I get a real buzz out of providing business support.
Especially when I see business owners wasting precious time, making things more difficult for themselves, or that they could be happier in their lives. And I do that in as many ways as I know how. It’s what I’ve built my career on in many varying forms, including through customer care, sales, marketing, and operations.
I spent almost 6 years running flexible workspaces and promoting the (at the time) still relatively new concept of coworking. During that time I helped many businesses improve and expand. It gives me huge job satisfaction to see people succeed and reach their potential, and to feel I supported or helped them in some way.
I’ve also supported some people who might have given up otherwise. Helped them try to figure out why things weren’t working as well for them as they’d expected or hoped. Finding them the right collaboration partners – ones that matched with them for personality, values, expertise, or even from a cost perspective. In fact I’ve been called a Business Cupid! I can often save people the months or years of frustration before they realise they are in a (business) relationship with the wrong kind of collaborator or referrer. Or maybe they’re not working with anyone at all.
If you want to go fast, go alone – If you want to go far, go togetherI’m not even going to try to tell you who said this quote, as it has been said in so many places, by so many people, over a very long time (this article from an Australian data scientist actually shows it’s almost impossible to tie down to one individual, although he does interestingly point out that the research became much easier when he asked other people for help….!).
I think Simon Sinek’s work around The Infinite Game is another indicator of this being a true phrase. We have to work together to create real sustainability.
Working From Home
To be clear, working from home is a great idea – I did it for about 7 years. It’s extremely cost-effective!
And for many, especially with the effect that Covid has had on everyone’s working life in the last few years, the flexible-work bandwagon is on an exceedingly fast roll! But you know what – the novelty wears off quite quickly. And is often replaced with loneliness. Especially if you work for yourself. It almost (almost!) made me consider going back to the commute, and working in a city. But deep down, to be true to my proudly introverted personality, I wanted to be based close to home. So I went out and found like-minded people, and opened the shared space.
I’d often be asked why I set up the flexible workspace, as I would get so frustrated that I didn’t have time to spend with the very people who I set it up for! Others would ask why I didn’t hold more networking events there. But returning to that introvert personality I mentioned, I was already running low in the energy banks, and had little left to give.
Over a period of time, I realised I was spending more time marketing and selling the workspaces to make sure I could pay the enormous rent bill every month. And not as much time doing what I loved. Helping the community of people who were choosing to work there.
Not everyone who worked in the space wanted the connections and the collaboration opportunities. Some people were just there to use the facilities. And I think that’s when I realised that I had already achieved what I’d set out to do. I’d created the base community, and cemented the idea of being able to grow faster together.
That’s when I made the difficult decision not to renew my lease when it came up. It was time to move on to the next stage. Delivering the services I’d been struggling to find the time for, in amongst the role of being the workspace host. I could see all the possibilities within the trusted network we had created as a community, but I wasn’t finding the time to help move us forward.
Our core community were able to take our big leap towards independence, by taking on a shared lease. One that was just slightly bigger than we needed, so we could still have occasional coworkers and meetings as required, and room to grow.
I now spend my days, in my element – knee-deep in research, reports, marketing and business development. Being part of the growth and support of those individual businesses in our suburban community.
We have even taken things a stage further, having just launched a co-operative called Sage Room Co-op Ltd. We plan to offer services to assist others in their growth journey. I now have more time to write – blogs and books, which I have been procrastinating about for the last 6 years (and then some..), and germinate my ideas.
Suburban Collaboration Hubs
One of those ideas, is to help other groups create a similar co-operative way of working. Demonstrate how we can create more Suburban Collaboration Hubs. Where there is no one individual expected to take on the huge commitment of a large-scale commercial lease. Each hub considers keeping a little bit of extra desk space that can be hired/utilised by those who need a place to collaborate or connect. Let me know if this is something you’d like to know more about.
Business Directory: coworking
As an aside, I’ve kept my business directory running in the hope that we can make this happen. I did such a good job of marketing my space all those years, that I still get pretty consistent enquiries from people who are looking for somewhere to work in this area. I’d love to have more potential places to tell them to contact. So get in touch if you are local to me, and have an office that you’d be happy to let out occasionally!
So, in essence, although once again my method of delivery has changed, I am still right where I wanted to be, doing what I want to do. In the midst of a community that I love, helping other businesses find ways to improve and grow, sustainably.
Here’s to Flexible-work practices, Collaboration, Sustainable growth and Business support services!
As I wrote this article, I was able to see my own journey. I’ve been talking about these same subjects – collaboration, flexible working, work-life balance and sustainable growth – for a number of years now. And whilst I’ve made some changes to my business in that time, the message has been consistent.
It’s funny how sometimes you don’t see it yourself until much later. My colleagues have always maintained I was consistent, but I’ve often felt I was being a bit ‘random’!
So I’m glad I wrote this one, even if I’m the one who most benefits from reading it.. 😉