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August 30, 2017
This is Work …

Rick Shand, one of the brains behind The Reserve, a great community “new-way-to-work” place brand in the Twin Cities, sent me an article this week entitled Office 4.0:  The New Model for (the) Commercial Office and Coworking Industry by Vishal Gupta.  Whether you are in the industry or not – it is a great read in that gives you a sense of how the serviced/shared workspace model has morphed over a longer period of time than you might realize – and where it is going.

Now, there is one change that I would make — and it would be replacing Office 4.0 with something that better defines the new commercial/social ecosystem that Vishal describes.  Instead, borrowing from an awesome new TV series that lets you behind the curtain to see what family life  really looks like  — my title would be

 

This is Work …

 

Community is not just defined by what is inside your four walls

One of the reasons that I jumped into this industry as a 50-year old senior-preneur with NO obvious, relevant experience, is that leading voices in the industry were very prescriptive about community –  lots of talk about rules, regulations and the fear of vibe-stomping.  While it does present its own challenges, I believe that one of the intrinsic benefits of being a true community workplace is the integration with the people, businesses, organizations and municipalities with which you reside.  Your membership and culture should be reflective of this community and that reflection should not be seen only through the lens of “work” but be much more encompassing – including purpose, principles and values.  I believe that when you take the approach of being a community “plug-in” in defining your value proposition – your members will experience you as oh-so-much more valuable.

 

Value is not only defined by the heft of your hustle or the grit of your grind

In entrepreneurial/startup buzz-word bingo these words are permanently written on every card — and, frankly, rightly so.  Working hard and working for purpose is a completely different experience when every decision is charting the course of your ship.  You don’t count working hours the same way and the highs are higher and the lows lower.

With that said, it is a straight up mistake to measure “Work” based on # of hours worked, number of leads chased down or # of networking events attended.  What also counts is that 20 minutes that you thought was your time to finish that d$#% blog which turned into a vibrant “what if” conversation with a member that plopped down in front of you and said “<> is bugging me — what do you think I should do about it!?”  It is that pay-it-forward mind-set where, when that mental “click” occurs in the middle of a conversation, you take the time to make the connection that will likely result in no direct benefit to you.

 

It’s complicated — and that’s what makes it so simple

Let me give you just one small example.  This week we had a walk-in that was a member 30 minutes later (hot damn! :)).  Let’s call her Ana.  She was recently voluntary separated from a well known company and was jumping full time into a consulting practice.  She had customers, had to get out of the house and needed to be productive … enter LifeWorking Coworking!

As she opened her wallet to close the deal, she pulled a crumpled sticker off it and I saw that very familiar shake-of-the-head-walk-down-memory-lane-half-smile.  Fast forward to an hour later – I’m in conversation with another walk-in and we are sharing stories of past-glory at Procter and Gamble (both as dual-career couples) and the abject horror and unbridled excitement of entrepreneurism.  She is looking to convince her urban-located CEO of their newly funded healthy lunch food startup (think blue apron meets a lunchbox) that a membership with us, close to home, would be a great idea.  We talk about potential events and she leaves me with marketing material for her new startup (Note, that disappointingly, we haven’t closed this deal yet.)

The next day, I walk in and see our newest member, Ana, hard at work.  I set up shop close by and, looking at the healthy delivered lunch marketing material in front of me – remember that crumpled sticker – and give her a quick synopsis of the startup.  Ana looks at me and says “OMG, I am definitely interested … I have a kindergartener starting school on Monday and packing a healthy lunch every day is one of the things that scares me the most …”

Now, I don’t know if this was a social transaction or a commercial transaction, but I do know that it was very important to both for very different reasons.

For me … This is Work.  This is what we aspire to be every day at LifeWorking Coworking.  And this is absolutely why I love what I do!!

Steve Whittington

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