A recent panel discussion resulted in some great nuggets of wisdom about the benefits of working out of less traditional office spaces. The panelists, all with experience in the nonprofit arena, shared how their organizations have been able to leverage using shared office space to put more of their resources towards their mission.
The panelists included:
Maria Huntley, CEO, MN Academy of Family Physicians
Jess Birken, Owner, Birken Law Office
Chris Bentley, President and CEO, Wings for Widows, and Certified Financial Planner
Moderated by our own Kyle Coolbroth, Coco CEO + Co-founder
Working From Home
As convenient as it is to roll out of bed and have a 30-foot commute, it does have it’s drawbacks. All of our panelists agreed it’s not ideal to hold a board meeting in your living room or to meet clients in your kitchen. Bentley said, “There is an unspoken feel – board meetings in a basement set a tone vs. holding one in a professional space. And mindset is important! World-class organizations don’t have board meetings in a basement.”
It’s those subtle things that can make a difference when trying to impress donors or recruit someone to work for you. So much more is possible in a professional space.
The Corporate Office
At the same time, the seeming alternative would be to lease corporate office space. Which some of our panelists have gone that route. Huntley noted, “It was not the right culture fit.” The feel was…sterile and dull. Not the feeling she wanted to portray with her brand.
Bentley continued on this idea stating, “As a non-profit, it’s important optics for donors — we need a professional place but not too nice! We don’t want to be poor stewards of our funds. But need a decent place to have our volunteers and board members do our work.”
Our panelists had some thoughts about coffee shops, often seen as the next step up from a home office. The ambiance can be better than at home and it’s a nice break from time to time, but these spaces are often noisy and not private enough for important conversations. Working out of a coworking space has allowed the panelists to take advantage of private meeting rooms and professional surroundings to conduct those important conversations.
Happy Medium – Coworking Spaces
All of our panelists have worked out of various shared office spaces ranging from single coworking memberships to full office suites in a shared space. They discussed not only the cost savings but the relief to not deal with the hassles of a traditional office lease, along with some unexpected bonuses.
Saving Time and Money
Not having to deal with inflexible long-term leases results in significant cost savings. This is huge for a startup or nonprofit that may have tight budgets and can’t be sure what that budget will look like over the next 5 years. However, Bentley testified that his nonprofit has accelerated its 5-year business plan by a full year just from the cost savings of being based out of a coworking space.
Phones and copier leases, for example, tie up money and result in costly commitments and maintenance. After a lot of red tape to get released from their copier lease, Huntley said with relief, “We pay nothing for that now.”
Furniture, tech support and even coffee can all add time and money to already lean organization. Birken stated, “I didn’t think about all the ‘stuff’ that is in a space.” She was able to transition from a formal office space to a remote coworking membership which has allowed her to pair down everything. She noted it’s rare for a lawyer to not have reams of paper all around. But by using a coworking space she is forced to work in a very minimalist way, which she prefers and can use being paperless as a selling point for her services.
With a shared office or coworking space, there’s no maintenance, no equipment leases, no furniture, no hassle with arrangements. And there’s a location manager helps with meeting rooms, coffee, tech support, etc. “We are able to do more for the clients we serve by being at Coco,” says Huntley.
Although our panelists initially were searching for a place to work that was “just right” in terms of amenities and costs, they found several unexpected benefits to working out of a shared space. “The energy is uplifting and it’s good to be around my team but still flexible enough for me to work from home occasionally,” stated Huntley. “Yeah, there’s the cool factor as a boss,” says Bentley recalling his clients and staff like the creative vibe the shared space has.
Birken shared this insight, “The collateral consequences of working with many types of people is an unexpected aspect of coworking.” Which all wholeheartedly agreed and cited examples of organically finding a web developer or lawyer to help them with their business. Not having to do the legwork to find a qualified professional and to build out their network was invaluable to all the panelists.
Huntley sums it up, “Coco is so accommodating and flexible. They want us to be successful. It makes it easy for me to go out and do what I do.”
Cost-effectively operating your organization while maintaining a professional appearance just makes good business sense. If you are ready to take advantage of efficiencies found in a shared space connect with us for a free 1-week trial coworking membership or to tour our private office suites!