For the past four years I have been writing about my experiences sharing space. Some pieces focused on customer service and shared my insights as a customer and my customer service-related experiences with businesses that sometimes shared space with other businesses. Some posts were about using shared space in unique ways. Many of my most recent posts explored my own search for office space, my decisions to office more at home and my realization that I have an office style that means I need access to flexible space to meet my multiple office-use needs. Through these posts I have become ever more conscious of the ways we share space every day whether we are sharing shared office space, shared public space and even shared private space.
While writing on space, officing and doing business my goal was to show how shared space works and how others can benefit from it. Through this autobiographical diary of my office explorations I’ve also learned a lot about myself and the ways I share space.
What did I learn?
- Fundamentally businesses are the same: it doesn’t matter if it’s a small business or a larger one—a successful business requires a successful team.
- Even sole proprietors need support networks: Whether business, emotional or financial, a one-person business needs support to grow.
- A successful team benefits from the strengths of each member: encouraging team members’ strengths is rewarding for the business owner, for the team and for the business.
- Running a business strategically requires a strategic plan, the ability to ask for advice and the humility to accept it.
- Sharing space effectively depends as much on where you share space as how you look at it.
I hope this series has been as effective in helping you find and define your office space as it has been for me.
I am a member of a local group that lists items for sale on Facebook. Most of the items are personalized crafts or used goods so the prices are generally less expensive than buying them from a store and more immediate in some cases than buying them on EBay. Though I sift through the site on a regular basis I haven’t purchased anything–yet.
A few weeks ago I began paying attention to the bike-related posts and noticed odd exchanges between a bike seller and potential customers. Every few days the bike seller reposted pictures of bikes with acronym comments like “sfs” or squiggly lines that looked like sideways butterflies. It took me a few days to realize “sfs “meant still for sale and that the sideways butterfly was his way of nudging his post to the top of the group without taking the time to repost information. My favorites though were the brief exchanges under a few of the pictures.
A potential customer would ask about the bike; the seller responded in the group. When the comments turned to negotiating the price, the seller replied “check your pm”: the conversations went private. After most of these exchanges the seller posted: “time waister”. The misused word wasn’t the only thing wrong with the posts.
Each time the potential seller makes a negative comment about a potential client he loses not only that sale but those of anyone reading the exchange. He’s established a pattern: do business with me or I’ll post something negative about you. His reaction reflects more negatively on him than it does on the person who decided not to do business with him.
You won’t make every sale. Positive communication yields positive results. Negative ones can turn virile.
It’s like mother used to say: if you don’t have something nice to say—negative statuses make the situation worse.
“When you run out, just text me; I’ll be sure to put some on the truck,” the shop owner said as he packed up my shopping bag. He was much happier than the last time I had seen him.
I hadn’t seen the shop owner in a few weeks. The last time my son and I had visited his stall he didn’t have what we wanted. Every two weeks my son and I would go in to town and pick up a supply. Apple Jacks aren’t in big demand here. The shop owner packed them on his truck and held them behind his stall for when we came.
One day we stopped coming.
With the construction in town, the market’s relocation and my own projects competing to be done, going in to town on Market day became less practical. The small stall is also online but the prices are higher and the wait times longer than if I go in to town. So I shopped at other online shops for cheaper prices and shorter delivery times. Still, I missed the personal touch.
A few weeks ago my youngest and I ventured in to town on Market day. After reading the relocation signs we found the familiar stall. The owner looked worried.
“I’m sorry; I didn’t bring Apple Jacks today. I didn’t think you were coming.”
His distress made me smile: He remembered what we wanted and felt he had let us down. The next time we came, as promised, he had the cereal.
“You don’t even have to say your name when you text; I know it’s you when you say Apple Jacks,” he joked as we left.
In an age of technology and speed, personal touches are still relevant. How do you set yourself apart from your competition?
My university is a sprawling community. There are multiple venues, spaces and businesses. A few miles away there is a small but vibrant town that also has multiple venues, spaces and businesses.
Many people travel through town to get to the university; some live, work or shop in town but for some reason the two communities, though reliant on one another, are often separate. People from town don’t often venture on campus for events though people on campus will venture to town. I’m hoping to bridge both communities.
This year I am organizing three literary events that I hope will become regular occurrences for both the town and the university. At first my colleague and I were looking at spaces on campus: they are free and we can adjust the space according to the scale of the event. On campus events are convenient for us and for other students. It seemed logical to plan events—even when students weren’t the target audience—on campus.
The other day I met with a representative from the student union.
“The bar isn’t doing as well as we’d like,” he said.
I knew the university owned an off-campus bar but I had never been inspired to go there. It seems I’m not the only one. The bar caters to younger students and competes with venues on campus and in town; the bar is losing.
“Have you thought of hosting a literary salon there?” I asked.
It was the first time I had thought about it but the space seemed suddenly right: A stage, an audience, the soft thump of music, a built in atmosphere and the opportunity to bring the campus to the community.
Thanks to our conversation we are both envisioning a new use for space.
Where do you meet your target audience?
For a year I had my own office—unofficially. Officially I shared the office with another student but the person never showed up. The office is large and spacious enough to be shared.
Last year I shared the office with three colleagues. I used the office even less than I had in the first year. Scheduling office time meant coordinating schedules with three other people. When I spent time there it was either for my office hours or when I was in the mood to socialize. The less I do it, the less adept I am at working separately in collaborative space. I didn’t plan to use my office to work on projects because I couldn’t plan when I’d have the office to myself.
The other day I got an email addressed to six other people as well as myself. The email welcomed us all to our “new” office and encouraged us all to pick up keys and get to know each other. I responded with my suggested office hour. I hoped scheduling my time would encourage everyone to carve out their slice of private time in a shared space. Instead it seems some of my future office mates will be using the office around the clock.
This year I will be using my office sparingly.
Because I know my office style I have made arrangements to have access to other spaces where I can host interviews. As I did last year, I will work from home when possible and use the office or other spaces for my office hour appointments. I will stop in the office to get to know my officemates but because I know I can’t work there, I will work where I’m productive.
Do you share your office space with people with varying officing needs? How do you share space?