Co-working for your business
If you’ve read the latest edition of my first book “From Single To Scale”, you’ll have read that I thank my co-working office space in Exeter for all their support.
The Generator space I use is in Exeter, down by Exeter Quay. There’s also Dix’s Field Townhouse and other spaces from other companies.
My co-working space isn’t just a cool place to work and get out of the house, it’s representative of solving a huge real estate problem that private individuals and entrepreneurs are solving all over the world.
In this post I want to talk a little about why I love my co-working space, The Generator, so much. And also why you should absolutely look at moving to one as soon as you can.
If you’re already in a co-work space I’d love to hear from you! Let me know where you are in the comments below and what you love about your space.
A very cool place to work
When I went to work for WP Elevation, I visited their offices out in Melbourne and Troy showed me around.
In videos that I’d seen of Troy and the team, I assumed it was a set. It just looked totally different to every other office I’d ever seen. It was built between two buildings in the old alley.
They added a roof, heating, internet and just like that – there was an office. I think it was a studio at some point. It’s part of Revolver Creative and has many businesses like Foundr also as residents.
Exposed brick walls, massive light bulbs, lots of different businesses in one location. The collaboration and work style was everything I had ever wanted.
“I want to work in a place like this”. You can see how excited I am to work with Troy and in that office space in this video here.
There was something about working in a group, with your own micro-business, that appealed to me.
As soon as I got home I searched for an office in Exeter that was like Revolver. A tall order as Exeter’s population is about 3% the size of Melbourne’s.
Going stir crazy
At the time I was either working from home or using an office that was also used by a telesales business.
Those offices are…soul destroying to say the least. Just talking and typing. No energy. People there are more like factory chickens than driven sales people.
It was also a bit of a dodgy deal because I was technically not supposed to work from there. I was sub-letting my desk from the business that rented it.
However I found that working from home drove me crazy. I’d do my work solidly and never leave my desk. I’d be sat by myself, working, and it was sending me a bit mental.
I needed a space that had the community of a larger business, with people talking and laughing and having lunch together. While also being a place I could focus and do my work.
Ideally I wanted somewhere I could also meet clients and record videos outside of my home too.
Office space is expensive
Regus and other office letting businesses are pretty expensive. I’ve even seen people try to set up office space in retail units on high streets.
The misconception though is that all office space is expensive. Co-working completely changes that by offering a fixed or flexible desk space when you need it.
For example I rent per month for a permanent desk. Coco (my dog) sits under the desk and I share a little unit with Susannah and Geoff.
We all have permanent desks for a fraction of the cost of a full office.
How people work is changing and I believe, returning to a similar model before the Industrial Revolution.
Prior to the Industrial Revolution most people were self employed. I’m absolutely not saying it was better back then. Cholera, poverty and starvation were relatively common.
However the model was that most people ran their own small business, doing whatever the local community needed. Again, it wasn’t perfect as most people were serfs serving under a lord and they weren’t encouraged to develop technologies.
All proceeds and profits would be returned to the lords, including the majority of the labour (wheat, wood, iron ore etc) and they’d also be taxed.
It didn’t make sense for individuals to develop the technology to make their life easier. It was either stamped out by their ruler, or they figured it’ll only end up in their masters pockets anyway.
When the Industrial Revolution hit, it totally changed how people perceive production and development. People were now hired to work in factories to achieve greater goals.
They’d be paid a wage, could control their own land and would have a job for life.
Jobs don’t exist anymore
I’ve got plenty of opinions on jobs for life, pensions and how our education system is designed to manufacture factory workers.
HOWEVER – tin foil hat conspiracies aside, more and more people are leaving jobs and returning to entrepreneurial roles.
Daniel Priestley calls it the Entrepreneur Revolution. A return to people running their own businesses and being in charge of what they create.
The power of co-working and why I love my office
So what does co-working offer me and my business? Why should you try and work in a collaborative space and why do I love my office in particular?
This is probably the most common reason and certainly why I stay.
The funny thing about working in a larger corporate office, is that even though you’re all under one brand, you share almost 0 job roles and responsibilities with your co-workers.
At a co-work space, most people are in the same boat. Even the difference between a 1 person business and a 10 person business, means that we all have more in common with each other than an ops manger and a marketing manager.
We do office breakfasts, lunch club, Christmas parties, board game nights. It’s just a group of inspiring people working together. It’s like a festival.
There are quiet patches, busy and loud days. It ebbs and flows and I absolutely love it.
The MASSIVE caveat and something that is repeatedly missed, is WHO uses an open plan.
Two sides of the argument are either people in a corporate office, under one brand. Or, individuals working on their own business in an open place space.
The argument is that open plan means people can come over, talk and interrupt you if you’re working. It’s impossible to act like you’re not in and people are always bothering you.
And for people in a corporate office environment, I’m sure this is true. I know that people in larger businesses slack off and like to chat to kill time.
Hell, I still like to talk and chat to my co-working buddies. But in our case we’re ALL on our own time.
The un-written rule at The Generator is that “if someone has their headphones in/on, they’re in do-not-disturb mode”.
Open plan is light, airy and makes it more affordable. Just looking up and seeing my friends makes me feel more productive.
This is a massive advantage to co-working. Collabs.
Projects are worked on together by multiple business. Our co-work space isn’t just social media business. There’s a translation business, a sport quango, video editing, Crossfit clothing, graphic design, development, e-commerce sites, website design, online courses, PR, financial advisers, architects, authors, surf instructors, charities, …and Neil who runs the space, does some work occasionally too.
Ola, a $7 billion competitor to Uber and India’s largest taxi company was based from our office for a time.
Best selling author Sarah Turner of The Unmumsy Mum often works from here (listen to me talk to Sarah on my podcast).
Story board artist James does the work for Go Jetters and other animations also works from here.
Tom McLaughin children’s author and illustrator works out of The Generator too.
We’ve found customers and suppliers in this space and the work continues. It isn’t just bartering either. These are serious businesses looking to do the best work they can.
When I first met you, I used one adjective to describe myself. What was it?Wayne Jarvis
If you get that reference, let me know in the comments.
The funniest thing about co-working spaces is that anyone from an old-style office hears about it, and imagines a zoo.
“A bunch of totally different people running their own business, setting their own hours and enjoying what they do? Sounds chaotic.”
Most people envision a Nathan Barley style office. Exposed brick, untidy desks and music playing in the background.
And while that might be true. We also have a burrito club.
However, jokes aside. There are meeting spaces, private rooms and everyone here is professional in what they do. Yes, we head to the Christmas Market and eat too much bratwurst and drink too much beer.
But the atmosphere in our office screams collaboration and hard work.
It’s also a better place to meet clients than a coffee shop or your couch at home.
Deeper than business
Many of the connections here that I’ve made, are deeper than business too.
Some of my co-workers have become friends. I regularly go to the gym with a couple of them.
We play board games and go round for dinner. Like any other office, you develop friendships with people who were at one point, total strangers.
I was interviewed on local radio about the concept of co-working and how it works. It was an interesting question because it’s now such a normal part of my day, that I can’t imagine a world without it.
The space itself has also been a part of my business. It’s in the background of my videos, it’s where I shoot a lot of content and write my books and blogs.
Last year we had a really rough autumn and I was at the end of my rope. The team at The Generator, Neil, Liz and Bri were there for me beyond just management.
I can honestly say that this co-work space, The Generator at The Quay has been instrumental in how my business is shaped.
Finally, I believe that entrepreneurs will solve the world’s biggest problems. And small businesses in spaces like ours are the driving forces behind massive change.
I believe that entrepreneurs in rural places like Devon, which typically have been viewed as a little “behind the times”, can challenge massive industries with flexible working, better income and more meaningful work.
20 years ago I couldn’t do what I do. Aside from “the internet”, the location of Devon and how rural it is, would have meant I’d either have to work in a city or change my job.
Now I can run a global sales training business and manage people in their spaces. We’re impacting the world from a small 120 000 population city in farming country.
It’s not unusual for me to get stuck behind a tractor or cows crossing a field. But in the same day I’ll interview a best selling author, coach a sales team for a large automation company and get some great coffee from March Coffee in Exeter.
You can find The Generator in Exeter down by the quay or head to generatorhub.co.uk.
Ask for Tamsin or Liz and join us for a day.
There’s also Jelly Co-working which organises pop-up co-work spaces in places all over the world. You might have one near you!