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Fiona and Monika: Coworking Space Software Integration

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Welcome to yet another very exciting edition of the Coworking values podcast. For this episode we chat with Fiona Ross of Pink Scottie. She works with SMEs in coworking, construction, and hospitality. Focusing on core duties while understanding business needs and identifying appropriate technical solutions. And Monika Solak, Head of Sales for Nexudus, a white-label technology that helps coworking spaces simplify operations. 

And today, we are going to be talking about what are important things that people should consider when opening their coworking space. And how coworking space software integration helps you manage and keep track of your coworking space.

How can you launch your coworking space without messing it up? What should coworking owners do first?

Fiona:

Before you buy a building, make sure you understand it, and if you’re new to creating a coworking or Kofi’s situation in education, talk to other people, go to other places, since you need to know, have you thought about what kind of cooking facility you’ll need?¬†

A basic T-shape? Is it really necessary to have a kitchen? How many losses do you need to make in order to fulfil your capacity? So, how much room do you need for that? 

So, in order to understand what kind of location I’m looking for, you must first ask questions and discuss ideas. Is a front door really necessary? Isn’t it nice to be somewhere else?¬†

This area is buzzing with activity. The first step is to figure out where you’re going and who’s going to see it. Is it my goal to create a wonderful neighbourhood atmosphere in order to attract residents? Do I need additional space? Is this a highly specialised market?¬†

If I search for a niche? Is there anything more I need to get started with a podcast? Is it necessary for me to build it? 

So, I think that all of those questions contribute to creating the environment you want. To guarantee that there is adequate space and facilities. It will assist you in getting to where you need to go.

Monika:

That’s my initial suggestion. Consider who you want to attract to your place as your target client. And then you look at the building, but you also look at the technology linked to it.¬†

I’ve seen several new Coworking space owners come to us with no experience and no idea what they want to accomplish.¬†

First, concentrate on what you want, your process, how you want to manage it, and what you want to look like when you open your doors. 

And you frequently spend on technology that doesn’t fit your procedures. Then you have a structure or technology in your location that doesn’t suit your company. Because your technology should suit your company, not vice versa.

Links:

Fiona on LinkedIn

Monika on LinkedIn

Nexudus

This Week In Coworking

SALTO Systems

SALTO Systems Podcast

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Kristine  0:23  

Hi it’s Kristin from Saulteaux. We are very happy to be paring with the Coworking Assembly for this podcast episode. Saulteaux opens the doors to 1000s of coworking, co-living workplaces in the world. We believe community is the key, and by taking part in this podcast, you’ll be able to connect more with like-minded people around the world, and to help build a coworking and co-living community, globally. Take a look at the link in the show notes to find out more, and we hope to meet you in person soon. Enjoy the episode.

 

Bernie J Mitchel  0:55  

Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome to yet another really exciting episode of the Coworking Values podcast. Europe’s greatest coworking podcast, maybe the only podcast, but in the studio today I’m over the moon we have Monika and Fiona. I’m going to let them introduce themselves. So, Monika. What are you known for, and what would you like to be known for?

 

Monika  1:16  

Those are two different things. I’m part of the Nexudus team, probably a lot of you are already familiar with Nexudus. We are helping coworking spaces, streamline their operations with their white labeled platform. I am in Nexudus for the last four years so, I think¬† it’s been a while. And during that time, I really got into the industry. I mean, of course we had the pandemic on the way, so we did have those emotional calls with Bernie and the rest of the folks from London and the coworking industry. I’m really glad to be here and basically share a bit of my knowledge for everyone who is looking at opening their new space.

 

Bernie J Mitchel  1:59  

Monica, we’ve only got 20 minutes so, we’re going to share all your knowledge. Fiona, what are you known for and what would you like to be known for?

 

Fiona  2:10  

I’m Fiona, I am a consultant, and I work with coworking spaces and SMEs predominantly around business process technology and how you can make your life easier by using both of those things to achieve consistency and generally make your member experience amazing, and your admin team experience better. What I want to be known for, that’s a good question. I’m not sure I know the answer to that, apart from, I guess being good at helping people get started.

 

Bernie J Mitchel  2:46  

You are definitely good at that. You’ve saved my life several times the last couple of years. We were all at the Urban MBA London Fashion Week fashion show at the Ministries Coworking Space in town.¬† For those of you, if you go back to other episodes, it’s Kofi talking about Urban MBA, which is a youth charity that does a 12-week course helping people start their own business, start their project, whatever it is. So, we do a lot with that. Urban MBA has a building at the moment but it’s looking for another building which is going to be kitted out right from the start, and Fiona is a trustee for Urban MBA now, I made her join and, that’s what she’s going to help us with.¬†

So, there’s a lot of people who come to me and say, how do I open a coworking space? What do I need to know? And I didn’t know any of that, so stop asking me, because I know I give the idea that I might know but I have no clue, but that’s why we’ve got this podcast, so I can send people like you that thing, rather than me pretending. Monika and Fiona are going to tell us how to get started. So, imagine you’ve got the building already, where do you start? What’s the first thing not to do or to do?

 

Fiona  4:21  

Well actually the first thing to do, you do before you get your building, which is making sure that you have understood and if you’re new to setting up a coworking space or education space. Talking to other people, going and seeing the spaces because you need to know, have you thought about what kind of kitchen facility you need? Do we need a basic T point, do we need an actual kitchen? How many loos do you need? The kind of capacity you’re going to have, all that cleaning because that will obviously dictate how big a space you’re going to need. So, there’s a whole host of questions and brainstorming that needs to go on to it to understand what kind of space I’m looking for.¬†

So, I want my own front door, am I happy to be in another building? There’s a whole lot of stuff around there so, I think number one is trying to understand what your space is, who am I pitching my space to, am I going for a really great neighborhood space where I’m looking to attract local, am I wanting something that’s more open and am I looking at a niche? If I’m looking at a niche, do I need special facilities. do I need any podcast studios? So, I think all of those questions to start with, actually start to dictate what kind of space you’re looking for to make sure that it has the right space and the right facilities. It’s going to enable you to get to what you need to get it.

 

Monika  5:51  

Yeah, absolutely. I agree. I think that’s the first thing you need to think about, who is your target customer? Essentially, who you want to attract to your space. And based on that you will look at the building as I mentioned, but you will also look at the technology connected to it. I have seen a lot of new owners of the coworking spaces without experience that come to us, and they do not know what they want to do. And that’s the first thing you need to focus on, what you want to do, what your process will be, how you want to manage it, how you want it to look like when you open your doors, because then you come without a clue and you often invest in the technology that is not best for you because it doesn’t match the processes that you have and then you end up with either the building or the technologies in your space, they basically do not fit your business. And that’s the thing that your technology should fit your business, not the other way around.

 

Fiona  7:00  

Absolutely. I think that it’s like,¬† what drove you to want to open a coworking space,¬† is it that you really love your local community and you’re trying to provide a service to that? Is it very commercial? So, all those things will also inform that kind of thing. I think that’s it, to understand first, and then, how big a building you want, and then we can get into the detail of actually finding a building and knowing what we need for that. And then it’s going to be getting into the detail of then what we’re offering, and how we’re going to do it. And there’s all sorts of things that you have to do in stages. So, I think with coworking in terms of the technology, I think the coworking management solution tends to be the central thing, and then everything else you do, you want to basically be able to coordinate in with that.¬†

So, once you’ve had, again the whole thing about what are your requirements, are you offering member events? Do you want to build a community as part of the, not just physical community, but do you want people to be able to message each other? Discussion groups or that kind of thing which obviously affects what solution you go for. Are you wanting to do automated billing? There are some very boring questions you have to ask yourself, as well as the lighter ones, yes, but they are crucial. I think the next step, almost, is understanding what you need from coworking management and how you’re going to run your space, and then that will then dictate to a certain extent.

 

Bernie J Mitchel  8:54  

Monika, are there things that people come to you with, and they’re like, oh I want to have a big community, I don’t want to have this, I don’t have that and what are the things that people completely forget that are really important to go in with a space, or set up with tech?

 

Monika  9:10  

Yeah, that’s a very good question. I think they often do not track what is the technology that the landlord provides them. So, they basically come to us already with some contractors that they end with some technology that they purchase before tracking at all whether that technology can be connected and can be integrated with any other software. I mean, we are not talking about Nexudus only, but in any solution that you want to use. So, I would say that before you make any decision on any investment in terms of technology like door access control system, Wi-Fi infrastructure, etc. Take a look at the market, at the coworking software solutions as an example to see with which solutions they integrate, because otherwise you may end up with a solution that was very costly. It’s impossible or very costly to change, and it doesn’t integrate with anything available on the market. And then, you may end up with the experience for your members that you didn’t want. You need to basically sit down and kind of do a bit like a map of what you want to offer, and which technology will provide that, and map before doing any decisions.¬†

The challenge is when sometimes if you are actually building your own building, or you have freedom of choosing the solutions, that’s great because then you can choose a technology that will straightaway connect to your software, and by that, I mean, it’s already built integration and the software provider is responsible for maintaining the integration. So, that’s the best scenario, because if you end up with something that maybe no longer provides, then you cannot change it. You may need to work on their integration by yourself using API, I mean you may have Fiona’s help as an example to integrate different solutions which is a great idea if you don’t have this out of the box. Because those things are costly, and most of the time you decide on them once, and it will take you years to change them to something else and gain all the capital to actually invest into changing the locks as an example.

 

Bernie J Mitchel  11:42  

How long does it take to do that mapping? Is it like an hour thing or a whole day long thing? How much time should I allocate to that because I know that’s a really wise thing to do. But I never know how to actually do it.

 

Monika  11:58  

I think as long as it takes. It may take a week, it may take months, depending how complex and how many services you want to serve, what kind of technology you want to implement in your space, because you can go only with must haves. So, there are certain things that you need to do regardless of what kind of business you’re running.¬†

I mean, you need to have a place to input your customer database, you need to have a secure building, you need to make it possible for people to pay you, I mean that’s, those are the three most important things, and everything else that you want to offer basically will take more and more time so this is what we are discussing when onboarding customers that okay, if you just go with an excellent solution, it may take this and this much time but then you are building some custom integrations and you need to put some more time on the planning and implementation. I think Fiona may have a good insight on that.¬†

 

Fiona  12:57  

I think as well, it depends. If you have a really strong idea of what your space is going to be about, that kind of process is quicker, because you know that I want to be offering these kinds of events, I know I want people to go through this experience of this is how they come in, this is how they dealt with all this. Whereas if you’re more vague about what you’re actually offering, you’ve¬† got to work that bit out first, and then it will inform a lot of it as well. It’s going to be down to what expertise you have.¬†

So, I have a, amongst other things I do have a background in construction, I used to be a fish out project manager, so I understand how buildings work, and I understand what you need to think about when you’re doing a fit out of the space and you’re thinking about all these different little things, so I can very quickly go through my list of what I think about this and this. If you’ve never done that before, unless you’ve got someone on board who does know about that, you’re kind of clutching at straws. And again, there might be things you miss, because you just don’t have that experience yourself and not many people do¬† have it across the board.¬†

So, I think knowing where to go and get some help and who to talk to, I mean this is why we have London Coworking Assembly. It’s great for people who are starting up because there’s lots of people in there who are ready to help them and give some advice. But I think the more of that you have, the more of your own experience, your own clear plans and the more you can talk to the right people that will obviously speed you up and help you make better decisions. But it takes what it takes.

 

Monika  14:46  

I’m afraid I absolutely agree as well with you, Fiona about an expert. So, I personally love working with Fiona because the idea is that not every coworking space owner is an expert in everything, especially the technology. So, if you’re not a tech geek, I mean you find yourself a consultant that will understand your needs, and that will put this project for you, together. I know that there’s some upfront costs for it, but this investment is the best. It’s being sure that when you open the coworking space from day one, you have someone there who understands all of the technology aspects, and also the business aspects of your space.¬†

So, you can basically sleep at night rather than dealing with everything that’s maybe a bit abstract for you at the first place. I think that consultants are really an invaluable resource for you. All sorts of consultants, like Fiona, the technology business consultants, marketing consultants, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help and pay for the people who can do it great for you because you are building an important business that will probably define your life and you want to serve great community. So, hiring the right people, even if they’re external people will actually put you into the right direction, and will ensure that you have a success.

 

Bernie J Mitchel  16:32  

I’ve been in so many coworking spaces where they were like seven things are signed up for contracts, they didn’t understand whether that’s with furniture or technology, and then they want to move solution and they can’t because they’re using like a Betamax video system when you should be using a mp3 player. And it doesn’t happen so much nowadays but in the early 10 years ago. So many people opened coworking spaces and some people did it really well, they would hack together. They’d run it from a spreadsheet, they basically set up some picnic tables in a room, and that’s how they rolled, and I remember being at one Coworking Europe Conference and we were having our good friend Hektor who was leading a session on coworking software technology, and there were so many people in the room going, oh, you can do that in Google Docs and Zootopia. If I said her name, you’d know who it is, but she was¬† just really rude. I was sitting here going, you can do it on Google Docs, but I think like how on earth can you run a business without software? What is wrong with you people? And everyone piled in, it was a big fight and the software won.

 

Monika  17:47  

Why also the software won is because people start to value their own time and they understand the costs that they need to incur if they don’t have a software. So, there are many different areas where you can really save money on. First of all, you don’t spend time on putting it in Google Sheets, right, which is the manpower that costs, it’s either the cost of your employee that you hire just to update your Excel sheets, or it is your own time that maybe doesn’t cost, maybe you don’t have a price on it, but you should price your time, and when you calculate how much time you spend and what would be your hourly rate, you will realize that the most of the technology solutions are actually much cheaper than that per month.¬†

Yeah, and I mean personally I wouldn’t question whether you need that technology solution, or rather, which technology solution you need, because that’s the question you need to ask yourself basically which software will be best for you, or which integrations will work for you best but not whether I should go this way at all.

 

Fiona  18:57  

Another thing I think is whenever you’re into these manual things like, yes you can run a space on spreadsheets and email, but the potential for error and missing things is huge because there’s no reminders, there’s no tracking, there’s no reporting. Your community managers, generally if they’re a good community manager, they want to be spending their time face to face, building relationships. They don’t want to be spending their life in front of spreadsheets trying to type things in and not make errors and all that so there’s a real overhead in, I think as well your member experience isn’t as great.¬†

The coworking software, whether it’s Nexudus or whether it’s one of those others. They have member portals, they have apps, they have all sorts of great things that make your member experience better. And the whole thing of being able to integrate your print solution so that your members can just you know,¬† here’s my luck,¬† oh I can print, oh I can get my access control working, I’m on the Wi-Fi. All of these things just make such a massive difference to the success of your space, for your team as well as team members.

 

Bernie J Mitchel  20:13  

Absolutely. I’m sure this will be the first of many conversations like this, folks. We should have you back as we progress the empire building. So, Fiona and Monika, where can we find you online?

 

Monika  20:28  

Please connect with me on LinkedIn. Actually, you can find me easily by typing Nexudus. It’s Monica Solak.

 

Bernie J Mitchel  20:40  

 Thanks very much. And Fiona, where are you?

 

Fiona  20:44  

Exactly the same, LinkedIn. I am Helpfully-Fiona-Ross-London. 

 

Bernie J Mitchel  20:52  

If you type Bernie into LinkedIn, that’s where you get me. So, thank you very much for your time today, and remember folks, community is key. And if you go to coworkingassembly.eu and hang around for I think it’s like 7.5 seconds at the moment, a little box will pop up and you can put your email address in there, and we’ll email you everything coworking in Europe. There are events, there’s a project we’re working on, on how to connect with all the right people around, and the other thing I would really recommend, as we’ve been talking about tech, is our friend Hektor runs a newsletter that is nearly as good as our one called This Week in Coworking where he goes around on a bicycle around the world and collects news from everybody and puts it in an email. So, take care, be careful out there, it is a jungle and thank you very much for your time today.




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