Austin's unique "BE"

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Co-working a prime example of Community Building

As told by ATXEquation student George Wilkes

Recently the ATXEquation class was graced with the presence of the ambitious Liz Elam. Liz is the owner and curator of “Link Coworking,” an up and rising new business idea that is gaining momentum across the globe. However, Liz prides herself especially on the uniqueness of her co-working establishment and her ability to not only cater to those who need a space to work, but to create a community within her walls.

Before our conversation with Liz the overall assumption was that co-working entailed the simple interaction of working together on the same project or for the same company in the same location. Liz quickly corrected us and opened an avenue for further discussion. A co-working environment is comparable to holding a membership at a country club. You pay a monetary value and in return gain a social experience. For the monthly or annual fee Liz provides a stress free working environment along with coffee, snacks, indoor and outdoor amenities, and the opportunity to bounce ideas off a diverse group of workers. The community is guided by Liz’s stewardship and a number of protocols to follow by. The protocols for the community are that each member must respect space, privacy and confidentiality of each other’s work. Members cannot simply shut themselves off within the community, interaction must occur.

According to ATXEquation, in order for a community to exist there must be a particular mission at hand. For the sake of Link Coworking the mission is to work efficiently while interacting in an environment, away from home, where the people you work alongside are pleasant and communicable. A community must have leadership, in this sense Liz is the leader and sets the example for the whole community. Through her stewardship others learn how to interact within the community while also becoming leaders in and of them-selves.

In order for Link Coworking to happen effectively Liz and her employees (interns) must interview and asses prospect members. On top of this requirement the prospect member must work one day at the center in order to assess their behavior and see if they are a good fit within the community. If all seems well Liz will allow membership and the member will sign and agree to a contract explaining all the guidelines and rules. Liz here is working as what Bijoy Goswami would call a Relator in his book The Human Fabric. “Relators focus on everything about people—their mood, their “energy,” body language, tones and how they are feeling.” With Liz analyzing prospect members she is ensuring that this particular individual can connect with the other members of the community. In doing this there is assurance that cohesion will exist and a new member will not create disruption among the community.

Connectedness is essential in a community, and this is what distinguishes Liz’s business from her competitors. By not allowing groups larger than two to join, she ensures no one “takes over the office” and that everyone interacts on an equal level. However, she is currently experimenting with a small business of three people who are trying out her service. Her rules have been iterated clearly to these new members and if all works well then she can consider opening to door various other groups consisting of more than two. However, this is a rare exception and she does not want to open to gates to groups of people who will use her amenities without contributing to the environment; or bringing negativity to the environment by having no interaction with others outside their work group.

The people she is attracting to her community are in the age range from thirties to forties, working out of home and are family orientated people. The idea is that people working at home have constant interaction with their family while working which causes two things. First, it is a distraction while working and is hard to separate home from work. The second is that when these professionals return home there is good balance between work and life. The spouse and children are excited to see them when they return home as opposed to no excitement when they stay at home all day. Her tough 9-6 hours are purposefully emplaced for this specific reason. She is encouraging a good balance between work and home so that people do not simply post up in her establishment all day and night while disregarding their family obligations.

Liz is also taking her community building outside of “Link Coworking” and is engaging with the entire co-working realm. In a national sense she and others are beginning a co-working association so that they can build collaboration among all of the co-working establishments within America. On an International level Liz has attended a conference in Berlin in order to learn the differences between European co-working and American and hopefully bring the two continents closer in co-working procedures. The goal is to build a cohesive community that can interact and learn from each other’s experience.

Overall, Liz Elam believes that community is the glue that holds everything together. It is what she believes in and is what sets her apart from her competitors. By bringing like-minded people under the same roof who share a common goal, Liz has been able to establish something special and meaningful for her members. The people who are apart of Link Coworking have become a family; missing one another when one is gone, knowing each other past their formal work experience, and care enough to help each other with their work. Liz has built her business model around creating community and is fulfilling a long time dream of hers while enabling the long time dreams of others.

No comments: