We recently asked the question, are communities the secret ingredient to success for co-working spaces?
For many, it seems that their community ambience is a vital part of their existence and growth. It’s what their clients crave when they use the space, it’s what keeps businesses returning, and it’s what sets the co-working concept apart.
But as Alex Hillman from Philadelphia’s Indy Hall explains, community isn’t just a convenient add-on that helps to draw in the customers. It’s their raison d’être – their “reason for being”.
“Indy Hall’s approach to co-working is unique because “community” isn’t an “also” – it’s our reason for being,” said Alex. “Our #1 resource isn’t our square footage, it’s the relationships and connections between our members.
“Our facility could burn to the ground and Indy Hall would still exist – even if it were temporarily displaced.”
Alex explains that their entire reason for existing isn’t because people need an office, it’s because they need each other. “The need for office space ebbs and flows, but the need for camaraderie and support and friendship doesn’t,” he says.
Such is the flexible nature of co-working spaces that users can pop in as and when they require. And while many home-workers may not necessarily need the office facilities, from time to time they just need some human interaction.
Indeed, Indy Hall is actually designed to help people form relationships before transactions. That kind of community isn’t built overnight, and the team have certainly worked at it. It’s ingrained in the very existence of the space.
As a business centre hoping to kick-off your own co-working environment, or as an independent co-working space looking to grow, how do you replicate that level of community? According to Alex, it’s all down to good old-fashioned dedication.
“Many co-working spaces assume that by providing a place, it’ll magically happen on it’s own. Unfortunately, there aren’t ‘community elves’ who are looking for new co-working spaces to make communities in – it’s an intentional process.
“Every member of Indy Hall is a person and that’s what we care about.”
The Indy Hall formula is a successful one. The organisation has grown through the entire economy – and continues to do so. Alex puts that down to their ethos as a “people business” rather than a “property business” – and during the down economy, people needed each other more than ever before.
Not content with running and growing Indy Hall, Alex is also helping others to tap into that vital community ingredient. He is running Community Builder Masterclasses – a series of educational sessions and workshops designed to help other co-working space operators get the community aspect right.
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Isn’t helping the competition a little risky?
Not when you and the competition are part of a global community. There’s that word ‘community’ again – but being used for its true meaning, and not a shallow gloss for the purpose of looking good or going after profit.
As Alex explains, co-working’s origins are shared. “There’s a giant global community – which is a bit different from an industry – of people who either run co-working spaces, work in co-working spaces, or just love the idea of co-working.
“We share our successes and failures and help each other. In most business senses we’d be competition, but communities don’t compete. They compliment. So we’re able to be much more open and share and support a rising tide of businesses like ours.”
Because of this, Indy Hall shares what they know and what they have learned freely. And it is a two-way process. After all, the more co-working spaces that Indy Hall can help to become successful, the more chance that co-working has to grow – and to become a permanent fixture on the map.
And where Indy Hall is concerned, the proof is certainly in the pudding. As Alex says: “We’re profitable, sustainable, and we are growing faster than we ever have.”Share this article