One Giant GCUC Takeaway (and Some Bonus Quotes)

Now that I’ve had a few days to decompress from GCUC Seattle, I have some thoughts.

But this year’s a bit different.

Rather than recapping everything, I want to share the one overarching takeaway that has me stoked on the future of coworking and confident in your ability to do amazing things.

Gather round and listen up, friends:

There is so, so, so much room for coworking growth and evolution.

Here’s my giant takeaway: Coworking is lit! 🔥

The workspace industry is absolutely exploding, which is no surprise to anyone who’s paying attention.

But what’s lighting me up right now is that niche spaces, indie operators, small brands, big brands and massive players are all taking off. The opportunities and potential here are limited only by your imagination.

Coworking is a spectrum of awesomeness and your job is to get in where you fit in.

Here are just some of the niches I chatted with or learned from at GCUC:

  • Regional brands
  • Social good spaces
  • Business development-focused concepts
  • Neighborhood spaces
  • Megabrands taking on big investment dollars
  • Island spaces
  • Urban center brands
  • Rural spaces
  • Suburban-focused brands
  • Parent and kid-friendly spaces
  • Brands focused on diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Luxury brands
  • Laid back brands
  • Sustainability projects
  • Hyper community-focused brands
  • Day use brands
  • Meeting and event-focused brands
  • Open coworking brands
  • Brands acquiring spaces
  • Spaces and brands being acquired
  • Brands scaling to more locations
  • Brands taking on management agreements
  • Bootstrapped brands
  • Investor-supported brands

There is no one way to cowork.

Full stop.

Coworking and Coffee

The mega players tend to be the loudest voices in the room and they get most of the press mentions. But, as we know, billion dollar brands are only a small part of the industry (somewhere around 15%).

And we need the big players. In the same way that small, craft coffee houses benefit from Starbucks’ mainstreaming of coffee drinks.

Is Starbucks my coffee shop of choice? Nope. I prefer the locally-owned place down the street with a perfect little outdoor space for people-watching, magazine reading and daydreaming. I’ll walk past four Starbucks shops to get to a good local roaster.

But when I’m on the road crisscrossing the Nevada desert or mountain west, I am beyond stoked to see an exit sign with a Starbucks logo between the Flying J and Taco Bell logos. I’ll take a drip dark roast with half and half please.

The same goes for coworking.

Fabulous Alone Won’t Get it Done

Do I want to work in a coworking space with white couches, furry pillows, a wine bar and chandeliers? Nope. Fabulous alone doesn’t get it done for me. If you’re banking on fabulous, remember that we members go blind to fabulous after a few weeks. So make sure you’re building a foundation of belonging and connection.

My home coworking brand, Kiln, has graphic prints on every wall, a pro-meets-cool aesthetic that suits me perfectly, meeting rooms I’m proud to bring clients to, a gorgeous common area, an atrium for my events, hospitality touches that help me do my best work and then some, and a community vibe that has me surrounded by friends, collaborators and friendly-faced strangers.

It’s a spot-on fit for me.

But it may not be the best fit for someone else. Someone who lives for furry pillows, white couches, chandeliers and wine bars, for example.

Radical Differentiation

Radical differentiation is a feature of coworking, not a bug.

Your goal is not to attract all the people—your goal is to attract your people.

If you’re a big space trying to figure out how to activate your community, tune in to the coworking community of operators and pros. Coworking is a generous place and people are happy to share what they know. To see that in action, join us for a Coworking Convo. You’ll leave inspired, empowered and connected.

And if you’re a small operator who is freaking out seeing chandelier and wine bar-clad spaces and talk of 500 million dollar investments, take a breath. You’re fine! You know who you are. And the more you try to be something you’re not, the less people will be attracted to you.

Service Mindset

Trust your vision. Trust yourself. Trust your community. Lean in to what your people want and need. Stay in service mindset. Always.

Your potential is off the charts.

As I said in my GCUC masterclass, your biggest challenge right now might be figuring out how to fill your space. But a few years from now, when demand is six times what it is now, you’ll be wondering how to keep up with all that demand and how to scale to better serve your community.

Start thinking about that now.

Learn from everyone. From the small town operator with one space and 20 members, to the brands that are slowly building out second and third and fourth locations, to the brands with 20 or 50 locations, to those that have gone global. They all have something to teach you.

And you have something to teach them.

There are things you’re naturally doing in your space—vibes you’re creating and communities you’re building and incubating—that are a complete mystery to some of the press regulars.

Stay true, think big and go get ‘em. As GCUC mastermind Liz Elam likes to remind us, “You can’t keep up with the demand coming your way.”

Bonus Quotes

“Innovation pushes up against the norms.”
— Benjamin Dyett, Deco Group

“I believe in urgency. If someone is in the way, I just skip them.”
— Elizabeth Scallon, Find Ventures

“The people who benefited most from lack of flexibility were those who didn’t have kids, aging parents, sick loved ones.”
— Larisa Summers, Convene

“Work from home isn’t about staying home. It’s about getting together with intention.”
— Larisa Summers, Convene

“Your market informs everything.”
— Barbara Sprenger, Satellite Deskworks

“​​Self care is a leadership skill. That includes your self talk.”
— Anese Cavanaugh, strategic advisor

“Mail is not your problem—mail is your opportunity.”
— Sofia Stolberg, PilotoMail

“Five years ago we were not a great place to work. You can make a conscious choice to make a great company culture. It’s a conscious choice to not be a toxic leader.”
— Brad Krauskopf, Hub Australia

Further together,

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