Gdansk, oh Gdansk!
What CoworkingNow 2019 in Gdansk has taught us!
Commonly accepted to have been founded in 997, Gdansk, the city that has been welcoming ships and vessels from all around the world as a major port of the region for centuries, has this time, welcomed the coworking enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, though-leaders, operators and more — for the 3rd time in a row. And that was a pretty warm welcome, made even warmer with the beautiful sunny weather, I must say. A great start to a great CoworkingNow, the coworking conference of Poland.
This has been my second time at CoworkingNow, the coworking conference of Poland, and in Gdansk.
Last year, it was a bit of a last minute decision that I had booked my tickets to CoworkingNow, but this time, it was a visit that I was looking forward to for a year, and once more, it was well worth the time, effort and travel money spent.
Here’s a brief recap of my key take-aways.
Working alone sucks
Living behind their own motto of “Working alone sucks”, O4 Coworking Space, with strong leadership of Marta Moksa and Martyna Czarnobaj-Borowska have been rolling their sleeves last few years to lead the way for coworking in Poland by bringing the key players together, and spread the word and love of coworking — and they are doing a damn good job!
What was a very good conference last year have become a GREAT 2-day conference this year with a well-balanced quality content, a well-balanced set of inspiring speakers and more importantly a very engaged and energized crowd who’s traveled from all around to be part of this and make this happen. That deserves a standing ovation.
Coworking is all about community
It is fine to run a business offering shared and serviced offices, private offices, hot desks, providing mail-box, secretarial and other business services. This is a well-needed business, and many will just love it. It is also a great idea to have a cafe with tables tailored to the needs of remote-workers. But if you want to do a coworking space, you must put “the community” in the center and build everything else around it, a consensus that we all gladly reached as a key outcome of all sessions and discussions.
Your Community has Needs, Habits and Lifestyle: Understand it, Anticipate it, Address it
“We’ll build it and people will come” is a myth proven wrong long-time ago. It is essential to understand the varying needs of your community, be it various working environments, a quiet space, a team-work area, a kitchen, a space to help live their lifestyle, or the facilities to help them keep their habits. And it is critical to provide the right physical environment to address these needs, habits and lifestyle expectations.
Poland Coworking is growing
Based on O4’s report, prepared jointly with the Infuture Institute,
- 70% of coworking spaces (from the respondents) indicated that the number of their members increased.,
- 50% increased the number of desks, or the offered office area
- 60% recorded higher profits compared to 2017.
- 10%, however, reported that 2018 has been worse than in 2017 in terms of the number of members and profits. It is interesting to compare these increases with data – 70% of coworkers declare that they did not add square meters or additional services or organize more events. How can you interpret this paradox? Perhaps the answer is organic growth and the growing need for coworking? Maybe coworking managers manage resources more effectively, and events and events organized by coworking have become more recognizable and are more popular?
Poland Coworking market is maturing
- 81% of the Polish coworking spaces are in business for more than 2 years, which is a 13-point increase vs 2017
- 13% of the spaces have been opened in the last one year, which represents a stable growth as this was 12% in 2017
- 70% of the spaces have confirmed they have more members vs 2017
How does success look like for coworking spaces in Poland?
As in any business, coworking spaces are starting the year with expectations and business targets. For Poland, based on the very same report, based on multiple-choice answers:
- 53% would like to focus on improving their financials
- 47% would like to focus on having more members
- 26% plan to open another location
- 23% plan to expand their service offerings.
In our opinion, this is pretty much inline with what we hear from other cities, and is a healthy balance of growth plans for the coworking scene in a city.
SISU, the energy and determination that can get you even through the granite
One of the “aha” moments for me was when Beata Stramska, the CEO of Nord HR, talked about Sisu. That was the moment I said to myself “this is a perfect a way of describing how most of us feel about managing a coworking space, or running a coworking-related business”.
We are the early adopters and early players of an industry that is yet forming. We are opening coworking spaces for people who do not yet know what a coworking space is, and not yet know that they will actually love it. We are developing solutions and services for coworking spaces that have not opened yet.
“You think things are getting worse, but you don’t give up but persist and keep working on your goal. This hurts like hell, but I will keep banging my head into the rock until it breaks” explained Beata, where ‘Sisu’ in Finnish means strength, the perseverance in a task that for some may seem crazy to undertake, almost hopeless. It is seen as a social glue that helped define the nation after Finland gained independence. It is the energy and determination in the face of adversities that are more demanding than usual.
Isn’t SISU what we all need in coworking?
What does it take to build a financially-sustainable coworking space?
A coworking space without people is not a coworking space. A coworking space not making money is not a business. This is the hard truth we sometime fail to ignore as we love keeping focus on our community. But at the end of the day, this is a business and both us and our members need us to survive. Beatrix, co-founder of the beautiful Impact Hub Budapest walked us through the 5 drivers of a financially-sustainable coworking space.
- Diverse Community
- Curated content for the Community
- Financial reporting in place
- Readiness to change and adapt.
Last but not least….
In an ecosystem that is just developing, it is a very difficult thing to hold a national conference. But CoworkingNow, O4, Magda, Martyna and the rest of the team has been doing an outstanding job, and setting the bar high for as to how a national coworking (un)conference should be. They got all 3 ingredients so right:
- People — those attending the conference have been very diverse, interested, engaged and eager to contribute.
- Content — the topics have been well-chosen. The speakers were inspiring, and relevant.
- Location — both the event location itself, and the city of Gdansk were just perfectly fitting into the event concept and enabling an energized physical environment.
They deserve a long standing ovation. And I just can’t wait to go back for the next CoworkingNow, if not earlier for Gdansk.