Community is, without a doubt, the most important element to a successful coworking space. It’s the product you sell, as well as the glue that holds it all together. It’s the feel good, powerful agent that creates a sense of belonging and inclusion for members, and keeps them coming back day after day. But there’s something just as crucial, though perhaps not as sexy, in making sure your community has it’s needs met: Smooth Operations.
Operations are the gears of your space and community, and highly functioning operations allow you to to spend time focusing on building relationships with your members, conceiving creative ways to connect them and providing a high touch work experience. Poorly run operations cause problems all over the community, from mismanaged finances (it’s never a good feeling to overcharge a member because your member management system is not updated) to running out of half & half, your product suffers when your gears aren’t aligned.
Getting your stuff straightened out and your space running smoothly may seem daunting, it’s hard to know where to start, especially if you’re more of a “people person” than an “organizational person”. Here are three things you can do, right now, to organize your space’s operations and improve your work/life balance and your members’ experience:
1. Make an onboarding checklist. I know right? I seems so elemental, but I’m always surprised by the number of people who don’t have one. It’s simple thing to do, and will improve your workflow immensely, here’s one you can borrow to get started. Your members’ first few days will set the stage for their participation in the community, making sure that every one has a consistent onboarding experience helps ensure that your community will run smoothly, with less friction caused by people “doing it wrong”. If you’re by yourself, a checklist allows you to navigate an interrupted workflow and return to your onboarding task confident you will get everything done to set your member up for success in the community. If you work with a team, a checklist like this one will allow you to a.) ensure that the team is not doubling up on tasks and b.) be confident that the tasks are being fulfilled completely, when distributed amongst the team.
2. Create a daily, weekly and monthly schedule. While this may seem overkill, scheduling tasks into a grid like this one allows you to create blocks of time for admin tasks such as daily social media posts, weekly inventory, and monthly newsletter creation. Scheduling these tasks in blocks of regularly occurring time slots ensures that essential admin duties are completed on time, gives you chance to plan them out consistently (you can even spread the creation of a monthly newsletter over four, hour long, weekly sessions, chunking the work done into bite sized, doable slots), and will ultimately lead to more dedicated time focused on your members.
3. Schedule heads down time. Of course your job entails being available to the members the majority of your day. That being the case, it’s difficult to be 100% present to your members while trying to perform intricate billing tasks. Supporting yourself and team members in devoting an hour a day, or a few hours a week, to uninterrupted work time will give you the chance to bang out complex admin tasks confidently and then get back to hanging with your members without having the nagging feeling that you aren’t getting your work done. There are many ways to claim this time, some of my favorites include a.) Book a couple of hours a week at a neighboring coworking space, you’ll be shocked at how much work you get done, while also getting a chance to build community with your fellow space manager, share ideas and learn new ways to do your coworking thing. b.) Find a quiet, out of the way place in your space (preferably where members won’t find you really easily), put on some head phones and get to work. c.) Make a sign to place on your work area that tells everyone you are in focus/headsdown time and will be available again at the designated time. All of these ideas depend on really good communication with your members. They want a thriving, healthy community and will understand your need to get some solid work done, so inform them that you and your team will be instituting heads down “shifts” and ask them to support this by going to the other team members for support during your block of time. If you’re by yourself, considering asking members to take turns answering the phone while you get your work done.
Getting your operations in order will take time, iterations and flexibility. With perseverance it will come together and you’ll be glad you made the effort when you can spend time with members, confident that you are on top of your game and things are running smoothly!