Should Your Company’s First Office Be A Coworking Space?
The first coworking space I worked in was in 2012 in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The desks were the cheapest Ikea desks you can buy. You know the ones that are just a white table top and legs that look like PVC pipe?
And space had that Brooklyn industrial look: polished concrete floors, re-exposed brick walls, exposed ceilings with large silver pipes that passed through the rooms and modern Ikea furniture in black, white and gray. Then there were splashes of color with a red carpet and a blue wall.
It was cool. It felt like a great place to start a startup.
It was the start of having a place to call home. We had an address to give out and we could even have meetings at our place. An address makes you feel legit, doesn’t it?
At the time the space was new. They had just opened it and it started to fill up with all different types of cool startups and artistic solopreneurs.
One of our neighbors was Uber. I had never even heard of Uber at the time, but we would hear job interviews with drivers all day and wonder what type of company they were. Now look at them.
Over the years I have worked in, visited and contracted desks in a number of coworking spaces including: The Yard, WeWork and Alley in NYC.
If you are a small start up business and considering moving out of the coffee shop or your home to a permanent-temporary coworking space there are some things to consider.
The best part about a coworking facility is its flexibility. You have no lease, you do not have to spend a lot of cash and if it is not working out you can get out pretty quickly. For a young company with irregular cash flow (or no cash flow) a coworking space may be right for you.
No lease means that you do not need to negotiate terms and all of that other legal administrative stuff that you do not want to spend your time on. Also, most agreements allow for 30 days notice to leave. That means that you can basically get out whenever you want and the most you will be responsible for is one month’s rent.
Also, since coworking spaces come plug and play you will not spend a lot of time and money buying furniture, setting up internet, getting phones, decorating, etc.
It Can Help You To Be More Productive
I recently went to a meeting with a company that is based in a coworking space. As I waited in the common area I saw lots of people bopping around and working together. Even though I typically prefer to work with no distractions, there was an inspiring vibe in the office. Just seeing groups of two to three people huddled around with their computers and getting work done inspired me to do more.
And hey, you never know when you will be working right next to the next Uber. It is a great place to meet people and work alongside brilliant startups that have a chance at being big.
Plug and play could not be more true for a coworking space. The typical setup includes a desk, locking file cabinet, phone, wifi, printers, pantry and even a receptionist. And you do not need to arrange for any services like emptying the trash or cleaners. You can even pay by credit card. Literally, the first day you walk in you will be set up with in minutes.
When you are starting a business or you are very small, saying yes to easy and quick vs time consuming is the best thing you can do to make your business grow faster. Lean businesses simply cannot waste time on administrative tasks. It just takes too much time.
It’s Not Your Space
It is kind of like staying at a friend's house. Even though everything is comfortable and you are all set up, you are in someone else’s place. Coworking spaces have policies and rules for everything: receptionist hours, building access hours, holiday schedules, guest and visitor policies, conference room bookings, etc.
Depending on your type of business these things may not work for you. Before signing up for a coworking space make sure you get all of this information. You do not want to be stuck on an important day not being able to work with your team from the office.
Clients, Partners & Vendors May Not Take You Seriously
Some clients, partners and vendors just won’t take you seriously. This really depends on the type of business you have and the type of clients you service, but it is something to consider.
Imagine this: you are a company who works with Fortune 500 clients. A prospective client wants to come and meet you at your office. They leave their fancy office and arrive to your coworking space. The person at the downstairs lobby has never heard of your company, the receptionist on your floor doesn’t know you and then the client has to find a place to sit and wait for you in an area that is part pantry part lounge.
The only seat left is on a couch in between a startup that develops alarm devices for women who fear they may be attacked on the street and a 3D printing medical company. Imagine the conversations your prospective client will hear wait for you to pick them up.
Your prospect arrived early too and your reserved conference room is not available yet. Your office has sales people on the phone so you cannot bother them. You will need to take your client out for a quick coffee or figure out a way to be really engaging for those 10 minutes to avoid hanging out in this open space.
Depending on your type of business and needs a coworking space may just not work for you. Remember it will not be your own controlled environment but rather a shared space with all types of people coming and going.
There Are Security Risks
Coworking spaces seem to be pretty packed these days. There are always new companies coming and going and all sorts of visitors: job interviewers, clients, vendors, food delivery people, etc.
It is really cool to see this type of movement in business. But with all of the coming and going that means there are a lot of people you do not know in your office space. Every space that I have seen provides an office that locks (if you get an office space and not a floating desk). But it is slightly less comfortable to lock your office every time you get up to go to the printer or the bathroom.
If you are a business that maintains or even accesses confidential information as part of your business, using shared wifi and other shared resources will not work for you. This could risk your entire business.
But even if you do not have a business that needs to have a lot of security, remember that this is not your place. If you go to the bathroom, you may need to lock your office. If you forget your mobile phone in the pantry, it may not be there when you realize and go back for it. Someone may leave the front door open after hours and you have people roaming around.
Figure out your security needs and comfort level of being in a space that has a lot of movement. It just might not be right for you. Whatever your decision is you are probably at least doing a good job. Otherwise you wouldn’t be reading about moving into your first office space. Good luck to you!