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30+ Takeaways and Quotes from GCUC 2021

It finally happened.

After Covid forced GCUC 2020 to go virtual, an enthusiastic group of coworking space operators, workspace pros, real estate people, service providers and the coworking curious gathered in person (and online) for GCUC 2021 in New York City.

The city was both a welcome change and a radical departure from the last 18 months of solitude/isolation. It provided the backdrop for what was an unforgettable trip, a much-needed opportunity to reconnect with some of my coworking people, and a fully-vaxxed example of a smart Covid era gathering.

New York is, unsurprisingly, leading the way with getting back to business while also staying safe. Masks are commonplace—even on the streets—and it’s normalized to show proof of vaccination when entering restaurants and the conference venue (Thank you, Convene.).

Workspace Conversations

Watching the GCUC agenda flesh out over the last couple of months, I knew it would be good. The GCUC team brought together some of the major players from various workspace conversations. However, I did not expect it to be as good as it was. These are weird times and I guess I had lowered my expectation to simply having everyone safely gather and hear a few things. But I walked away from the conference feeling empowered to think bigger and dig deeper.

I taught a content strategy masterclass at GCUC and was inspired to hear how coworking space operators are leaning into challenges and newfound opportunities. I know, it’s a lot to ask that, in addition to running a great space, you also create great content. But, if you want to stand out and attract people who are a great fit for your space, there’s no better way. If you want marketing support and coaching, join The Lab.

But Back to GCUC 

Unlike years past when I captured and tweeted as many brilliant insights as possible, this year I tried to focus on sharing practical how-to’s with operators and just soaking in the GCUC experience.

But because I’m me and I can’t stop myself from taking notes, I still came away with the following 30+ takeaways and quotes. What were your biggest takeaways? Message me on LinkedIn. I’d love to hear from you.

Antony Slumbers, Co-founder, Real Innovation Academy

  1. Anything structured, repeatable or predictable will be automated. Things that cannot be automated include: 
  • creativity
  • imagination
  • empathy
  • judgement
  • intuition

2. Computers give you answers; humans give you questions.

3. There’s a difference between taking note and taking action.

4. Start with the customer and work backwards to the real estate.

5. The fact that creating activated, healthy, great spaces is hard to do is a feature, not a bug. Most can’t do it. Can you?

6. Most don’t care about this stuff, but the best companies do.

7. Be the best to attract the best.

8. Everything that we know we should have done over the last ten years but have not had to, we need to do now.


Dr. Tammira Lucas, CEO & Co-founder, The Cube

9. Overinvest in communication.

10. The opportunity is now. 

11. Do your crazy idea.

Melissa Schilo, Solutions Lead Americas, JLL

12. We don’t want to see anyone go out of business. We need you. 

13. There is nothing off the table, so pick up the phone. The biggest companies in the world ask.

Ryan Simonetti, Co-founder, Convene

14. We’ve successfully restructured everything.

15. Onsite is the new offsite.

16. We’re going for intentionally designed collaboration.

Richard Coraine, Founding Partner and Senior Advisor, Union Square Hospitality Group

17. We’re not the same people as we were 18 months ago. We need to understand who we (and our customers) are today.

18. You either love caring about others, or you don’t.

19. Hospitality is where things happen for you, not to you.

20. Don’t think for me. Ask me what I want.

21. Don’t over-kindness people. Help them with their day.

22. Business is a journey, not something you have all the answers to. 

23. Create expressions of excellence and consistent, thoughtful gestures.

24. CRM stands for Can’t Remember Me

Kay Sargent, Director of Workplace, HOK

25. Culture is the worst behavior a company tolerates.

26. Diversity without inclusion is a revolving door of talent.

27. Inclusion should happen, not one thing at a time, but all at once.

28. How do we go beyond sustaining? How do we regenerate?

Carl Desir, Director of Inclusion Strategy, Netflix

29. There’s a difference between intention and impact. The best intention can have the worst impact.

30. We need to open up our aperture.

31. It’s all about belonging. Focus on the whole self.

32. If I feel like I belong, that’s inclusion.

Taking in the city with Amy King from Good Coworking. Coworking is about the people

One-off Observations

GSA Opportunities: The GSA contract enabling employees of the U.S. government to work in coworking spaces is a huge opportunity for space operators, and coworking itself. But there’s still a lot to figure out. Sam Rosen from Deskpass, Kayley Dicicco from Expansive and Traug Keller from WeWork shed light on the scope, challenges and new territory we’re now in.

The Slumbers Experience: Antony Slumbers is such a gift to this industry. His talent for connecting dots, surfacing insights, harnessing trends and clearly communicating the future is remarkable.

Deskpass Delivers: Deskpass is one of the best resources for coworking at-large. With their deep understanding of what it takes to run a coworking space and community, their quickly-growing network of spaces providing data and insights, their willingness to share insights not accessible elsewhere and their impressive growth into a global brand, they are positioned to move coworking forward in a huge way—while keeping humanness at the heart of everything. The information shared by Chief People Officer, Nicole Vasquez and Workspace Partnership Manager, Madeline Hoag was affirming and inspiring.

Making the Impossible Possible: GCUC’s Liz Elam and Stormy McBride pulled off the seemingly impossible—an epic GCUC during the most challenging of circumstances. I left feeling like coworking is maturing and the workspace world is finally tuning in to the most important aspect of this whole movement-now-industry: the humans.

It’s About the People: The best part of GCUC is the people. What an absolute thrill to hang out with some of my coworking colleagues and friends.

Massive props to my friends Liz and Stormy. And thanks to everyone who spoke, attended my masterclass, introduced themselves, hung out, swapped ideas, shared thoughts, organized offsite fun things, fed me, sang happy birthday to me (Yes, that happened too), and made the whole trip one for the books.


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