I wanted to continue my thoughts regarding the business I started and try to answer the question, what would you change?
We're focused on strategy this week, so let's dive in.
When we launched our space, we knew that it was different. We wanted it that way. We were trying to build a professional space that would spur synergy, creativity, and economic development. Our vision was strong, our strategy, specifically how we positioned the space among competitors was not.
We started the space in September 2008, right when the economy was starting to take a dive. I decided to market the space as "affordable office space (plus)." The "affordable" would get them in the door and the added benefits of co-working would keep them and hopefully change their perspective of the value they were receiving. From a sales standpoint, this worked well. Inexpensive office space got people in the door, singing leases, and paying rent. But, this strategy led to negative impacts to our brand down the road.
When differentiating between our space, a large open plan with 15 work stations, with our competition, which were mostly private office spaces scattered throughout town, we positioned it as "affordable" rather than open, creative, and different. This position led potential customers to believe that our space was affordable because it was open and shared, and therefore was inferior to private office space. When the real estate market worsened and landlords in the town began lowering the rent of their private offices, it made even current customers at the time ask why they would pay the same amount for open space as they would for a private space.
All that said, due to the timeliness of the launch, I don't know what other strategy would have worked better. The strong economic forces that were bearing down on our small piece of the economy led all of us who were providing space and business amenities to have to adapt very quickly and often.