Last year, Discover Coworking interviewed Brickyard founder, Ann Orem. We circled back with her on July 24, 2018 after a year. Since the last interview, some of our staff have become a member of Brickyard and are operating from within the space.
Last time we spoke with Ann, Brickyard just completed their second expansion. This time, Brickyard completed their third. With the Ashburn, Virginia location up and running, Ann is now ready to expand into other markets. She has been working with local jurisdictions to still focus on the suburban coworking model that has succeeded in the current space. Brickyard found its niche and would rather scale into other markets than continuing to grow the current location.
No Artificial Community
Brickyard is a very chilled out space. There is no emphasis on artificially creating a community. Ann does not believe in trying to force relationships amongst members. She found that trying to force community upon people is not successful. There are so many different types of people, workers, and personalities. They cannot all be accommodated at once. However, she and her team do their best to listen to feedback and facilitate it in the most non-interfering way. Members are the driving force behind what is happening in the space. It is important to listen to their voices and needs. If you do that, everything else will follow naturally.
Everyone at Brickyard is professional. Members come to get work done. They have had positive responses from events, but Ann realized that a huge event schedule is not beneficial to the members. It interferes with what they are trying to do. While they are open to hosting events, they do not book their space full of them. That mutual respect and awareness for one another is what makes members most successful.
The way your members function is a reflection on who you are as a person and leader. Ann is not a micromanager. She is not physically in the space at all times. Despite her absence, Brickyard continues to flourish.
The most efficient way she manages and leads is by creating the best team around her. It is about having the best people in place. She looks for the right people who are just as passionate as her.
In order to build the the best possible team, Ann sat down and figured out what the roles were going to be. However, these roles matter less than the person. Resumes are wonderful but the collective experience of team members is what makes them effective. Coworking is a young industry so there is not a bunch of people with years and years of experience to bring to the table. Instead, Ann looks for how someone can bring their individual skills to Brickyard to get the job done.
There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes. The worst thing to do is let your members feel that. Ann and her team operate as low key as possible. They emphasize being able to work together instead of micromanaging one another. The strong personal relationships between her and her team members harbors respect, making them easy to work with.
Word of mouth has been the most successful marketing tool for Brickyard. As soon as they started, their trajectory has continued to go upward. The demand has constantly been there so they do not need a huge marketing force. When people come in, they can tell right away if it is right for them or not. It is about the physical space and the vibe given off by the people in the space. Everything is organic.
There is room in the market for every space. The demand is always going to be there. Everyone has a need for something different. There is a place for everything. It is about what fits best with your concept, community, and lifestyle. The coworking industry is going to continue to grow. Every market is starting to see it.