2019 has been hell of a experience for the coworking business. Alongside studies of unprecedented development of versatile ‘coworking,’ we’ve additionally watched one of many largest media furors unfold with our business’s first mover, WeWork.
Humorous sufficient, I’ve been on parental depart since September with my second youngster, and in that point, WeWork pulled out of their IPO plans, modified management, introduced job cuts, had been bailed out, and on the time of scripting this, they’ve reported a web lack of $1.25 billion within the third quarter of 2019.
As pioneer in coworking, I get requested each week about whether or not our crew noticed it coming, whether or not we’re having fun with the decline of the sector’s most established participant and whether or not that is the start of the tip.
However these conversations are so unhelpful. The information of pending job cuts means folks’s livelihoods are on the road and the business goes to lose good folks together with a number of class data.
It’s additionally not symptomatic of all coworking suppliers, or reflective of an business ingesting its personal Kool-Assist. I nonetheless imagine, as I all the time have, that when achieved proper, coworking has the ability to construct real communities, and communities geared up with the fitting community and abilities can go on to do superb issues. After all, I might say that; as you’ll have seen from my byline, I’ve a vested curiosity!
I’m not going to gloss over the reality of what’s taking place out there, and faux that the WeWork information hasn’t been a wake-up name. Whether or not you regard WeWork’s difficulties as a ‘blip’ in its historical past, or a cautionary story for fellow excessive development companies, there are such a lot of takeaways we will all take underneath our wing.
Course of over product
For too lengthy, coworking has marketed itself to the world on developments and hype. However folks don’t purchase hype, they purchase worth and substance. What worth seems wish to a coworking member will after all differ enterprise to enterprise, individual to individual. Perhaps it’s alternatives to attach with others through in-house mentoring. Perhaps it’s an area that invests in supporting underrepresented founders.
Trying to the longer term, coworking suppliers are going to should get underneath the pores and skin of their members, get private, know what makes their group tick and encourage suggestions loops.
Sure, an honest espresso machine and bolshy motivational prints on the partitions are good to have. However that’s all they’re: good to haves. In 2020, the profitable coworking areas would be the ones who don’t attempt to commerce off scale and hype with member expertise.
To make use of the phrases of WeWork themselves: “The expansion tales don’t promote anymore.”
Say goodbye to short-termism
There’s a number of short-termism within the business — brief leases, fast strikes, quick fixes. Plenty of suppliers leverage this notion of the informal, throwaway tradition of startups, capitalizing on a excessive turnover of startup members.
What this implies in apply is a failure to create a tradition of accountability. If you happen to view your members as a flash within the pan, what does that imply for a way you spend money on their development?
The sort of short-term considering caps innovation, and it leaves us in conditions like Brexit, or the well being of the planet. In 2020, this wants to vary.
A re-focusing on innovation
The flip facet after all is that solely taking up bigger enterprise members with a purpose to prioritize steady returns isn’t the reply, both.
I’ve all the time believed that coworking is at its greatest when it acts as a launchpad for brand new, thrilling, progressive startups which are looking for to remodel their market. Someplace alongside the best way, this appears to have gotten misplaced amongst a lot of our mates within the enterprise. Focus solely on retaining members, somewhat than serving to them develop and develop, and we’ll stagnate. It’s that easy.
As for what 2020 will deliver for WeWork particularly, I choose to not speculate — and in any case it’s troublesome to say.
Actually, the final two to a few months have been one thing of an existential disaster for WeWork, however in each fast-growth, formidable firm it’s regular and wholesome for these moments to come back. You’ve received to anticipate them, be ready, be open-minded and hold going again to your foundations.
Whether or not or not WeWork will emerge newly resilient stays to be seen. So too does the affect its repositioning may have on the broader property market, members, and landlords will resolve that. (WeWork is the second largest industrial property occupier in London, so in concept its demise may have huge ripple results not solely to the workplace market however to the companies it homes within the UK.)
However I hope the main target in 2020 may be much less in regards to the fall out and extra about future proofing the broader ecosystem. Proper now, we want stability — no sudden, radical modifications. However we additionally want bravery — the bravery to maintain innovating among the many noise, and supporting our members to innovate too.
Printed December 20, 2019 — 00:00 UTC