Sam Poler is a cultivator.
That’s been the through line across all their various incarnations, from global studies student to community organizer to coworking space manager to garden consultant.
They want to see people flourish, no matter the container.
Most recently, Poler aligned with Ashley Proctor at the Coworking IDEA Project, and helped to produce and moderate the Coworking Alliance Summit. We connected to learn more about their journey.
Poler joined Advent Coworking in Charlotte, North Carolina, back in 2019. The four-year-old coworking operation had a fantastic Community Manager whose focus was being pulled to everyday operational tasks. So Poler’s role was to take that same focus and apply it to members.
“At first, the role started similarly to what you would see from a Community Manager in regards to the day-to-day — you come in and you open the space you make sure it's all set. You're there for the members for any questions that they may have. You’re giving tours and selling space.”
But shortly after Poler joined, they helped build-up community activities, such as Taco Tuesdays and a Thursday morning Breakfast Club.
“Then we created an Ambassador program,” Poler said, where select longer-term members became go-to welcome wagons, and soon, a somewhat informal program took shape.
“It's one thing for new members to join and meet the staff, but we're not necessarily the coworking community. The Ambassadors didn't get anything in return for it, but we did put them on our web site and promote them on social media. So when a new member would join, we would send them a message in their onboarding about being connected to an existing member. If they opted in, great!”
Poler was promoted to Coworking Member Experience Director, and the structure of the operation shifted to better distribute responsibilities.
“Our team transitioned to sharing community management tasks, because we wanted everyone to stay in touch with the members as well as day-to-day operations. It became just much more sustainable for us — if I'm out sick, it's okay, because two other people know how to run this space. It's not reliant on one person. So I was able to take on a lot more project work.”
One of the projects Poler took on was a weekly event called Advent Member Talks. A member was invited to present or talk for 30 minutes about… whatever they wanted.
“It could be just about their passion or their hobbies. Or a skillshare. I think that was my favorite program I ever created. We had nearly 20 members show up the first time, and we were super excited. Within a week, we had a waitlist of folks who wanted to speak next.”
Advent also had a book club, created at a member’s suggestion. “We just experimented and talked to members to find out what they wished we had, and then figured out if it would be possible for us to pull off with our team.”
All these ideas and programs served one single goal: to cultivate a culture. Because as any good gardener knows, plants don’t just automatically flourish and community culture doesn’t just thrive on its own.
One tenet that the Advent team wanted to elevate and grow more mindfully was the diversity of its membership.
“It’s a mistake to think culture will just build itself equitably,” Poler observed. “Or that the culture you want will come from whoever shows up.”
The leadership team at Advent wanted to be intentional about building the community culture, and knew they needed to connect to the people in their own neighborhood.
“It's on us to do the work, so we thought, Let's do a block party. Let's bring in local artists. Let’s read books by local authors. Let’s connect with the neighborhood association. It’s about being intentional and making those choices part of our everyday operation.”
Poler continued, “I love the idea that culture has to be cultivated actively, mindfully, and with intentionality. And that applies across all these coworking communities. If you want people to feel involved, you have to involve them. Because that’s what differentiates coworking from office rentals.”
Poler sees other coworking operations struggle to find the personnel who can wear two very distinct hats: that of an operations specialist and that of a concierge-style member experience manager. Often community managers take on both roles, with mixed results.
“There is a rather unreasonable expectation of two very different skill sets,” Poler mused. “You have to know how to manage inventory and how to plan a networking event. But that member experience is at the heart of just like what it means to be a community. And the manager is the person who makes it happen.”
Advent Coworking was acquired by Hygge Coworking in 2022. Sam Poler is still very active in the coworking world while building a business as a garden consultant.
You know — cultivating.