Six8 Bromham

by Marc ~ October 9, 2010

That’s about it for updates to this site, although I won’t be taking it down any time soon.

It’s time to stop talking about a potential coworking space, and instead talk about our real coworking space at six8bromham.com.

Thanks for your support so far, and see you over at “Six8″.

We have a space!

by Marc ~ August 20, 2010

Time for another long overdue (and just plain long!) update. This time there is something big to report.

A few weeks ago I partnered with two others and we purchased a 235 square metre space in a converted warehouse in Richmond (pictured). It is almost everything I wanted – great location, exposed brick walls, timber floorboards, high ceilings, and a combination of open space and meeting rooms. There was only one requirement which wasn’t quite met, but I’ll get back to that in a moment.

If you want to see some photos of the space (when it was still occupied by the previous tenant) you can see them at six8bromham.com. That site includes images and video of the layout we are planning. As you will see on the site, the working title for the space is Six8 Bromham, based on the address which is Suite 6, 8 Bromham Place, Richmond.

Since we purchased the property, and in the lead-up to taking possession on 1 September, we have been doing a few things. I have spent time thinking about the structure for the entities involved (which vehicle owns the property, collects fees, owns the furniture, etc). We’ve almost settled on a structure we are happy with.

We also got lucky when we found the previous tenant was looking to update all of their furniture as part of their move to a new office, so we were able to pick-up well over half of the furniture we need for a very reasonable price. Almost all of the furniture included in the gallery images at six8bromham.com is now ours.

One thing that was a big part of my initial vision was a decent games/entertainment area, and even before we finalised the purchase of all of that furniture we had bought a brand new Lord of the Rings Limited Edition pinball machine. That will be the pride and joy of our entertainment area, and will be accompanied by couches and bean bags, a 50 inch plasma, and games consoles. This will play a part in achieving my goal of creating a space that members will want to go to each day even if they don’t have much work to do, and in turn by just being there will hopefully lead to opportunities for work that they wouldn’t have found at home.

So back to the one thing that I mentioned that didn’t quite meet my plans, and that is the overall size of the space. My initial goal was a space of around 400 square metres, with room for up to 40 people on any day, whereas this space is smaller at 235 square metres. In terms of workspaces, we have a small area near the entrance for up to eight people (previously used as a reception area), plus a mezzanine level with desk spaces for about eight to ten. We also have room for a shared table on the mezzanine floor for another four or five people to work for shorter periods, or which could be used as a casual meeting space. Finally, back on the main floor, we have a boardroom with a ten-seat board table, and a smaller meeting room with a table suitable for up to eight.

Why is the size an issue? Without going into too much detail, when looking at the economics of a coworking space the two largest expenses are the cost of the premises (rent or interest) and the cost to run the space (whether measured in dollars or owner’s time). The cost of the premises is linked directly to revenue, in that if you double the size of the space you have the potential to take in twice as many members and double the revenue. However, there is less link between the administration cost and revenue because it doesn’t take, for example, twice as much time to run a space for thirty people as for fifteen.

For these reasons, smaller spaces have greater issues in creating a sustainable business model. Sure, a smaller space is lower risk so far as attracting enough members to fill the space is concerned, and the lower rent or interest means less potential for loss if your member numbers fall short of expectations. However, it means the per person admin cost is almost guaranteed to be higher (or time commitment per member), and you therefore need to charge each member more to break-even, all other things being equal.

So how have we chosen to address this?

Luckily we already have quite a few friends keen on taking a desk. We have decided that (at least initially) we will work on a model that doesn’t involve a lot of administration, so will only include members that we know well and are happy to give 24 hour access and a key, and will not have casuals or drop-ins. We will encourage members to help find new members until we reach break-even, and to keep costs low will ask that everyone help out by taking on a task or two themselves.

Does this fit the “traditional” coworking model? Possibly not, because it is invitation only and doesn’t fit with the ideal of openness that most coworking spaces strive for. Initially this troubled me, until I came to the conclusion that coworking is still a new idea in itself and is succeeding by breaking the rules on what a normal workspace looks like. So creating something which suits us and not feeling bound to follow the models that work for other people is not only acceptable, but absolutely the right thing to do for us.

What about the future? This invitation-only model is just to get us started. We are still very open to making this into something bigger. I am also playing with ideas for a private business club that will be based around our workspace (our “clubhouse”) and will involve social and educational events, an online community, collaboration on new business ventures, knowledge sharing, business idea brainstorming, critiques of each others’ businesses, networking opportunities, etc.

So this is only the start. Please don’t let any of this stop you from getting in touch with me to talk about our plans, or coworking in general. I’m passionate about what we are doing and love to talk about it, share our ideas, and learn from others. I’ve met some great people that first contacted me via this site, several of whom are now involved in the formation of new coworking spaces around Melbourne, and I continue to value the contact I have with them regarding the future of coworking in Melbourne.

Thanks for stopping by and, if you’re reading this, for making it this far through such a long post!

Yes, it’s quiet around here

by Marc ~ November 29, 2009

It has been a long time between updates… once again!

The reason is that nothing much has changed. I am still passionate about seeing my vision become a reality, and I have no doubt that we could make a great coworking space in the inner-eastern suburbs of Melbourne. However, without one or two equally passionate people to help me establish the space be ready to step up if something was to happen to me, I’m not willing to take money from investors… the risk, I believe, is too great.

If there is one thing in common between all of the successful spaces I have seen and read about, it seems that a couple of passionate founders is almost a prerequisite.

I’ve also been busy with my “day job”, which means it has been a little to easy to put this on the backburner until things change.

So what does this mean? It means if you are keen to see a coworking space established in or around Richmond, and you like what you read here about my vision for such a space, then please get in touch. I love meeting new people and discussing coworking, or small business in general.

I have had several people contact me over the last few months, but most are interested in the idea of being members if/when we get this off the ground and don’t have the time or passion required to help establish the space. I can understand that.

So that’s where we are at, and where we will stay until further notice. All it will take is the right one or two people to get in touch so we can spend some time together sharing our visions and making sure we’d make good partners, and we could get things rolling pretty quickly. Until then, if you are interested in is membership then keep registering your interest and we’ll be sure to keep you updated when things change.

July update

by Marc ~ July 12, 2009

It’s been too long since my last post, so here is a very short update on where things are at:

1. I just got back from a trip to the US. It was a social trip, but I did find time to visit Office Nomads in Seattle and spent some time talking to the two founders, Susan and Jacob. I only spent a couple of hours there, but in that short time I could see what a great space they’ve created. Susan and Jacob were extremely welcoming, and we had a great chat about their experiences running a coworking space. If we manage to get a space going down here we’ll be very happy to open the doors to any Office Nomads members that spend time in Melbourne.

2. The property that I have been watching for the last few months is even more uncertain that it was a couple of months ago. I’m told renovations have started, but the owner isn’t talking to potential tenants any more. I’m now a lot more open to alternative spaces as I have my doubts about this one.

3. I’m still looking for one or two people to take a leading role in establishing our space as I feel there is currently too much reliance on me. I have quite a bit of investor capital lined up, but I’m not willing to accept it until we have one or two more passionate people helping run the space and we can be sure that we will still have a functioning business if anything was to happen to me (although I obviously hope we’ll never have to rely on this!).

4. I’m meeting regularly with the main person behind another potential coworking location in inner-suburban Melbourne. They are looking at the north/western suburbs for their location, and you can find them here. We’re talking about ways to work together and don’t see ourselves as being in competition given we are planning to be located on opposite sides of the city and don’t imagine that too many coworkers will want to drive to the other side of the city every day (we’ll leave that to the corporate workers that don’t have a choice!).

Finally, if you’ve been silently following this blog it would be great if you could get in touch and let us know who you are. Whether you think you might like to become actively involved or are just watching us because you might want to become a member, then also please let me know so we have a good idea on the level of demand. As an incentive, I’m looking at options for substantial discounts for founding members (even if not active in helping run the space), but if we do this we will likely only offer those discounts to those who express interest well before we open given how important those early indications are in giving us the confidence to proceed.

That’s it for now!

Measuring success

by Marc ~ April 28, 2009

It is important to me that our coworking space be a place for likeminded people to gather and work together. To do this, particularly before we have the community up and running, I need to articulate my vision for the space so that people that share the vision will want to be part of it and those that don’t do not make the mistake of joining a community that is not right for them.

I thought that a good way to share my vision would be to list some of the measures of success that I will be using myself. Making a profit is obvious, given the current plan is to run as a for-profit business (although the desire for profit is being driven more by the need to raise capital to get the space up and running – obviously much easier if profits are forecast – than to get rich). Also, just as I would advise any of my clients, I do not believe that you can run a business with profit as the primary goal. Profit is simply one of the results of achieving a lot of other goals along the way.

Here are the key indicators of success that I will be measuring myself against. If I cannot say that I have achieved every one of these outcomes within two years I will be disappointed.

(Note: none of these goals apply for serviced offices… they are unique to the idea of coworking)

1. Every morning, when a full time member has no work to do for the day and has nothing planned other than surfing the net for a few hours, they would rather come into the space than stay at home. At worst, they will have some great company for the day and people to share lunch or a coffee with. At best, they do this because they know they have a chance to meet a new client or be invited into a discussion that could lead to a new business opportunity that they would never have seen if they’d stayed home for the day.

2. Every year I would like to see at least a couple of businesses outgrow our space and move to a more traditional office that can better accomodate their growing team. They will remain “friends of the space” and will be valuable members of our wider community, and will be proud to tell people about the important role that our community played in getting them to where they are now, while we will be proud of having watched and helped them grow.

3. When corporate employees hear about our space, it makes some of them want to leave their job and start the small business they’ve been dreaming about… confident that doing it in our space will give them a much better chance of succeeding than simply working from home or from a serviced office and in some ways we are the missing link in their business plan.

4. Every business can confidently say that they are getting 10%, 20%, even 30% or more of their revenue from clients that they have met through our community (being the 50 or 60 members, plus the hundreds of people within the business and social networks of those members), which alone pays for their membership fees many times over.

5. Every year at least one completely new business is formed based upon relationships that have started within the space. By getting smart and creative people together in the same space I can imagine that all sorts of new business ideas will be discussed, and some of them will turn into real businesses. (As a side note, for years I’ve had a dream of setting up a company with 5-10 smart people that share similar business philosophies and goals, but no idea on what we actually want the business to do. I have always figured that if you get the right people together the rest will work itself out over time. An element of this idea exists in the idea of coworking – smart people working together and coming up with different/better ideas than they would have if working alone – however not as the primary goal).

6. Businesses that invite their clients in for a meeting in the space will see a higher conversion rate in turning prospects into clients, as their clients see the benfit in having their service provider belonging to such a positive and productive community.

7. Everyone that works within the space for more than a few days takes great pleasure in telling people about things they have learned and ways they have improved their business just by being surrounded by great people every day.

8. Over time, many social groups start up within the space – runing/cycling groups, social sports teams, poker groups, online gamers, book clubs, etc.

9. Corporate employees start asking their bosses if they can work from our space for a day or two each month as a way of escaping the usual day-to-day routines, meetings, phone calls, etc, that exist in their office. (And bosses might be more open to this than the employee working from home for the day).

10. Members don’t rush to get home every afternoon the way many corporate employees do to escape work. There will regularly be members sticking around and having dinner together so they can get a couple more hours of work done, or to brainstorm that half-formed business idea they’ve been talking about for a while.

11. We attract people from a wide range of industries which creates great learning experiences for everyone, as well as numerous opportunities for people with complementary skills and experience to work together for the benefit of their clients.

12. Members are regularly telling our investors that they are getting great value from being a member, and if the investors need to put up the rates they would be okay with paying a bit more. (But at the same time, that investors are earning a decent return on their investment and would be happy to lower the membership rates – or provide more services without an increase in membership fees – as a way of thanking members for making the place such a great success).

If you can think of any other things I should add to this list of measures of success for a great coworking space, I’d love to hear them.

New investors on board

by Marc ~ April 14, 2009

I should be keeping this blog more up to date, but rest assured that just because I’m not posting every week that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty happening behind the scenes.

A number of investors have now committed, and others are currently considering their position. We’re now more than half way to having the capital required to make this happen, with a decent chance of getting over the line in the next couple of weeks. I’m sure I could do it with the investors we have, but I’m taking a conservative approach and raising more capital than we probably need. I’d much rather be returning excess capital to investors in six months than asking for more.

I’ve also met with the owner of the property that we have our eyes on, and that went well. Work on developing the property has been slightly delayed, but is due to start shortly. There is three months work to do, so even if we commit and work starts next week we wouldn’t be looking at moving in until late July at the earliest.

That’s it for now. Thanks to all who have been helping spread the word. I recently put together a powerpoint presentation that is probably an easier way to give someone a quick rundown on our plans than sending them to this site, so if you or someone you know is interested (particularly in membership as we’re getting close to being okay for investors) please let me know and I’ll send you a copy.

Just perfect

by Marc ~ March 22, 2009

I’m currently reading Purple Cow by Seth Godin, and found a quote that I think fits with coworking perfectly:

In almost every market, the boring slot is filled. The product designed to appeal to the largest possible audience already exists, and displacing it is awfully difficult. Difficult because the very innocuousness of the market-leading product is its greatest asset. How can you market yourself as “more bland than the leading brand”? The real growth comes with products that annoy, offend, don’t appeal, are too expensive, too cheap, too heavy, too complicated, too simple – too something. (Of course, they’re too too for some people, but just perfect for others.)

This is why coworking spaces rarely compete with traditional serviced offices. Like other coworking spaces, my planned space will be, for many people, too loud, lacking privacy, have too many potential distractions, lack facilities, and be too far from the CBD. Then again, some people enjoy active workspaces, want to work somewhere fun, like saving money, don’t need to be right in the middle of the CBD, and know their business will benefit infinitely more from sharing their workspace with great people than having access to the world’s best photocopier. For these people, this space will be just perfect.

Escape from Cubicle Nation – The Book

by Marc ~ March 18, 2009

Ever since my exit from the corporate world I’ve enjoyed reading Pam Slim’s posts at the Escape from Cubicle Nation blog.  Her mission, as a coach and blogger, is to teach people how to “go from corporate prisoner to thriving entrepreneur”.

It may seems strange to some that I’d talk about escaping from cubicles on a site where we are trying to get people out of their homes and back into offices.  However, it doesn’t take much to work out that the problem is not the office itself – it’s what goes on inside those corporate offices that is the problem for many of us.

Coworking, to the unitiated, seems like it’s all about the office.  However, if you spend any time reading the posts in the Coworking Google Group or on the websites of any of the leading coworking spaces, and you’ll find it’s much more about the communities they create – it just happens that some communities work better when sharing a workspace, and coworking provides that for them.

Back to Escape from Cubicle Nation.  Pam is releasing a book next month and has provided Chapter 1 for free download from her site.  Here is a direct link to the download.  Anyone who is currently thinking about leaving a corporate job, or those that have done so and need the odd reminder why they did it and whether they made the right decision, should take a few minutes to read this great opening to her book.

New forum posts

by Marc ~ February 16, 2009

There hasn’t been too much to report lately.  I’m still discussing a potential location with an agent, and obviously still working on spreading the word about the idea.  I’ve also made quite a few changes to the financial model based on feedback from friends.

I have also been adding posts to the forum as I have more ideas.  There are new posts on topics such as marketing and running the space as a for-profit organisation.  Feel free to sign up and add your thoughts.

Spreading the word

by Marc ~ January 17, 2009

I’ve added links to our site to the Coworking Wiki and posted about us in the Coworking Google Group. I’m also starting to get the word out via my networks. Hopefully we can find a few more people in the next week or so to help me spread the word, and if that goes well we can talk about whether the space I have found is interesting to others or whether we can do better. So keep spreading the word!