How To Keep Momentum After Startup Week Fort Collins

As Startup Week Fort Collins nears its epic end, let’s make a plan to keep the momentum into next week and beyond. Whether you got your first taste of coworking, got your mind blown by a musician or felt a much needed boost in motivation as a freelancer, it’s important to not let this enthusiasm dwindle.

Step 1: Outreach

Reach out to everyone in that pile of business cards you collected. Mention something that they said that really resonated with you. Invite them out for a coffee or beer just to talk and get to know one another better.  Ask to take a tour of their company. Mine through the Sched again and pull out company names or people you really enjoyed meeting. Follow them on twitter, like their Facebook pages and read their websites.

Step 2: Digest Your Notes

Did you take as many notes in your awesome FCSW17 notebook as I did? Now is the time to go back through all your notes. Check out the books, blogs or resources that you wrote down. Pull out action items and put them on your list to tackle next week. This post you’re reading right now was actually a footnote in my notebook. Look at me! Taking action!

Step 3: Participate OR Amplify

My key takeaway this week is a new awareness of how many people are doing AMAZING things in our community. Now is the time to participate in those activities by attending meetings or helping to push us forward as a group. If you can’t possibly take on another task, then please be an amplifier. Tell your friends and coworkers about the great progress that is being made. Awareness is the first step to Amazeness! Here are some things I learned about this week:

What are you going to take action on next week? Tell us in the comments below.

 

Unsolicited Advice for Displaced Galvanize Coworkers

So your coworking space is closing. That super sucks. You’re all entrepreneurs and self starters: problem solvers of the quickest kind. I’m hear to say to you STOP. Do not take action on a lease right now.

I’ve been working on coworking and community in Fort Collins and around the world since 2009. That’s three years before Galvanize incorporated for its first space. At the time of Galvanize’s closing, Cohere was/is on a wait list for membership. I think I’m worth listening to…at least when it comes to coworking in Fort Collins.

Please Hold

I was on hold with Comcast but I use this photo every time I want to indicate that I am exasperated.

Do not make decisions right now.

You’ve had a big crushing blow to your heads when it comes to office space. The great news is, you can office from literally anywhere these days. You could invite your employees into your living room and probably get in a solid day of work. A small gap in well-equipped office space is not a crisis. Spaceships won’t fall out of orbit. DO. NOT. MAKE. DECISIONS. RIGHT. NOW.

All the displaced coworkers need to take a collective deep breath and process what the fuck happened in your spaces and communities. Because you didn’t own the space, you might not understand why your space is closing. On paper, your space closed due to lack of money. In my mind, your space closed due to lack of community and an overzealous interpretation of the market research about how many people wanted to pay $26,000 to learn how to code. The fact that you didn’t know your space was closing until you got the announcement is proof that your space lacked one of the key values of coworking: transparency.

Do not sign a lease and especially don’t try to keep the Galvanize lease.

That Galvanize building will be one of THE most expensive buildings in Old Town. You don’t spend a few million on a renovation and thousand dollar desks to cut a great deal to the poor displaced members. That space has NOTHING to do with Galvanize’s success or failure. Okay, I’ll admit it was absurdly expensive but the space didn’t do much to foster community. At all. Don’t even get me started on the caste system of placing people on higher levels based on how much they could afford. Ugh.

If you love your current startup or business, you will hate being a Community Manager.

I bet you want to start your own coworking space. I bet that feels easy since you’ve been a member of one for a little while. Being a member of a space and running a space are really different. It took me TWO full time years to get Cohere off the ground. Even now, I have a small army of part time people to help me attend to all the details of our relatively small community. If you don’t want to abandon your other job, do NOT start a coworking space. Also, there is far less money in coworking than you might think.

Explore your existing coworking options first.

There are at least three shared spaces in Fort Collins that are not at capacity. Please give those a chance before trying to start your own. The Articulate, Digital Workshop Center, and Office Evolution. The fact that you were all in the same world (startup and tech) is actually a disservice to your companies. You’ll grow more when surrounded by people in different stages of growth including those people who have dialed in their businesses and are NOT in startup mode as well as the freelancers that are keeping everyone’s small businesses afloat.

cohere-member-wallHire me so you can have ^^ this many friends in your coworking space.

You don’t have to do this alone. I will encourage and teach you how to engage your budding community before you sign a lease so we don’t have to read about your closure in 18 months. Email me right away to get my $500 one-on-one consulting package. It even includes math worksheets and realistic member growth rates! There’s also another compelling reason to email me right now but it’s a secret until January 1.

 

 

Shit I Never Thought I’d Have to Buy This Coworking Space

A surprise county tax form afforded me the opportunity to review every purchase I’ve made for the Cohere coworking spaces in the past 5 years. Some stuck out amid my former business plan list of what a coworking space needed (wifi, coffee, desks, chairs, power strips) In no particular order I present to you a cautionary listicle of shit you might have to buy for your coworking space:

12 Forks

A dual plug digital power cycler for Unifi Pro wifi access points

12 Forks

Unicorn pinataFullSizeRender_1

Eleventy hundred packs of Command adhesives

The world’s secretly tiniest and least useful trash/recycling bin

Moon Gels

Chia Obama Handmade Decorative Planter, Determined Pose: Priceless

Preformed coin wrappers, 100 count, quarters (of which I have used exactly 8)

1 pack multi-color star stickers

3 Tripp Lite N201-020-GY Cat6 Gigabit Gray Snagless Molded Patch Cable RJ45M/M – 20 feet

4 Forks

TV Cart / Stand for LCD, LED, Plasma, Flat Panel TVs with 3″ Wheels, mobile fits 32″ to 50″: bomb proof

200 million Tripp Lite PS2408 Power Strip 120V 5-15R 8 Outlet 15ft Cord Vertical Metal 0URM

400 ForksFullSizeRender

Lite Brites: 2

12 More Forks

Recessed Door Reinforcer 1-3/4-Inch Thick by 2-3/8-Inch Backset 2-1/8-Inch Bore, Stainless Steel

Music Note Black Poly Resin Coated Tin Cookie Cutter 3.5″ for use in making Cohere Bandwiches obv.

IMG_3512

Polaroid High Capacity Replacement Battery For The Polaroid Instant Digital Camera

Portable Foldable Universal Mini Desk Table Stand Holder For iPad: code for world’s cheapest/most effective ipad standFullSizeRender_2

Congratulations (Gold) Award Seals Stickers – 4 stickers per sheet, 8 sheets: I wanted silver. Not gonna lie.

What weird things have you bought for your coworking space?

Ridiculously Productive Meetings

FullSizeRender

I bet you never wonder how 3 people with full-time jobs manage to shoe-horn in the creation of a shared rehearsal space for Fort Collins in their “spare” time. If you’ve been following us, you might wonder why I would brag about our ridiculously productive meetings for Cohere Bandwidth when we’ve been at this for almost 2 years. If you must know, most of that 2 years was spent waiting on real estate with very few DONES getting checked off of our TO-DOS. Skip below to the COMPLETION step if you are skimming.

But now that the space is REAL and under construction we spend every Friday going from Oh Fuck! to Hell Yes! Here is our extremely effective meeting process:

  1. AGENDA: Anyone can create or add to the agenda. We do this in a shared google doc that everyone can edit. The doc contains ALL of the agendas with the most recent at the top. The agenda is usually created the night before or the morning of each meeting. We’re agile and quick so it wouldn’t make sense to create an agenda further in advance than that.
  2. SCHEDULE: Meetings are always at 10am on Fridays at Cohere and last 1.5 hours. The person who is late has to get coffee for everyone else.FullSizeRender (1)
  3. AIRING OF GRIEVANCES: At the start of each meeting we get our feelings out. Yep, you read that right. If anyone is frustrated or flabbergasted or just plain giddy, we talk it out BEFORE we task. This step is key. Due to the nature of our structure, we can’t be together or even talk every day so it’s important to make a real connection to one another before we start doling out chores.
  4. ORDER: We go through the agenda in order. Always. We rarely add anything to the agenda during the meeting.
  5. TIME: Never, ever, ever put an estimated time for discussion on an agenda item. This makes no sense.
  6. COMPLETION: We complete any tasks that come up IN THE MEETING. Example, if Julie needs to email someone about a radio interview then Shane and I talk about a graphic design task or similar. This allows everyone to be productive during the entire meeting, which is something I never got to experience in corporate life.
  7. DELEGATE: If any tasks remain, they are completed directly after the meeting ends or get shifted to me (Angel) if possible since I have the most spare time to complete things. Shane will often do heavy duty graphic design tasks outside of the meeting as it’s part of his creative process.

So there. Now you know how we make the most out of our 12 hours/month together.

Does your team have an unconventional meeting process? Tell us all about it so we can steal your tips for our next meeting.

Cohere Coworking Launches First Small Business: Akinz

Cohere, a local shared office space is proud to announce the expansion of Akinz, one of its first small business members and purveyor of stylish clothing for an active lifestyle.

Akinz owner Suzanne Akin started designing clothing as a hobby in 2005, and as an avid wakeboarder and snowboarder, was inspired to create exciting clothing options for the action sports scene.

After moving to Fort Collins two years ago, Akin hoped to focus on growing her business, but also wanted to meet locals that were interested in art, design, and active lifestyles. She heard that a local business was offering “trial coworking days” in a shared office space as a way to build community among local freelancers, and couldn’t wait to check it out.

That business was Cohere coworking community at 215 Jefferson St., and Akin soon joined as the first official member.

“Suzanne came to Cohere every day for the first six months we were open,” says Angel Kwiatkowski, owner and Madame of Cohere. “During that time she created bright new designs for her clothing line, and every day, the coworking community members would offer suggestions about everything from t-shirt graphics to marketing strategies.”

Shortly after releasing its 2011 spring line, Akinz held a clearance sale at the Cohere space during which the business sold over $1,000 in merchandise in two hours.

Successful Akinz Sale at Cohere

Fellow Cohere members also gave Akin the motivation she needed to create local programs that have now become quite successful, like the annual Akinz Sunglasses at Night party and Akinz Bike to Work Day T-shirts with bike delivery.

“Being around other people that were running their own successful freelance businesses definitely helped boost the “I can do this” thought process,” says Akin. They are a great network of people that support me in everything I do!”

When she became flooded with beanie orders last winter (Akinz beanies are handmade and a big seller during the Colorado winter), Akin knew she had outgrown her Cohere membership.

“Around December 2010 I decided it was time for me to buy my own printing press so I could have more creative and financial freedom in printing my clothes, and that was the tipping point,” says Akin. “After that, there was no way to pretend that I could fit all of my business into our second bedroom and I knew it was time for Akinz to “graduate.”

Entrepreneurs who join coworking spaces get instant access to a huge network of brilliant, well connected professionals who are truly vested in one another’s success. Akinz is just the one of many startups that Cohere plans to help launch in the coming years.

Fort Collins shoppers can find Akinz clothing at The Wright Life, Killer Rabbit, and White Balcony, as well as online at Akinz.com and the new Akinz store at 432 S. Link Lane.

About Akinz

Akinz is a clothing line for those with an active lifestyle who expect the extraordinary. Started in 2005 in the studio apartment of founder Suzanne Akin, the Akinz motto, “Find your wings.” encourages men and women to find the one thing that motivates them to push life to the limit and reach for the sky. After all, life’s too short to settle for the ordinary. Find handmade Akinz clothing, accessories, and jewelry in local stores and online at Akinz.com.

About Cohere

Cohere is a collaborative shared office space and coworking community for freelancers, entrepreneurs and remote workers located in Old Town Fort Collins, Colorado. Coworking creates an environment that is more conducive to collaboration and success than coffee shops, executive suites, or private office space. Learn more about Cohere by requesting a free day pass at www.coherecommunity.com or by joining the Mobile Workforce meetup group.

 

Writers, Stop Giving It Away

Guest post from Cohere member Heidi

First, I’m going to share a quote that sums up my thoughts on the issue of writers doing work for free. A week ago, Rick Reilly, sportswriter and ESPN star, was asked to deliver the final commencement address at his alma mater, the University of Colorado’s School of Journalism. He said the following:

“When you get out there, all I ask is that you: DON’T WRITE FOR FREE! Nobody asks strippers to strip for free, doctors to doctor for free or professors to profess for free. Have some pride! What you know how to do now is a skill that 99.9 percent of the people don’t have. If you do it for free, they won’t respect you in the morning. Or the next day. Or the day after that. You sink everybody’s boat in the harbor, not just yours. So just DON’T!” (Read more: Husted: Alum Rick Reilly puts CU J-school to bed – The Denver Post)

Here’s what I would like to add to Reilly’s eloquent statement.

Think about your future and don’t mess with my present

Young or new writers often give away their work. Perhaps it’s because they are building a portfolio or maybe they’re just overly eager to see their byline. Whatever the reason, writing for free is bad.

First, if you write for free, you are setting a precedent establishing that your work is not worth real money. When you decide to start charging for your time and work, you’ve already established that your price is free. Last, but far from least, as Reilly points out above, by writing for free you are hurting other writers. Working for free undercuts our industry, period.

Trade is not free, but tread carefully

A trade is only legitimate when both parties are truly getting equal value from the exchange. Some writers are happy to free write articles in exchange for hotel stays or other travel freebies. I know writers who write reviews for free products; this is popular with mommy bloggers. While this isn’t my preferred type of payment, this is a legitimate trade.

I would caution writers against doing frequent trade. I promise that the mortgage company will not take the organic oven cleaner you got as trade in lieu of a house payment, no matter how good it is.

Boost your portfolio without undercutting yourself or others

Look, I know it’s hard to break in to this industry, and believe me when I tell you that you’ll always feel as though you are “breaking in.” Making a living as a writer is tough, but I do have some tips on getting clips without undercutting your future or my present.

Find a nonprofit and DONATE your time – My first official writing gig was producing a quarterly newsletter for a small, nonprofit organization. I wrote all the articles, took the photographs and even did the design and layout work. And yes, I did this for free because I believed in the cause, but, above all, I needed clips. Happily, these clips helped me secure my first paying writing job at a local newspaper. If you must work for free, support a non-profit or charity that you care deeply about.

Blog, blog, blog – If you have a blog that is published and updated weekly with well-written work, then *presto* you have clips. Here’s a tip: build a professional looking blog by paying the small fee associated with removing the /wordpress or /blogspot from your url.

Guest blogging is another great way to get clips and to establish yourself as a sought after writer. Again, limit the number of guest posts you write; there are bloggers who will take advantage of free work as well.

Don’t do it alone – Networking with other writers is priceless. Join a writers group, join a writers association, or join an online industry organization such as Media Bistro and Avant Guild. Believe it or not, Twitter has an active group of writers, and is a good place to connect. Coworking at a facility where there are other writers is also a wise idea. Find out more about coworking here.

By surrounding yourself with people you want to emulate, good things will happen.

For the rest of you

It may sound like I’m picking on writers, so I will leave you with this:  PEOPLE, STOP ASKING WRITERS TO WRITE FOR FREE. You wouldn’t expect your dentist to fill a cavity for free or your accountant to do your taxes for a box of chocolates. The fact is that you can’t fill your own cavity and you aren’t good at doing your taxes. You are also a terrible writer – that’s why you’ve asked someone else to do it – so pay them!

-Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer is the Mayor of HeidiTown and a working writer. You may follow her on Twitter or join the HeidiTown block party on Facebook.

Image credit: photosteve1o1

 

Best of Archives: The Paradox of Passion

Lately, a lot of people have been asking me how I started this coworking business.  Most times, I can’t string together a coherent timeline of events to keep an audience interested in the story (think extrovert/ADHD/too much coffee girl).  “Err, intuition, um, googled coworking, uh, money, oh yeah, community building, erm people, freelancers and oh yeah, passion.”  Not very compelling.  But what I can do is answer very specific questions.  Like the one I got asked today for an interview with the Northern Colorado Business Report.

You’ve talked a lot about passion…what do you mean?

The entrepreneur’s salvation and doom lies in the ability to get passionate about something.  Really, really passionate.  Picture yourself up at 2 am, then 2:30am, then 3:17am, then for the rest of the night crouched in the second floor bedroom pounding out notes by the dim light of your laptop wondering which of your friends would be most likely to take your phone call at this hour-type passion.  This is what spurs entrepreneurs on.  Having ideas, great ideas, and making them happen.  This passion will sustain them during slow sales, working 22 days straight and epic public relations mishaps.

This passion also cripples some entrepreneurs when it comes to the day to day tedious tasks like tracking money-in/money-out with some lame accounting software that makes them feel like they’ve never used a computer before.  Tasks like cleaning the toilet and sweeping the floor don’t possess the allure they once did when they decided NOT to hire a janitorial service.  Entrepreneurs fail easily when tasks don’t provide immediate gratification toward the completion of the goal that relates directly to the passion.  Unlike the 6 degrees of separation rule, entrepreneurs can only tolerate about 1 degree of separation between the task at hand and world domination.

Unfortunately, the day to day tasks tend to sustain the shiny and passion inducing ones.  Alas, the paradox of passion.

What are you passionate about and how do you marry the passion with the day to day necessities?


Checklist for a Successful Contracting Meeting

Last Friday, we learned what contracting is. Today, we’ll begin to understand some of the most important parts of that initial client meeting. All of these checklist items are pointing us back to the three main questions that your meeting should answer

Who are you?

  • Who am I?
  • Who are you?
  • What are we going to do together?

Here are just 7 of the 18 points we covered (bet you wish you had attended this free class!). *adapted from Peter Flock’s book “Flawless Consulting”

  • Make sure you are talking with the person who has the MONEY, AUTHORITY and NEED for what you have to offer.
  • Be seen as a peer to your client in all areas EXCEPT your area of expertise.
  • Be sure the client knows that your purpose in this meeting is to determine if you are WILLING and ABLE to help her with her problem (there’s a big gap between able and willing if the client is a bad fit for you).
  • Don’t accept the client’s definition of their problem. Dig in a little.
  • Determine who will do what over the course of the project.
  • Decide whether you will proceed with the project or not.
  • Agree on the next action (never leave this meeting without an action step in place).

Later this week, we’ll tackle the elements of a contract. Remember that this content is a summary of a fantastic class taught by Marlo Derksen.

Clever Contracting for Freelancers

If you’re a typical freelancer, you’ve probably googled “sample contract” or “contract components.” You probably did it AFTER you got burned by a client. Sad. While having a tidy contract is a great business tool there is a process PRIOR to the written contract. This week at Cohere Coworking Community, we focused on the client/consultant relationship and that first, critical meeting.

In short, we got the tools we need to avoid terrible clients, seal deals and stop giving away the cow for free!

Beth, Marlo, Skippy, Matt, Julie, Sarah Jane and (Angel)

I’ll tackle the summary of contracting in 3 posts:

  • Today: Define what contracting is
  • Tuesday: The contracting meeting/checklist for successful contracting
  • Later on: Elements of a contract

Marlo Derksen was our teacher and he is an executive coach, organizational development expert and professional trainer/facilitator…basically a dream boat in loafers for a group of motley freelancers. By the end of the session, we affirmed that he should, in fact, name his business “Sensi-pants Consulting” because of his ability to understand how you are feeling at any moment.

Marlo took us through an abridged version of Peter Block’s “Flawless Consulting” process. Did you know that your initial meeting with a prospective client should answer just 3 basic questions in under an hour?

  1. Who am I?
  2. Who are you?
  3. What are we going to do together?

So what is contracting? The primary value of a contract is that it provides CLARITY. The contract can be verbal or written but should contain Mutual Consent & Balanced Consideration.

Mutual Consent: both people enter in to the contract of their own free will

Balanced Consideration: both parties get something of value out of the transaction-in an ideal world, the value is equal :) If it feels unequal, perhaps you should be Raising Your Rates!

Stay tuned for part 2…coming soon.

Marlo can be reached at marloderksen(at)comcast(dot)net.

Coworking: Solution for Moms to Grow Small Businesses

Enjoy this guest post from member Kristin Mastre on how Cohere Coworking Community gave her much needed balance between being a stay at home mom and a small business owner.

Having my cake and eating it too.

Member Kristin coworks every Wednesday night while her husband hangs out with the kids.

The other day, my kids and I were attending a birthday party for one of my older son’s preschool friends.  As the kids were running around jumping in bounce houses and sliding down slides, another mom and I had a chance to chat.

“Congrats on all of the progress you’ve made with work!  You deserve it.  You’ve worked really hard.  There are quite a few moms around town who are envious that you have it all.  You have a balance of staying at home, but still working in a career both at the same time.  A lot of people wish they could do the same.”

It was an incredibly flattering compliment, and it wouldn’t have gotten it without the help from my membership at Cohere, where I can live that double life while night coworking.  I do have a great balance with home and work.   I get to take my boys to everything they want to do – karate classes, attend school field trips and park days;  I also plan meetings, collaborate and grow my business and passion.

I get to have my cake and eat it too.

Being a work-at-home-mom is isolating and frustrating, often times feeling like you’re talking to yourself (or the walls).   When I was at my lowest point in motherhood, I joined a moms group and became an active member, essentially saving my sanity.  When becoming an entrepreneur, it seemed like a natural step to join Cohere to network with other Fort Collins professionals.

Fortunately, Cohere had the perfect membership for me where I could still keep my flexible work-at-home lifestyle and cowork with other local freelancers at the same time.  It’s great!  One night a week I leave the boys at home with their dad so they can have “boys party”, watching movies and eating popcorn.  They enjoy sharing their special bonding time together.  I get to pack up and head off to Cohere where I get an incredible amount of work done while forming business relationships that are taking my career to the next level.

Without my membership at Cohere, my business growth would take a lot longer, not having those vital professional connections.  Also, my kids would be missing out on some important one-on-one time with their dad.  We really do have the perfect balance that way and it wasn’t difficult to obtain, thanks to night coworking at Cohere!

Try out a free night of coworking any Wednesday on us!

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