The Key To A Successful Flexible Workspace Business Model

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WUN Systems recently released an ebook titled The Cost of Coworking. During the writing process I spoke with various industry experts about topics related to the costs of operating and maintaining a successful coworking space.

Frank Cottle, Founder and Chairman of ABCN, was one of the experts that I got to speak to, and he proved to be a fountain of knowledge about the flexible workspace industry. Cottle shared insights on workspace expenses, his outlook for the future of coworking and flexible workspaces, and the key factor to run a successful workspace business model.

Today I want to share with you some of the key takeaways from my conversation with Cottle, which felt like an intro course into leasing, service revenue, making the most of your capital, and customer base.

For more information and insights, check out our ebook here.

Poor Negotiation, Bad Leasing.

“You don’t hear operators say I failed because of my staff or a bad location. You hear failure because the landlord took over because of missed lease payments.”

The ultimate factor as to whether your workspace is running on a sustainable business model is the master lease. A poor lease can hinder your growth for various reasons; primarily poor negotiations and allowing the landlord to compete. “It doesn’t matter the model,” says Cottle, “having a good lease and facility, and making sure that you cover the highest expense factor is the goal.”

“We Are a Service Business”

When it comes to the importance of service revenue to your workspace, Cottle believes that the flexible workspaces are part of the service industry. This has existed before the terms coworking and space-as-service became mainstream.

“If you go back 15 years ago, everything was a classic business center, we decided on how to setup the workstation. [It included] a 75 sq ft space, a desk, a file drawer, and management style chair. Office space was built by knowledgeable operators based on that 75 foot standard. Bundling is a service.”

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The key to success is finding ways to break the bundles by meeting new demands.

“In the past, a large client company- someone like Cisco or IBM—would take space at several centers and that would be it. Today they’re taking lots and lots of virtual offices but they want the right to move around between all of the various virtual offices.”

Now you’re seeing workspaces offer other services such as accounting, marketing, and social media based on the needs of the members of a workspace. These services can also contribute to coworking spaces earning more per square foot than traditional spaces as it is perceived as a premium product due to the service offerings.

Maintaining Your Customer Base

“If your customer base sees more perceived value,” says Cottle, “they will book on for more cycles.” One principle that continues to ring true in workspace success is maximizing retention, recruitment, and your recurring members.

Your members must feel that their needs are being met, that coming to their space will help take advantage of more opportunities, and that it will increase their value to continue staying there. Cottle believes that it is critical to do “whatever you can do to increase the lifecycle of your customer. Improving your member retention rate can literally add another year of income the members in your space.

If you want more tips and insights from Cottle and other industry experts then you should check our ebook The Cost of Coworking out.