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.

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

 

DIT Coworking Board Combats #selfie-ness

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In this digital age permeated by a pervasive #selfie culture, the Cohere coworking members decided to turn some introspection outward. Last week, over donuts and coffee, we wondered what a whiteboard might bring to our break room. Options included a life-sized Angel cutout replete with changeable outfits and a spreadsheet of how we take our coffee. Then the tables turned: quite magically. We decided to dust off our old Polaroid and crowd-source the content, hence the DIT (Do It Together) instead of the DIY.

Our first #everyoneelsie board has been up for 5 days. It comes with no instructions except the declaration, “Make it Ours!” and a small tray of supplies nearby.

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We’re looking forward to seeing how the board progresses over time and I’m secretly hoping for more people-pics. Does your coworking space have a community curated board? Show us!

Stop Fucking Up This Type of Email

suggestion-boxIn a world of increasing remote work and ever expanding social networks people are desperate to connect in a more meaningful way (besides our lovely coworking space in Fort Collins). Often, that meaningful way is to get a cooperative 3rd party to introduce you to someone over email. If one more well-meaning 3rd party sends me a “connection” email like the following, I’m going to go CRAY all over the interwebs.

Angel,

I was in a meeting with these folks yesterday and thought you’d all like to connect. Find their email addresses above.

Tom

WHY?! Why would I want to email a bunch of strangers? It’s sort of like ringing my doorbell and slinging a couple of strangers into my living room then driving away, tires squealing. But because I’m a lovely person, I tried to email the strangers and ask what they needed from me but Tom, in his infinite wisdom, mistyped all of their email addresses so they all bounced back. Tom, you’re a peach. Never change.

Here is a formula for crafting connection emails that won’t make your friends and colleagues cringe:

Character Key:

Needer: person who you’re trying to help

Giver: person who you think can help

Me: I tell the Needer that I’ll send a connection email so they know it’s coming. OCCASIONALLY I will warn the Giver that a connection email is coming but since I’ve pretty much nailed the connection email process this isn’t usually necessary. I ALWAYS address the Giver first in the email and the NEEDER second.

Components of the Connection Email:

Address the email to both the NEEDER and the GIVER.

Title: Please e-meet each other!

Giver,

I’d like to introduce you to my friend NEEDER. She loves X, Y, Z (Z is always directly related to the need they have). Background info like relocation, education, jobs or another way they might know each other OR the context of why they should know one another (you were both at my birthday party). Needer asked for my help in meeting people who Z & A so naturally you jumped right out at me as an expert in those areas. NEEDER will be emailing you with more info about the project etc. Needer is also available to help volunteer for your upcoming event if that’s helpful for you.

Needer,

Please meet my dear friend, GIVER. She loves X, Y, Z and we’ve known each other for xx years. She has been instrumental in Z & A so she’ll be a wealth of information for your upcoming project. Giver is wicked busy right now due to an upcoming presentation so it may take her a few days to get back with you. Thanks for being patient.

I’ll let you two connect directly from here as everyone is copied on this email. I hope it’s fruitful for you both!

Angel

Summary:

There are a couple of key components that will make your connection email more useful to everyone.

First, in order to pull off a stellar connector email, you HAVE to know both parties fairly well. You won’t be able to address their likes, needs and personality if you’ve never had a good conversation. If you don’t know each party well enough to follow the script above YOU SHOULD NOT BE SENDING CONNECTOR EMAILS!

Second, always make it clear WHO is supposed to take action. 99% of the time, I ask the NEEDER to send the next email and a tip on what it should contain. This removes ALL the ambiguity of who is supposed to do what and it’s the key thing that is lacking in almost every connection email I RECEIVE. #awkward.

Here are some real world examples of connection emails that I have sent in the past month:

Amanda M,

Please meet Amanda W.  Amanda is relocating here in August. She mentioned that she’s certified in event planning, has an MBA and loves coordinating business events so it seemed natural to connect you two.

Amanda W, please meet Amanda M. Amanda and I have known each other for years and she’s a neighbor to our midtown Cohere location. Here is her website xxxxxxxx. Amanda is well-connected to many businesses, events and the arts scene here in town.

 I’d love for you two to meet sometime and see if an interesting connection pops for you. I’ll leave it to Amanda W to email Amanda M.

 Glad my name’s not Amanda,

Angel

C,
Please meet S, Founder of the xxxxxx. We used to be next door neighbors in Fort Collins (our businesses, not our homes) and S is expanding into Denver. He’s looking for connections with the coolest coworking spaces both for space to conduct the tech workshops AND as a business landing place.

S, Please meet C of xxx xxx. We’ve been circling each other in the coworking world for 4-ish years now?! xxx xxx is very similar to Cohere and if I may be biased, is my favorite Denver coworking hub. C is the founder and community manager for both locations.
S, please email C and explain in more detail what you’re needing.

Angel

***********************************

Go forth and connect.

Happy Holidays From Cohere: Thanks, Reflection, Future

As the year comes to a close I wanted to take some time to thank you, reflect, and give you a preview of what’s coming in 2015.

Thank You.

I never say it often enough but you make Cohere possible. You choose us. You work with us. You laugh with us. You grow with us. Maybe you’ve been a member for 5 years or for 5 days. You matter. You are important.

Without you, Cohere is just an empty shell, a real estate transaction and a line item on someone’s budget. WITH you, we become a community, a pivot point for new friendships, and a platform for personal growth and change.

Let’s Reflect.

In December of 2009 we started out coworking in a donated reception area once/week. On the 5th week we ran out of chairs (14 of them) and broke the internet.RMI2 coworking test In March 2010, we opened our first location in Old Town with 4 members. Coworking-Cohere

In January 2012 we moved to the Howes location. Last December we had 39 members and 1 location. This December we have 75 members and 2 locations. That’s double. That’s huge. And we’re set to double again in 2015. Whether you told a friend about Cohere or posted an update on Facebook, many of our new members come from word of mouth and it makes a difference.2014-11-07 13.17.06

What’s Next.

2015 will bring Cohere to its final space frontier: Cohere Bandwidth, shared rehearsal space for musicians inside the amazing artist ecosystem that is the Downtown Artery. We’re looking forward to creative new connections between the artists of the Artery, the musicians of Bandwidth and the nerds of Cohere.

While Bandwidth may be located at the intersection of Linden and Jefferson we’re really at the crossroads of combining art, music and brains in brand new ways.

Here’s to 2015, may it bring you meaningful connections, amazing independence, kindness and love.

Love, Angel

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Ps. Hat tip to Julie who’s been with us every step of the way from our first pre-community meeting to today.

 

Coworking ebooks: A Wicked Discount

***30% off all ebooks by Cohere. Code at bottom of this post.

Coworking: Building Community As A Space Catalyst was the first book ever written specifically for those who want to start a coworking space in their town, but aren’t sure how to get started.

Co-authored by Angel “Madame” Kwiatkowski and Beth “Bethesaurus” Buczynski of Sharing Is Good, this book is a useful, hands-on and thought-provoking resource for coworking space catalysts based on the proven principle of “community first, space second (or never).”

This first of its kind book guides wannabe space catalysts through the most important phase of coworking: building the community.

“Coworking: Building Community as a Space Catalyst is a timely and much needed book about the most important movement for independent workers today,” said Neal Gorenflo, founder of Shareable Magazine. Coworking spaces are one of the crucibles from which a new economy will emerge, but it’s essential that the movement hold on to it’s core values of community, collaboration, openness, accessibility, and sustainability as it grows. This book will help new catalysts incoporate these values into their spaces and create a life-affirming economy to replace the destructive one we have today.”

Check out a preview of the book here, and purchase your own digital copy at 30% off through November 7th with coupon code SOEXCITED. Coupon code works on your entire shopping cart so buy now and buy many!

 

Building Coworking Communities: No Sailboat Required

It’s easy to make connections and get to know one another inside a coworking space. We take that for granted and just assume that we’ll meet someone new in the course of our day to day to-dos. A recent retreat to Seattle taught me how vital and AWESOME a planned group activity can be especially when that activity is way outside our “normal.” So when our organizer asked if we’d like to go SAILING, it seemed a little scary but we would be doing it together so surely it would be okay.

I tentatively agreed to a sailboat ride and bummed some Dramamine off a fellow coworker. Little did I know that it would be scary and exhilarating and that it would change Adam’s life forever.

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By getting us a little out of our comfort zones and putting us in cramped quarters we were able to learn something (sailing) from new friends (the captain and his crew) and experience our location (Seattle) from a whole new point of view. Andy and I even did the most terrifying thing and crawled out to the front of the boat while we were experiencing maximum “reaching” aka, the boat was really at an angle to the water and we could have fallen out at any moment. But we didn’t.

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In order to bring a similar experience home to the Coherians of Fort Collins, we’re going to stay up late and sort canned goods. Yep, I plan to use up as much if not more adrenaline during our Food Bank Shift at the CAN Jam on November 6th from 11pm-1am. Heck, it meets all the criteria: new location, new people to learn from and we’ll get a different point of view on where we live.

Has your coworking community done activities outside of your space? Tell us in the comments!

ps. my “crew” on the boat:

Aaron from Rapid City, MI, The Factory

Tony from New York City, New Work City

Adam and Alex (not pictured) from Philidelphia,PA, Indy Hall

Susan and Jacob from Seattle, WA, Office Nomads

Ashley from Toronto, Canada, The Foundery

Andy from Columbus, OH The Salt Mines

 

Coworking Is My Compass: A Long, Strange Trip Through Freelancing And Back

Hi Cohereians! It’s Beth. If you’ve been a member of Cohere for a long time, you may have a very foggy memory of me. Possibly driving away in an RV? Yeah, that was me. I’ve been on a lot of crazy, meandering adventures in my life–both literally and figuratively.

It was waay back in 2009 when Angel rescued me from the coffee shop circuit. My first day of coworking at Cohere, I was totally intimidated. Y’all were so cool and creative and confident in your chosen fields. As a chronic sufferer of imposter syndrome, I was none of those things. Yet.

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Me in the ole Treehouse.

Every day I hiked up the stairs of the Jefferson Street space and planted myself at one of those curvy desks (or, more often than not, the Treehouse) I learned so much from my fellow coworkers: not in workshops or classes, but in the chatter, the laughter, the frustrations that touched us all in turn. I discovered, then became addicted to, the warm-and-fuzzy feeling it gave me to be around you. How your success motivated me to reach for my own.

When Eric and I had the crazy idea to put location-independence to the test, and travel around in an RV with nothing but a WiFi hot-spot connecting us to the real world, the larger coworking community opened its arms. We saw new spaces and felt the kindness of strangers with whom we had nothing in common but a desire to do what we loved wherever the hell we wanted.

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Angel and I with the first coworking book.

And when we came back, MUCH sooner than expected, you didn’t skip a beat. You welcomed me back and Angel and I set about combining her knowledge of coworking and my wordsmithing skills together into two of the most popular e-books about coworking the world has ever seen (no, seriously). Being asked to assist with that project was an honor, and helped to nestle my foundation in the coworking community just a little bit deeper. And there is going to be a third some day, damnit.

Then, it was off for another adventure in Wyoming. Cheyenne was 45 minutes and A WORLD away from the things and people we loved in Colorado. I missed coworking so much during those days, I wrote it a letter. During that time, occasional visits to Cohere and contributing to its blog kept me grounded. Yeah, many of the posts you’ve read here over the years were written by me channeling Angel. We’re really good at that.

As luck would have it, it was when I was in the wilds of Wyoming that my freelancing really started to become something. Gone were the penny-a-word copy writing gigs. (Yeah I did that. New writers, don’t ever do that). Now came the steady blogging for the earth-friendly sites I loved. Even though I was a state away, my connection at Cohere helped me land some legitimate copy writing work for a firm in Fort Collins. It was also during this time that a publishing house approached me about writing THE BOOK.

That’s right. See all this time of coworking and collaborating and being part of a community was actually part of something bigger: collaborative consumption and the rise of the sharing economy. Thanks to coworking (which was directly responsible for me landing a freelance gig with Shareable magazine) I was right in the thick of it at exactly the right time. And when opportunity came knocking, carrying my unabashed dream of creating a real book with a real publisher, I had the confidence to open the door.

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The book!

In the interim I moved to Denver and joined the Creative Density coworking community. They didn’t even know me like you guys do, and STILL everyone was encouraging and supportive of the new project. A year later, Sharing is Good: How to Save Money, Time and Resources through Collaborative Consumption was born, and my heart overflowed. Now I was really cooking with gas. Doing radio interviews (what?!), being quoted in the New York Times and yes, even selling a few copies.

I collected even more work and suddenly found myself in the mind-boggling position of needing to raise my rates and actually (gasp!) turn down gigs that weren’t exactly right for my passion and skills. And guess what taught me how to do both of those things? Coworking.

Now, I’m setting off for yet another adventure. NOT literal this time (thank goodness). We’re staying right here in Colorado where we belong. No, this adventure is strictly the professional kind. A full-time job for a media startup out of  NYC recently landed in my lap.

That is not a metaphor.

I was sitting (WHERE ELSE?!) at a desk in the Old Town Cohere, chatting about life and work with Kristin and Angel when an unsolicited email from their CEO appeared in my inbox. Three weeks later, I was hired on full-time to help them launch, and eventually lead, a sustainability vertical. It was a chance to bring my tree-hugging ways to an entirely new audience in a different way, and thanks to everything I’d learned over the past 5 years, I knew how to seize it. And thank god, it’s a remote position so I can continue coworking, currently at The Armory in Loveland.

So, I’ve journeyed all the way through freelancing and back again. And all the while, coworking has been my constant, my compass. No matter how far away from the actual space I ventured, the collective power of your brains and hearts was never more than an email or Facebook post away.

Never mistake coworking as just a desk in a place where you can go to get away from that sink full of dishes or noisy coffee shops. The people of coworking are a treasure. They have made every difference in my success. The support and love and motivation you’ll find in a coworking community can’t be duplicated. It can’t be manufactured just because you put a bunch of desks in a cool looking space. It is built, one smile, one cupcake, one computer crash at a time. It is changing you, making you better, even if you can’t see it or feel it right now.

This freelancing or business owning thing is a journey, with LOTS of twists and turns. Many of them unexpected. Don’t go it alone. Take the community with you. It makes all the difference in the world.

I’m living proof of that :)

Image: calsidyrose

Giving Thanks: Coworking Celebrates Abundance and Gratitude

be thankful freelancers

Thanksgiving is almost here and once again it’s time for Cohere’s annual ‘give thanks’ post!

To get the juices of gratitude flowing, I’ve been pondering this quote from the Queen herself, Oprah Winfrey:

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”

Here at Cohere (and in many coworking spaces around the world) we call this serendipitous abundance. As coworkers, we have a unique opportunity to see first hand what happens when we are open, accessible, kind, and focused on community.

Each and every one of us has experienced a blessing–maybe big, maybe small–as a result of working elbow-to-elbow with our fellow freelancers and entrepreneurs. I’ve seen each of you act selflessly toward fellow members, which means when the time came to return the favor, we were ready and willing. Our lives, families, and businesses are better today as a result.

I’ve watched some of you go through hard times, facing challenges that seemed insurmountable right up until the moment you vanquished them with courage and grace. I’ve seen and heard you all give thanks for your successes, deflecting praise to those who helped you along the way. As Oprah said, you don’t concentrate on what you don’t have, you celebrate what you do–and that makes all the difference.

You should know that this is NOT normal. In offices the world over, negativity and complaint is more common than a cheerful word about blessing or abundance. Many professionals see cut-throat competition as the only way forward. But not you, not the coworking community.

You celebrate collaboration, reciprocity, and just generally being good people.

And for that, I could not be more thankful. Keep it up :)

Image: rustiqueart

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