London, like San Francisco and New York, is a great place to start a company. Not only is it a financial and commercial epicenter, but it provides a lot of options for young companies. One of the most popular for tech startups these days is the coworking space.
These spaces are a great starting point. For a — relatively — low price, they provide startups a place to work complete with internet, meeting rooms, full facilities and often a fun breakout space. Not only that, but being part of a shared workspace provides you with an immediately available support network, mentoring pool and, often, educational member events.
There comes a time, though, when you need to leave the comfort and security that a shared workspace provides and strike out on your own. We recently moved to our very own space in Hoxton from a shared workspace and we haven’t looked back since!
3 Signs You’re Ready to Move Out
1. The only benefit to their networking events is the free beer
Now, I’m not one to knock free beer, but there comes a point when the network your coworking space can offer you becomes just too small. Networking for small companies is very targeted and even the biggest and best coworking spaces can only have a network that is so big. If everyone you meet at a networking event has heard of you or it starts to look more like a reunion than a chance to meet new people, you might want to think about moving on.
2. Privacy becomes an issue
Working in a shared space is a lot like being in the dorms at university, everyone knows everything about everyone else. When there’s only a few of you this isn’t much of an issue; you can go out to coffee or fit everyone in a meeting room when you want to discuss anything confidential. When you have 15 people, this becomes exceedingly difficult. One of the things I strongly believe in as a CEO is being open with my team. This means I want to be able to post user numbers, have group meetings about our investors and whiteboard ideas, none of which is really possible in a shared space without everyone else working there knowing about it.
3. Everything your neighbors do irritates you
Your team is unique. You’ve cultivated them, specially, to meld, compliment and fit in not just with each other, but with the culture you want for your business. When you work in close proximity with other people who have different personality traits or work schedules, clashes are inevitable. As your team grows, it becomes harder to build and maintain a company culture when there are so many distractions. We were lucky in that we didn’t have many problems, but I’ve heard some real horror stories!
There are, of course, a few things you need to be aware of before taking the plunge and getting your own space:
It’s expensive. Really expensive.
I’m not just talking about the increase in rent — it’s all the other stuff. I never realized how much stuff there was to buy: desks, chairs, screens, whiteboards, brackets, carpet, couches, dining table…the list goes on. The first weekend we moved, I racked up a total of 8 hours in IKEA! And it’s not just the stuff. You’ll suddenly find yourself paying internet, water and electric. Then there are the builders, the inevitable repairs and service people like cleaners you’ll need to contract.
It’s time consuming.
If you think you’ll be able to run both a company and an office space on your own, you’re wrong. Managing a space is a full time job. It took my assistant several months of working on nothing else to get everything ready for our move. From setting up the electricity to renting the moving van, it all takes time. Then, once you’ve moved in, there are plenty of things to coordinate: stocking the kitchen, hiring cleaners, paying bills and making sure everything is maintained properly.
So, Do the Benefits Outweigh the Costs?
It’s important to look at getting your own space the same way you would any other business decision – as an ROI. How important to your success are your people, your culture, and your autonomy? And how does that play against the bottom line of your business? After all, all the culture in the world won’t do you any good if you bankrupt yourself getting it!
For me, it was a no brainer. In order for us to grow as a company, it was essential that our culture was fully developed and clear for everyone to see. As your team grows beyond the ability to sit at a round table, you have to work harder at maintaining that culture and your own space allows you the freedom you need to do just that. Culture is extremely important to us and, thus, it was crucial that my team have a space they could call their own.
Even in such a short time the benefits have certainly outweighed the costs. Now that we have our own space, the team feels more like a team. We’re proud of our space. We can bring in clients, investors or potential hires and say with confidence: yes, this is who we are. It’s given us the opportunity to play out the uniqueness of our culture and it’s brought us together as a company.
Like many young companies we got our start in a shared workspace. We were very fortunate in that the lovely folks at TechHub did everything they could to accommodate our growth; without them we could not have gotten this far and their support has been invaluable. But at the end of the day, if you want to transition from being a small startup to a successful business, I believe that having your own space is a must. Plus, it’s a lot of fun!