For the last few weeks, I have worked out of an entrepreneurial incubator, hiring a flex desk and coming and going as I please. Out of all the working solutions I have had over the years, this is unique. And I am loving it.
I have worked out of my lounge, an outhouse, a second bedroom, my bedroom, a garage and rented various office spaces over the years. What most of those solutions have in common is that in some way, I remained solitary. I wasn’t always alone at home exactly, but definitely in a room, closed off from others a lot of the time.
As a writer, this is generally not a problem. But I did sometimes go days without leaving the house, changing out of my pyjamas or seeing other people. Eventually that kind of behaviour takes its toll on your state of mind. You start going in circles and becoming increasingly anti-social.
Over the years I have observed many hubs and/or co-working spaces. Mostly though, they fail as any kind of assistance system for the entrepreneurs concerned. All the best intentions in the world just never seem to result in small businesses working together, using each other as service providers or roping big clients together.
This failure is rooted in the fact that is never any one person’s business to be setting up and running these collaborations. It’s just expected to happen. Which is over-ambitious. Everyone is too busy running their own new business to worry about collaborating with someone else. And as entrepreneur’s, these people are generally not that driven to work with others anyway… otherwise they’d have jobs!
The incubator where I am now, AimForTheMoon, is different. There isn’t just a person there to help put business and projects together, there is a whole team. In addition, an ecology of interaction and socialisation beings everyone closer together and makes it more possible to collaborate. With regular Huddles, exercise classes, social events, learning sessions, workshops and knowledge sharing they are achieving a real sense of community. The team also goes out looking for clients for the business sitting under their roof… and brokers the deals.
Essentially, any incubator space needs to be someone’s business… not just a space wherein ‘something’ can happen. That is like giving a monkey a laptop and expecting it to eventually write a novel.
The advantage for all the inhabitants is a sense of progress and vibrancy, even for those not directly involved in the action. Speaking for myself, who has nothing to do with start-ups, corporate clients or collaborations, the buzz is infectious and motivating. I just like hanging out here, let along doing work. AND I am definitely getting more work done. Even the observer affect in a café is not as powerful as this!
But being in the middle of people doesn’t work for everyone, so how do you choose?
I suspect it has a lot to do with what you actually do as an entrepreneur. Some people require silence and solitude to do what they need to do for work, others crave social interaction, background noise and the sense of belonging. You need to be pretty honest with yourself about what you are like deep down inside and act accordingly.
If you are joining a hub or an incubator, make sure you get to the bottom of how they work. If you are moving there in order to find more work and grow your business, don’t forget to ask the hard questions about the structures and roles they have to deal with that. If they don’t have any, there will be no new work for you.