Strategic thinking involves looking at how today will inform tomorrow - and making decisions accordingly. Where conventional thinking is reactive, short-term and cautious, strategic thinking is all about looking for and anticipating new ideas, opportunities and plans.
Fast-paced, varied and adaptive, coworking is an industry that requires strategic thinking. It targets the needs of those unsatisfied by current ways of working and seeks to meet their diverse needs. While staff working within the coworking environment are invaluable in helping to create an adaptive, forward-looking culture, leadership can implement higher-level strategy that informs the direction of the business.
Here's how to become a thought leader in the coworking industry.
Have a Holistic Understanding of Your Business
The coworking industry is a unique beast. It requires an understanding of local real estate, workplace standards and industry trends - and how these intersect. Stay on top of local news and projections so that you can respond appropriately to shifts in demographics, property costs and the commercial landscape of your area.
For example, if a major employer moves in or out of your region, that will have consequences for your business. If a nearby university opens a new campus or establishes an innovation hub, you'll have access to a new market with a different set of needs. If commercial leases are hard to come by, you may see demand from slightly bigger businesses - but you'll also have to respond to increasing overheads of your own. If you're a niche provider and the specific vertical you serve takes a dive (or takes off), you'll need to expand or pivot your offerings.
Understand how your tenants, location and overall industry and economic trends intersect, and you'll be able to predict trends and respond - rather than react - to change.
Build Strategic Alliances and Learn from Others
Great minds think alike - and not alone. Bolstering your leadership team with people with diverse backgrounds, interests and approaches will help you expand your offering and your insight.
If you have a business background but your tenant niche is art & design, bring in someone with on-the-ground knowledge in that field. They'll be able to help identify needs and trends in that space, giving you valuable information that you can use to grow your coworking business. On the other hand, if you're a design expert, someone with a business mind may be what you need to give you the full picture from a business perspective.
Don't be afraid to reach out to other coworking spaces to share stories, ideas and approaches. A robust coworking environment is good for everyone - we all rise together, after all. Participate in events for coworking leadership and actively cultivate relationships with those who excel in the field. Arrange to "walk through" other spaces or to interview other leaders about their approaches and what delivers the best ROI. See also if you can arrange a reciprocal program with spaces in other cities, states or even countries. This can help expand your tenant base while giving you a window into how others are achieving success.
You'll also want to reach out to investors for insight into growth strategies and expansion efforts. Having these relationships at hand will allow you to move quickly and confidently if needed.
Be Flexible, Nimble and Open to Change
Coworking is a rapid-growth industry, and a relatively new one at that. As the space grows, so too will expectations. Be prepared to respond to swift shifts in working "norms" and overall demands. Be open to experimenting with user-driven design and to community-building efforts - and be sure to evaluate outcomes in terms of ROI.
The varied, flexible nature of coworking business models and design approaches lend themselves perfectly to experimentation, so don't be afraid to implement incremental changes that can then be expanded as results permit. For example, if you're experimenting with a premium offering, outfit part of your space with premium equipment, furnishings and design and monitor the response. From there you can determine whether to continue with the implementation, withdraw it, or leave it as a small part of your offering.
You can do the same with partnerships, monetization models and providing amnitization, tailoring the services you provide to suit the individual, and then expanding the offering depending on the response.
Finally, be open to change, even if it goes against your expectations or ideas about how things work. Actively work to identify market and industry changes and evaluate them in terms of potential opportunities - not as a "threat". Responsively building your business based upon real market needs rather than assumptions will serve you well in the long run.
Need some help with building your leadership capacity in your coworking space? Get in touch!