When it comes to resources for workspace operators, tools and platforms that streamline the daily to-dos and free-up time for busy teams are invaluable.
As CloudVO Chief Infrastructure Officer Scott Chambers explains, coworking space operators should “automate processes that take up too much human capital and/or don’t properly scale, as soon as possible.”
Here are 10+ tools and platforms to help coworking space operators run their workspaces more efficiently.
Salesforce is a customer relationship management (CRM) tool to manage and monitor customer leads and interactions in one place. A single user on Salesforce is relatively affordable. The cost only starts climbing as you get into the enterprise level, which you can afford as you can scale. With the basic version of Salesforce, you still get valuable tools and can start to train yourself and your workspace team on the power of a CRM.
2. Meeting Room Booking and Member Management Tool
Workspace operators would be wise to automate meeting room bookings immediately and make sure you’re on a calendar that can sync with some of the industry channel partners, such as CloudVO.
“You want to do that to get your business out in front of as many people as possible,” says Chambers. “It’s yet another marketing channel for people in and out of your community to come use your space and your offerings. That can lead, not only to near-term revenue, but also to long-term revenue sources and opportunities.”
- Personalized Call Answering
Personalized call answering and VO services have historically been more popular in business centers and office rental spaces than it has in coworking spaces, but that is shifting as a growing number of spaces offer the service. Personalized call answering enables business owners of all types and sizes to have a larger image and lets customers know they’ve reached a real company when they call.
“Some coworking communities embrace personalized call answering early on, some embrace it later, and some never embrace it,” says Chambers. “At any stage of the business cycle, whether you’re a solopreneur or you’re running 20 or 80 locations, you have a representative communicating on your behalf.”
Chambers points out that entrepreneurs generally start off using mobile phones, but there comes a time when the business entity itself becomes bigger than your cell phone. “If it doesn’t,” he says, “you will never scale larger than your mobile phone, every person will think they have to talk to you, and you’ll have to answer to everyone for everything always. And it will be on their terms, relative to organizing your thoughts on returning messages or emails.”
- Email Marketing
Your email list is one of your most valuable marketing tools. Whether you use Constant Contact, Mailchimp or another tool to manage your emails and newsletters, treat it as the essential communication method it is.
As Marketing Manager Kim Seipel explains, “We use email marketing as a communication tool to promote our brand and the value we bring to CloudVO partners, prospective partners, and the shared workspace community in general. Everything from training and resources for coworking operators, announcements on upcoming industry conferences, and promoting special offers, including contests and events are communicated via e-blasts.”
Seipel adds that Constant Contact is the tool of choice for the CloudVO team saying, “Although there are many great platforms out there, we use Constant Contact for its professional yet user-friendly templates, extensive list management functionality, reporting features so we can measure results, high deliverability rates, and built-in features allowing for easy compliance with national email marketing laws.”
As a tool to book tours and meetings online, Calendly is very powerful. It allows people to see when a space operator is available and schedule a time to come in to see the space and meet the team. This frees up space operators and gives potential members an easy way to engage.
“The world we live in wants to point and click, be very efficient, and minimize human interaction unless it’s on their own terms,” says Chambers. “This is for efficiency, not because people don’t want to interact. One of the great reason for coworking’s existence is because we do want to interact.”
- Project Management Tool
Project management tools such as Trello are essential for organizing projects, assigning to-do’s and tracking progress. The CloudVO marketing team uses Trello, which is a visual board organized into lists and cards, to organize and track projects.
“Each card can represent a task and can be assigned and shared with others,” says Seipel. “As each task or portion of a particular project is being worked on, team members can mark it as “doing” or “done.”
CloudVO Director of Marketing Karina Patel adds that with the company’s development team, they use JIRA to track development projects, such as building a website, working on applications, and building features into their portal.
“JIRA works like any agile/scrum board, where epics or cards are created, assigned, shared, and monitored,” she says. “Project managers are able to track progress, developers can log their time spent on work (easy for billing), and teams that are scattered across the globe can all work harmoniously and effortlessly.”
Zapier is a tool to integrate apps, such as Stripe, Google Calendar, Webhooks, Authorize.net, etc. It is easy to use and once integration and automation is setup, it increases productivity because you’ve cut out the task of manually transferring data between platforms.
8. Google Apps and Drive
Google offers a range of tools for organization and communication. The CloudVO team uses Google Docs, Sheets, Draw and Slides, to share ideas, concepts, and content in real-time. As Patel explains, the team “relies heavily on Google Docs for collaborative document editing,” stressing that “the main thing is simultaneous collaboration, which makes all Google apps great.” She adds that the team uses Google Drive to store and share files since it’s easy to share with outside teams and collaborate at the same time.
GoToMeeting is a great tool for weekly internal departmental meetings, including marketing conference calls and finance team meetings, as well as conference calls with partners, vendors, etc. The CloudVO team has tried Zoom, join.me, Google Meet and Google Hangouts for team calls internally and with outside agencies and vendors, and GoToMeeting has worked out best in terms of stability and functionality. The team also uses the company’s sister product, GoToWebinar, for internal training and industry webinars.
10. Internal Communications Platform
Internal communication tools and platforms are essential, and there are some interesting products, such as Slack, available. But there can be cost concerns around Slack for large teams.
Email, as imperfect as it is, remains a vital tool for one-on-one and group communication within the CloudVO team. “We’re an email culture,” says Chambers. “There’s a transparent culture within our company. If you’re in the ‘To’ line, you need to pay attention; if you’re in the ‘CC’ line, it’s a heads-up.”
Finding the perfect internal communication tool remains a challenge for many teams. In addition to Slack, some companies use messaging tools, such as WhatsApp, to communicate. Whatever works for your team, whether Slack, WhatsApp, or email, get everyone on-board and create norms and expectations around team communication.
Bonus Tips for Coworking Space Operators
11. Create Systems and Processes
CloudVO CEO Laurent Dhollande has, according to Chambers, “preached from the beginning the benefit of processes. Dhollande’s background is in corporate America, where you couldn’t do things on-the-fly, like an entrepreneur—you had to have processes.“Even when we were small, he was teaching us the concept of developing processes,” says Chambers, adding with a laugh, “He would ask me what my process was, and I’d say, ‘It’s a notepad.’”
12. Get Out and Network
“Don’t try to reinvent the wheel, especially with the maturation of the shared workspace, the explosive growth, and the general personality of people in this industry who are willing to share,” says Chambers. “Build your personal brand along with your company brand. At the end of the day, you will find that your knowledge and your network will solve so many problems that people have already done before.
13. Attend GWA and GCUC
Chambers is a long-time supporter and participant in both GWA (the Global Workspace Association) and GCUC (Global Coworking Unconference Conference) events. He recommends that operators from workspaces of all types attend and connect with industry peers and leaders.
“I encourage people to go to the industry conferences,” he says. “And resist the temptation to try to understand if you got your money’s worth three days after you get home. Do it for three years and it will be so abundantly clear that you got everything back, and more.” He adds, “The thing you get back that you can’t put in a math equation is the personal relationships, friendships and expanding your world.”
By Cat Johnson, content strategist and coworking member of NextSpace in Santa Cruz, CA.
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CloudVO is the umbrella brand of Cloud Officing Corp, headquartered in San Francisco, California. CloudVO’s mission is to provide comprehensive virtual office, coworking and meeting room solutions to professionals under a Workplace-as-a-Service™ model. CloudVO operates the CloudMeetingRooms.com and CloudVirtualOffice.com e-commerce sites and grants preferential access to day offices, coworking space, and professional meeting rooms in 700 locations worldwide for distributed workers on a subscription or a pay-per-use basis.