also find the Cobot staff useful and resource booking/scheduling.  I also enjoy browsing the analytics for revenue and membership numbers.

What features do you wish the software supported?

A member workflow would be helpful. Like a checklist of what a new member needs that reminds me to do those tasks at intervals until onboarding is complete.

What’s it like working with Cobot… Are they a responsive partner when issues arise?

Yes, very.

Have you integrated Cobot with 3rd party software?

Stripe, Paypal, Zapier

Have you had success integrating the software with an on premise access control system?

Nope, never tried.

Have you experienced significant down time while using the platform?

Nope, their site was down once for a few hours 2 years ago.

What other competitors did you review alongside Cobot, if any?

I played around in MindBodyOnline but I’ll always stick with Cobot. They are constantly adding neat features and it gets the job done.

 

 

Help Is Meaningful No Matter How Small

hug“I’m not mad. I’m disappointed.”

At myself.

I’m a helper. Always have been. I try hard. I watch the world for opportunities to help strangers, friends and Cohere members especially. Once, I almost crashed my car pulling over to help an elderly women right her shopping cart. Turns out she did NOT want my help and swore at me but I feel happy that I tried. I’ve apparently lost my way as of late…

Last week I ran into an associate who said to me, “Hey, “Sally Sue*” is really struggling right now. Can you think of a way we could come together and help her?”

I stammered and stuttered and then muttered, “I don’t know her well enough to help in any meaningful way.”

WHAT.

THE.

ACTUAL.

FUCK?

Let’s break down the absurdity of what I said, “I don’t know her well enough to help in any meaningful way.”

  1. I don’t know her well enough. That doesn’t even make sense. I’ve been friends with Sally on Facebook for maybe a year. I’ve met her in person at least twice that I can think of. I’ve SEEN her posts about how she is struggling right now. I’m familiar enough with her work, her life and I even know her daughter’s name.
  2. to help. Help is relative. Who am I to decide what is helpful to any person at any given moment? Who am I to look at someone and decide that this thing or the other thing is better or worse for that person ESPECIALLY if I don’t even ask. If I don’t even try. Inaction is worse than trying something.
  3. in any meaningful way. I dropped everything to help dear friends last week. I cancelled things, pushed meetings and told my own daughter to wait. That felt meaningful. It felt big and it was hard. Helping isn’t always hard or time consuming or particular drastic. Does Sally need that level of help from me? A relative stranger in her life? Can I hire Sally? No. Do I personally have the bandwidth to help her job search? Probably not. There are 300 things I could do to help Sally: send her a note of encouragement, forward a job opportunity that I see, hug her, say that I know it sucks right now but it’ll get better, tell her I understand, tell her I’m thinking about her. Anything at all really. I could have spent 3 minutes doing something helpful but instead I did nothing.

In a world where it’s so easy to keep our heads down and to make excuses that we don’t have the time or the money to help, let’s SEE each other. Let’s make eye contact and say HI. The world can be terrifying. People get gunned down, children die, people are struck down by awful illnesses. That lady with the screaming kid in the grocery needs help (a smile, an encouraging nod). The homeless person on the street needs help (ask). That distressed looking server at lunch needs help (listen). Your mom. Your brother. Your best friend. Help them.

I shed a tear during my reflection on my walk this morning as I smiled and said “good mornings” to strangers on the trail then I reached into a stranger’s car to turn off their headlights. Helping matters.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Fred Rogers

*name changed

Image Credit

 

How to F^ck Up Your Second Coworking Location

angel gcuc speaker

I recently got invited to present FAILURE at the Global Coworking Unconference Conference in Toronto, Canada. I take spectacular pride in my ability to fail with flourish and since the GCUC crowd always likes a good train wreck among stories of 43 Billion Dollar valuations and epic expansion stories, I indulge them. Below is the narrative of the failure and here is a link to my slides.

 

falling down

https://www.flickr.com/photos/felixtsao/4909753834/

Near the end of 2013, 4 years after Cohere hit the coworking scene in Old Town Fort Collins, I had to start turning away would-be members. We were full, things were great. So naturally, I would make a series of unfortunate mistakes that would lead to the 2nd space’s death in early 2015.

To be clear, I did SOME of the things right. In fact, all early indicators would point to Cohere’s second location being a raving success.  Here’s what went right:

  • I had a wait-list of members who wanted to join Cohere.
  • Cohere was nearing auto-pilot. Systems helped manage the behind the scenes tasks, 3 members had a strong hold on the day to day in the space and I was getting bored.
  • I selected a location that was near to OG Cohere but further south in an up-and-coming neighborhood called Midtown where rents were still affordable and the housing market was blowing up in all the right ways.
  • I took many, many members through the building pre-lease and they steered me away from one suite into 3 other suites they were much more excited about.
  • The members lovingly name it Cothere. It sticks. It’s perfect.
  • Natural light, windows, trees and parking were in abundance.
  • After we got into the space, the Coherians partied to clean up the parking lot and build furniture. It was spectacular fun and had all the trapping us Veterans look for in budding communities.
  • I paint everything, repair broken door knobs and make our entrances more safe. I pour all my love into this physical thing that will allow Cothere to grow and flourish.
  • I met and offered up our space after hours to our brand new Girl Develop It chapter. We love each other so much.

Things start to take a turn for the worse:

The landlords fail to make improvements to Cothere that are in my lease: working windows, safe stairs for our private entrance (my mother-in-law almost falls 2 stories after the railing breaks away during move-in) and cleanliness issues in the common area start to clog my inbox

And A LOT worse:

  • Nearly every day, concerns about lack of health and safety in our parking lots and common area restrooms begin to flood in.
  • My repeated requests for help from the landlords are met with either silence or passive aggressive notes in the common-area bathroom saying, “PLEASE KEEP THIS RESTROOM CLEAN!!!”
  • I become mortified when new members ask where the restroom is. The members say, “this building is dicey but Cothere’s areas are NICE!”
  • I spend 3 hours cleaning bathrooms just to prove to myself that I’m right about how dirty the bathrooms are. I am right. I get pneumonia 5 days later.
  • The restrooms are dirty again. ALL. THE. TIME.  I have to explain WHY we need more toilet paper. Sarcasm floods through my veins. “We have explosive diarrhea!” “All the women are synced up this week!!” “We are STEALING it because we are terrible people!!”

Piper

The last straw:

  • The landlords tell me in an email that goes out to all the other tenants of their building, “you don’t pay enough to have the right to complain.”

I check out. I resent the space. I no longer care about it. I do the bare minimum that an office space rental agency does. Paper towels? Check. Vacuumed? Check. Coffee? Check.

I bring on a friend to help the Cothere community and she tries really hard but we are broken. Midtown is broken, the gross restrooms are broken, our parking lot is an ice skating rink in winter and a mixed-media nightmare of dead squirrels and fallen tree limbs in summer. I refuse to pay more for basic tenant rights.

I stop coworking at Cothere. I repeat. I STOPPED COWORKING AT COTHERE. <—-really important warning sign

I spend all my time at Old Town Cohere. I breathe a sigh of relief every time I cross the threshhold and see the man that takes care of our lawn. I run into the landlord and he inquires about my well-being and asks if everything is okay in the building. He compliments Cohere, the members and how proud they are to have us as tenants. They are always a text away. Quick to fix and utterly un-involved in our day-to-day ops.

I get out of my lease free and clear on their breach of contract. After an extremely polite email exchange requesting the termination of my lease and having them agree, I feel this:

57340204

 

Down from a high of 20 members, the 3 remaining Cothere members join Cohere and love it. Just. Love It. “It’s so happy here!” “Everyone talks to me!” “I thought I wouldn’t like Old Town but I DO!” Several private office members at Cothere REMAIN in Cothere’s space after we leave. <—-this blows my mind.

So Really. WHAT went wrong?

As a veteran of the coworking community, I was raised up to always put the people first and see the physical space as a useful container that merely facilitates connections between people. Sure, I always made sure that Cohere’s container was lovely, cared-for and well-tended but none of my spaces until Cothere had ever existed inside a larger shell of a bigger building that I had no control over.

I began to think like a member as I approached the larger shell of Cothere’s space. Unkempt parking lot, dead bugs and leaves in the lobby, outdated decor in all the wrong ways, a soul-less, colorless hallway and then finally, the mecca of entering Cothere’s suites.

But sometimes the journey to mecca is just too far.

Post-hoc, I realize that Cohere has a really important value as a company and as a community that I had never said out loud, never consciously thought about and never wrote about. And this value includes the entirety of our physical container from the grounds around the building, to the entryways and all the way to the inner sanctum of our coworking areas.

To BElong to Cohere you must BE eager to help everyone feel proud of our space and the people in it.

Because Old Town Cohere has always had a loving landlord (we actually call him the Innkeeper) who tended to our grounds and common areas we had never truly felt the pain of a building owner who literally could not hold our container with positive regard. That, in turn, caused me to spend all of my Cothere energy trying to help the landlord learn how to hold the container that held US! He made it clear that he couldn’t hold the container. Won’t. Wouldn’t even pick it up and try.

As the community manager, I had nothing left to give the people of Cothere. My usual zest for connection and energy to give and listen was tapped out. My arms, my heart, my brain, were overwhelmed by TRYING to figure out how hold a container that didn’t actually belong to me. To us.

After asking the members what I should do about Cothere, all but one say a version of this, “we’ll follow you where ever you take Cohere (as long as it’s not in THAT building). Do what is best for you.” So I laid down the container. Permanently. After 14 months I gleefully get out of my lease and bring everyone back together at Cohere. The community is overjoyed that the saga is concluded.

As if the universe was bulging with abundance while it waited for me to sort out my shit, its fabric rips open and pours forth a rush of people who want to join Cohere. Tours are joyous again, filled with people and introductions and I don’t have to make excuses for the common areas. Each day we border on being full. Full of members, full of laughter and connectedness, donuts and lunches out together.

Cohere Social Event Hotdogs

A hot dog potluck marks the closure of Cothere and the revitalization of Frank Friday

2014-11-07 13.16.58

I immediately refine and add our values to our membership page:

BE yearning for interaction

BE willing to introduce yourself, make friends and help

BE ready to participate in impromptu and planned events

BE eager to help everyone feel proud of our space and the people in it

BE prepared for abundance (work, laughter, goodwill, and more)

Key Learnings

When considering expansion, don’t look for a building. Look for people.

  • Look for a community helper who is invested, excited and willing to put in the hours needed to bring people together.
  • Look to your existing members for feedback and talk about what expansion means for both communities.
  • Find a commercial Realtor who can add very specific language into your lease about maintenance and responsibilities.
  • Look for a landlord who is capable and willing to hold a container for you. MEET your landlord(s) in person before you sign.

Brave enough to share your epic failure? Post it in the comments or email it to me!

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