Trevor Twining of Cowork Niagara talked to Alex Hillman about what it looks like when a coworking space is getting started.
Trevor went to a cafe downtown and spoke to the owner about bringing people in. This was an important step for him because it established a long term relationship with the cafe and helped form the core of the community. With the permission of the cafe owner, the had somewhere to meet.
They started by meet once a week for what was largely a social gathering. However, it created a shared experience. People felt like a part of the community before they even had a space.
Originally, Trevor was going to set up as a nonprofit. However, when someone else is paying the bill, decision making power also goes to them. When trying to satisfy the funding requirements, they got further and further away from the type of space they wanted to be. They constantly revised their plan but was turned down in the end anyway.
A small, core group of about five people got together and decided the project was still possible. They wanted a structure of shared ownership and community in their corporate DNA so that it could not be taken away again.
At annual general meetings they meet and decide how to distribute excess funding as a board. Usually, they reinvest it, but it can also be used it to give back to members by knocking prices down. On the other hand, they may hold it in surplus in case of hard times.
To decide on what to do, the board has a discussion on what the options are and weighing the outcomes. The board decides on what the most appropriate recommendation is. The entire membership then votes at the annual general meeting.
The vote including the entire membership is not as disastrous as it might seem. They have only had one vote as an entity since opening. That vote was for who to appoint as auditors. Their business was small enough that they only needed internal work. However, it still needed to be done to show transparency. There has not yet been any friction in the decision making process as people are mutually invested in it. The shared, common interests of the community is what makes everything run smoothly.