What inspired you to start your co-working space?
Ten years ago, I was setting up a new engineering business. I knew I needed a professional office space, due to tradition, clients and because I was competing for professional work. Ten years ago anyone working from home was viewed sceptically, and that’s probably only recently changed with COVID restrictions. I was on my own, and I was only just starting my client base, so I didn’t have a lot of money to spend. But, I didn’t want to be locked into a place I felt uncomfortable, it had to be somewhere I enjoyed going, you know, the simple things, access to natural light, feel comfortable in inviting clients. I wasn’t able to afford that, and short-term leases didn’t really exist back then, or if they did, they were windowless boxes. So, I leased the building and sublet parts of the office out to professionals who just wanted a dedicated professional environment. Eventually, rebranding it as LogicSpace.
Almost everyone’s work environment has changed with COVID-19, how has this impacted your business?
Due to COVID-19, I now have two target markets to consider. Firstly, those whose home environment is not conducive to a working environment. Then, the companies whose commercial office space cannot accommodate social distancing regulations. LogicSpace in this case, can be an overflow alternative.
There has always been the market of people who have worked from home, who have eventually grown out of this space, or wanted to upgrade their professional image. This was obviously easier to market prior to COVID-19, but I don’t see this as a bad thing. Co-working is all about not needing a centralised professional working space, people can fulfil their requirements wherever they feel comfortable. Especially in modern times where a lot of roles can be fulfilled remotely. COVID-19 has almost eliminated the concern of the employer that working from home is not a professional environment or image, and without COVID that may have been a slow process, that could have never been fully tested.
Overall, would you say that you have been hindered by COVID or helped?
I still feel a hesitation in the community to embrace co-working as an alternative for them. A large number of people are still working from home, or have returned part time. I think a portion of people may find that home working situation is better; they might have children in the house, have cramped conditions, a distracting environment, whatever the situation, over time, there will be a portion of people who will think, ‘this isn’t working as well as it could be, but going back to the office might not be the best solution.’ I believe over the next 6-12 months, people will start exploring co-working spaces more than perhaps they did before.
Can you tell me about the culture of your co-working spaces?
LogicSpace is a small professional space, mostly 9-12-month bookings, from people who already have an established business or are associated with a larger business. There is just a handful of us, so it’s a regular crowd and there is always someone to ask questions to. From a government role, myself, I noticed in a co-working space, there is more of a positive and forthcoming exchange of information, than you would typically find in a corporate environment. We are also 200 metres from Mooloolaba beach and surrounded by cafes and restaurants.
What do you think is the most important lesson that you learned through COVID-19 and what do you think it could teach other entrepreneurs, who are facing this recessive environment?
Firstly, don’t panic. If we panic, we start making decisions under stress, these aren’t decisions we would have made if we had taken a more calm and reflective view on things. Expect challenges will arise, take it for what it is and deal with it.
People who are starting their journey, it’s really challenging to start, mostly due to cash flow, and this is going to be a battle for a long period of time. They need to be prepared for whether this storm of cash flow management is something they can weather for a number of years. Have a buffer, have savings or downscale your lifestyle. It’s easy to get caught up on the romance of starting a new business and the independence it gives you, but it’s difficult to sustain that over a period of time if you don’t have a buffer, additional revenue or savings.
Spend little on the big things.
You talk about lean management, I know you’re a business coach as well, are there any books you would recommend for starting a business?
There is a classic The E-myth, it is a classic text that warns someone who has a trade or technical skill who wants to start their own business from assuming that their skill will translate to owning a business. But it’s a different skill set and that is where a lot of issues arise.
Really, I recommend everyone get a coach to guide them through the running of the business. Focus on someone who has done what you are looking to do and are interested in supporting someone like themselves in helping them avoid some of the pitfalls and some of the lessons they have learned themselves.