A former colleague of mine visited NYC recently. I consider him a friend and we’ve shared some good times together over the years we’ve known each other.
This year he’s had a very good year – some great successes at work and good things happening in his personal life too. He’s really happy right now – I’m pleased for him.
A few of the work successes have been very public – accolades and awards. His social media timelines are firing.
It would be easy for him to bask in the glory, especially around this time of year as things wind down and we take stock of what’s happened over the past 12 months. And why not? He’s worked hard for all of this.
Given how much has happened, I asked him what he’s learnt this year.
His instant response:
‘forget it even happened’
He knew that the moment he got caught up in the success was the moment he let his guard down, got complacent, added just a little too much arrogance to his confidence.
Once that night’s sold out venue has turned the lights on, once everyone’s read the article about your funding round, once your boss has congratulated you on a job well done – it’s onto the next one.
This isn’t to say we shouldn’t celebrate success. In fact, celebrating successes, however small, are a key part of positive habit change, building self-esteem and all sorts of other good stuff.
However, the moment we get caught up in a success and think we’ve got it all figured out is when we probably…haven’t. And that’s when you get caught napping.
‘Too big to fail?’ Forget about it.
‘Got it licked?’ Forget about it.
‘Crushed it?’ Forget about it.
The truth is we never truly master it.
Even the masters haven’t mastered it – the world is changing too quickly now for that.
The secret to my friend’s success? Forget about it.
Think about co-working in 2017 and one of the first names on your mind is likely to be WeWork. The company is valued at $20bn and is about to become London’s biggest private office tenant. Bear in mind WeWork only launched 7 years ago – that’s phenomenal growth by anyone’s standards.
In the last few months they’ve acquired an education company and a community marketplace, launched in Asia, started a gym chain and got into the apartment business. Questions remain over their valuation and ability to weather a downturn in the real estate market, but right now they’re showing little sign of slowing down.
With WeWork seemingly making all the headlines, what else is going on in the business of workspaces?
Here are 8 of the key trends I see continuing to take flight in 2018.
1. Snacking & Space Hopping
For freelancers and soloists in particular there are usually 3 components to a typical week; doing the work, talking about the work, and finding the work.
The latter often means traveling to meet people. Face-to-face tends to be most effective, but shuttling back and forth between meetings is definitely not most efficient.
For those hopping between locations or just wanting to utilise a workspace for a few hours of focused time as and when they want it, new services have arrived to serve this need.
One example is Croissant. For just over $100 they’ll give you 50 hours per month to be used at spaces across a number of US and European cities.
Whilst their supply of workspaces is still a little sparse at present, and the nature of their pricing model appears to be weighted more favourably towards the user than the workspace provider, the increasingly competitive co-work industry means a growing number of spaces will be likely looking at alternative ways to generate interest and revenue.
Perhaps snacking will become a key part of our (work) diets.
2. Keep it in the family
London headquartered Second Home are shortly opening a new space in the ultra-trendy* Hackney borough of East London.
The area already has a number of co-working spaces available (including a sizeable WeWork offering), so how are Second Home going to stand out?
Easy. They’re installing a fully operational creche service so members can have ‘bring your kids to work’ day, every day.
With terms of parental leave high on the agenda of employers and HR departments, and an ongoing shift towards a more flexible work/life balance, will the in-office creche become a fixture of companies’ perks lists?
It’ll be interesting to see whether the trend of more young families moving away from cities (as has happened in London) will affect demand too.
* I was a long-term resident, which perhaps negates this.
3. Values-based workspaces
NYC startup The Wing have raised both eyebrows and capital (from WeWork amongst others) with their female-only workspace and members’ club offering.
I’ve had a couple of interesting discussions with people recently around balancing the need for safe spaces vs. providing bridges and access for others to better understand the the challenges that caused these safe spaces to be created in the first place.
Personally I hope they’ll find a way to allow admittance to men from time to time as there’s plenty for us to learn. Maybe that’s for another article…
In either case, we’ll see more spaces appear built on values, interests and passions.I referenced this in a previous post here >
The challenge for these operations will be balancing niche focus vs commercial viability as it’s unlikely most workers will hold memberships to several spaces at once.
Expect The Wing to be one that keeps flying.
4. The excess capacity opportunity
Airbnb is the most notable example of a business built around leveraging the excess capacity of an asset class.
Spacious are taking this approach to co-working, operating around the hospitality sector. The NYC-based startup work with bars and restaurants to fill their often sparsely-populated weekday downtime with laptop-wielding workers. Just like Airbnb, it’s one of those concepts that at first glance feels like it shouldn’t work, but Spacious are growing at a fair old clip with a presence in NYC and San Francisco so far.
The recent New York launch of London retail pop-up startup Appear Here plus a glut of ecommerce fashion and lifestyle brands scaling up in the city makes me feel we’ll see Spacious’ model appear more in 2018; less agile bricks and mortar businesses will be looking for new revenue streams as they feel the strain of rising rents, lower occupancy and a continuing shift to ecommerce.
Where else could there be excess capacity to utilise?
If anyone fancies working out of screen 1 at the Union Square cinema next week, I’ll bring the popcorn.
5. The branded hangout
Working out of the local coffee shop? Forget it. Next year will see the rise of the branded hangout space.
On opening in June this year, Ian Schrager’s new ‘Public’ hotel instantly became a destination work and meeting spot for the knowingly cool set around NYC’s Lower East Side.
The Ace Hotel chain have been in this position for a few years of course. Rather than booting out the posse of people taking up the hotel’s lobby space all day for an average per-head spend of 1 cup of coffee, they’ve happily turned a blind eye. Presumably keeping the place vibrant post-check out and pre-check in gives them a nice bump of extra social proof, street cred and the potential for serendipitous collaborations that their brand will be inextricably linked to.
Quickly building their own work/hangout spaces are retailers like Lululemon and Dr Smood. Usually quietly stylised offerings in the basement of their retail operations, there’s definitely still an element of discomfort and confusion around utilising these places to spend a working day. However, they tend to be completely free of charge and in desirable locations – very appealing to the early-stage freelancer or startup founder. Also, anything with a stigma which is starting to disappear is well worth paying attention to, and I’d class these spaces in that category.
What’ll be interesting to see is which other brands jump in and how happy people will be to nail their colours to those office-shaped masts. Not everyone is going to be keen to be hanging out at American Apparel’s co-work, even if the coffee is good.
And yes, this is again connected with filling Excess Capacity…
6. Airport lounges
Like a lot of people I find the air travel experience trying at the best of times.
After flying a lot for business, I slimmed down my travel a little and found my loyalty cards getting demoted extremely quickly, along with my air miles being of little value for any of the routes I really cared about. No bueno.
Monocle magazine have long been suggesting the growth in kiosk-style cafes, and they’ve made inroads in a few cities with this idea.
It appears there’s huge scope to serve airport visitors with an alternative to the business lounge, especially as rewards points tier are being jacked up and airport usage is on the up.
Don’t be surprised to see WeWork at JFK or Heathrow in the very near future.
7. The work club
Football club, member’s club, night club, jazz club. If it’s a club, expect to see it start offering business services to members old and new.
Soccer (football) clubs in the UK are putting community-focused workspaces high on the wish-list for their architects, with English Premier League clubs Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace both with new stadiums in the works.
There’s a ceiling on match day ticketing revenue (especially with serious fan backlashes against recent price hikes – we’re looking at you, Arsenal…), so clubs are exploring everything from VR to branded offices to keep their fanbase engaged and coffers full.
MoS are now actively positioning themselves as a shared workspace provider, and have already been using the cavernous ‘Box’ room of the club for a number of alternative live events. Perhaps there’s another joint venture on the horizon…
8. Return of the cubicle
The office cubicle. It’s almost a poster child for what today’s workers abhor; grey, closed, isolated, made of non-breathable fabrics. Surely its death should be cause for celebration?
Maybe not. A number of recent studies have shown that open plan offices have significant drawbacks, one being the difficulty for people to focus. In the days before Slack, WhatsApp and fluctuating Bitcoin prices this may not have been such an issue. Nowadays there’s a very strong desire from a lot of people to mute the noise and do focused work.
This study from furniture brand Haworth digs deeper. Broadly speaking, they recommend a mix of private and open spaces, encouraging recharging, and giving people control on where they spend their time.
We may not see the resurgence of the original office cubicle, but there’s plenty for architects and designers to set their minds to. All they need is a private space to do it…
And for your life outside of work…
Just as Marriott hotels are building apartments to compete with Airbnb, luxury residential real estate developers are moving towards the models of WeWork and Soho House – offering full workspaces, libraries, basketball courts, coffee shops and various other perks as part of your ‘living experience’. All at a price, of course.
One of the notable examples here in New York is The Eugene, next to the burgeoning Hudson Yards development.
In many cases these extra amenities are used as a clever hook to bring in tenants, but in reality get relatively low utilisation. Whilst the financials probably hold up, no one wants to see a bunch of empty common areas in a building, and some of the new build towers already have a ‘investor safety deposit box’ feel as it is.
Will this mean another case of excess capacity ready to be exploited?
It’s meta, but watch out for the workspace provider taking over the running of the workspace.
Got an opinion? Want to continue the conversation?
Let me know in the comments or drop me a line here.
A few years ago I heard a prominent figure was leaving one of my company’s big competitors.
He wasn’t leaving amicably. There had been tension for a while. Furthermore, he wasn’t leaving the industry for something new – he would become a competitor to his now former employer.
If you were the boss, what would you do in this situation?
Put them on enforced leave?
Shut down their access to all company IP and communication tools?
In this case, the boss openly suggested he take the entire customer list with him.
Why would he do this?
Surely this is one of the prized assets of a professional services business?
The boss knew the list itself was worth practically nothing. The relationships behind it were where all the value was. The cost of allowing the customer list to leave the building was, in reality, tiny.
Sure, to build the list again from scratch would take a while, but did it really matter?
In that business (like many others) you were really only as good as the service you were selling, and whether customers wanted to buy at a mutually agreeable price.
I wish I learnt this lesson earlier.
When I was starting out I would spend hours trying to find contact details for potential buyers of my company’s services. My analytical brain loved the quest and the sifting of the data. I’d leave no stone unturned – I’d know the name of every relevant person from Slovenia to Sydney. My mind was playing a trick on me that volume would generate returns.
This shotgun-style approach did work to a point, but became drastically less effective over time, especially as the industry consolidated, the value of the services being offered were more measurable, and I realised the importance of segmentation and buying power.
One other piece of advice I received around this time was to only focus on the top 3 relevant buyers in one location, and if none of them were interested, to ignore that territory and move on.
This is effectively the Pareto principle at work. 80% of the peas in the garden come from 20% of the plants. 80% of the output comes from 20% of the input. 80% of the problems come from 20% of the clients.
I still see many early stage companies using the shotgun strategy – amass email addresses of prospective buyers even if they’re outside the key target audience, perhaps slightly customise a sales pitch and then pull the trigger.
When you’re starting out it seems logical – you just want, need, to get out in front of people.
But if you’re in a relationships business, and the vast majority of us are (if you don’t think you are then ask yourself again), forget about frantically building about the customer list.
Focus on building relationships, and if in doubt ask what Pareto would do.
A couple of weeks ago I went to a networking event here in NYC.
As with many such events, a company were hosting it – running events is expensive and time-consuming after all.
The hosts of this event were a company in the entertainment industry. The event was advertised as an evening of networking alongside industry thought leaders discussing sponsorships, key insights, strategies and opportunities.
The venue was a very well-known spot in the centre of Manhattan. There was a free bar and some snacks. They’d partnered with a startup to help facilitate introductions on arrival (their algorithm seemed a bit erratic but it still served as a nice icebreaker).
All was going swimmingly. After 30 mins or so of mingling and eating croquettes, we were informed a presentation would be starting shortly.
I assumed this was a minor US/UK translation issue. A ‘presentation’ felt like a peculiar term to use.
What followed was effectively a revolving sales pitch by the host company to persuade brands and advertising agencies to spend money with them. It lasted for well over an hour, and even halfway through many of the attendees looked to be flagging.
I understood the company’s eagerness to position themselves in a new light. They’d been through a tough time over the past couple of years and had relaunched with a new management team and partners. Turnarounds are often really tough and relaunches are an exciting time.
But not opening up a genuine conversation didn’t ring true to what this new dawn was supposedly all about, and a little ironic considering they’re in the business of connecting people.
I didn’t feel negativity or animosity, more a sense of disappointment at a missed opportunity.
Whether by luck or design, there weren’t just two lines of dialogue available, there were three. The host, their brand & agency guests, and the rest of us. We all had something to say; something on our minds; a viewpoint.
Perhaps the event led to more sales and new relationships, but an overt sales pitch with a third party also in the room didn’t feel good.
Today, yelling our messaging so loudly everyone can hear it rarely works. Attention is scarce but that doesn’t mean shouting louder is more effective. It’s often the opposite. A street full of hot rods and monster trucks aggressively jockeying for position doesn’t encourage other road users.
Focused, relevant, inclusive and thoughtful conversations are what set us apart. Listening, gauging, using empathy, trying to see all sides.
Of course, too much moving traffic becomes noisy, but if we can channel that traffic, guide it, and keep all routes open to everyone in the room, we’ll be all the better for it.