Could one of these be you in 2018?
- You’re thinking of giving up the 9-to-5 to work for yourself
- You’re already running your business from home and want to grow
If so, you need moral support and inspiration. People around you who’ve been there, get it and want to share what they have learned so you can grow. And that’s what the best co-working spaces bring you: not just a hot or fixed desk, or a meeting room, or a private office – but other entrepreneurs who understand.
Adrian Braine is Entrepreneur in Residence for SETsquared Surrey’s Basingstoke Hub. He’s an innovation and go-to-market expert who has held both Marketing and Technical Directorships in technology companies, as well as working in a corporate environment at Sony.
As part of the SETsquared Partnership’s incubator network, Adrian now helps entrepreneurs with bright technological ideas to become profitable businesses. He feels that the peer-to-peer support of co-working spaces is a vital part of that journey:
A lot of it is being around people who are in the same position as you and they know what you are going through. They say that you rise to the level of the people around you. Some people are bit further down the line than others, so they have been through it already. In other cases they are right at the beginning. But it is about being in that community and benefiting from that shared experience.
It’s important to your sanity as much as anything. When I had a regular job, I used to think, “Oh, wouldn’t it be great to work at home?” And then the first time I had an extended period at home, I nearly went nuts. I found myself organising meetings, just to get out of the house, just to talk to somebody. Because after 3 months of being in the house, just me and the dog, you end up going a bit stir crazy. You need that human contact.
Get mixed up. In a good way.
For his SETsquared work, Adrian bases himself at an inspirational space owned by DeskLodge in Basingstoke.
DeskLodge’s team have thought very carefully about the human contact bit. They offer a range of meeting rooms, desk spaces and offices, so they can offer homes to a wide variety of businesses. When businesses of different sizes and sectors start to rub shoulders under the same intriguing roof, good things happen.
You’ll discover more about the good things in a moment. First, have a look at some of DeskLodge’s décor – including that roof. (Can you spot the legs?)
That gives you a taste of some of the backdrops for your business. And while the settings and props are part of the story, it’s the people who matter. They are the ones who will support you and your bottom line.
Thanh Quan-Nicholls is DeskLodge’s director:
We do like to mix it up. Our biggest team is around 45 and obviously the smallest teams are freelancers and day visitors. What it means is that it creates a full ecosystem – a bit like Blue Planet!
You have bigger companies that are at a point where they want to grow. They are the ones who are starting to invest properly in things like marketing strategies, photography, promotional videos, HR and accountancy – all the professional services that wrap around a successful growing business.
And at the other end you have the freelancers: the developers, accountants and all those other companies who are looking to sell into these environments.
It creates a proper marketplace, an ecosystem in which people are able to interact, competitively but in a positive business way. If you get it right, you create a virtuous circle, because everyone is growing and everybody needs freelancers. It creates a really buzzy environment. It is also a really good talent pool for people to choose from. And of course the more work people are getting, the more people are coming in. It feeds itself and generates more work.
Get well connected.
Over the last decade, the number of co-working spaces has grown considerably in the UK. Now a pecking order is emerging. It’s a bit like an American Ivy League or an Oxford and Cambridge. But this pecking order of inspirational spaces has little to do with tradition. It’s much more to do with innovation and thinking ahead on the behalf of the businesses who live in these spaces. Adrian Braine:
When people are start-ups, they want to be in places that people have heard of. So when they join an accelerator, they will always look for the ones that people have heard of. There is a bit of kudos in saying, “I got accepted into Startupbootcamp or I got accepted into Wayra.The kudos is there because those accelerators are known.
It is the same with co-working spaces. Start-ups want to be in the ones that people have heard of and are known to be something different. It is not just being in a space, it is about being in the right space, and having the right support.
We get really great companies turning up and they don’t want to be spending time choosing the wallpaper. That is not their core business. Their core business is doing what they do best, creating apps or whatever. They don’t want to be focusing on the other stuff, so we do that.
And we do a lot of work to align our branding to these high-growth companies, so that it is easy for them to recruit and retain the talent. And it means we can do all this at scale, which means it is cost-effective for those companies to be together and share the branding, and share the buzz and the ecosystem. That’s how it works.
Be brave. Be bold. Get going.
The final words go to Alison Edgar, pictured above. She’s a frequent user of DeskLodge’s other buzzy, inspirational space in Bristol. Like many entrepreneurs, Alison gave up a successful career in a much bigger company to go it alone. As the Entrepreneur’s Godmother she shares her sales methodology to help small businesses to scale up:
I am a big fan of DeskLodge. I love its founder, Tom Ball. For me, he is one of the top, wackiest out-there entrepreneurs in the UK. His enthusiasm and his excitement roll through DeskLodge, not even in his presence – just as his furniture and his room ideas. It’s about being brave and bold and the co-working space is really encouraging the brave and the bold to mingle together.
So go on, do it. Your dog will survive. Your (ex)boss will survive. And, with the right co-working support, you’ll go from strength to strength.
PS. Miranda Birch, who wrote this post, has done it too.
Miranda left BBC Radio 4 six years ago, after 24 years at the Corporation. She draws on this background to interview entrepreneurs, exploring their values and helping them to articulate why their businesses are special. Using her journalistic experience she shapes their stories, extracting the angles that will resonate most with potential clients.
She first came across DeskLodge when she was collecting inspirational stories for Crunch Accounting’s micro-business community, another source of support for entrepreneurs. If your business needs a place to settle and thrive, contact DeskLodge at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can find out how SETsquared supports ambitious start-ups with technological talents here.