In recent years, we’ve seen co-working explode in communities across the United States. New built environments are coming online every day with a single purpose: to meet the flexible space needs of an increasingly fluid business ecosystem. But the simple fact is that the same flex resources already exist in business locations all over the country. You may well be reading this now and thinking “that’s true, I have extra business space right now.” Here are three reasons why your next thought should be “maybe I should let people book it from me…”
1. It’s just sitting there.
I spent nearly a decade practicing in a law firm with beautiful Class A space in Downtown Dallas and Houston, and near Times Square in Manhattan. As is common in a long-term lease situation, we took on more space than we actually needed, anticipating growth over the ten years included in our leases. There were differing aesthetics in the offices, conference rooms, and common areas of these three properties, but the spaces all had two things in common. One, they were expensive (especially the Manhattan property). Proximity to central business districts typically is. Two, significant portions of the space sat empty most of the time. I was based primary in Houston, where we had three extra offices and six conference rooms of varying sizes. In a given month, any of these spaces was occupied 15% of the time. At most.
Sound familiar? And yet it’s out of sync with how we conduct business in general. We expect all of our other resources to work for us in our businesses. Why should space be any different?
2. You have what someone else needs.
Space is a large and growing need in local economies. As of last year, fewer than half of the non-profits in Texas keep their own offices anymore. It’s not hard to understand why—we live in a time where donors no longer want to fit the bill for a non-profit’s overhead. But non-profits still need space for board meetings, member events, fundraisers and other activities. Usually, they have the budget to pay for space when they actually need it, and the kinds of space they typically need are often sitting empty in someone else’s office.
The gig economy is also on the rise, with over 60 million people freelancing across the country, and more every day. These are professionals who work from home (or Starbucks) most of the time, but to grow their own businesses they often need access to space on-demand. Whether for client meetings, team building, or other business activities, they need what you’ve got, oh keeper of the brick-and-mortar.
3. It’s good business development.
When you open your doors to other kinds of businesses—for-profit and non-profit—what you’re really doing is providing the opportunity for people in your organization to build relationships with people from other parts of the local business community. If the co-working model has taught us anything, it’s that enabling collisions between different kinds of businesses breeds creativity and even greater opportunity. A company may look at you as a space resource today, but build a solid relationship and who knows what they’ll call you to work on tomorrow. And if you’re making it easier for non-profits to execute their local missions, that not only makes the community better, but it makes your whole organization a better community partner.
A business community is an ecosystem, composed of needs and resources. If you have a resource, consider filling a need. You can generate some revenue and support another business or cause at the same time: win-win.