Remember: Coworking is not about how the other members can help you, it’s about how you can support one another.
7 min read
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The number of people working in coworking spaces globally is on pace to reach 3.8 million by 2020, according to Small Business Labs. Entrepreneurs especially are drawn to these flexible environments. Coworking spaces provide them with a base of operations, resources to help them expand their businesses and connections that can last a lifetime.
As the founder of Hera Hub, a shared workspace business accelerator, I consider myself one of the pioneers in the coworking world, and in that context I’ve seen almost everything. So, here’s my advice: If you want to get the most out of your own coworking experience, you should at all costs avoid doing the following …
Joining just to “network”
One of the things that new entrepreneurs espouse about coworking spaces is the potential they see in networking there. Afterall, in a survey by Hiring Learning Systems, 85 percent of those polled said they’d obtained their then-jobs that way. For this reason, many people are drawn to coworking spaces for the potential connections they offer.
But, hold on: Because in a coworking space, it’s not about how the other members can help you, it’s about how you can support one another. Most of the people in coworking spaces are entrepreneurs themselves. And, while you might find opportunities for collaboration and valuable contacts that your fellow members can help you make, developing connections takes time. So, don’t come in slinging out business cards to everyone you meet. Take your time to build meaningful relationships.
In this context, consider this message I saw from a coworking space member:
We had a new member, who upon arrival, started handing out business cards as well as pamphlets at our member event. When a team member pulled her aside to let her know that “this is not what we do here,” she acknowledged the behavior and said she would stop. 30 minutes later, we saw her pulling people out of the session on the guise that she had a question for them. She then started in on “what [she] could do for them.” After this happened, we immediately terminated the member and let her know she was not welcome in our community.
Spamming fellow members
Many coworking spaces have a community leader whose role is to help curate new connections. At Hera Hub, for example, we have a secret Facebook group, a member directory and a wall of business cards in our space. We also host numerous events where members can meet professionals who might be less active in the space.
While you yourself might have access to someone’s contact information from a business card he or she put up in the space or via a member directory, don’t use this information to add emails to your mailing list. And, as always, in the event that you receive permission to contact someone, ask how you can help or support that person before launching into your own agenda.
Stealing the spotlight
Whether you work at a coworking space or in a traditional office setting, you’ll have likely met people who like to be the center of attention. These people are easy to spot. On Mondays, they’re the first to tell everyone within earshot about their weekend. They talk loudly on the phone when taking a call. And they’ll even make audible sighs, in hopes someone will ask them what’s going on.
Consider this anecdote from Leanne Beesley, CEO of www.coworker.com,
When I first moved to Thailand, I got a membership with my teammate at Punspace coworking space in Chiang Mai. One month into my membership, I met someone in a coffee shop that I recognized from Punspace and introduced myself. They smirked and said “Ah, you’re the girl with ‘the laugh.” Turns out that every time I laughed while in the office (which was a lot), everyone in the coworking space could hear me! I was so mortified and now always make sure I keep my volume in check.
Yes, some people really need attention, but there is no better way to ruin your reputation than by being “that” person. Coworking spaces offer a lot of opportunities for brainstorming and networking, but they’re also places to get work done. Don’t be a distraction. When you’re part of a community, you are part of a collective. Don’t be the tall poppy.
Just as happens with a gym, if you join and don’t show up, you’re not going to get what you need out of a coworking space. Show up to events. Go to member discussions. Ask how you can get more involved. When a person cancels a membership because he or she is “not getting enough out of the coworking space,” it’s often because the person didn’t show up and take advantage of what the space has to offer.
Additionally, oftentimes, owners and managers of coworking spaces will make strategic introductions for you; this could be for business resources or trusted suppliers. Treat these relationships with care, as you’re building your reputation in the community. Being flaky or unreliable will hurt your reputation.
Bringing your drama
Since our coworking space is female-focused, I often get asked if there’s a lot of drama in our spaces. The truth is, it’s rare, but in any environment, you will have people who believe they must be transparent in every interaction. Remember, people are there to work and don’t need to get cornered in the kitchen to hear about your client from hell. Keep your personal drama out of the space.
Now, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for help when you need it. Let the owner or manager know what’s happening and ask for recommendations. We’ve helped members with financial difficulties get back on their feet, by finding them contract work or transitioning them into our ambassador program to take care of their membership fees. We take pride in supporting members who may be going through personal challenges, but when it comes to your challenges, be sure to use discretion.
Struggling in silence
A lot of women hesitate to join a coworking space until they feel they have everything figured out. But by waiting, you’re missing out on all the benefits that come with being a part of a coworking community. According to a 2016 survey, again by Small Business Labs, coworking spaces make people feel less lonely. And, 89 percent of people in the survey said that they felt happier since joining a coworking community.
Indeed, finding such “community” should be one of the first steps a new entrepreneur takes. One of the benefits of joining a community is the wisdom that comes from being around other like-minded entrepreneurs. Once you’re there, leverage your community for support, encouragement and feedback. You’ll find that you’ll reap rewards.