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 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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