Sneak Preview of Ultimate Coworking Launch Sequence ebook!

Launch Sequence designers and Cohere members Becca Verna and Jenny Fischer have been working around the clock to format and beautify the ebook for you. While they do that, I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on the last 7 years of owning my coworking space. (Scroll down for link to download the below activity.)

When I started Cohere, I spent every evening at community events in my city and beyond. I was WORN OUT. I’d like to simplify your life and help you select which events will have the greatest impact on your budding community. Please enjoy this sneak preview and hands-on activity.

The full ebook, which releases on September 1, is an interactive pdf containing ONE HUNDRED pages of information, resources, activities and checklists that will become your North Star of coworking guides.

We selected this format so that you’ll always have access to the Launch guidebook on your phone, tablet or computer. You’ll enter your answers into the pdf and be able to save your work as you go.

You won’t need a separate notebook or file to record your thoughts and actions about the Launch Sequence. You can put everything right into the ebook and refer back to it as many times as you need to.

If you want to be one of the first people in the world to have this incredible guide AND be a part of the first ever Launch Cohort Discussion Group, snag one of the remaining slots today and get $50 off. No code needed.

The Secret to Shopping at IKEA for Coworking Furniture

If you’re starting a coworking space or just launched one, you know that furniture is your largest expense.

I’ve messed up coworking furniture a few different times and have finally NAILED IT (literally and figuratively).

I’ve furnished FOUR different shared/coworking spaces over the years and boy have I screwed it up. From highly custom handbuilt curved workstations to bomb-proof college dorm desks, I’ve really put my members through the desk gauntlet and most times FAILED them. I’ve furnished spaces with uneven wood floors to carpeted floors to floors with lots of stains that required strategic rug placement. One floor was so uneven members couldn’t stay pushed up to the desk on our rolling chairs. We joked that we should install carabiners to “clip in” for safety.

Here’s me in 2010 at the closest IKEA posing proudly with a U-Haul filled with mistakes.

I drove 8 hours to Salt Lake City’s IKEA only to come home with one-half of my office chairs in the wrong color. These white chairs provided lots of opportunities for Miami Vice jokes, and stupidly absorbed the denim dye from everyone’s jeans so they looked old and dirty after approximately three days of use. Don’t even get me started on the couch the members called the “Slip-n-Slide.”

The important thing is that I learned from my mistakes and have finally found the right furniture for small coworking spaces. Rejoice because I did all the experimentation for you, and now you don’t have to waste your precious money on screw ups like I did.

Click here to get the entire IKEA shopping list that will fully furnish a 12 workstation or 1,000 ft2 coworking space for under $5,000.

When you join the next Ultimate Coworking Launch Sequence Cohort group, you’ll get the pages of narrative I wrote for each item as well. I explain WHY I selected each item and HOW they are the best choices for new coworking space owners. The Launch ebook also includes about 100 other pages of actionable tips, tricks and checklists for soon-to-be or new coworking space owners.

A Maximum Effort Clear Dry Erase Board for Coworking Spaces

I needed a new whiteboard for our revitalized ConferEssence room. A whiteboard that was more decoration than utility but still did its job when required. All whiteboards in the whole universe are literally the worst looking things ever or cost many hundreds of dollars.

Most of the time I’m happy to click three times on Amazon Prime and have what I need delivered to Cohere’s coworking doorstep. Other times, I get SUPER frustrated at how corporate everything looks and then do something dumb like believe I can DIY it for 1/8 the price in a week. This project spanned 4? weeks or more. I don’t know. After the 4th trip to different hardware stores AFTER I researched all the clear board paints like IdeaPaint, ReMARKable and DrawIt I really had to lean in to get this board done.

Special shoutout to my friend Meagan L. who turned me on to Writeyboard’s clear dry erase STICKERS. I could dispense with the panic of trying to paint a surface with clear gloppy paint or I could trick a member of Cohere into helping me apply a sticker. Always choose trickery. Always.

Supply list:

  • 4’x8′ 3/8″ birch veneer plywood cut down by Home Depot staff to 4’x6′
  • Borrowed Ford Explorer from mother-in-law to transport wood
  • A quart of the wrong kind of primer
  • A quart of Zinsser brand peel stop clear primer
  • A package of the wrong kind of sanding blocks
  • Power sander and 220 grit sand paper
  • 4’x6′ Writeyboard clear dry erase sticker
  • Blue tape
  • A willing member to help you
  • Reclaimed barn wood (it was ridiculously expensive)
  • A miter saw you barely remember how to use
  • Nails, screws, drywall anchors, metal frame hanging sets, tape measure, pen, you mom to help you do everything
  • Eufy LED copper light string

Total Cost: $200 once I return everything I didn’t need

All told, it turned out awesome and I REALLY love it. This project is best completed over a weekend rather than piece-mealing it bit by bit like I did.

Want help deciding which DIY Coworking projects are worth it? Join my Ultimate Coworking Launch Sequence Cohort Group!

Coworking Space Photos Needed

Cohere coworking hot dog potluck

Every time I write a coworking book, I like to use photos of real coworking communities in action. Do you have an awesome photo of your community that you’d like me to include in my next book? I always give attribution and a link back to your website. You’ll also get a nice discount on the Ultimate Coworking Launch Sequence when it publishes on September 1.

Instructions:

  1. Email me a high resolution photo that includes people in it. Photos of empty space will be rejected. I will also take photos of communities that are still forming and who do not have a physical space yet.

Include the following:

  1. Name of Space
  2. Website of Space
  3. If you have an existing space, answer the following:
    • How many members did you have when you opened your doors?
    • How long did it take you from deciding to start a space to grand opening?
    • What piece of advice would you give to new coworking founders?
    • Why is your community special?
  4. If you don’t have a space yet, answer the following:
    • Why are you starting a coworking community before you have a space?
    • What did you learn through the process of community building?
    • What are you most looking forward to when it comes to your community?

I will be leading small groups of coworking founders from the first steps of building a community to grand opening with the Ultimate Coworking Launch Sequence. Be sure to get on the list for first dibs on a spot in the first cohort!

I want to learn all the things!

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The Coworking Secret Weapon I’ve Told Everyone and No One

Did you know there’s a thing that will form the basis of all of your coworking space marketing, content creation and tours for the rest of your coworking community’s life? I’ve owned and operated Cohere for over seven years and I use it over and over again and I’ve never told anyone what it is.

WHY?!

I haven’t been holding out on everyone, it just became habit because I share it with EVERYONE.  I just forgot to teach ANYONE how to do it.

If you’re starting a coworking space right now, you’re already creating this amazing thing. It’s called Your Origin Story and I think it might be my number one top secret weapon.

Your Origin Story answers the question: how did you start XYZ Coworking Space? 

An honest and compelling origin story makes you memorable, relatable and authentic and if I’ve learned anything it’s that people LOVE a good story.

My Origin Story starts with trauma and has plenty of twists and turns and then shows how coworking changed my life. It starts like this, “Well, I had just been fired from what I thought was my dream job and was adrift in the universe. I spent all of autumn reading the entire Harry Potter series under a blanket on my porch.”

Do you want to hear the rest? I bet you do. Everyone loves a good train wreck and I had that in spades before I heard about coworking.

Before you do anything else, you need to write down your Origin Story. It needn’t be comprehensive but you need to start recording some really important details from day one of your coworking business launch so you don’t forget them later.

Grab some paper. Here are some questions help you develop Your Origin Story:

What kind of pain were you in before you started coworking?

Where were you when you first learned about coworking?

How did you feel when you started researching coworking?

Who showed up to your first event? What did you talk about?

Why are you uniquely suited to have a coworking community?

If you’ve already opened: who are your founding members? Who stood by you as you started this crazy idea? What did you do on opening day? Who showed up? What was your favorite part?

I will be leading small groups of coworking founders through this process and So MUCH More as soon as the Ultimate Coworking Launch Sequence gets born.

I want to learn all the things!

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Furnishing Your Coworking Space: Getting Started at IKEA & A Cautionary Tale

When it comes to furnishing your coworking space, it’s THE LARGEST expense you’ll incur as you get going. It will cost thousands no matter how frugal you are and you might feel sweaty all over. This is normal and I’m here to help.

I’ve furnished FOUR different shared/coworking spaces over the years and boy have I screwed it up. From highly custom hand-built curved workstations to bomb proof college dorm desks, I’ve really put my members through the desk gauntlet and most times FAILED them. I’ve furnished spaces with uneven wood floors to carpeted floors to floors with lots of stains that required strategic rug placement. One floor was so uneven that members couldn’t stay pushed up to the desk on our rolling chairs. We joked that we should install carabiners to “clip in” for safety.

Here’s just one example of how I drove 8 hours to Salt Lake City’s IKEA only to come home with four chairs in the wrong color. These white chairs provided lots of opportunities for Miami Vice jokes but the dumb color absorbed denim dye from everyone’s jeans so they were a nightmare. By the way, this was our first staging area way back in 2010. People started showing up to cowork in this room in this condition. That’s when I knew I was on to something!

I say all that because I’ve finally found the right furniture for small coworking spaces. I did all the experimentation for you so you don’t have to waste your delicious money screwing up like I did.

General Tips

When it comes to the big stuff like desks and office chairs, RESIST the allure of Craigslist (unless you find the exact type of IKEA things I’m going to recommend, then by all means, have at it!). Why? You’ll likely never find matching items in the quantities you need and when you grow or need more desks or chairs, you’ll never be able to find more of that kind and you’ll wind up in a coworking space that looks a little garage sale-esque. 

While I’m not a fan of prison-like uniformity in color/style throughout your entire space, I am a fan of having 1-2 types of workstations and chairs and then imprinting your unique style using plants, art, mirrors and pillows. This kind of ‘matchiness’ in large furniture makes it super easy to rearrange that furniture later and the room will always look pulled together no matter how you situate the desks.

Want More?

There are EIGHT more pages of pro-tips and a real IKEA shopping list you can print and take to the store to completely furnish a 12 workstation coworking space. Stop wondering and clicking and worrying if a piece of furniture will work for coworking. I’ve done all the heavy lifting. Well, except where you have to go to IKEA and do all the heavy lifting. Get the guide now!

I Own a Coworking Space and I Tried to Work From Home

When I started Cohere EIGHT years ago, I didn’t know what I was doing. I had a vague sense that people would enjoy working alongside one another (or rather, I felt that *I* would enjoy working alongside them). Luckily I had low risk aversion and $20K burning a hole in my savings account. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about how and why people cowork and the main goal for coworkers appears to be the avoidance of loneliness/loss of social skills.

_MG_6893The EXPERIMENT

Periodically, I choose to work from home instead of heading in to cowork at Cohere. Today I chose to do that because I knew I had a big gnarly blog post to write for Startup Week Fort Collins and it would require my attention for upwards of two solid hours and that kind of isolation is hard to find when you look up and greet every person entering your coworking space.

I decided to make a note of what my day actually looked like. Now mind you, I’ve been in the business of remote work, coworking and productivity for coming up on a decade and goddammit, I fell victim to every trap my home had to offer today.

The FRIDGE

I have eaten 9 times or 12,000 calories today. I lost track after third breakfast. Who can work when you are steps away from all your favorite things? I actually squealed when I realized I could make a sandwich on homemade bread and then marry guac and mayo on it with stacked slices of turkey.

Lunch took LONGER than usual, not just because of my extremely artistically prepared sandwich but because I thought it would be a good idea to watch last night’s Walking Dead episode while I ate. No one walks away from Rick Grimes mid-show even though I finished my sandwich at the 8 minute mark.

The KITCHEN

As much trouble as the Fridge was, the Kitchen gave me more. Was this afternoon the perfect time to clean out the fridge of weird tupperwares and some spoiled sourdough starter? OF COURSE it was. That created a lot of dishes, which took awhile to tackle. Then I got a dishrag in my hand and now my counters are super shiny along with my stovetop.

The LAUNDRY

Today felt like an ideal time to wash all the linens in my home. After the 12th visit to the laundry room, I started to question the wisdom of this choice though the rhythmic banging of comforters in the dryer made me feel like someone else was home.

2015-02-20 15.00.38The INERTIA of PJs

Normally, I get myself put together prior to 8am so I can take my girl to school. Since her grandparents picked her up at 8am, I unwisely decided to make an elaborate breakfast then start my blog post in my pjs. Have you ever done this and prayed that your google video alert on your computer wouldn’t ring so you wouldn’t get busted? That was me all morning as I fretted over my greasy hair and unwashed sweatshirt. I developed a sense of inertia with my pjs like if I didn’t get out of them, I might actually stay in them until the authorities discovered my body. I managed a shower but lost some of my steam around getting my to-do list done.

The INTERNET of FRIENDS

I spent more time on Cohere’s slack channel, Facebook and texting friends than normal because I felt lonely. Lonely after 6 hours. How do you people work at home for YEARS?! However, I spent more time on Cohere’s slack channel because I knew it would be a reliable way to get some quick interaction with my coworkers. Normally, the in-person coworking would fill this need.

The RESULT

I’m not sure I got more or less work done than I do when I cowork (my job is the definition of “highly-uninterruptible”) but I’m certain that I do DIFFERENT work when I’m at home. I crushed my timeline on the blog post today and even managed to write a second one (that you’re reading now) but I didn’t get any of the administrative or earthly space tasks at Cohere done. Luckily, those are always waiting around for me. Next time I need to write, I think I’ll only do a half-day and perhaps I’ll pack that artful sandwich with me to take to Cohere!

 

 

My Favorite Coworking Things: Cobot and Zapier Integrations

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Zapier and Cobot high-fiving… only via the internet… and at night while I’m asleep.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the Cobot coworking management software platform. Somewhere around my third year of running a coworking space, I tore a small chunk of my hair out by the roots as I sorted through some sticky notes and google sheets trying desperately to figure out if member x paid a prorated amount back in December or if I owed them money for some reason.

I was DONE. Even with a modest 30 members, I couldn’t keep track of everything. Rather than throw in the towel (laptop), I tried a Cobot trial month and it changed my life.

I love Cobot because it makes me efficient on tasks I DON’T NEED TO BE PRESENT FOR and gives our now 62 members stability. They always know what to expect from payment and how to reserve a conference room. I’ve become a bit of a Cobot power user as of late and boosted my efficiency by integrating Cobot and Zapier to automate even more tasks in my coworking space. Cobot asked me to tell you about the zaps I like best.

By far and away, automating the new member welcome email has changed my life. I no longer have to remember if member x got the door code or if member y will know where to park on her first day. All that data is in the welcome email. Zapier “watches” my Cobot and every time there is a new member, Zapier sends my gmail template email to the new member at midnight on their first day of membership. I love the consistency in experience that each new member gets from this integration.

Zapier Task History

A couple month’s worth of automating the new member email.

My second favorite integration is automatically adding new members into our slack chat room. It’s like a little instant gratification ping for a brand new member to instantly find themselves in our digital sharing/joke world.

My third favorite integration is adding new members to a google sheet where we mainly keep track of our capacity and when peoples’ birthdays are. My goal for this quarter is to reverse this process and delete cancelled members from that same spreadsheet to save even a little more time.

When it comes to Zapier and Cobot, I’m sure you can think of at least one task you can automate that will have no impact on the strength and sense of connection in your community. Between Cohere and Cohere Bandwidth I have nine “Zaps” automating anywhere from 10-50 work tasks a week. I always feel smug when Zapier sends this out:

Zapier weekly tasks

Zapier did 49 things for me this week.

Here are some more examples or you can find them yourself at http://zapier.com and then type Cobot into the search bar.

Zapier Popular Cobot Zaps

Some of the most popular Cobot integrations with Zapier.

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: Must-Have Supply List

Seven 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).

IMG_4906

 

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.

IMG_4903

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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