Business Cape Town co-working Collaborate community cowork coworking Design Entrepreneur Entrepreneur Network Internet networking Shared Office Social media SouthAfrica

    I left the house, and I liked it.

    I left the house, and I liked it

    Reflections of a first time coworker…

    This month we asked CTO Chief, Sarah to reflect on her first month (ever) in a coworking space and here is what she had to say. 

    242h

    So, my thoughts on my first month of being in a coworking space: I can honestly say that now that I’m able to look back on my time working from home, I can only laugh at myself in semi-exhausted hysteria. We all hear the stories of entrepreneurs and how tough it is, the sleepless nights and needing to be a jack of all trades. Not to mention that creating a successful business becomes synonymous with how little sleep you are getting, instead of how efficient you are actually being. Now two thoughts come to mind: first, that the jack of all trades is the master of none, and second, a line I remember from Scrooge Mc’Duck: “work smarter not harder.” I am now acutely aware of both in hindsight. 

    So perhaps, before I go on, I should mention what it is that I do for a living (to put this all in perspective). I am an Airbnb host, as well as an interior designer for Airbnb spaces and vacation rental homes. The focus of my interior design company is offering e-design packages, and while I’m based in Cape Town most of my clients thus far have been based in America. Sounds ideal, right? Airbnb host and designer, working from the comfort of home with an incredible view of Table Mountain, earning in US dollars.

    No, No No. Let me elaborate. Airbnb guests, as incredible as they are, are more interested in discussing the tourist attractions the city has to offer than your design conundrums (or, more importantly, acknowledging your looming deadline). The two roles become very blurred, and it’s hard to distinguish which one is the most important to nurture in that moment, as both are in fact income-generating. The human desire to be “likable” wins, and you find yourself negotiating how many hour of sleep are necessary for human survival while answering trivial touristy questions.

    The fallacy that I am living the dream of living in Cape Town while working with American clients and earning US dollars needs to be right sized, and quickly. Why? Well, I have two reasons, but both come down to the same frustrating issue: the internet. Firstly, have you ever tried having Skype consultations while you are trying to troubleshoot your WiFi connection? Let me tell you, it is most unpleasant. Secondly, the Design software I use is available online, which has two benefits: I don’t have to pay for licencing software, and I don’t have to upgrade my laptop (which solves the start-up’s ongoing problem of managing expenses). Have you ever tried to explain to Americans, a nation renowned for suing the likes of Nike because their shoelace came undone, that you are unable to meet your deadline because the internet has stopped working? There is not enough Prozac in the world to prepare you for that WhatsApp conversation.

    So five consultants and a few twitter posts later I realise that I need to “cease fighting” and get on with the designs that are now very overdue, as Uncle Sam is a bit hot under the collar. The only problem is that the WiFi still isn’t working, and the technician is only due the following day. So the only solution is the WLAN cable (which is too short to reach the desk) and I end up setting up shop on the kitchen floor. My Airbnb guest is strongly advised that cooking dinner is a really bad option given the current state of affairs, and is thrust a takeout menu.

    The other conundrum one faces is the design of your interior space: Is it that your bed is too close to your desk, or your desk too close to your bed? Both are true. There are days when you just seem to be in the flow and the ideas feel endless and you really want ride the wave, so to speak. So as you climb into bed and the next idea hits you like a lightning bolt, the desk is just too close to resist jumping up and switching on the laptop to start beavering away again till the early hours. The following day is generally when your motivation and your concentration are at an all-time low. Then it the bed that is too close to your desk. It would be so easy to just jump in and have that refreshing nap, the only thing stopping you is guilt. If it weren’t for that feeling of guilt and the fear of missing that one email that is about to change your destiny forever, you would Nike it (or said another way, Just do it). 

    275hSo instead you convince yourself that to carry on working is the best option. You spend hours researching whether a WordPress or Wix website is the best option. So the journey into the internet begins, and suddenly I am wondering when it was that I started caring about Brad and Angelina’s divorce? And just as I am arriving at a point where I am about to make a decision as to whether I am team Brad or team Jolie, the internet bombs out on me, again. 

    So, given my flair for drama, I think I have painted a fairly accurate picture of some of the frustrations experienced while working from home. It still does not negate that starting a business is stressful, and there are serious and sometimes paralyzing fears regarding expenditure. So why did I opt to join a co–work space? Sanity is the most concise answer I can give you. I based my final decision on this simple formula: Number of chargeable hours lost due to internet issues multiplied by my hourly rate. Viola! It suddenly made sense. 

    In fact I could in all probability rent two desks a months based on my elementary calculation. Why would I even contemplate two desks? So that I had somewhere for my ego and a whole new set of fears to sit while I was trying to get work done. I could not believe that lunacy had returned on my first day at my new desk – it was like my first day at school all over again. What if nobody likes me? What if everyone thinks what I do for a job is stupid? What if they peer over my shoulder watching me as I surf the World Wide Web?

    Honestly, as if someone could even read the words on my screen when they are five desks away. The words are smaller than the last letter on those eye tests that optometrists make you take. The other truth that was hard for ego to digest is that people are not like cats: they don’t hover around my computer watching the mouse dart across the screen. They are genuinely interested in themselves and committed to their daily tasks.

    Having said all that, it does not mean that they don’t care about you – there are plenty of opportunities to engage over the coffee machine, while preparing lunch, or on the collaboration platform. And yes, they may know someone who knows someone who is interested in your services. With such a variety of companies that use the space, I have been fortunate enough to meet someone who has untangled the spider web of confusion I had spun around WordPress vs Wix. So, combined with the advice, step-by-step guidance, and fear of what people will think of me if they find out if I am team Brad or team Jolie, I have managed to focus my efforts and get on with tasks.

    What it really comes down to is – yup, you guessed it – connection, both internet and human.

    Sarah is the founder of Urban Savvy Design, a consultancy based in Cape Town that provides bespoke design services to Air B&B hosts and operators.

    Contact her:

    sarah@urbansavvydesign.com | https://www.facebook.com/UrbanSavvyDesigns/

     

    March 21, 2017
    Business Business Plan Cape Town co-working Collaborate community cowork coworking Entrepreneur Entrepreneur Network networking Shared Office SME Uncategorized

    Being social is good for business.

    capetownoffice

    Is being social good for business?

    More and more companies are looking at coworking spaces as a fast and effective way of expanding their business operations. Instead of worrying about signing a lengthy lease, kitting it out with furniture and negotiating the best internet package, all you need to worry about is getting here. That’s the obvious bit, but there’s more to it than that.

    Tapping into the existing social network of a coworking space can play a big part in making sure that your new employees don’t feel isolated while you’re off building the base in the new city.

    Coworking is not just for start-ups

    A good recent example of this is a company from Gauteng that currently employ more than 250 people and looking to expand with an office in Cape Town. When I asked them why they’re looking at coworking the answer was simply, it’s a lot more social and in the short term will help the guys feel good about coming to work! So it got me thinking. Is it good to be social at work?

    For me, absobloodylutely YES. If I’m having a bad day, struggling with a tricky work related issue by simply stepping out of my work zone into the common area, I’m bound to bump into someone there and a quick chat immediately makes me feel better, especially when its random and off topic . Right now at CTO we have a great mix of cultures which also adds to the flavour. Just yesterday in fact a couple of American guys told me they were off to The Spur for the Monday night special and quite looking forward to trying the burgers to compare it to back home. Since I was practically raised in The Spur, like most kids in SA, I was delighted to hear that they had a great experience 😉

    Community

    Of course there are lots of other benefits to coworking, but I don’t think enough is said about the social benefits. A few months ago we had an expat return to South Africa join us after more than 10 years of living in Hong Kong! She’s not from Cape Town either, so you can imagine there was no social circle to jump into, she was starting from scratch. After just a few weeks here she joined up with a few CTO members to go for Sunday walks up the mountain, every Sunday. It’s definitely helped her settle back much faster than had she opted for the work-from-home option.

    We are after all social creatures who enjoy hearing one another’s stories and experiences. Very few of us are designed to sit in a room alone for up to 9 hours a day working, so why do it? I hear it quite a lot that the only reason people would choose to work from home is to save money, but how do you put a price on being happier? Maybe some clever person can design a happiness measuring tool so we can see the results. Wouldn’t that be cool!!!

    So, still unsure about sharing space with other people? All I’d say to you is that once you’ve tried it, you won’t look back. Five years and counting for me and I’ve loved every day of it. So, if your company is looking to set up an office in Cape Town, give us a shout, you won’t regret it.

    October 14, 2015
    Business Cape Town Hot Desk Shared Office

    The importance of office space

     

    First of all, there is probably no one-fits-all rule for office space. Depending on your business and activity, and on many other factors like will you be receiving customers or not, your ideal office space definition might be different from mine.

     

    What has changed since we have moved atHome Group to these new offices, from my point of view as IT Manager? We finally have a true IT room now that holds all of the servers and networking stuff. This is not a direct productivity win, but it makes life much easier because maintenance is done centrally, and the risk that someone unplugs the server “by mistake” is removed. All in all, this provides for better IT infrastructure management, less risk, and more overall performance (features) for everyone.

    At our old offices, we grew the company so fast that we didn’t have a conference room anymore – we had to use it to place the new recruitments. This was a very big draw-back. Even without talking about the impossibility to receive customers in a proper environment (doesn’t look very professional if they have to sit in the corridor…), alone the fact that the team members didn’t have a room to hold meetings was a very big problem.

     

     

    We see this now that we have two decent meeting rooms again: a smaller one with just 6 chairs and a table, that suits perfectly for small management meetings where you have to discuss things, and a larger one that can hold up to 15 people, equipped with a Cisco conference phone and a projector.

    This room and equipment has prooved to be a big addition to the IT team’s productivity in no time. Before, whenever we had to discuss a technical implementation or functional overview, we had to stand around someone else’s desk in the middle of our part of the office. Now we can sit down together, use the projector and have really productive meetings without causing inconvenience for the other office users.

     

     

    In a nutshell – don’t underestimate the power of decent office space and make sure your team has the proper environment to work correctly. Especially some smaller companies would say that they can’t afford a meeting room with projector etc. but this is a mistake. You can build a good meeting room with an Macro table, 6 Macro chairs, and a cheap LCD screen you hook up on the wall, and a cheap laptop with Wifi Internet, and there you go : perfect IT meeting room for less than R10,000  !

    Also check out Simon Baker’s post about office fit-out : http://myceolife.com/2008/08/office-fitouts-one-of-the-keys-to-a-great-culture/

    Article by Alain Fontaine

    November 15, 2011