5 Things to Know Before Scaling a Coworking Business
Coworking business is on the rise today. More owners than ever venture to scale their coworking businesses and open new locations across the world. Are you one of them? See no evil in your desire to grow and develop.
Every soldier carries a marshal's baton in his pack. — Napoleon
Progress is always a kind of struggle, so it's natural to face challenges along the way. Let's discuss some of the key points every expanding / scaling coworking business wants to consider.
Every entrepreneur has their own considerations as to opening new locations. Here are my top five.
- To keep up with the demand. This is obvious. If all desks and offices are occupied, meeting rooms are always busy, it’s time to expand. If you can't accommodate all people that are ready to pay for your service, you are leaving money on the table. When your hub is busy, the customers go to your competitor, which is inadmissible and requires urgent resolute actions.
- To benefit from economy of scale. Running multiple coworking spaces can be savvy. Your new locations can share resources with the existing ones. For instance, you don't need to hire a separate accountant, search for other coffee and office utensils suppliers, and so on. As you grow bigger, everything is getting cheaper. Your revenue grows while you can negotiate better prices as you are purchasing more goods for the increased needs of the new workspaces.
- To grow business in a different way. By launching new coworking locations you can address more customers' needs and reach more target audiences. I mean that each new coworking space in the network can have its own specialization. For example, one could be a theater for large events, another a design lab for makers. You can open a gender-oriented (women only) coworking, which is a trend nowadays. Specialized coworking spaces can make you rich as services tailored to specific demands are highly valued by the customers. Industry leaders like the Wing, have thousands of people on their waiting lists to join the community.
- To expand services for your customers. When your community members are traveling or have a meeting in another part of a town/city, they can book a room in another location using their home branch coworking software. If you are ready to offer this location of course. Sure enough, it's better for your customer to book a meeting room from the familiar owner where everything meets expectations than enter the unknown territory and start to discover it. Business meeting time is definitely not the right one for unexpected things to happen. From this viewpoint, brand coworking spaces help to build loyalty because customers get this great advantage.
- To improve your brand strength and prestige. The bigger you are, the easier it is to notice you. Multiple coworking spaces located in different cities will make your brand more visible on Google Maps. This way you will cover wider audiences and potentially attract even more people to meet your brand. With each new location, you will accelerate your business growth.
If some of the above points resonate with your business situation, it’s time to branch out. Let’s see how to do it.
The easiest way of scaling a coworking business is to start small and expand to another floor. This is a no-risk win-win solution as you already proved the demand in this location. If it's impossible to expand within the same building, you need to make in-depth research of human traffic and the vicinity for candidate locations.
- Proximity to transport hubs. Keep closer to large metro stations and avenues with bus lanes as all these are sources of human traffic. People are lazy, nobody wants to walk inside a city block. You may use a good workspace expansion rule—to be located within a 500m walk from the metro station or to be located on a front line of the avenue. This significantly boosts your chances to enjoy intense human traffic flow.
- The abundance of café and restaurants. People like to eat, they need food, they go out for lunch. Not everything can be delivered by Uber Eats. If you want to attract people to your new location, make sure there are delicious attractions nearby. You can go even further, build partnerships with those cafes and restaurants, make a benefit catalog with member-only discounts, helping them get more customers, and increasing your membership value at the same time.
- Availability of reliable infrastructure. High-speed internet is an absolute super-duper must for a coworking space. You can’t offer an old-school coax cable. It has to be future-proof fiber optics, preferably 1Gbps. In addition to the internet, make sure the building is equipped with a great access control system that can integrate with your coworking software to automate access and make your space open 24/7. Finally, all other basic supplies such as electricity, water, and heating should be in place.
Pro tip: go to other floors and talk to the people who live/work there. Often they’ll tell you a real picture, which the landlord tried to hide.
Think of every new coworking space branch as a startup. Before you take a huge loan or invest money, you must ensure it’s lucrative. Design a nice website showcasing your value proposition with a sign-up form and offer a hefty discount for those who sign up within 30 days. Not only you’ll pre-sell your workspace but also double-check there’s enough demand.
Only if demand is validated, then go ahead with interior design and construction. If form sign-ups didn’t meet your expectations, go back to the research phase and find a better location.
- Don't hire many new employees, save your money and automate everything. Remember, opening a new branch doesn’t mean you need to hire an army of branch managers. Hire one and give them smart coworking automation tools to sign up members, onboard, bill them, and perform other routines. Automation will help you save a lot of money. Learn from business sharks like Uber that reduce the bloated staff and automate processes to optimize the workflow.
- Ensure smooth cross-branch member experience. For instance, make it possible for members of one branch to book meeting rooms and desks in another location.
- Maintain friendly relationships between branch members. Do not isolate branches. Get all members together on events. Even though you have multiple branches, but it’s still one community. Good relationships and friendships between your members will lead to higher customer retention rates because people like to hang out with friends.
You may own the fanciest coworking spaces in the world but the utmost goal always stays the same. You need to monetize your business, otherwise, it makes no sense. Your revenue is the most accurate success gauge.
To make all of your workspaces profitable you need to promote them.
Multiple branches of your coworking network may be located in different areas within a market or within different cities altogether. Anyway, each of your spaces requires a unique marketing approach.
Use all conventional marketing tools to promote your coworkings, i.e.:
- branded website design,
- commercial listings,
- a full-service mobile app,
- design a brochure of your coworking services.
All these are critical for a high-power marketing strategy.
Please mind that the audience of every hub is different, so you need to create separate member personas in order not to waste time and money trying to sell your services to the wrong audience. Tailoring your marketing strategies, narrowing the scope you are actually cutting the path to profitability.
One of the pitfalls of running multiple coworking spaces is the temptation of cloning them. When you have a thriving coworking space the easiest way is to open a number of identical workspaces. Yet, this is a trap. If the spaces within one city are identical, they will compete with each other.
One day you will be disappointed to find out that you are not earning more money picking up your business, you are just transferring revenue from one location to another.
Don't create competitors within your brand network making them devour each other. The only remedy from cannibalization is uniqueness. Every space must have its inimitable face and charm. It may be a special layout and decor, a particular membership type, location in an underserved part of town. Every space must be independent otherwise members will simply pick the closest to their home coworking as it's the fastest and the most convenient choice.
I don't recommend you to be excessively obsessed with aesthetics, infrastructure, and overall look and feel of the new locations and abandon the first coworking space, as it's the place of your power where everything starts. Always keep your first site modern, fresh, updated, tech-driven, and eye-catching. That space brought you in a position where operating multiple coworking spaces stopped to be a dreamboat, so don’t disappoint your loyal members and don't give them the reason to leave.
I hope this article was helpful for sketching up a kind of business growth outline. Now you know that the best time to branch out is now when the demand exceeds the offer. You have a checklist of things to consider when choosing a new location for a workspace, running, and marketing it. Please also don't forget about saving the community vibe when scaling your business.