coworking member experience hospitality

Improving Member Experience in Your Coworking Space: Why Hospitality Matters

7 min read

Interview with Miryana Stancheva,
Community, Sales & Partnerships Manager at Ahoy Berlin

Remember the last time you felt delighted as a customer of a coworking space?

Probably it won’t take you long to recall the experience and tell exactly what made you feel happy.

And certainly, it wasn’t only about the great office space and amenities but also about the fact that you were treated amazingly well.

And would that be a reason to visit the space again? Most probably – yes!

As any business related to people, coworking and flexible spaces, embrace hospitality as an important building block for success. And even though hospitality is most often associated with the hotel industry, it has a lot to do with coworking as well.

Ahoy Berlin, a client of ours, has nailed the top-notch customer experience by adopting hospitality practices that add on top of their excellent workspace service.

We sat down to interview Miryana Stancheva, Community, Sales & Partnerships Manager at Ahoy Berlin, on the importance of hospitality. This role places her at the heart of the most essential processes in the company.

 


 

Ahoy Berlin

 

Ahoy Berlin is a space for coworking and innovation, where individuals and companies can rent fully equipped work stations, quiet offices and organize events under flexible terms in a playful and cozy environment. The company’s mission is to help budding startups and freelancers grow by connecting them to a wider community of possible collaborators and investors via its sister companies Openers and Tech Open Air.

The space was founded in 2012 by Nikita Roshkow and Nikolas Woischnik and currently has two locations: Berlin, Germany and Sao Paulo, Brazil. In June 2018, Ahoy was acquired by US agile office provider Knotel as part of its plan to launch further locations across Germany.

Hey, Miryana! Before we get into the hospitality topic, tell us a bit about yourself!

 

I became part of the coworking world in 2013 when I was about to start my PhD studies in Organisational Psychology and I was searching for an inspiring, unexplored topic that is really worth researching.

I accidentally came across betahaus|Sofia, which was the first and, at that time, the only coworking space in Bulgaria.

It was a sudden realization for me that coworking spaces have a very specific structure, organization, processes, and culture. I knew this is something unique which no one in Bulgaria had ever researched.

I eventually ended up with defending a PhD thesis on ‘Shared (co)working spaces and interaction models within the enterprise’ in 2017.

This is how my deep dive into the coworking world began. Over the years I had the chance to visit around 100 coworking spaces across Europe, to meet amazing inspiring people, to work in great spaces and since 2017 I’m part of the Ahoy Berlin Team.

What’s your role in the space and what are the skills needed to make it successful?

I’m responsible for the community, sales and partnerships processes at Ahoy Berlin.

Being a successful Community Manager requires a diverse mix of social skills, deep understanding of the group dynamics, ability to observe and analyze the community processes, and creativity to tackle every situation with a hands-on attitude.

On the other hand, it requires organizational skills and event management knowledge – at Ahoy Berlin we organize regularly different community events (networking and professionally oriented), we host numerous meetups and support our members in organizing their own events.

The other face of my role shows in Sales & Partnerships – I’m responsible for keeping the space fully booked – close sales deals, onboard new members, make sure they feel comfortable in their new “home”. I also do invoicing, track payments, etc.

Together with that, I’m also in charge of building a wide network of partners with diverse backgrounds who can offer interesting products and services to our community and coworking business.

What do you like most about coworking and about your job?

What I like most about coworking is the opportunity to belong to a diverse community; to be surrounded by like-minded, motivated, hardworking people in a healthy inspiring working environment which helps you to increase your productivity and effectiveness and gives you the freedom to be yourself and explore different creative ways to approach your daily tasks.

I really cherish the openness of the people, who have chosen to work in coworking spaces – they are always ready to share knowledge and experience, to give you free advice, feedback and help.

And what I like about my job is that I’m lucky to work with an amazing team with strong, transparent and supportive culture, and to have a complex and dynamic role, which combines and balances two, on a first glance, opposing concepts – the social and the financial wellbeing of the space.

What do you think is the role of hospitality in coworking?

Hospitality plays a huge role in the coworking movement and it’s not only about renting out desks – in coworking the concept of hospitality is not a compulsory service which community managers should deliver to the members, but a personal attitude and a personal relationship which evolves over time.

This is one of the reasons why all independent coworking spaces are so different from one another, and why the role of the Community Manager is an important one – he/she is the person who transforms this concept of hospitality into a unique community culture and is responsible to preserve, develop and enrich it constantly.

Only when you have this personal approach, you’ll be able to call your space a coworking space and not a shared office space.

Moreover, I do believe that exactly this culture, based on hospitality and personal approach, is the reason why a coworking space would attract and retain a specific type of members.

Also, this is how a space develops its own distinctive identity.

What are the good practices at Ahoy Berlin for improving member experience?

We like to make small gestures for our members and want to make sure they have a great experience being part of our community.

We bring them gifts on various occasions, make announcements on Slack for their success, organize regular community events. We support members and their business development by connecting them with other members and external partners.

But what I think is vital in order for your members to feel good, is to know well your community, to be able to identify their profile and based on that, to tailor the initiatives in your space and not just to organise events which might sound “cool” but are absolutely not relevant to them.

Some of the events we regularly organize and work very well for our community are breakfasts and lunches, meetups, skills exchange, ping-pong tournaments, karaokes, gatherings outside the space over a drink, etc.

It’s a very interesting and dynamic process of trying new things and constantly adapting to the community which is also changing very fast.

What’s important when meeting a new member? Do you have any special “rituals”?

We have a well-structured system when welcoming our new members. First of all, we make sure that we already know each other, that we have exchanged enough information before the on-boarding day, so we know what they do and what they are looking for, that they are informed what to expect and what the community is like.

When the day to move in comes, we give them a welcome package with some goodies, sometimes we grab a coffee together, we spend as much time as needed with them to explain everything important and to introduce them to the community.

Moreover, we always send a welcome email which contains the most important information about the space, the services, and the facilities, but also, information about the team who runs Ahoy Berlin.

And here is the crucial part in the community building process – you have to keep taking care of your members and talk to them after the on-boarding 🙂

How do you proceed when members have feedback or suggest ideas about the space?

We always encourage our members to give us regular feedback, to openly share suggestions and ideas with us and to contribute to the community’s well-being with activities and initiatives they want to organize.

We’re actually planning to conduct a satisfaction survey soon and give the freedom to every member out of these 400 people in our space, to share their opinion and suggestions – because only when you listen to your members you’ll be able to grow and do better in the future.

What advice would you give to fellow coworking operators and community managers who want to provide a top-notch customer experience?

In my opinion, coworking is as much about the service you provide, as it is about the way you approach your members. Listen to them, be open and accept their feedback. Act on it and improve.

 


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improve-meeting-rooms-usage

How to Track and Improve Meeting Rooms Usage in Coworking Spaces

6 min read

Meeting rooms are a handy amenity that can help you attract prospects to your space or increase your alternative revenue stream while offering a valuable resource to people from within your community.

You’ve succeeded in the challenge of planning your meeting rooms and have already chosen the right ones for your coworking space.

Now the question is: Are you making the most out of your meeting rooms? How do you measure their usage? Can you increase bookings somehow?

Finding answers to these questions will give you valuable insights on how well your meeting rooms are performing, so you can use this information to evaluate and improve their usage.

There’s a number of key metrics you can monitor to measure meeting rooms usage including how often they’re booked, for how long, which meeting rooms are used the most, average bookings per day, week or month, peak or quiet hours, etc.

The steps you can take to improve the areas which underperform depends on your business model – do members pay additionally for using meeting rooms or they are included in the plans you offer?

Improving usage of paid meeting rooms

Paid meeting rooms are usually popular in Serviced Offices (Executive Suites) and in some Coworking spaces. Two main factors lead to this:

  1. This happens in places where a lot of business meetings happen. Usually, members meet clients, partners, future investors and making the right impression is really important.
  2. Business meetings happen sporadically. Paying for a meeting room when the necessity comes fits your member’s needs (and wallets!) better than adding to their plans meeting rooms credits which, sometimes, they might not need.

Here’s what you can do to improve the usage of paid meeting rooms:

Attract external audiences

improve-meeting-room-usage

A successful approach to improve usage is to market your meeting rooms to the public. There are plenty of reasons why meeting rooms in coworking spaces are better than in hotels so there’s a natural interest towards them. 

One idea is to take advantage of marketplaces where you can list your meeting rooms. Of course, you would also like to optimize your website for search engines and fill it up with enough information and great photos to present your service properly.

Providing an option for online booking that shows live availability is another way you can attract more customers.

Read more about how to market meeting rooms: 6 Tips on How To Market Your Coworking Space Meeting Rooms.

Identify underutilized time slots and offer promotions

Time slots in the range of 2-5 pm are in most cases fully booked. It’s the time when most meetings happen – both internally and with external partners/clients.

Of course, every flex space is different, so you should find out what the trend is in your space. An analysis of usage will again require a dedicated solution, but it will be invaluable to have this data so you can know where to focus your efforts:

track-meeting-rooms-usage

Once you identify the periods which are underutilized in your coworking space, you can think about offering discounts during those times.

Also, think about allowing bookings during non-business hours and setting lower price rates for them. After all, one of the coolest things about coworking is its flexibility, so giving your community members the opportunity the use your meeting rooms whenever they need, is an excellent thing to do.

Bundle free credits in recurring memberships

If your members have a membership plan, but they have to pay additionally for meeting rooms, there’s a real chance they’ll sometimes avoid it and go to the near cafe or use the open area in case they have an informal meetup.

However, if you bundle free credits for meeting rooms in their membership plan, they’ll be more willing to book and use a meeting room, as they won’t need to pay additionally for it.

At the end of the day, they do pay for it, but it’s the psychological aspect that’s important here.

Think about (discounted) prepaid credit bundles

Offer bundles of credits and give them at a lower price if people prepay for them.

It’s a win-win situation – your members receive a discount, you get a commitment for another 5 hours, for example.

improve-meeting-rooms-usage-bundles

Add discounts based on booking length

A great thing to do is to lower the price rate for longer bookings. An example structure would be to provide members with discounts for half-day bookings, full-day bookings, etc.

Of course, such flexibility will add some additional complexity to your everyday operations. You can eliminate such complexity with the help of Meeting Room Management solutions such as OfficeRnD.

improve-meeting-rooms-usage-discounts

Improving the usage of free meeting rooms

Free meeting rooms for coworking members are widely popular in coworking spaces for various reasons.

It might be that your space is located in the suburbs of bigger and smaller cities and is not exposed to huge business traffic, so your members would usually have regular internal meetings (and making them paid will just be an inconvenience for them).

Or you might be focusing on memberships and increasing the amount of time a team or a member stays with you, and bundling in a free meeting room is a key differentiator.

But when members do not pay additionally for using a meeting room, there’s often a difference between what’s been booked and what’s been actually used.

How’s “booked” different from “used”?

improve-meeting-room-usageSometimes people book a meeting room but eventually don’t show up. Such ghost bookings can be very expensive for your coworking space. Another scenario you would like to avoid is rooms that aren’t used at their full capacity or are used for a shorter period than was actually booked.

Once you build a certain customer base, monitoring that on your own will be too much overhead, so you might think about turning to technology for help.

Make sure that the solution you pick has an easy to handle process both for you and your members – for example, allowing them to self-service themselves and control their bookings. Here are some ideas you could consider:

Member check-in to confirm a booking

This can be achieved with a tablet or a dashboard located at the entrance of a meeting room. If no one checks in 15 minutes, the app will automatically remove the booking from the system, so other members can use the room.

Notifications and reminders

Use some kind of push notifications/reminder to the mobile app, which pings members before the meeting. Sometimes people forget to remove a booking when their meeting has been canceled. Sending them a push notification right before the booking with an easy way to cancel it is a possible approach.

Take advantage of IoT

Installing beacons in your meeting rooms which track movement, for example, is a good way to track what’s the actual usage of your meeting rooms (not only if people come, but how long they actually stay there).

Again the same logic can apply here if you connect such beacons with your booking software – it can automatically delete a booking if no one shows up in 15 minutes.

Conclusion

Meeting rooms are one of the most important assets of your coworking space, regardless if you require people to pay for them or you offer them for free. But to make the most of them, effort should be invested in maximizing their usage.

It’s important to have the right data. This will give you valuable insights into how well your meeting rooms are currently performing, which will help you understand where to focus efforts to improve their usage, member satisfaction and eventually – your revenue.

meeting rooms

How to Plan Your Coworking Space Meeting Rooms

7 min read

In this blog post, we’ll focus on 2 main components that will help you nail the right mix of meeting rooms for your coworking space: your location and your audience.

Having these in mind will increase the chance of making an educated decision when choosing what kind of rooms and how much of them to set in your space.

As a significant revenue stream and a necessity for every coworker, meeting places need proper planning and management aligned with the needs of your coworking space. Eventually, you’d also like to track and improve their usage so you can make the most out of them.

Let’s take a look at how location and audience impact your choice of meeting rooms:

The role your location plays in planning meeting rooms

As with any other real estate business, location is of high importance as it defines what kind of people you have access to that will (potentially) become part of your coworking community.

And that’s valid not only for long-term members that rent a desk or an office but also for the people who come to your space ad-hoc (i.e. drop-ins).

We’ve identified two distinctive scenarios in terms of your coworking location – you are either near (or in the heart) of a huge business traffic, or not.

How a high amount of business traffic affects meeting rooms planning

business-traffic-meeting-rooms

If you’re in the heart of a business district, your member base probably consists of companies that need a premium business location. The usual reason for paying a higher price to be there is to regularly meet with people outside of their business.

In other words, they have to make themselves accessible and make the right impression and they’ll need appropriate places to make this happen.

On the other hand, as a crosspoint of many meetings and work travels, your visitors may often be drop-ins. The chance they’ll need a quiet place to sit for a few hours or a meeting room to meet with a business associate is huge. It’s good to think on how to market your meeting rooms so you can attract those people.

To cover the needs of both your regular members and drop-ins, a higher number of meeting rooms might be required.  And most likely the majority of meetings will be with clients of your members, which affects the proportion of “informal” and “formal” meeting places in your coworking space.

How a lower amount of business traffic affects your meeting room planning

If you’re not located near huge business traffic, it’s more likely the majority of your members will stay long-term in your space and you’ll have fewer drop-ins.

Your members will still have meetings with clients, but it’s safe to assume that most meetings will be between teammates and coworkers.

You’ll still need formal meeting rooms. However, you’ll need to have enough informal meeting rooms, open leisure spaces, and joint areas, where teams can have a productive discussion and where community collaboration can happen.

The role your coworking audience plays in planning meeting rooms

coworking audience meeting rooms

If you’ve nailed down the first point from the 3 essentials of every successful coworking community, you probably have a good understanding of your target audience and have attracted like-minded companies and members in your space.

Their business or their team functions define what’s included in their daily workflow (calls, meetings, etc), or what kind of events they want to host (presentations, training, etc).

Let’s take a look at 2 examples that can influence how your meeting rooms should be planned:

Service-oriented companies and/or freelancers usually spend a huge amount of time on calls or meeting clients and partners. It’s safe to say that you’ll need a lot of phone booths in place to accommodate the higher number of calls. Also, meeting rooms would probably have to be equipped with coffee and water for eventual client meetings.

Product-oriented teams are mostly focused on building a product, not selling it. Those guys would usually have regular internal team meetings and will need private hang-out places to catch up with colleagues over a cup of coffee. They will also need a whiteboard/multimedia to write notes and present ideas visually.

The type of your audience and its daily work routine are important factors to be considered. They will give you the direction in which you need to focus on when choosing the meeting rooms in your coworking space.

Choosing the right type of meeting rooms

In the term “meeting rooms” we include everything from hangout places where your members can meet, chill and chat, to phone booths, to big conference rooms. Based on the meeting intention, we’ve divided meeting rooms into the following types:

Informal meeting rooms and spaces

Informal meeting room in a coworking space

Credits to Campus X – an awesome coworking space and tech incubator where part of the OfficeRnD team is located.

These are hangout places, phone booths, and smaller meeting rooms that host just a few people and are generally not meant for long discussions. They usually don’t have much natural light, are not that spacious but still provide the essentials for a short meeting or a call.

You have to book some of them, others are ruled by first come, first served. People usually use them for informal or semi-formal meetings or calls.

It’s where your coworkers can chat with each other, or host job interviews. The small meeting rooms are normally equipped with a whiteboard and basic multimedia (TV), so you can make presentations and draft quick ideas with the team.

This type of “meeting rooms” don’t need to be located near the entrance, but should be easily accessible for your coworking members (from all floors, offices and open areas).

To decide how much space to dedicate to such places, or how to combine them, think about your members’ needs first. A few questions that can help you with that:

  • Do your members make a lot of calls on a daily basis? If they do, you’ll need more small rooms and phone-booths.
  • Do your members need discussions to happen in private? If yes, well closed-up meeting rooms will be better.
  • Do coworkers make plenty of informal discussions? If yes, focus on leisure and hangout places.

Formal meeting rooms

formal meeting rooms

Credits to Campus X – an awesome coworking space and tech incubator where part of the OfficeRnD team is located.

These meeting rooms are usually more spacious, have more natural light and are more representative. They are used for formal meetings with potential clients and business partners.

Meeting rooms from that type should be equipped with whiteboards and multimedia, as presentations often happen there. Additional services like coffee and water should also be an option.

Another thing to have in mind – this type of meeting rooms should be easily accessible, so it’s best to locate them near the entrance of the building, preferably on the ground or first floor.

Boardrooms

boardrooms

These are high-luxury meeting rooms with a lot of amenities and services included directly in the price. They are suitable for formal meeting with partners, clients, investors.

The price is high, but these are the rooms where you would like to meet a high profile client or your potential investor. They are classy and are more typical for business centers, rather than coworking spaces.

Adding a boardroom might make sense if your coworking space is located in a global business city or district, where a lot of entrepreneurs, investors, and high profile business people meet.

Event spaces and Training rooms

These rooms often host public events, which attracts not only your members but people outside of your space as well. They are a good “tool” you can use to welcome external audiences and promote your space.

It’s best if they are designed in a flexible way – you should be able to move furniture easily and have some kind of free space where you can serve catering or that can be utilized for anything else related to the event.

A word of caution – event spaces and training rooms are not your typical meeting space. They take a lot of space and a lot of effort goes into utilizing them, so choosing to create one should be aligned with your strategy.

Conclusion

The location of your coworking space and your audience have a big impact on how your meeting rooms are utilized. Considering their influence early in the processes can help you achieve higher utilization, improve your revenue streams and improve members satisfaction.

What’s your approach when planning for the optimal meeting room mix? Let us know in the comments!

improve coworking community engagement online tools

How to Improve Engagement in Your Coworking Community With Online Tools

8 min read

Your community is a fact.

You’re successfully attracting like-minded members and companies that help each other grow. You’ve established processes that bring value to members in each stage of their journey with you. You’ve learned how and why to extend your community beyond the borders of your space.

In other words, you’ve covered the 3 essentials of every successful coworking community. However, building an outstanding community is not a one-time project. Although nailing the essentials is key, they only provide you with the foundation on which to build, not the whole building. Achieving high engagement that leads to knowledge share, business opportunities and improved well being is the true goal, and it requires constant effort.

In this post, we’ll focus on how technology can help you with 2 main aspects of community engagement:

  • Strengthening connections between current (and hopefully former) members by increasing members’ visibility and nurturing collaboration.
  • Adding additional communication channels that can help you keep members informed about news, events, maintenance or any other relevant info in a consistent but not a pushy way.

community engagement

But before we jump into specific tools and platforms, let’s take a look at the 3 most important engagement aspects you’ll want to cover when building a coworking community:

  • Visibility of members and companies
  • Available forms/types of interaction
  • Types of notifications for new activity

Why those 3 exactly? In coworking, the real magic (and engagement) happens offline. Often you’ll meet a coworker during an event, have a talk and discover you have the same interests, and/or can help each other by sharing skills and knowledge.

But what comes next? You would need to have a simple way to find more information about this person or his company (visibility of members and companies) and continue the communication. Being able to keep in touch with him/her online organically eases further interactions (available forms/types of interaction).

Also, you’d like to stay informed about similar events that obviously bring value to you. So you’ll want to be notified somehow with different types of notifications for new activity.

How coworking can benefit from technology and online communities

To identify the best suggestions for a technology that can help with the above, we had to better understand those 3 aspects (we call them engagement mechanisms).

So, we did a bit of historical research on how online communities developed over time (you won’t believe it, online communities have their roots in the 70s!). We also came up with a few criteria to help us narrow down our research based on what’s important for coworking communities.

Long-story-short, we ended up with 3 “types” of online communities that developed the most important engagement aspects for coworking communities.

Here’s the gist of it:

coworking communities engagement aspects

We outlined 2 important notes as a conclusion from our research:

  1. Social Media is most superior as expected because it supports the highest amount of engagement mechanisms. It’s the latest evolution of online community and is clearly a must-have if you’re developing one.
  2. It’s still a good idea to use a chat tool so you can enable chat channels. They are super useful when it comes to connecting people from your community who have similar interests (sports, technology, music, etc…)

The tools a coworking space can use to engage its community

To successfully engage your coworking community, you’ll need to use multiple tools.

Below we’ve listed the 3 online engagement tools that are essential. Also, we’ve pointed out some things to have in mind when choosing a specific vendor platform.

*We’re not mentioning email anywhere, as we assume it’s a channel that every business nowadays uses to contact, nurture and notify its customer and prospect base.

Step 1: Using Social Media as a base to gather and engage your community

social media engage community

You’ll probably want to use a single social media platform, so you don’t spend tons of time managing multiple.

How to choose the one that will work best for you and your coworking community?

There’s one single fundamental requirement that can help – you should be able to create Groups. Groups allow you to gather people together in one online place, where they can see other members and interact with each other.

This basically narrows down the list to Facebook and LinkedIn. Both score high in members visibility, messaging and notification options. However, each of them has some specifics that should be considered:

LinkedIn

LinkedIn allows you to find professionals easily. You can search by name, job title or company (which is probably something you know since you’re coworkers), which comes handy when you have a group with 100+ community members. However, have in mind that LinkedIn is primarily used by people in the B2B sector. If the bigger part of your audience is not B2B, there’s a high chance they’re not using it very often (or may not have a profile at all).

Messaging is restricted by connections: LinkedIn allows members to exchange personal messages. Also, even though they’ve switched to real-time messages as well, people still regard a LinkedIn message as something more official (i.e. an “InMail”), which is very helpful when you’re messaging someone at (co)work. But if you don’t have a “1st connection” with a person, you’ll have to connect with them first to be able to exchange messages (for free).

Notifications are in-app, push and email. Have in mind that people spend less time on LinkedIn than on Facebook. There’s a higher chance they won’t have the LinkedIn app to receive messages from coworkers and push notifications. Also, most LinkedIn users are sensitive about the type of notifications they receive. They don’t tolerate notifications that are not related to professional topics and don’t bring value.

social media engage community

Facebook

Member visibility might be limited by profile privacy (some people choose to expose only their names and profile picture). This might make it hard to find someone you’ve had a talk within the hallways if you don’t remember their name. But on the other hand, there’s a higher chance you’ll be able to add more people from your community in the group, as (almost) everybody has a Facebook profile.

You can message anybody, which makes connecting with people easy and fast. Something to have in mind though is that if you’re not friends, your messages might end up in the “Other” inbox, which people rarely (or never) check. Although Facebook sends notifications when someone wants to connect with you that way, it’s still possible to miss them.

Notifications are in-app, push and email. People usually spend a lot of time on Facebook as it touches upon many aspects of their life (personal, social, professional), unlike LinkedIn which is focused only on the professional aspect. This generally means that chances of people seeing your notifications are higher. In addition, almost everybody has the Facebook and Messenger app installed, which means that your push notifications have a higher chance of notifying people about important updates, news, and events. Also, Facebook users tolerate any type of notifications, meaning you’ll be OK with sending notifications about anything.

Extra bonus: Facebook allows you to create events. It’s an awesome mechanism to inform your members about an upcoming workshop or a happy hour gathering in the space. It’s cool that only people who have marked themselves as interested or going will receive notifications and updates about it, so you can be sure you do not bother all other members who are not interested in the event.

Step 2: Using chat tools to gather coworkers around different interests

coworking chat tools

Although social media provides a lot of communication opportunities, introducing an additional chat app can boost engagement by offering one-to-many communication in real-time. You can create channels based on interests, where people can discuss and share information.

There are a number of chat tools that can do the job, but it’s best to choose the one that your coworkers are already using. Example: given that the biggest audience of coworking spaces is still IT/Technology and Freelancers, choosing Slack might be a good bet. It’s best to run a survey and double-check though.

Step 3: Using a coworking community management platform to boost engagement

coworking management platform

Once your community grows above a certain level, you can also think about introducing a community management platform that is tailored to the communication needs of coworking spaces.

Its purpose is NOT to replace the 2 tools above, but to enhance them by:

  1. Curating and visualizing important information (such as how-to guides, events and maintenance announcements) in a way that is not limited by the standard functionality and layout of social media and chat tools.
  2. Improve exposure of members and companies by providing coworkers with the ability to search the group (your community) as if they are using the general search of Social Media, or better yet – search for a particular skill-set and domain expertise.
  3. Integrating with solutions such as the Freckle Dashboard that allows you to distill and expose specific information via screens in prominent places in your space.
  4. Integrating natively with Slack or any other chat tool. This provides an easy and intuitive way for members to start a conversation just by clicking on an icon located in their coworkers’ profile.

If you’re curious about the nitty gritty details on how OfficeRnD help with the above you can check out our coworking community management page.

Conclusion

Even though the spark of a new coworking acquaintance (almost) always comes to life when people meet during an event or in the hallways, the interactions that follow are crucial to establishing a meaningful relationship.

If properly used, online tools and platform can provide the necessary channels and information to nurture interactions, helping you build a vibrant community that serves as a key differentiator of your business.

What is your first-hand experience with running an online community? Let us know in the comments!

manage cash flow

Manage Cash Flow in Real-Time with RnD, Xero and Stripe

5 min read

The goal of every entrepreneur is to get past the bootstrapping phase and to experience the relief of no longer having to beg, borrow or steal advice, time or resources.

In this phase, the biggest issue is not knowing fully what you owe or what you’re owed, and how to break that down into meaningful metrics on your financial statements so you can make better management decisions.

manage cash flow

The reality is that efficient cash flow management is really only possible if you have your accounting ducks in a row and follow more closely the accepted accounting standards and guidelines.

It used to be that a company would need to grow large enough to afford building or buying a license to an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software in order to accomplish that coveted status because the system connected all of the logistical, managerial and financial dots.

Now, we don’t have to wait for a company to grow large enough to afford an ERP. We can jerry-rig one by integrating multiple apps – all at a relatively affordable price.

The advantages of a faux-ERP now being made available to the small business owner are often the missing puzzle piece to ensuring their successful launch.

The more automation of tasks and synchronization of data, the more time the company has to devote to selling its products and services. This can now be a reality for the small companies through the proper utilization of the cloud-based softwares that share data.

The best approach coworking spaces can follow to improve cash flow management, is to use a coworking management software that has a direct integration with the accounting software and merchant service. Our personal favorite combo is OfficeRnD + Xero + Stripe, and I’ll explain why.

Meet the integrations trifecta:
OfficeRnD, Xero and Stripe

For the small business, obtaining any semblance of GAAP, IAS or IFRS used to be a joke. They were happy with being on the cash basis on the books because owners kept a running total in their head of how much they were owed and owed.

Data entry for AP or AR was something the owners did nights or on the weekends, or saved for a later phase in their growth whenever they could hire someone to do it. (I even recently took on a client who never bothered to enter data, and used to throw away their bills once they paid them!)

cash flow management

Automating AR data entry

Apps like HubDoc will scan in the bills and post them to the accounting software, which solves one part of the equation. OfficeRnD has a two-way integration with Xero, so it will post the invoices to Xero when they’re created and will solve the other part of the equation.

This covers the basic requirement of being on the accrual method, but a wrench is often thrown in when you’re toggling between the two apps trying to reconcile which invoices in Xero have been paid or not.

That’s where Stripe comes in.

Utilizing up-to-minute data to easily predict cash flow

Using Stripe as your merchant service for billing is a great solution because Stripe integrates directly with OfficeRnD.

So now, whenever a member’s invoice is paid, not only will it be marked as paid in OfficeRnD, but it will also be marked as paid within Xero in real time. Now you’ll be able to look at Xero’s awesome dashboard and see the amount that’s actually currently due in your sales corner, instead of waiting on the bookkeeper to catch up the coding.

Another way that Stripe will save you time on your bookkeeping and ensure you are utilizing the most up-to-the-minute data for easily predicting cash flow: when the Stripe integration is set up in OfficeRnD, the system will automatically create a new Stripe Clearing asset account in your chart of accounts.

predict cash flow

When an invoice is marked as paid by Stripe, it not only removes the invoice item from the AR account but also posts the funds in transit amount to that new clearing account so that you recognize the asset on the balance sheet.

This allows you to then know precisely what money is coming your way, versus what you’ve already got in your bank.

Then, when the deposit comes through the bank feed, you code that credit to this same Stripe Clearing account to offset the debit transaction posted by Stripe. The revenue item would have already been recognized whenever the invoice was created from OfficeRnD, as long as your mapping between the two apps was setup properly.

So voilà: the accounting of your entire accounts receivable process will be thoroughly complete and accurate according to accepted accounting standards – and all of it will have been done effortlessly through the integration of these three apps – what I call the “Trifecta of integrations.”

About Pencil

Pencil, Inc. was founded in 2008 and has grown into a team of entrepreneurs, bookkeepers, and accountants that help small businesses outsource operational tasks such as bookkeeping, running payroll, and remitting tax filings and payments.

They’ve helped a number of coworking spaces maximize the efficiency of their team’s workflow by utilizing technology to make the most informed management decisions, as well as play the role of an outsourced partner for maintaining their accounting. Pencil take on the administrative tasks that coworking spaces don’t have time to do, so their team can focus on their members and running their spaces.

successful-community

3 Essentials of Successful Coworking Communities

6 min read

A great location, spacious office area, high-quality fit-outs (and free coffee!) are all traits that successful coworking spaces share. However, there is another really noticeable trait that attracts people to shared spaces – a vibrant coworking community. The opportunity to be part of something bigger. Of something truly amazing. A reason to put on pants.

Research published by Harvard Bussiness Review states that the number one reason people move from a traditional office environment to shared spaces is to have access to a community that helps them grow and create connections.

In addition, The Global Entrepreneurship Report for 2017/2018 shows that it’s easier for entrepreneurs to grow their business when they are part of an environment with people that have similar values and interests. A place where networking and collaboration opportunities are countless.

So, if community can be positioned as one of the top differentiators for coworking spaces, and you’re looking to scale, how do you go about doing it? After working with hundreds of coworking spaces around the world, we’ve noticed some interesting differences in the approach to successfully scaling a community. Here’s what we’ve observed so far:

Know your mission. Define your audience.

Good communities are a well-balanced mixture of shared mindset (vision, values, interests, etc) and diverse skills. When a group of people has similar focus coupled with diverse expertise, they can complement each other by sharing good practices and exchanging know-how in a way that’s applicable.

For example, one of our clients, Alley, focus on growing the connectivity points between individuals and entrepreneurs and enhance the value they bring to the community. They position themselves as a “connected platform for entrepreneurs”, which directly speaks to what type of members they’ll welcome in the space. The result? When you walk into any of their spaces the entrepreneurial spirit is palpable!

Alright, so where do you start? Be clear on what your vision/mission is and make sure to communicate it properly. Define your target audience and make sure you understand what they care about and what you bring to the table. And if this sounds a bit too broad to you, start by asking yourself questions like:

  • ”What type of companies/individuals do I want to attract?”
  • “Why should they care about me and being part of this community?” (If your answer is because of the good location, interior design, price, etc, and doesn’t explain how you’ll help them succeed, then something is missing.)
  • “What values should they share that will increase the chance of success of each member in the space?”

Think about your member journey to see how to add value to your community

coworking member's experience

Consider your member’s journey from start to finish. What can you do in each stage to ensure that when the time comes, you’ll be able to point them in the right direction (or better yet – introduce them to the right person)?

The breakdown of the member journey will be different for each coworking space, but here’s an example that illustrates our point:

Pre-sales stage

You can start simple by asking potential members a question like “Why do you want to join our community?”. Alternatively, if there is a high demand for your space and you have the luxury to “source” the right candidates, you can go as detailed as sending qualification questionnaires or doing “entry interviews” with potential members. Ask them about their goals, interests, motivations to join your space or anything else that will help you come up with ideas on how to help them down the line.

Onboarding stage 

Usually, onboarding checklists come into play here. But it also might make sense to set aside some time with them to discuss all the info you gathered during the sales process. Just a casual conversation that helps you dig a bit deeper into the info they provided, so you can come up with ideas about people or events they might be interested in.

Active member stage

It’s a good practice to set up follow up tasks and check on how your recommendations/introductions turned out, but you’ll probably need to do more than that to keep your members engaged. 

It’s hard to recommend a specific set (or type) of activities that are the formula to success, as each community is unique. What we’ve noticed is that each coworking space that developed a vibrant and engaged community says that events are key.

Invest consistent effort in engaging people. In coworking, the real magic happens offline, but make sure you take advantage of online tools to engage your community as they encourage interactions and help to keep your members informed.

Eventually, if you’ve made sure your community consists of members with similar interests and you’ve done your best to keep them engaged, things should start developing on their own. Just give the initial push and then make sure to provide a good environment for things to happen!

The final bit that comes into play – someone left your coworking space, but does this mean that your community is 1 person (or team) short?

Best case scenario – it shouldn’t. So we want to give special emphasis on the final stage of the member’s journey:

Extending your community to the people that are not part of your space

expand-community

Community is not defined by time and space limitations, but by the value and the meaning of the interactions between people. Retaining former members in your community, or establishing connections with member’s friends that share similar values and interests can be useful. They might have the expertise to help your current members (and vise versa).

Think about the people you met at college or university – although you’re not going to classes anymore, you probably still keep in touch with the ones you’ve had meaningful interactions with by that time. It’s not a coincidence that the best universities like Stanford, Oxford and Cambridge have top-notch alumni associations, which are the communities that gave birth to numerous of the most successful companies (take Instagram for an example, whose co founders met through the Stanford alumni network).

However, once your community grows above a certain point, it will be impossible to rely only on your memory to make such meaningful introductions. So how do you keep up?

Maintain some kind of member’s database

Regardless if you’re using a coworking CRM, a spreadsheet or some kind of dedicated tool for the purpose, you’ll need a way to keep track of all member information and make it easily accessible. You can also come up with some sort of tagging mechanism to easily source the information you need to bring value.

Set up an online community

Think about how you can use technology to increase member visibility and allow people to connect with each other directly. Basically, an online community that can grow on its own and can be nurtured with less effort. We’ll cover this specific topic in a later post in more detail, so stay tuned.

Bonus tip

Being focused on hospitality is essential for the success of coworking spaces. But, be cautious to what extent you want to stretch your hospitality service, as too much of it can ‘steal’ the feeling of commitment to the community. Be caring, but let people manage themselves, too.

Here’s a simple example: if a member comes to you with an idea of an event that might be interesting to other people in the space, tell them “Sounds good. When would you like to do it?” and support them in organizing it.

Letting people be part of the process makes a lot of sense. Because, after all, a community is something active, not passive.

Conclusion

Whether it allows companies to meet their new big client without even leaving the office or helps young startups to grow, or simply gives an opportunity for knowledge sharing or wearing pants; a community is something that adds both human and business value.

Community is the core, the foundation, the inner spirit of a coworking space. It’s what attracts people. It’s an enigma that’s often difficult to explain, but yet, it’s why we’re all in Coworking, after all.


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Corporate Turns Coworking – Campus X & OfficeRnD

4 min read

OfficeRnD was born in late 2014 when we, together with another Miro, started working on a software for space management. Both of us were managing software teams at Telerik, one of the leading software companies for developer tools. We were facing an interesting challenge ‘How to make sure our teams are productive and our teammates are happy and healthy in an office that’s constantly changing due to the dynamic nature of the software business.’

As software engineers, of course, we were sure the solution must be Software. Let’s develop a platform that streamlines the management of the office space – improve the occupancy and utilization while maintaining well-balanced, well-planned thus healthy, collaborative and productive office environment.

We were still trying to conceptualize our idea when Telerik was acquired by Progress Software. It was a big success for an amazing startup. These events served us as a further motivation to leave the security of our well-paid jobs and start our own venture.

The World of Coworking

Early on, PiLabs, the first #proptech accelerator in Europe invited us to join their program in London. The office was based in the beautiful coworking space called SecondHome in Shoreditch. It quickly became our ‘first home’ as we were coding 16h / day. That’s how we discovered the amazing world of Coworking. A shared workspace with extreme focus on community and collaboration, good sense of hospitality and beautiful, productive layout and design. That was it!

SecondHome and the Coworking spaces we’ve seen were exactly what we thought the office should be:

  • Collaborative offices with great communities
  • Green, healthy and stimulating environments
  • Dynamic, flexible and evolving spaces

The World of Coworking Software

Only 3 months after we started we decided to focus entirely on making the best software for coworking spaces. Although we started with the ‘space’ module and built beautiful interactive floor plans, we quickly developed a billing module, accounting integrations and started working on our first version of the community portal.

To be honest, most of our early-stage investors weren’t very excited about the coworking industry. It was small, very niche market that on the surface seemed like a really tiny opportunity for a tech startup. One of the Telerik founders, also our very first investor, was joking with us about how we managed to pick such a small industry.

Campus X

Fast forward two years and there was an interesting plot twist in our story. While OfficeRnD was growing fast and adding more and more awesome coworking customers, the Telerik founders decided to take on their next challenge – building the largest incubator for tech
companies and talent in South-East Europe, Campus X.

Thanks to their vision and understanding of the startup community Campus X is turning into one of the most vibrant flexible workspace/tech hubs in the regions. After the final phase of the project, the campus will span across approximately 18 000 sq.m. of office space, hosting more than 1000 members.

Interestingly enough, Campus X premises in fact span across the same office buildings we wanted to build space management software for 3 years ago in the then ‘corporate’ environment. They are now converted to beautiful flexible workspaces that serve as a home base for Campus X’s amazing community. Turns out that in the end, we did build software for the buildings we envisioned 4 years ago, however not in the corporate environment we originally thought.

Today, Campus X workspaces management is powered by the OfficeRnD software platform. Automating the operations allowed them to focus on the important bits, such as growing the community and making their facilities great and hospitable. OfficeRnD is helping them with a number of elements, such as:

  • Automated billing;
  • Easy to use contracts & memberships management;
  • Integrated door access;
  • Connected community through a beautiful web portal and mobile app;
  • Easy to use bookings, and;
  • Interactive space management (yes, this is where we started)

This is just the beginning for us. We’re ready to do so much more for the world of Coworking and Flexible workspaces.

If you want to join the coworking industry, check out our careers page or drop us a line at info@officernd.com. We are growing and looking for JavaScript Developers and Quality Assurance Engineer for our beautiful office in Campus X, Sofia, Bulgaria.

What’s Wrong with Coworking Software

3 min read

And what we’re doing about it.

Coworking Europe Conference 2017, Dublin – one of the unconference topics was ‘What’s wrong with the coworking software?’ – hosted by Hector Kolonas from included.co.

‘It’s over-complicated, not integrated and really not good enough.’ said the crowd.

It’s true and of course, there’s a range of reasons for it.

Software Needs Big Investment

Building software is the best but also, the worst thing you can do. It’s expensive. It’s very expensive. It’s more expensive than you can imagine. Why’s that? Because software engineers are very expensive. Then you need to document it, you need to support it, you need to ensure its high quality, you need to extend it. Yes, the more you add, the more your users will demand. Building software is a never-ending process. If it ends and you stop pouring money into it, then it’s dead.

Coworking as a business used to be small, niche market. Which resulted in been unattractive to software companies, investors, and tech startups. So the first coworking management tools had to deal with it by themselves with the resources they have.

On the other side, you have sophisticated users – the coworking manager. People, who are used to work with advanced, professional tools built by big software companies and startups, such as Slack, Xero, QuickBooks, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, Intercom, and so on. The standard for Software is higher than ever. We all have big expectations and little patience and tolerance because we’re used to using great software. But behind these great software solutions, there are big companies with hundreds of engineers, support, QAs working on them and millions of dollars in investment.

That’s why we raised $1M. You can’t build great software with 2 engineers sitting in their coworking space.

Lack of Product and UX Vision

Some of the first coworking management solutions were built with a complete lack of product and user experience vision. In today’s world, UX is key. If the software looks bad, feels out-dated and is hard to use, there’s no way to be successful, of course. As mentioned, users have very high expectations for software and the user experience is one of the first bits that all of us see.

That’s why, we emphasize the user experience, both for managers and members. 
Software Development - How it works

Lack of Speed

Others are too slow. They have a vision and drive their product well, considering the user interface and the user experience but they have no speed. The coworking management solutions are very complicated platforms. It’s a business critical type of software – ERP as it’s known in the traditional business world, or PMS in the Hotels world. It is a HUGE piece of software. The amount of functionality, integrations, and reliability that’s required is massive. In order, to build a great coworking management software you need speed. You need speed and dedication from your product development team.

That’s why we invest all resources in Product Development. We release new functionality and updates weekly and the number of changes is great. Check out our Release history.

Lack of Good Support and Integrity

In order to provide a great software solution, you have to start with good support and a great team. You need people that actually care about others and care about the industry. People with high emotional intelligence who are willing to sacrifice their comfort for their customers. Something that is key and is the ethos of Coworking – members and customers comfort is first.

Building great software also requires integrity which is not present in some of the vendors. One of our competitors tried to hack us. Others are using nasty marketing techniques and paid Google ads containing ‘OfficeR&D’ to get you to their misleading comparison pages. Not sure if this will bring them any good opportunities. I’m only sure that investing in their product will bring more value to their customers.

Being nice usually helps. Having integrity also helps to build better software. We invest a lot in our team and the quality of support that we provide. 

We know what’s wrong with the Coworking software and we know how to solve it. We truly believe that investing more in our team and our product will take us a long way. We have a vision, we have a great team and amazing customers, we secured good investment, and we move fast. In a year or two, the coworking and flexible workspace management software will be different. We will make it different.