How to open a coworking space without losing your mind: 5 lessons we’ve learned
During the process of writing our business plan and applying for funding, we knew that things would move really quickly as soon as our funding was approved. We wanted it to. But although we had mentally prepared ourselves for the demanding two months ahead, the final weeks of the build were inevitably pulled through with the mantras of “it will be over soon” and “just gotta get through this [insert time period]”.
However, two weeks after our official launch date, we recognise how that statement was somewhat misguided. Now that we are officially open, this is when the real work begins!
And as our energy got depleted, and the task list got longer, we realised that half of our work is just making sure we stay sane and healthy. We appreciate how ironic it would be if the founders of a wellness focussed coworking space burned out in the process of opening it!
So here are the five lessons we learned - fast! - about keeping balanced and happy when opening your dream workspace.
Clear your weekends… and evenings!
While you are building the space, it becomes more than your second home, as you end up using any time you have available to get it ready for launch-date, including your evenings and weekends. So, once it’s open, it might be tempting to think that you can get your social life back and catch up with some friends and family. However, we found that even the most extroverted of us (Emma) was so exhausted that we simply lost all capacity to interact with humans. It’s like our brains couldn’t get our tongues to move. So clear any part of your schedule that you have to make for some quiet “me time”. Maybe even pop to a spa. Emma visited Elysium in Bleiswijk during a weekend, or you could pop down to Thermen in Schiedam for a quieter evening experience as Zhana did!
Ask for and accept help.
And keep asking! If you know what’s good for you, then you know that the community is the most important part of a coworking space, and you should already have a supportive little gang around you, that was dedicated to helping you build the space. Once you open, however, the temptation is to take on everything yourself, and serve the community (as you should rightly intend to) and not have them serve you. But people aren’t offering just to be polite. If your community is offering to help, accept it! Even assign jobs and give direction. We realise that not only do we not need to be masters of everything but that our community feels an even greater connection to our space when they have a hand in running it.
drop the perfectionism.
Come to terms with the fact that you won’t have everything ready and figured out. In the month before opening, we knew how much we needed to get done, and we didn’t cross everything off the list. After opening, we realised how much we hadn’t even considered, adding even more items to the list! This has left us sometimes feeling like we are being caught out, exposed as amateurs, not knowing what we are doing! To battle this (irrational) feeling, it’s important to acknowledge that this is a journey. We are not going to know everything immediately, and our space and its processes will change and evolve over time. Replying “that’s a good question, let me get back to you” is a perfectly valid response.
Simplify your processes.
Speaking of processes, running a coworking space is just as much a feat of organisation and technical systems, as it is hospitality. But that doesn’t mean that it has to be ultra high-tech off the bat. While we intend for things to be more structured and automated in the future, we have resolved for simple solutions to our problems in the interim. Direct debit more complicated than expected? Then bank transfer is fine. Need members to see when a room is available for booking? Share a Google calendar! We’re taking advantage of the fact that our space is so small that right now a lot of our tasks can be done manually.
5. ) Regain your life routines - in pieces!
In the build-up months, routines and good habits fell by the wayside. Morning routines were skipped, exercise came in the form of ripping up carpets and dinner was often a take-out to save on the labour of cooking (we do not advocate this approach! When we do it again, our intention is to stay healthy at all times). Now that that part of our journey is over, we have the work of picking up our old habits again. But it’s easier said than done. So don’t expect to be doing all 6 steps of Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning in the first week of opening! Instead, we have been following a process of reintroduction - getting in a bit of journaling in the morning, switching out the chocolate snacks for grapes, taking up one of our usual three fitnesses classes, etc. With so much inevitably to do at this moment, we are careful that our support systems are doing just that - supporting - and not feeling like extra pressure.
We hope that sharing this gives you insight into how we have personally been handling this demanding but exciting new stage in our lives. The lessons here are quite broad, and we hope applicable to starting any new business or venture, not just a coworking space. The main lesson to take away, though, is to always stay mindful of your limits. And if that’s difficult for you, surround yourself with people that know when to tell you to stop. We’ll happily fill that role here at FloLab!
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