Gone are the days when offices were simply about bums on seats, tied to inflexible long leases.
Historically, it’s fair to say that long leases created “lazy” landlords, not innovating fast enough because they didn’t need to. Tenants, once signed up, were seen more as a nuisance than a customer to be nurtured and valued.
With the exception of a few proactive landlords and their operators, the majority of the market worked on the Henry Ford philosophy. You could have it any way you like as long as it’s a five, 10 or 15-year lease – and you should be grateful.
Along comes co-working. Similar to other game-changing trends, it started out of necessity, serving the fringes of demand, a market ignored by the traditional property establishment.
Only now those very same “fringe start-ups” have evolved / grown into serious businesses, are we waking up to the potential of this area.
Now a growing raft of co-working providers have set up shop to change the way we consume real estate.
Powered by a mixture of passionate, socially aware, entrepreneurial boot-strappers and well-funded early-stage VCs, these operators have blended a property business with a dash of “tech”.
This isn’t just about lease lengths, that’s just the tip of the tip of the iceberg.
The service offered by a co-working space is completely different. After all, how often has your landlord turned up on a Friday with beers and pizza?
1. The operators are different.
They realised it’s more important for their team to possess softer skills than need RICS or FM qualifications. This means most come from retail, events and hospitality, where service, people and “the experience” are paramount.
2. The vibe is different.
In a traditional office building, the only time you met your neighbours was during a fire alarm. In a co-working space, community managers are actively seeking to help their members connect with each other – and most of these CM’s actually care about the Members they serve, and the best regard their Members as friends.
3. The design is different.
The old school notion of stack ’em & rack ’em, getting as much in as possible, has made way for open, collaborative spaces – encouraging and, in some cases, deliberately forcing people to bump into each other.
4. The criteria are different.
For landlords, the important thing was to prove they had strong “covenants”, ie: a “robust” tenant, whereas now, a careful “curation” of the right tenant community makes (or breaks) the success or a location of a co-working space.
5. The experience is different.
It has moved from a purely functional experience to a focus on UX – User Experience. It’s not just about whether you have good wifi and a working photocopier in the corner. Now it’s about how you’re greeted when you arrive, how responsive the manager is to your needs, who you connect with when you’re there and whether the environment is a good fit for your business.
6. The support is different.
Where traditional organisations would call in professional services as and when they were needed, these days, you’ll find these very same professionals out of their suits and working shoulder to shoulder, being on hand to help and advise entrepreneurs as they grow.
7. The level of engagement is different.
In the past where you would only meet at tenant review or lease expiry meetings, community managers are tasked with organising events specifically to help their members’ businesses grow, almost as if they had a vested interest.
8. The tech is different.
Certainly the challenges for our field, Security Tech, are different – how do you go about protecting a location where people don’t belong to the same organisation and therefore don’t need to conform to any of the “old corporate rules”?
The answer is that most security at co-working spaces is cloud based, developed by agile coders adding features and functionality on a daily basis. They’re seamless, able to integrate into membership management systems.
Having helped open over 80 co-working locations across Europe, we’ve developed great insight into how these places work, into what makes them tick and most importantly for us, what their security needs are.
That means that we can give co-working operators and entrepreneurs the peace of mind to focus on what’s most important, their members.