This article is the first one in a series to highlight the benefits of sharing best practices across Workplace-as-a-Service ™ providers, and with folks outside our own “cocoon.” We welcome any member of our industry to share their own experience in this forum.
Pacific Workplaces’ training approach & the value of external speakers
By Scott Chambers, Pacific Business Centers COO.
Providing professional training for an organization distributed in 15 locations does not go without unique challenges. We found that a formal process was essential to continually educate our staff. Recently, we were reminded -in a stunning fashion- of the benefits of bringing outside industry experts to our own internal conversations.
Pacific Workplaces Training Program
- Keep abreast of best industry practices
- Roll out new marketing programs
- Stay on top of new industry developments
- Stay connected with, and learn from, each other
To achieve these goals, we schedule the following periodic events:
- A monthly one-hour webinar viewed by all Pacific managers and front line staff
- A quarterly day-long seminar that gathers as many managers as we can to our training center on a rotational basis (not everyone can always leave their center for a full day)
- An annual “PAC Day” event every Columbus Day, where the entire company gets together off-site for a full day, mostly as an opportunity to celebrate each other and bond with recreational activities
- Monthly area conference calls that gather managers and front line staff in each of our four geographical areas, immediately following our monthly Executive Management Group meeting to keep everyone in the loop.
Generally, our Quarterly Management Meeting and monthly webinars are an opportunity for the senior team to roll out new marketing programs, explain new services and collateral, review new technology deployment, share and discuss customer feedback, review sales and marketing data with the staff, discuss challenges, and to keep all of us on the same page.
So, at least one time each month, we get to hear ourselves talk in a formal setting.
This month we decided to take advantage of a couple of industry experts – well, some that don’t work for Pacific Business Centers anyway – and it proved to be a nice change of pace and really engaging for our staff.
Early in the month Jamie Russo, founder of Enerspace Coworking agreed to co-host our monthly webinar and share her experience as the leader of one of the most intriguing and successful coworking places in the U.S. Our staff discovered for themselves the level of sophistication and business maturity that emanates from Jamie. This in turn helped them understand that coworking places like Enerspace are not the “lower end” and “service-poor” workplaces they may have imagined. They can be sophisticated and successful businesses, providing truly innovative and well thought out solutions that respond to a different marketplace need than that which our centers provide. And certainly not “low end”.
Jamie’s testimony was a much more powerful message that drove home this point, more effective than the abstract messages our executive team had preached in the past. As a result, our staff understand and can articulate to a prospect how different the Pacific Business Centers “flavor” is in the Workplace-as-a-Service ™ menu. They are also better able to understand how our own service offering needs to continuously adapt to a fast changing world.
Wendy Spreenberg’s Industry Credibility is Worth a Thousand Words
Mid-month, Wendy Spreenberg, Principal of Site Resolutions, coincidentally also from Chicago, came to present her YES! seminar to our staff. YES is an acronym for Your Exceptional Space … and indeed Wendy delivered a truly exceptional training session.
Wendy is a well known industry expert with an unmatched breadth of knowledge in sales, marketing, site selection, and operations. A frequent speaker at our annual GWA industry conferences, her background includes managing successful business centers and wide-ranging consulting assignments with many business center operators. This unique observation point, coupled with an uncanny ability to relate to each and everyone of our front line colleagues, established her credibility with our staff at the onset. Our staff absorbed her gospel, skillfully delivered with engaging interactive discussions, in a much more powerful way than we could have ever done ourselves.
Leverage the GWA Conferences, GWA Webinars, and Your Business Partners
Attending the forthcoming GWA Conference in Atlanta and the GWA webinars (free for GWA members!) is an excellent place to start to get insights into what others in our industry are doing. For example, Pacific Business Centers authorized CloudVO ™ to share very private metrics on our own Virtual Office business at the forthcoming “Building a Successful Virtual Office Business” webinar scheduled for Wednesday May 15. I would encourage all operators to attend this webinar.
Sometimes, it is not operationally or financially feasible for OBC operators to send their entire staff to the GWA industry conference and we are no exception in spite of the multiple managers we like to send every year. But we’ve come to realize that the “shot in the arm” that those who attend get at these conferences would benefit the rest of the staff. Our team just can’t replicate the engagement that these outside voices provide.
There is real power to opening a dialogue to outside voices, particularly for the line management team. Wendy and Jamie brought added credibility to the discussion around the changing nature of our business. They provided different ways of looking at a center that staff see day after day after day. They also demonstrated that much of our business experiences are more similar than they are different, whether located in Bakersfield, CA or downtown Chicago
I recommend that you bring outside voices to your internal company training processes from time to time. Whether in-person, or less expensively, via an online meeting, these outside trainers and guest speakers keep you in touch with what’s interesting in the outside world. They also drive home key messages, when your own internal voice becomes repetitive or loses its luster.
It is a good idea to share your own operational realities ahead of time with these outside experts, so the conversation is tailored to your needs. If finances make it hard to hire a consultant to speak to your group exclusively, consider partnering with some of your local industry friends. We have done this, too, in the past -even partnering with local competitors to provide joint training and spread the costs.
Finally, don’t hesitate to pick the brain of your vendors, web brokers, or channel partners like CloudVO. Most are willing to share their observations as part of their overall service or business development process.