It was amazing to offer the closing keynote speech at the IABC Minnesota Convergence Summit last month. So, I wanted to share some of the ideas I discussed in a series of blog posts. Here’s the first! Hope you find them helpful.
Every company battles the talent war to hire employees who are smart, innovative, strategic, driven, curious, creative, resourceful, and build context quickly.
And so, I’m left wondering why so often in corporate America, we then go on to treat those employees like robots?
Companies act is if these people don’t have personal lives, hobbies, babies, dreams of their own, or parents who need care. It's as though employees aren't supposed to have fears and vulnerabilities, friendships and relationships, bodies that get sick or need exercise, trauma and grief, or brains that just need to unplug and recharge for a while.
These are well, just really human experiences; the cost of doing business while inhabiting a human form. And yet, we act as though they have nothing to do with business.
However, one day, in the not too distant future, any job that can be done better, faster, cheaper by a robot/machine/algorithm will be. And then what will we need all these pesky humans for?
As it turns out, some pretty cool stuff.
Plenty has been written on the subject, and a recent Forbes article outlines some of the very human qualities that will be most in demand in the workplace of the future, including:
And since we’ve got some pretty big opportunities and challenges ahead of us in the business world of planet Earth, it looks like we’ll be needing all those smart, driven, curious, resourceful, passionate, creative, strategic and critical thinking, innovative knowledge workers to be firing on all cylinders.
The jobs we’ll need humans to do will require employees who are 100% Human. We will need to draw on the very best within our people in order to grow our businesses. That means that our workplaces will also have to, not just adapt, but transform into human-friendly ecosystems.
We won’t be working harder or smarter, we’ll be working in a way that enables humans to thrive, and do their very best work.
Communications professionals have a critical role to play in this transformation.
We can be the change we want to see in business.
What change do you want to see?
In the last post, we talked about asking ‘why’ what you’re communicating is important, and how whatever it is you’re communicating will help your colleagues contribute to your company’s phenomenal growth and success. Now we’re going to learn an amazingly simple trick for making your communications less spammy and annoying, and more interesting to your colleagues.
Remember: Know, Feel, Do
Every time you are communicating something, ask yourself what you want the intended recipient to Know, Feel and Do as a result of your message.
Here’s an easy example: it’s time to let people know about the upcoming company barbeque.
Obviously, as we’ve learned, you’re asking yourself why it’s important for people to know about the upcoming BBQ and that they should attend. The answer is that there are a lot of new people who’ve joined the company recently, and there hasn’t really been a good opportunity for them to get to know their colleagues. If people know each other, they can work together more effectively, and therefore really hit the ground running in their new roles.
Great. Good reason.
So, you’re going to send an email to everyone to tell them about the event. Thinking just about the veteran employees for a moment, ask yourself, what do you want them to:
Know: We are having a BBQ on July 23rd at the park to welcome our newer colleagues, and you should come.
Feel: A BBQ, cool! That sounds like fun, and it will be a great opportunity to get to know some of the new people who work here.
Do: Excitedly attend the BBQ and spend time getting to know their new colleagues, share their experience, and build relationships that will help those new people hit the ground running.
Once you know what you want people to Know, Feel and Do, you will craft your message differently than if you hadn’t asked Why, and you hadn’t thought about what the desired outcome of the message was for you and your company. Make sense?
Who cares what people Feel?
At the time of this article’s publication, let’s assume that most of your colleagues are humans, and not robots. Taking a human employee’s emotional world into account when you communicate is helpful because you are likely to get a better result for Do.
Some companies haven’t quite figured this out yet, but in the 21st century, the smart, talented colleagues you’re trying to communicate with probably don’t respond super well to a ‘Command and Control’ approach, and don’t really like being ordered around for no good reason. Accounting for, and appealing to, their feelings is going to be a far more effective strategy.
It also goes back to ‘Why.’ You want them to go to the BBQ to spend time getting to know their colleagues. If they show up at the park ‘feeling’ excited to be there, you’re going to get a better result on your ‘Why’ (know each other, collaborate better, be more productive quickly, make us more money) than if you tried something like ‘Thou shalt go to the park, eat hot dogs, and talk to your colleagues for a specified duration on Saturday.’
But wait, there’s more...
Know, Feel, Do also works on boring stuff too, which is handy. For example, IT changes:
Know: There’s going to be a system outage on Thursday while we upgrade some important applications
Feel: That’s cool that they’re upgrading those applications, I’m glad we’re getting that done this week.
Do: Make a plan to arrange work around announced system outage times to stay busy and productive, even when I can’t be working in those applications.
See? It almost makes it sound exciting! Almost...
Want to catch up on previous posts in this series? Check out why employee communications matters to your business, and why it's important to ask Why you're communicating at all.
Still need help communicating with your employees? Relax, we're here to help.
On April 24, join us for a LIVE Q&A Call and get all your employee communications questions answered.
Every purpose-driven company knows that its ‘Why’ is important, but too many startups and small businesses miss the opportunity to accelerate their own growth by articulating not only the ‘Why,’ but the ‘How.’
For a young, or rapidly growing company, the need to articulate their Mission, Vision and Values is even more urgent. Taking a beat to think about your culture and values may seem like a luxury, but the most successful companies know that there are some very real reasons why this matters to their business.
In fact, those reasons are pretty compelling – like, for example, making more money, hiring (and keeping!) the best talent, etc.
But beneath that, there are actually two ‘best-kept-secret’ reasons why a CEO/Founder/Business Leader will want to get on this pronto.
1) Your life will be so much easier Your job as a leader becomes is simplified once you know, and can clearly explain to your growing team:
This, in essence, is what your Mission, Vision and Values are all about.
Once this is defined, it’s much easier to hire the right people, and let the wrong ones go. It’s also easier to manage your team because they understand the ‘big picture’ and your values serve as a sort of ‘social contract.’
With clear Mission, Vision and Values statements, everyone (including you!) has a built in decision-making framework. “Should I do it this task way, or that way? Hmmmm...we’ve got a value called ‘Customer First,’ so I think I’ll prioritize that piece of client work...” (See? Easier to manage!)
You will also make better decisions when it comes to designing and delivering your products and services. You, and everyone who works for you, will have a much clearer, more intuitive understanding of every aspect of your brand.
2) Articulating your Mission, Vision & Values is easier than you think
The truth is, almost every leader I’ve ever met actually already knows what their company is about, they know why they want people to come work every day, and they know what they want it to be like to work together.
It’s why they built the company in the first place, or why they felt compelled to take the helm. Leaders just don’t always have the language or bandwidth to be able to articulate them.
The good news, I’ve found, is that it doesn’t actually take much prompting to get a leadership team talking excitedly about why they’re passionate about their work, and how they envision the future of their company. It’s actually why they’re called, well, leaders.
Voila! Before and After
The difference between a company that has thought through, and articulated their Mission, Vision and Values, is a night and day from one that hasn’t.
Companies without this essential building block of culture suffer from an unmistakable sense of chaos, overwhelm and panic that inevitably seeps into their customer experience, hiring, work quality, and leadership. It’s a little like spinach in your teeth at a cocktail party; everyone can see it but you...
On the other hand, there is a sense of lightness, focus, confidence, and above all, clarity that shines through in leaders – and employees – who understand their ‘Why’ and their ‘How.’ It’s infectious, and helps a company attract and retain the best talent, innovate ahead of the competition, and build a business that’s truly set up for long-term success.
Where would you rather work?
Still feeling overwhelmed? Get in touch with us. Honestly, we help companies like yours with this all the time. Raring to go on your own? We love that about you! Grab our free Kick Start Guide to Creating your Mission, Vision & Values.
It’s easy to understand why business leaders get excited about creating a great culture – the benefits are huge!
Strong culture leads to great employee engagement. It's well documented that companies with better employee engagement enjoy oh-so-many dividends, including better productivity, innovation, customer experience, employee retention, profitability, safety and work quality.
Not to mention that it’s a lot easier to recruit top talent in a tight labor market when your team is shouting from the rooftops about how amazing it is to work for you.
However, culture isn’t a ‘once in a while’ thing, and it’s not like an adorable puppy you get for Christmas. Culture isn’t ‘cute when it’s new,’ and then just kind of a pain in the neck the rest of the year.
Why not? Ummmm, please see above list of upsides – those are 365-days-a-year kinds of benefits! And, like that cute puppy, if your feed and water it properly, your culture will grow big and strong over time. Give it some love, and your culture will become your very best friend as a leader.
Fortunately, there are lots of not-so-hard ways to nurture your culture. An easy place to start is with your Mission, Vision and Values statements – they’re kind of like your road map.
Tell the truth: Do your Mission, Vision and Values statements live in a drawer somewhere, and yet your wonder why they’re not ‘working?’ It’s ok. These things happen. It’s easy to get back on track.
Here are three top, easy and painless tips for using your Mission, Vision and Values to help you build and maintain an amazing culture.
Spoiler alert! None of them include ping pong tables and beer:
Over time, your people will understand that ‘this is the way we do things around here,’ which is a strong starting point for building the culture you want – and need – to grow.
There’s another big plus to consistently communicating your values; it actually makes your job as a leader easier. Just like the decision-making criteria described for employees, the same is true for you.
Just like your puppy doesn’t turn into a giant dog overnight, your values-driven culture also takes time to mature. The good news is, just like those daily trips to the dog park, the journey can be a whole lot of fun.
Interested in diving deeper into your company's Mission, Vision and Values with someone who knows the ropes? Drop us a line! Want to get started right away? Click here to receive a free Kick Start Guide to creating your own Mission, Vision and Values statements!
Imagine you’re an employee. OK, not hard. And imagine that you’re getting a million emails about things that don’t really seem to matter, or pings on your collaboration platform about random, useless stuff you don’t really care about. Also, not hard because that’s mostly what people think of when they think of employee communications.
Spamming colleagues is not the same thing as communicating
Shoving information that you (or your boss, or HR, or IT, and so on) down people’s throats is not employee communications. I mean, it is, technically speaking, and that sure is the way most companies go about it, but it’s not really very helpful to anyone.
It’s kind of a waste of your time, because no one’s going to read or listen to what you’re saying, and you’ll probably just annoy them, and then they’ll be less likely to listen to you ever, ever, ever.
Why is this important?
Still people need to know stuff, right? Probably, so it will be really helpful to start by asking ‘why.’ In subsequent articles, we’ll explore how asking ‘why’ will affect what, how, and when you communicate, but for now, let’s keep it high-level…
Let’s say your CEO, or another senior leader in your company, has decided that people need to know about some changes to the business model. She’s preparing a long boring email, or thinking of doing an all-hands meeting to tell everyone.
Ask yourself ‘Why’ do people need to know about this change? At first, it might seem pretty obvious, because the CEO said so. But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll be able to help her get the message out in a much more powerful way. One that cuts to the chase, and helps people understand why this change is important.
You are creating a ‘line of sight’
There is one really important reason why we communicate with employees -- we want and need them to understand how what they do every day at work helps the company achieve its big picture goals.
We want employees to have a clear line of sight from me, here in my role, doing my thing, to the phenomenal growth and success of the company as a whole. When people ‘get that,’ they are better, happier, more productive, innovative employees who can actually contribute to that phenomenal growth in a meaningful way. Cool, huh?
‘Why’ applies to everything in communications
It’s actually the same principle with all those (potentially) boring emails from HR or IT -- why are they important? Because usually they include some action that employees are supposed to take to help the company run better. ‘Do this, don’t do this, do more of this, go here, just so you know…’ Good communications should always have a ‘Call to Action.’
If you get in the habit of asking yourself why something is important? How does it fit into the big picture of our company’s success, it will shape your thinking about how to approach actually communicating whatever it is.
Think first, then communicate
Weird that there’s all this thinking about communications that has to happen way before you ever communicate anything, huh? Yup. That’s the really important part.
As your company grows, and as you grow in your role, you’ll want to create strategies and plans for what and how to communicate, but for the moment, it’s helpful to just start thinking strategically. It’s an easy way to start organizing and prioritizing employee communications in your brain.
It’s good for you to ask yourself ‘Why’ it’s important to communicate something, but be careful about asking your CEO ‘Why’ a lot of times. Sometimes it can be perceived as challenging or combative, two qualities CEOs generally aren’t crazy about. Over time, you will learn how to extract this information from them in a subtle, ninja-like way. Promise.
If you missed the first article in this series, you can check it out here!
This is an ongoing series, so stay tuned for the next installment.
Hmmm… You actually already have a job that keeps you pretty busy, and now, as your company has grown, someone (who shall remain nameless) has asked you to also pick up employee communication. They may also have called it employee engagement, or internal communications, or something that sort of sounds like that.
The only problem is...you’re not quite sure where to start, and you’re not entirely sure you’ll know if you’ve been successful, and sometimes it all seems a little overwhelming, if you’re being honest…
Employee Communications is a thing
Fear not. The truth is that in larger companies, employee communications is actually a whole job unto itself. In fact, there are whole teams that do nothing but oversee employee communications. This is because how employees understand their role in a company — how what they do every day affects the bottom line — has a big impact on that bottom line itself.
Think about when you’ve been new in a job, and haven’t really been entirely clear on what’s going on, how things work, or even what it is exactly that you’re supposed to be doing. When you don’t have that bigger picture, that broader context, you can’t perform at your best — it’s a frustrating feeling!
Once you understand how all the pieces fit together, you can, to use a technical term, crush it. You do your job better, faster, smarter and with more energy and enthusiasm than you did when you were, well, kind of clueless.
Employee Communication plays a big role in helping people crush it at work
So, now you can start to see that employee communication is kind of a big deal. And that means that you have a big opportunity to be a total rock star at work.
But wait, there’s more.
Want to know specifically how employee communications affects your company’s bottom line? It has to do with the connection between employee communication and, what is often called employee engagement. Employee engagement is a much larger topic that we’ll address is future articles, but basically, it’s a way of measuring how much better and harder someone is willing to work.
That may sound kind of transactional at first, but here’s the thing -- employee engagement is linked to some big ways that companies either make or lose money when it comes to their people, including:
So you can see why companies take employee communication (and engagement) seriously as they grow. However, for smaller businesses, it’s not usually feasible to have a dedicated person doing this role, which is where you come in. See? Total rock star opportunity.
There’s something else though — it’s not just about the productivity and the profit. We spend a lot of our lives at work, and employee communication and engagement just makes that time better. Helping people thrive at work, and contributing to a great company culture is a very important role, and one that hopefully, by now seems more like fun, and less like just. More. work.
In this series of articles, we’ll demystify the basics of employee communication, and share some ‘tricks of the trade’ so that you can feel confident and enthusiastic in helping your company to be a better, stronger, happier place to work.
Have questions? Concerns? A persistent, prickly feeling of panic that keeps you up at night? Fear not; this is a safe space. You can either ask them in the comments, or just email us directly. We’re here to help.
There’s no manual for how to build a business. Well, to be fair, there are lots of them. Like, a bajillion books on entrepreneurship, management, leadership, and business. Many of them are great, but none of them are the manual for how to build YOUR business. This means you’ve got to figure most of it out on your own.
When I was trying to figure out ‘my manual,’ one of the of the first places I looked was podcasts. I found information, insight and perspective, and also something else I didn’t even know I was looking for -- community.
This blog series has explored the dangers of isolation in solopreneurship, as well as potential antidotes, like co-working, coaching and also group coaching. There’s a common thread in all of these; the imperative of building, and maintaining, community in solopreneurship.
Community can live in weird places!
It may seem counterintuitive that one of the secrets to creating community can begin with a relatively solitary activity -- driving around, doing chores around the house, or going for a run while listening to a podcast. But that’s exactly what I did, and it’s been one of the greatest sources of support in my solopreneurial life.
One of the best podcasts I discovered in my search is called BizChix, and it focuses on female entrepreneurs, as the title may imply. At first, I loved the smart content, the on-air coaching calls, the interviews, the practical tips, and the warm, encouraging tone of its host, Natalie Eckdahl.
Like many podcasts, BizChix has a free facebook group, where listeners can connect, ask questions, engage with the host, share tips, etc. It didn’t take long before I joined the facebook group, and found a really great community there. There were women in there with all different kinds of businesses, from all over the world, and at different stages in their success, but one thing everyone had in common was that same warmth and generosity of spirit that's such a hallmark of the podcast.
When you find your people, put yourself out there
After listening to the podcast consistently for about six months, I surprised myself, and bought a ticket to the show’s inaugural conference, Bizchix Live. It felt totally weird to buy a plane ticket to go to a conference across the country, where I would know absolutely no one, just because I liked a podcast! But off I went, and it was a total game changer for me, and my business.
BizChix Live was amazing! The group of women I met were exactly what I had kind of imagined they would be -- warm, smart, diverse, passionate, vulnerable, ambitious. I immediately felt at home.
However, the conference was just the beginning. The facebook group became an easy, natural way to keep up with the female entrepreneurs I’d met. Several of them became dear friends, and since then, one woman and I have business ‘ biz buddy’ calls about every eight weeks to support each other. The podcast has also taken on a new dimension in my life — once I really felt like I was part of the BizChix community, it became ‘My’ podcast.
Isn’t that all so weird? Can you imagine that happening even five years ago? Some random woman on the internet, I buy tickets to a conference I know very little about, and make lifelong friends, colleagues and business connections? It does seem bizarre, but the story goes on.
About six months ago, Natalie, the host, posted in the facebook group that one of her mastermind groups was planning a retreat in Boston, and did anyone know of space that might be suitable to hold their sessions. I live in Boston, and happen to have an amazing office space, and so, without hesitating, I replied, c’mon down!
Several months later, a small flock of BizChix turned up at my office, and it was so cool, again, to see this virtual connection manifest IRL. Being able to give something back deepened my connection to the community.
Just recently, I was at another conference that a bunch of BizChix were also attending, and we had a breakfast meetup. I made some cool, new contacts and re-connected with some familiar faces as well.
Community is the silver bullet
I’m sharing this with you because I am a better, stronger, happier, and more resilient business woman because I sought out, found, and then invested in community. I showed up, put myself out there, and said hi, this is me, this is who I am, who are you?
We have more opportunities than ever before to make our relationships in the online world real, and to nurture them into genuine connection. Community is, 100%, the silver bullet in battling isolation as a solopreneur, and in the 21st century, be prepared for it to show up in unexpected places!
In our last post in this series, we talked about the impact that working with a coach can have in fighting isolation, and leveling-up your business. However, another powerful way to access community, inspiration and direction is group business coaching.
In group coaching, your coach facilitates a small group, usually 6-8 clients, on a video conference call. The group usually meets several times a month, and clients can be supported with monthly private coaching check-ins as well.
What’s in it for me?
When I first heard about group coaching, I thought ‘no way.’ Why would I pay money to hear other people get coached? I want my coach to be solely focused on me, my business, my challenges, my needs. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and for reasons I never could have anticipated…
A coaching group gives you a cohort, a community, a built-in network of people like you, who are in the trenches alongside you, hustling, sweating, building their businesses. They get you. And when you watch them work through an issue they are having, it is very often similar to something you are wrestling with yourself. You get all the benefit of being coached to a solution, but with an objectivity that is, quite frankly, nearly impossible to obtain when you’re the one on the hotseat!
Plenty of time for you
Your coach’s job is to make sure that everyone on the call gets what they need that day -- the inspiration, the insight, or the resolution to a thorny practical issue. However, being part of a group is like a force multiplier for your business. I often find that I get more from group calls than even my private sessions with my coach.
There’s efficiency in working as a group; you gain perspective on everyone’s challenges, as well as your own. Even if the issues aren’t relevant to you that day, they almost always will be at some point soon, and then, voila -- you know exactly what to do! This is key -- I often hear solopreneurs struggle when sticky questions crop up in their business, and it’s partly because they’re not immersed in a community feeding them the answers every day.
There’s also an amazing bond that comes from being with your group on these calls. Offering suggestions and encouragement in the chat box, and feeling like you are part of their journey and they are part of yours. People in my coaching groups have become some of my dearest friends -- I am invested in their lives, and in the success of their business. Isn’t that what fighting isolation in solopreneurship is all about?
You are amazing!
One of the best kept secrets about group coaching is what it does for your own confidence. As you get to know everyone, you come to admire and respect them as people, as friends, as entrepreneurs, and vice versa.
You will almost certainly come to believe that these people are impressive, smart, capable human beings. So when you see them wrestle with mindset issues, accurately valuing their offering, or managing a sales funnel, it will surprise you. You’ll think, ‘But they’re amazing — how can they possibly doubt themselves?’
Then you realize that they are thinking the same about you.
And then you realize that you are also a smart, capable, impressive human being, and you suddenly feel ready to conquer the world!
Have you ever been part of a group coaching experience? What has been the most valuable part of coaching with others for your business?
I have a confession to make
This is the third article in a series on isolation in solopreneurship, and the truth is, I rarely feel lonely or isolated in my business.
Co-working has been huge for me, and I’ve had another secret weapon as well -- even before I actually started my business, I’ve always had a coach.
I’m lucky; I started working with my current business coach in my twenties. Years later, when I was getting ready to leave the corporate world behind, I hired her again to help me make the transition to owning my own business. Having a champion by my side, someone I already knew, liked and trusted was a big advantage in having the courage and confidence to make the leap.
Your coach shines a light for you in the dark
However, if you’ve never had a coach, their role can seem kind of mysterious. What do they actually ‘do’? How is it different from a therapist? Can’t my friends cheer me on from the sidelines?
Now that I’m a certified coach myself, I often find myself trying to answer these questions. Sometimes when I talk to potential clients, they think my role is to give them all the answers — like a sports coach, as if I have a secret playbook that will help them win the game.
That’s not how personal or business coaching works, and actually, you wouldn’t want it to. The real magic of coaching is having someone by your side to shine a light in the dark for you when you feel lost. It is far more valuable for an entrepreneur (or anyone, really) to feel empowered to solve their own problems than to feel reliant on an ‘expert’ or a coach.
Of course coaches offer ideas and perspectives that help you solve challenges, but for a solopreneur, having someone beside you, who has only your highest good in mind (and will hold you accountable for it!) is a game changer in fighting isolation.
I have friends for that...
At first, people sometimes think that this is something a friend or partner could or should do for you -- for free! But in fact, that’s not their job. The people who are closest to you can’t help but have opinions, views or agendas about what’s best for you. It’s their job to support you, but a coach’s job is to be objective, completely free of judgement, and have only your best and highest good in mind at all times.
My coaching sessions with entrepreneurs often focus on helping them to ask the right questions, examine the resources at their disposal, and make decisions about how to clear the road blocks between where they are and where they want to be. Friendship and partnership are two-way streets, but when you hire a coach, you are investing in a relationship that is all about you, your business, your dreams.
A funny kind of alchemy
Coaching is, actually, a bit mysterious... on the one hand there is a structured way of working together, and on the other hand there’s a funny kind of alchemy that happens during sessions. Sometimes it’s the ‘a-ha’ moments, sometimes it’s flashes of inspiration for how to solve nagging problems, sometimes it’s just being seen, heard, and feeling much, much less alone.
I know for certain (like, about a million percent certainty) that I a better, happier, wiser person, businesswoman, leader, and coach because I've consistently invested in having a coach. My business is stronger, and I've avoided countless pitfalls I doubtless would have stumbled into if I'd insisted on going it alone.
Private coaching -- working one-on-one together, is amazing, but it’s not the only way to get coaching support for you and your business. Group coaching is another really powerful way to beat isolation -- check out our upcoming post on the topic!
What’s been your experience working with a coach? How has it helped you and your business? How would you describe the power of coaching?
I’ve been overwhelmed by the response to the first article in this series -- ‘One is the Loneliest Number: The Dangers of Isolation in Solopreneurship.’ Clearly, the topic has resonated deeply with so many entrepreneurs building businesses, and struggling with the mindset challenges that working alone can bring.
This series explores solutions to the loneliness that often plagues solopreneurs, so I’d like to share one of the factors that has made a huge impact for me in building my business -- co-working.
When I first ventured out on my own, I had a perfectly good dining room table at home, fast internet, and a laptop, and it would never have occurred to me to pay for a co-working space.
Many people who work from home report feeling the lure of laundry and dishes. I’ve always had the opposite problem; I open my eyes and my laptop in the same breath, and then don’t look up again until it’s 4pm, only to find that I’m still in my pyjamas, unshowered and hungry. I used to wonder where the day had gone, and then feel a little depressed that I hadn’t gone to the gym or brushed my teeth.
Still, I couldn’t see the value in paying money to go sit somewhere else, at a desk that wasn’t even mine, surrounded by strangers. It seemed sort of desperate, and like a waste of money.
Then one day, an entrepreneurial acquaintance who was working out of the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC,) invited me to visit for lunch. I had never heard of CIC, but quickly learned that it is iconic in the Boston startup world. Next door to MIT, it claims to be home to ‘more startups than anywhere else on earth,’ and is one of the first innovation centers in the country.
When I visited CIC’s dedicated co-working space for the first time, my whole world changed. I suddenly realized that you aren’t really paying for a desk and use of meeting rooms -- you are paying to be part of a community. Perhaps it’s the nature of being an ‘innovation center,’ but CIC is exceptionally focused on creating an ecosystem of entrepreneurs that take their responsibility as members of the community seriously.
Not all co-working spaces are created equal; I know I’m lucky to be part of such an awesome community. However, the shift in my mindset from ‘working at home’ to ‘having an office’ is, I believe, relevant to many solopreneurs.
When I joined CIC, I voluntarily started to commute an hour each way -- I take the bus and then transfer to the subway, at least three days a week. I use the time to listen to podcasts or audiobooks, brainstorm business ideas, mentally plan my day, and sometimes just stare out the window and day dream. My commute has become one of my favorite rituals as an entrepreneur. More than once, I have caught myself, walking from the subway station to my office, smiling for no reason, just happy to be part of the rhythm of the city.
I love the feeling of walking into my ‘office’ and seeing familiar faces. I usually sit at the same desk, and near the same group of people. I consider them my co-workers, and if I’m out of town for several days, I will often get a text from one of them asking where I am.
Some days I go in, work all day and leave without ever actually talking to another person, and still feel happier and more alive than if I had done the same thing sitting in my house. Other days I relish walking around the co-working space saying hi to people, and stopping for coffee chats in the kitchen.
Of course, there are definitely other business benefits to being part of a co-working community; the relationships I’ve developed, clients I’ve met, and the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of my customers’ needs have all been vital. There are never-ending events and workshops, so I’m constantly learning. I also draw inspiration from other entrepreneurs facing the same challenges as me.
Certainly the routine of brushing my teeth and leaving the house every day to go to a co-working space has been helpful in beating isolation, but I believe it’s more than that. Maybe it’s the bus ride, maybe it’s the coffee chats, maybe it’s just being surrounded by other entrepreneurs. I suspect it’s a combination of all of those factors that has made me better at dreaming up creative solutions to business problems, and helped me maintain a healthy perspective on the highs and lows of building a business.
It turns out, I'm not alone in this discovery; recently the Harvard Business Review published its findings on the value of co-working in combatting isolation, and with some pretty compelling statistics -- 84% of respondents reported that working in a co-working space improved their work engagement and motivation. Most also reported being able to concentrate better due to fewer distractions compared to working from home or in coffee shops.
There are more shared workspace options available than ever before, and clearly, the demand is growing. Co-working spaces are generally month-to-month memberships, so it’s easy to try one out and see if it works for you. They also often offer different pricing tiers depending on how often you use the space, so you can still control your costs, and your schedule.
For me, the investment has been a game changer, and I don’t know where I’d be in my business if I had stubbornly refused to leave my dining room table.
What’s your experience of co-working? Have you found a balance of ‘home’ and ‘office’ time that has worked for you? Do you love working from home and don’t really get why anyone would want to go to an office? What works for you?
This is the second in a series of posts about the dangers of isolation in solopreneurship, and how to combat them. Read the first article here. If you have tips and tricks that have helped to keep you a happy, thriving solopreneur, please share them, and we may include in a future post.
Victoria Dew is the Founder and CEO of Dewpoint Communications.