Spotify. Instagram. Uber.
What do they have in common? They’re are incredibly successful multi-million dollar companies. What you may not know is that all three got their start in coworking spaces. In fact, we were fortunate to have Uber’s (and Lyft’s) Phoenix operations in our coworking space for a time.
Obviously, not every business operating out of a shared space is going to become a giant like these companies. Even so, many small businesses start in a shared space and blossom into strong, healthy organizations. That’s thanks, in part, to the unique and collaborative environment offered by shared spaces.
What’s better, though, is when companies with roots in shared spaces use their success to influence work culture trends.
From Humble Coworking Beginnings
Student Maid is a cleaning company based in Gainesville, Florida. They hire college students to clean client homes. Kristen Hadeed, CEO of Student Maid, built a high-profile speaking career as a motivational speaker on company culture. She’s been interviewed by The New York Times and CNN. Universities, companies, and conferences around the country seek her as their keynote speaker. One of her first Ted Talks has had over 2 million views.
How does the CEO of a company that hires college kids to clean homes become a national benchmark for company culture?
In her book, Permission To Screw Up, Hadeed attributes her success to the coworking space that helped launch her business:
“When I first signed the lease, I thought my monthly payment of $96 and change was getting me just a place to set up some desks and store our cleaning supplies. What I ended up with was worth so much more.”
Hadeed details the valuable collaboration and mentorship she found in the coworking space. The businesses in the space met regularly to brainstorm solutions to shared business problems. This led to lasting, professional relationships with other owners. Her inspiring teamwork and collaborative mindset, which was developed at a coworking space, is part of what made Kristen and her Student Maid story influential in the culture development arena.
Company Culture in a Shared Space
When I read about stories like that, I wonder which companies at our coworking and co-manufacturing spaces will become equally as influential as they grow. I see companies like Point In Time Studios working amazingly hard to produce great work. They constantly innovate and test new technologies, and balance it all with a fun-loving culture that keeps people coming back. I watch small businesses like Moxie Girl (ironically, a company similar to Student Maid) that really understand how important it is to have a greater purpose behind the work they do. These companies know that their physical workspace doesn’t define their culture. Rather, they understand that the people and purpose do that job. However, their presence in a shared space presents an opportunity for others to learn and grow.
For our part as the provider of shared spaces, we take pride in welcoming high-caliber professionals into our spaces. We seek out people who care about developing their culture in a conscious way. Over the years, we’ve noticed a few common traits that these businesses share as they strive to build a strong company culture. Namely:
They unite their team in the space
A lot of companies in our spaces support remote working. Even so, companies that really value culture development make an effort to bring their people together in the shared space. We support them in this endeavor. We offer community events, lunches, and trainings to facilitate face-to-face connections. Culture-focused companies in our spaces promote team get togethers, organize a bring your dog to work day, or partake in the occasional Nerf gun fight. These are just a few of the ways culture-focused organizations try to unite their team in the shared space. It rubs off on other companies, too!
They empower their people
Culture-focused companies give their teams the freedom to learn and grow together. Even if that means engaging with their coworking neighbors, it empowers people to collaborate and create with those around them. Amazing things can happen when companies do this. Instagram, Spotify, and Uber weren’t created in a vacuum. Their game-changing platforms required collaboration between smart and curious team members. Empowered teams in a shared space come up with some great ideas to promote the community’s culture. This helps all of the businesses working in the space.
They learn from their environment
Companies operating out of a shared space get to physically SEE what others are doing. When teams are present and feel empowered, they learn a lot from what they see because their heads aren’t buried in their laptops. They recognize the human component of culture. Companies looking to develop their culture can study what others do or use resources tailored to culture development. Seeing and learning from the world around you is a critical component for culture growth.
Building Healthy Culture
Just because you grow company culture from the humble roots of a shared space doesn’t make it a healthy one. The scrappiness that comes from starting in a shared space doesn’t always translate to a balanced environment that supports growth. It’s great to get your team together. Empowering them through trust is awesome. Challenging them to learn from the companies around them is fantastic. If these things aren’t done with a focus on building a healthy culture, you’ll eventually hit a ceiling.
To build your organization’s culture in a healthy way, I’d suggest getting some foundational knowledge under your belt so you know what is (and what is not) good and healthy culture.