I’ve sold Betacowork and it is great for its coworking future

New and old owners of Betacowork Coworking Brussels
Erik, Toon, Ramon & Eric

Last week I closed the deal to sell Betacowork to three of its coworkers: Toon Vanagt, Eric Rodriguez and Erik de Herdt.  This is great news for me, but it is also for Betacowork and its community of coworkers. I love coworking but I don’t want to manage a coworking space any more. I want to be just a coworker and move on with new businesses and learning.

Ever since I decided to sell Betacowork I’ve been trying to find the best solution for the business and the community . I first tried to create a cooperative with the members so that they would take over, but it did not work. Then I started contacting some members and coworking entrepreneurs that I thought could be a good match: interested in coworking and Betacowork, understanding coworking, looking forward to the benefits of acquiring a profitable business and to take it forward.

I could not have thought of a better match than the three coworkers that have taken over. They’ve been members since the early times of Betacowork, they’ve launched their companies here, they’ve found each other and some of their employees at Betacowork… We have mixed DNA! And all this without counting all the time that Toon Vanagt has spent being my counselor, bouncing ideas back, and helping me out.

Another page of the book of my life has turned over, and this gives me great relief. I’m still part of coworking, I just don’t own a space any more. The next things to do are relaxing, learning (mostly programming), and getting my motivation and energy up to launch new businesses and projects.

In the last six years I’ve managed to create an amazing place to work and to bring together an extraordinary community. I will do all my new stuff while working from Betacowork: it is the best place on earth to work from. Why would I go anywhere else or, much worst, stay at home?

The Best Review and Feedback I’ve Ever Received

If you are in a line of work where you receive reviews about it, like I do running a coworking space and writing books, you understand the importance of reviews and feedback from your clients. True positive reviews are great (even the dreadful perfect four star review): they motivate you and your team and also help you with the marketing. Negative ones can help you improve your space if they are constructive and detailed, and the nasty ones can hurt morale a lot.

The best review and feedback I’ve ever received about The Coworking Handbook came from Fabio Gatts, the founder of a coworking space in Rio de Janeiro.

Which is the best review ever?

The best review ever started with this proposal from Fabio that came to my email a few months ago:

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A proposal to volunteer to translate The Coworking Handbook to Portuguese, that was executed and gave birth to O manual do coworking :)

Every single review is welcome, but when somebody like Fabio gets to work hard and translates the book because he thinks it is so good it needs to be in Portuguese it is the best review ever. What could be more positive?

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The best feedback ever

In the emails that followed and the conversations we had he made it clear: the book had helped him to run his coworking space and he thought it had to exist in Portuguese to be used by other coworking entrepreneurs to set up and run their espaces. Isn’t this the best feedback ever?

Not only this. Fabio run a crowdfunding campaign to edit the book and 41 people contributed to make it possible. He even got Coworking Brasil to contribute to the project ! Doesn’t this make his feedback even better?  :)

Why and How

To be able to better explain Fabio’s point of view, I sent him a few questions that I thought could help you understand why he decided to translate The Coworking Handbook and how it has helped him to run his coworking space.

How & when did you decide to open Tribo Coworking?

My partner Camila Mireilles and I decided to open Tribo Coworking in 2013, when Camila saw a lecture about shared economy and heard about coworking. We were talking about opening a business, quitting our jobs, so when we heard about it, we decided “this is it!”.

Which have been the biggest challenges to open and run Tribo Coworking?

We thought that it was a growing market (and it is), but we were surprised that very few people knew about it, at least in Rio de Janeiro. I believe the biggest challenge is to get people to know about it, and to show them that you don’t need an office just for you, you can share with others and still grow your business.

How has The Coworking Handbook helped you in your coworking business?

We discovered The Coworking Handbook when we were already creating our space. It helped us to organize how things would work, understand that the community is the center of a coworking space, learn about marketing and about having a minimun size for the space to be interesting for the clientes, learn about finances, etc. With the book, we had an idea about how a good space should be.

What is the part of The Coworking Handbook that had the biggest impact in your coworking business?

It was 3 parts: community, marketing strategy and finances. These chapters in the handbook gave us a direction to follow.

Why did you decide to translate The Coworking Handbook?

First of all, there were no books in brazilian portuguese. All the books were in english. O Manual do Coworking is the first one, and I believe it’s important to have references in this  industry. Also, the coworking industry is growing in Brazil. When we opened, we received some people asking for tips to open a coworking space. When I heard some of the ideas, I knew they wouldn’t work (for example, people thinking about opening a space with R$ 10,000). So I started to think about that, if they opened a space like this, people wouldn’t like it, they would be broken and the coworking concept would be badly judged. So, I decided to talk to Ramon and translate the book, to help them build a good space.

What’s next for Fabio and Tribo Coworking?

We want to be a reference for coworking spaces in Rio de Janeiro for locals (cariocas) and foreigners (we are coworking in Copacabana, and we receive many foreigners from all over the world), grow in size and reach, and help as many entrepreneurs and small companies as we can.

What can you do to thank Fabio and help O manual do coworking

First of all, send a thank you message to Fabio via Twitter to @tribocoworking or via their contact page. He deserves the reward :)

Then, write up a true positive review of O Manual do Coworking and recommend it to your friends and colleagues that will benefit from reading it (for links to the different stores click here).

Do you want to translate The Coworking Handbook to your language?

Follow Fabio’s example! If you are willing to do the work and translate the book to your language or can get a budget to pay for the translation, contact me :)

The Essential Coworking Community Toolkit for Struggling Space Managers

 

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Are you struggling to bring together the community dynamics that you need for your coworking space? Are you full of good energy but lack the ideas and processes to improve your coworking space’s communityTony comes to the rescue with his Ultimate Coworking Community Toolkit. He has given me early access to review it and I have to say that it is great!

The materials proposed by Tony are very well structured and helpful. He’s done a great work of simplifying and structuring a lot of content, from operational guides to ready to print flyers. It is very easy to follow and to use. Some of the documents just need to add the name of your space, your logo and the number of members and they are ready to use. There are a lot of clear instructions to run events and execute tasks.

Tony’s toolkit will help a lot of people.

I’ve known Tony for a long time and like what he has done, the way he shares and the new things he’s doing for coworking. I asked him to write the preface for The Coworking Handbook, he hosted the world première at New Work City in New York, and he even helped me find the proofreader for the book. He’s one of those people that makes the whole coworking movement so great.

Structure

When you buy the community toolkit you get access to a Google Drive folder that contains all the documents:

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Clean and simple. Tony has made it very easy to navigate the documentation and to go straight to what matters to you based on your needs. If you want to go through all of it, you can do it quickly in a single morning. This is just to get an idea, to work on the different items you will spend hours (it is easy to read the questions in a form, not so easy to answer them) but you will save many times more that time.

Business Planning

When you open this section you find two documents, a long term planning sheet and a launch checklist. Don’t be fooled by the number of documents, you are going to spend a lot of time with these two. The planning sheet is full of questions that will make you thing hard about the future of your business and will help you understand and structure your long term engagement with the community, all the way up to a potential exit.

The pre-launch checklist goes over the must haves to ensure that you are ready.

Community

The community folder includes instructions to start a community from scratch, instructions to design the different levels of membership, a community audit, and a nifty tool to track the engagement of your members. You will have to answer a few questions here and in exchange you will have a great set of tools to keep your work in track.

Operations

This folder is the dream of many new space operators. It contains a simple and comprehensive operations manual where you just need to add your logo and name of the space to have it ready to use by your team.

It also comes with an interesting program to incentivize your coworkers to work for you in exchange of free coworking time. This is not just the bartering idea, it has a document explaining everything so that you can just post it and get applications. Tony has successfully used this program to staff NWC, but he warns that if you plan to have only this to work with you in your space it probably will only be suited for small spaces. When you get to larger spaces with more people coming and going you really do need someone who’s being paid to ensure everything is running smoothly.

Programming

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Here you will find the recipes for three different kind of events. The meetings to welcome aboard new members and introduce them to your community are a fundamental part of the onboarding process.

Then you have the show and tells, another great tool to have the members do something for the community and at the same time promoting themselves. It is all about value!

The Cotivation and Impact Coworkign Program are linked. In his own words:

The Impact Coworking Program takes the notion behind Cotivation and scales it up. While Cotivation tends to be a 5 week program just among a small group, Impact Coworking runs several months per cycle and can be integrated into the membership model. You can tack on a Cotivation program to any coworking space model. The Impact Coworking Program gives you a way to attract members with more than just a desk, and a way to continually engage and refresh the connections between members with big seasonal goal-setting events. It’s super powerful.

You will find more tested event ideas in The Coworking Handbook and the calendars of spaces like Betacowork Coworking Brussels.

Resources and Research

This folder includes Tony’s selection of research papers, including those from several coworking spaces. Head here to find coworking statistics.

Books

There are two books included here, Tony’s own No More Sink Full of Mugs and also How to Create Your Ultimate Mastermind Team Workbook.

If you want more books to help you run your coworking business I keep a list of my favorite and most useful books coworking books and business readings here.

Signage and Graphics

The signage folder contains flyers, posters and social media images that you can use for your events, for facility management, etc. The files are provided in both editable and printable formats, and there’s also a list of links to the original files in Canva to make it even easier to customize and play with them. It also includes the event rent card with the pricing for events at New Work City.

The Graphics folder contains an example of different files and formats used for the coworking brand.

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Who’s Tony Bacigalupo

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Tony is the founder of NWC, he’s run a coworking space for 6 years in New York and is currently leading Open Coworking, the global organization for the coworking movement. I’ve asked him a few questions about the coworking toolkit that may help you understand him and what he’s done better, and also help you run your coworking space:

What would you say are the most important things in your life that shaped you to be able to run NWC and to write this toolkit?

I grew up in the suburbs, where the 20th century western culture of everyone being cooped up in their homes with their things reigned supreme. So from very early on, I’ve been feeling a powerful need to find a community to belong to.

When I found coworking, I found a chance to give myself and others a way of connecting to people that I feel many of us desperately need.

The Toolkit is the result of 8 years of dedication to learning everything I could about how to build and sustain a great coworking community. Since there were so little answers out there when I got started, we had to come up with a lot of them ourselves.

Now, though, others who are starting spaces all over the world need not take more time and energy to solve the same problems that have been solved before. I’d love to see people build on the progress that I and others have made, so they can focus on going further.

How did you draft the Coworking Toolkit?

It’s the collective work of a lot of contributions over the years.

What are your tips for selecting the members to help you run your coworking space?

You want to find people who really want to be a part of your community. Odds are good you already know at least one of those people. These are people you wish could be members, but they just can’t afford it.

They have to be folks who are excited to meet everyone who walks in the door. That doesn’t mean they have to be extroverts; some of our best desk captains were the opposite. But they have to care about the people and have a desire to cultivate relationships.

Beyond that, they don’t need a heck of a lot in the way of skills. It’s more about the heart than the head.

And for hiring trainees and employees?

For employees, you want to get a sense of where they are in their journey. Working at a coworking space can be a life-changing opportunity for someone, if they’re in the right place to take advantage.

Think about the ideal scenario for their departure, and how far off that is. In my mind, the ideal scenarios are that they: 1) start a new business and become successful enough to become members themselves, 2) get hired by one or several of the members, or 3) end up developing a program or project that could augment your community in a new way.

It also helps to set time boundaries. Tell them when you’re hiring them that the role is one you expect to keep them at for about a year, and then at that point your hope is for them to “graduate” upward into one of the scenarios I just described.

That gives you and them a sense of continuity and a goal to check back in on as time progresses.

Which is the most important part of coworking space operations?

I think it’s just most important to have all your bases covered. When situations come up, whoever’s at the helm should be able to easily find an answer or generally know how to handle unpredictable situations.

Why did you include the mastermind book? What makes it important for coworking space managers?

Masterminds are so handy because they’re really easy to implement yet so powerful in fostering connections between people.

It’s also a really great book that the creators wanted to put out into the world and spread as widely as possible. I’m grateful to them for that.

Do you want more? Head to the Coworking Toolkit.

 

The Coworking Growth Hockey Stick

If there where any doubts about the impact coworking is having, Google Trends shows us how coworking interest is growing in the world. Growth is accelerating and we are beginning to see the famous hockey stick shape that investors like so much and that may have helped some people raise a lot of money, in these searches and also in coworking usage stats.

Google Trends Web Search interest coworking co working Worldwide 2004 present

The other things that stand out in this trends search are that:

  • The biggest interest and growth is in continental Europe, with Spain crushing it. We all had anecdotal evidence of this at the coworking conferences (namely at Coworking Spain). This shows how the word has become a must in a country that started getting into coworking well after pioneering Germany.

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  • The standard spelling is clearly coworking, without a dash. With all the initiatives that have taken place to make sure that people understand that it is coworking that should be used for the industry, it is strange to see the spelling with a dash coming back every so often. This may be because some people are still trusting the auto correct features of their word processors too much (and journalists their antiquated style guides), or because most of the growth is happening in non-native English speaking countries. As you can see the co-working spelling is used mainly in the USA and the UK, but amazingly France leads the chart, which reinforces the interest on coworking in the country.

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There’s a wealth of other information in Google Trends about coworking: go check it out!

The Coworking Handbook Is an Amazon Bestseller

I just got one of those emails that are great to open:

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This is just great, there’s no way around it. With your support The Coworking Handbook keeps on climbing the charts and getting awesome reviews. It is not yet very high nand it is a minor list, but it is making it :) The Coworking Handbook is now number 98 in the top 100 Starting a business list.

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This has prompted me to check the Amazon listing of The Coworking Handbook  again and it had more surprises: #68 bestseller in Marketing for small businesses :)

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Little things like this make my experience as a writer much more rewarding. It is not as good as the reviews or the conversations that it sparks, but it is also a great motivation push :)