What do the Dallas Cowboys have to do with flexible workspaces?
Normally, not much. But this year, the team's beautiful facility in Frisco, Texas, hosted the Global Workspace Association’s FlexForward conference, and Coworks was honored to be among the sponsors.
Fresh off our participation at GCUC22, the GWA event was another chance to share space, conversation, and insights with owners, operators, and influencers in and around the coworking industry.
We saw a healthy mix of coworking models. There were the coworking space owners we know very well, alongside more corporate, flexspace focused operators and commercial real estate folks. And even though they come to the table from different starting points, there is a big overlap in their priorities when it comes to space management: data management, integration, and user experience.
Happily, the Coworks platform shines in all three cases, with robust reporting, extensive integration with third party platforms, and a strong emphasis on a delightful user experience.
I personally had conversations at our booth and around the event where I asked folks what platforms they were using and how they liked it. Most felt their platforms did everything they needed. But they didn’t especially enjoy using them.
The people on the front lines of user experience are often the coworking Community Managers, and it’s for them that Coworks even came into existence.
In fact, we saw it in action at my first company, when we were based at a coworking space here in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Community Managers had their hands full every day, and clunky software wasn’t helping them do their jobs. In fact, it made their jobs harder. I knew there had to be a better way.
The content tracks at the event were right on point with the pulse of the industry — an evolution toward coworking becoming a reliable third option as the remote work/return to office tug of war continues. Over the last year, I’ve spoken and worked with operators who want to position their spaces as viable and valuable options for companies to send employees to in the configuration that best suits their needs, be it 5 days a week or a flexible mix of days for desk and office time.
As I mentioned, integration continues to be a big focus for operators. They want to use the right tools at the right time, and also connect to larger networks of aggregators and directories.( I would go into more detail, but Hector Kolonas already did and his recap is highly worth the read.)
Many attendees echoed my own appreciation of the marketing panel led by Jamie Russo of Everything Coworking. Space operators have to think about messaging and positioning their space for prospects and leads that include a broad array of use cases.
The lines are blurring a little bit from a traditional member — somebody who rents an office and has keys — versus a one time, day pass user.
How should managers treat transactional customers? Do they get access to your community? Do you track them? What's the overhead? Then the other side is anticipating and meeting the demand from the corporate office means configuring your space and your software to facilitate that kind of relationship.
Without a doubt, my favorite part of attending events like GCUC and GWA is the chance to put faces to Zoom names. In particular, we had great conversations with partners and influencers such as the Upflex team, CoworkingSEO, Syncaroo, and of course the GWA team themselves.
Last but definitely not least was the opportunity to be part of the GWA Community Manager Awards.
As I said before, community managers are quite literally the reason I started this company. I met so many community managers who wanted a tool to do all the things they needed to manage, from billing to events to onboarding to tours to check-ins to answering questions — and actually make their jobs easier instead of harder.
I’m impressed that GWA took the time in their event to dedicate to the community managers. As William Edmundson said the first time we talked about the program, "You can have a marginal space and a great manager, and you'll be set. But you can't have a great space and a marginal manager. It just doesn't work."
GWA doesn’t just talk the talk. These awards solicit nominations from across the country, with a separate opportunity for international nominations. The members of the spaces submitted short testimonials as to why each manager helped make that space special, welcoming, efficient, and vibrant.
It was both moving and validating. Because the managers are a linchpin in this coworking industry. They make the difference between commercial office space rental and a community that appeals to remote and flex workers.
Jade from Common Desk was the previous year’s winner, and she joined Bill and I onstage. Together, we awarded Taylor from Thrive Coworking with this year’s accolade, though each nominee truly deserved to be there.
I’m excited we got to be part of it, and look forward to more opportunities to shine a light on the managers and their dedication to their communities.