Two companies — one office: Why co-working worked for me

Two companies — one office: Why co-working worked for me

I recently wrote a post about how to know when your start-up is ready to move from a remote home-office culture into an office space. It’s a tough decision, and one that is largely dictated by cash flow, but when you are considering where you might like to be, also consider who you’d like to align yourself with. In fact, that may even help guide your decision.

Shared office space is a huge trend right now. Global co-working companies like WeWork and Spaces are popping up everywhere — both also recently opened offices in Toronto. According to Forbes, at the end of last year, there were nearly 1.2-million people worldwide in co-working spaces. While it’s very popular now and might be a good solution for your company, there were limited options when I started HomeStars.

Most of the co-working spaces I’ve visited have common social and meeting areas, as well as planned events that encourage socializing. According to WeWork, 70 per cent of its members say they have collaborated with other members and 50 per cent say they have done a transaction with other members. The only downside of these co-working spaces is that they are typically more expensive, because you are moving into a finished space, with built-in support services.

In the early days of my business, I was running a remote culture. It was economical but hindered effective communication, so we looked for office space to encourage face-to-face interaction. I soon found my dream space but my accountant told me we couldn’t afford it. That’s when I decided to share space.

HomeStars shared office space with Page Zero Media, a search marketing agency, for five years. The founder of Page Zero, Andrew Goodman, and I met around the time I started HomeStars. He became an advisor and board member as we started working together to fundraise and architect the site in the early years.

Andrew was looking for office space and wanted a decent-sized space downtown. When he found a great spot in a brick and beam office that was larger than he wanted, he asked if we wanted to share. This turned out to be a great decision for both of us. As an online company we benefitted greatly from sharing our space with a company that specializes in SEM and SEO. Page Zero has also provided HomeStars with search marketing services — but that was not the original intent of our co-tenancy.

Sharing expertise and skills were invaluable in those early days. I think that’s why shared office space works so well. There’s an opportunity to meet and collaborate with like-minded companies, many of which are looking for a knowledge-based workplace in the sharing economy. Aside from cost savings, there were tremendous business benefits as well. For example, as two start-ups, we were able to share information and contacts for outside services, like accountants and lawyers, for example. In addition to rent, we also shared the cost and maintenance of office equipment and furniture.

How do you do it? Start by finding a compatible company. If you can actually work together — and by that I mean both can benefit financially and strategically from the arrangement — all the better. More than one company can work easily if the space allows for it. In an open space, count on at least 100 square feet per person. Determine and document in your lease agreement who takes care of what from a financial and responsibility standpoint. You have to think about the little things too, like setting up a meeting room booking calendar and agreeing who buys the kitchen supplies. With clearly outlined accountabilities, there is less chance of misunderstandings later.

And lastly, make the time to get to know each other. Enjoy after work socials and perhaps even share an employee or two, if it makes sense.

There’s a reason why co-working spaces are the leading global trend in the workplace — they work well.