Running Your Coworking Space: Helpful Tools, Apps and Websites

This is a guest post from Jared Carrizales, founder of Heroic Search, an online marketing company.

I’ve been involved with coworking for the past 4 years in various capacities. Sometimes that means just visiting spaces across the country that I’ve never been to, tossing around marketing ideas for spaces with owners, or formally partnering with a space to help with their online marketing.

In that time I’ve been fortunate enough to see the inner workings of several spaces and how they operate. The spaces themselves are separate personalities, just like the members. As such, they all have different ways of getting things done so that the space functions efficiently.

I was lucky enough to chat with a few coworking space owners recently and get their take on some of the tools they use to help manage their unique atmospheres.

Communication

Whether it’s within the staff of the space or the members themselves, the lines of communication need to be clear and easily managed. Nick Clark, owner of Common Desk and LEXC president, elaborated on how communication ties directly into the culture of not only the members, but staff as well:

As a coworking space owner, one of my challenges is to establish a culture among our staff. This might seem weird since we are in the business of creating a culture for our members. As a staff, none of us have a dedicated desk or office.

We embrace the coworking lifestyle and choose to be nomadic. Therefore, we rely on technology to keep our team connected. Last year, Slack became a core tool for our team. Slack is now the central brain for all staff communications. It keeps us organized and on task.

Internal Workflow

This is something that every company (coworking or not) struggles with several times as growing pains attack and pivoting needs to occur to continue to get work done. I’ve visited spaces large and small, and in various parts of the country, that have struggled with this.

First time owners seem to be especially susceptible to workflow issues as they sometimes haven’t thought of scale when it comes to their staff, only members. This causes serious growing pains if the space sees any resemblance of success. As they need more processes and staff, things start getting lost and eventually this pours over into their community.

Alex Hillman, owner of Philadelphia space Indy Hall, gave me some insight on how his team uses certain tools for helping improve the accuracy of assignments, as well as making the process overall more efficient.

While I understand the temptation of “all in one” tools, I’ve learned that my team and I get a LOT more mileage out of the right tools for the right jobs. However we often want those tools to talk to each other and for that we LOVE Zapier.

Zapier turns a lot of your favorite apps into sort of “Legos” for building workflows and triggering actions across multiple tools. For example, we use Zapier to tie our Gravity Forms-based reservation and membership forms into our Trello-based workflows, which saves us time and keeps us from making mistakes.

Operations

When you factor in everything that an owner or a community manager has to deal with on a day to day basis, it adds up very quickly. A typical 8-hour workday can easily get drowned out by emails, membership change requests, walk-in tours, new member onboarding, etc. Before you know it, you still have today’s work to do tomorrow.

Tina Crouch, manager at brand new Tulsa coworking space – The Bridge, knows how important it is to stay organized on the administrative and operational side of things:

“Cobot is our most useful tool by far. It keeps track of our coworkers and their attendance, as well as handling payment information and automatic billing. Meeting rooms can be scheduled with the booking calendar, and there seems to be endless ways to integrate other tools as we grow. Cobot keeps us organized and paperless on the admin side, while being easy to use for our coworkers.”

Member Experience

There’s no question about it: the coworking industry is growing by leaps and bounds, with more and more spaces opening everyday across the country. This has made things more competitive between spaces themselves, and in turn, has given members the ability to be more choosey with amenities and overall experience.

Jamie Russo, Executive Director of the Global Workspace Association and Enerspace Coworking founder, had some things to say about how the experience of members is changing, as are their expectations.

As the coworking industry matures, the member experience will be a major differentiator among spaces. As the consumerization of the workplace continues, members will expect seamless experiences and technology that just lets them get to work without a lot of hassle.

There are a number of shared space management tools that enhance the member experience as well as the operational efficiency of running a space. Probably the first major toolset to consider is a comprehensive space management platform that integrates a number of member and operational functions into one place. Essensys, HubCreate, and WUN Systems, Nexudus and Cobot are all leading providers of these tools.

After that, the list might include digital signage (great app by Enplug), keyless entry (great app by KISI), and third party services that you can offer to members such as voice answering, provided by companies like CloudVO and Davinci.

There’s obviously some great tools and processes out there that have really helped space owners and managers create a better community for the rest of us. If you help run a space, what other tools have you found that help make your life easier? Let us know in the comments!

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