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Whether you’re a small business owner or a freelancer, planning a start-up or self-employed, one of the most important decisions you’ll face is where to set up shop. You’ve likely considered the usuals: home office, rented storefronts or building spaces – but did you know there is another option? The coworking movement is trending today, and for good reason.
What Is the Coworking Movement
Coworking is a relatively new concept that’s quickly gaining ground in the U.S. and it’s easy to see why. With the options and flexibility of coworking spaces, they are a great fit for many different entrepreneurs. So just what is coworking?
According to CoworkingResources.org, “coworking is a shared office space where entrepreneurs, freelancers, remote workers, and anyone else who wants access to a fully-equipped space can get a membership.”
In essence, coworking spaces are community offices that allow workers of all walks of entrepreneurship to come together. They are essentially a place to network and share ideas with others while still offering private work and meeting areas for an affordable membership fee.
Strong Growth Pattern
If you’re considering a coworking space, you’re not alone. Statistics have shown coworking spaces have a strong growth pattern, continuing to catch on across the globe. Harvard Business Review explains the new trend is due in large part to the many benefits associated with office sharing:
“…People who belong to (coworking spaces) report levels of thriving that approach an average of 6 on a 7-point scale. This is at least a point higher than the average for employees who do their jobs in regular office spaces.”
With such a high number of employees reporting positive rankings for coworking, researchers wanted to take a closer look. What is it about coworking spaces that creates a highly satisfying work space?
A Networking Hotspot
Since coworking offers unique opportunities to network with others in various professions, the benefits are practically endless. In addition to the fully stocked office equipment coworkers have access to, networking with individuals with other entrepreneurial specialties can be exponentially advantageous.
“In a shared office space, there are usually dozens of other people – if not hundreds – occupying the same location as you, and those demographics will likely change every month. It’s a perfect place to meet new people in the professional world…” writes Forbes.com.
Beyond the Networking Opportunities
Outside of the networking opportunities, there are several other benefits reported by those who are already coworking members. Among the benefits, coworking spaces offer members:
- Flexibility of membership (monthly, no long-term lease requirements)
- Freedom (come and go as you please, no set hours or required schedule)
- Less Pressure (no office politics or competitions with others as with a traditional office)
- Community Support (get advice and ideas from a wider range of coworking community members)
- Fantastic office spaces at budget-friendly prices
Above all, the coworking trend is catching on because it offers a unique and affordable office experience for those looking to get away from the traditional conformity. With the flexibility and networking opportunities associated with coworking, it’s no wonder coworking office spaces are increasing in popularity.
If you’re shopping for a new office space, there are many things to consider beyond what is simply available. Since your office space is where you’ll do the bulk of your business dealings, it’s imperative that you find the right space for not just your business, but your budget and your future.
“An office environment reflects and reinforces a business’s core values, through the placement of different teams and functions and design elements that reflect culture, brand, and values,” explains Harvard Business Review (HBR.org).
While availability is certainly something to consider, it’s not as critical as you may believe. What is far more important to keep in mind is something HBR.org identifies as the “7 Attributes of Workspaces:”
1 – Location of Your Office Headquarters
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s crucial to choose a space that is central to your business needs and clients. Be sure to keep in mind how easy the space is to access by visiting customers and colleagues.
2 – Office Elements
You’ll need to take stock of any potential office headquarters’ spacial elements. What we mean is, how open is the location? Does it offer privacy where needed for meetings, and spaces that encourage comfort and productivity?
3 – Privacy Matters
Similar to the elements listed above, privacy is a key attribute to keep in mind. You’ll need to make sure the space offers elements such as private conference rooms, individual land lines for closed telephone meetings, and any other privacy options.
4 – Tech Tools
Since the bulk of business dealings today are handled digitally in one form or another, it’s crucial that your new office space is equipped with the necessary technology. Look for locations that can offer high-speed internet, Wi-Fi, and other integrated technology tools. There are many locations, such as coworking spaces, that offer all-inclusive bundles for office spaces that are ready-to-go and equipped with all the digital tools you’ll need.
5 – Networking Appeal
One simple element that many entrepreneurs overlook is the degree to which your space invites clients and colleagues to network together. In other words, does the space offer ample and inviting areas where you can comfortably carry on business with others in both a social and functional way?
6 – Focal Points
This may seem trivial, but focal points are a critical piece of any office environment. They are the elements within the space which draw you to them (and by extension, your clients). You’ll want to choose a space that has appealing aspects and a well-thought-out area for inviting and comfortable work areas.
7 – Available Space
Lastly, a space is only as valuable as its available work areas, so take stock of how much (and what kind of) space you need and compare that with potential headquarters. The area needs to have enough room for your daily functions (quiet space, communal areas, conference rooms), yet also allow for any future growth.
Once you have taken all of these elements into consideration, you can then compare your options with other aspects. Obviously, you’ll want to carefully consider your budget and individual business needs among other things. Overall, your office space will say a lot about your business in general, so consider all factors carefully before moving into your new space.
Coworking office spaces have grown exponentially in popularity among entrepreneurs in recent years. In fact, communal work environments are predicted to average membership growth rate increases of nearly 25% over the next few years alone, according to the Global Coworking Unconference Conference (GCUC).
So why the sudden influx of memberships? Perhaps it’s the unique and diverse environments associated with coworking offices spaces. Or, perhaps, it’s one of the dozens of other benefits members list as appealing that is drawing new members in droves.
According to sources such as the Harvard Business Review and the Chicago Tribune, coworking office spaces have become wildly popular for numerous reasons. Members who participate in them state the coworking spaces allow them benefits that are unparalleled by any other means. Of the many benefits given, here are some of the most widely reported advantages coworking members reported:
The Coworking Savings
For starters, let’s be honest – when it comes to business, the bottom line is, well, the bottom line. An office space option that allows you to cut costs while keeping a beautiful and functional work space is going to be high on the list for sure.
“If you lease your own office space, you’re responsible for paying for utilities, supplies and amenities. With shared offices, utilities such as water and Internet are included, as are other amenities including coffee and kitchen supplies. This reduces costs and some of the details you have to tackle day to day,” explains ChicagoTribune.com.
No More Office Politics
Another benefit, as researchers with Harvard Business discovered during a 2015 survey, is that coworking spaces have a noticeable lack of “office politics.” Since everyone who is involved in a shared office environment has a different area of expertise, there is no sense of competition among coworkers.
“Because there is little direct competition or internal politics, they don’t feel they have to put on a work persona to fit in,” Harvard Business Review reports. As a result, coworking space members tend to feel much more comfortable and focused on their own projects than they did in traditional office spaces.
Since shared office spaces usually offer monthly membership options, you have much more flexibility than you would with an office lease or mortgage. The monthly choices give members the ability to operate on an as-needed basis, as well as allowing them the flexibility of their own schedules as well. Coworker spaces are often open 24/7 for members to access whenever they want. This allows for a “come and go as you please” office environment, which is (understandably) highly appealing to members.
Community and Support
Finally, coworkers have noted that one of the biggest benefits to utilizing shared office spaces comes in the form of the community and support they gain while at work. Coworking spaces have members from all walks of business and experiences. This gives members a unique opportunity to socialize with others they may never have met before.
By extension, members are also entrenched in a pool of coworking specialties. This means that most will have a new set of coworkers that can offer on-demand help or advice with fresh perspectives every day. It also offers some fantastic networking opportunities.
The benefits of coworking seem to be never-ending if you have the opportunity to discuss experiences with someone who participates in a membership. One thing is for certain; the statistics clearly state that coworking offices are trending, and we’re beginning to see why!
With the digital world booming today, your understanding of online marketing strategies can essentially make or break your business ventures. Practically every form of commerce has a corresponding (if not central) online presence nowadays, but the reality is, not all business owners are also digital marketing gurus.
The good news is, you don’t have to be a marketing whiz to operate a successful online presence for your business. Understanding the basics of digital campaigns will help you navigate your way through the web; and it all begins with knowing the lingo.
Digital Marketing Terms
The first step to tackling digital marketing is to learn the terminology behind it. There are a lot of various anagrams and terms out there that can be quite confusing – but they don’t have to be. Once you familiarize yourself with the lingo, you’re well on your way to improving your business’s online presence.
“The better you familiarize yourself, the easier it is to understand and speak discerningly, whether it’s within internal departments or the agency building your website.” – Forbes.com.
There seem to be no shortage of acronyms when it comes to digital marketing terminology. Consider it the shorthand of the day, or the texting lingo of the business world. However, you look at it, acronyms are here to stay, so it’s best to get familiar with them – at least, the most widely used phrases.
Some of the acronyms should be fairly understandable once you learn what they represent. In fact, many of them are just abbreviations of common business terms you likely are already familiar with.
Most Common Acronyms
Here is a look at some of the most common acronyms used in digital marketing today, along with a brief description of their meaning:
- B2B: Business to Business, or commercial operations
- B2C: Business to Consumer, or traditional operations
- SEO: Search Engine Optimization, or knowing how to drive customers to your site
- SMM: Social Media Marketing, or utilizing Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms
- WOM: Word of Mouth, or advertising via client praise
Essentially, the bulk of the terms are fairly self-explanatory. If you’re a business owner, chances are you are already familiar with terms like “word of mouth” and know whether your business is focused on B2B or B2C transactions.
However, it goes without saying that the more you know, the better off you are. Especially when it comes to familiarizing yourself with current trends and successful digital marketing tactics.
SEO knowledge, for example, is a highly sought-after commodity in terms of creating a booming virtual business. Why? Well, since the bulk of all internet traffic flows through search engines (such as Google) first, the businesses who rank in the top findings for each search are the ones with the greatest visitors. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that greater website traffic equates to a wider client base.
“Having your online business searched, found and ranked is not only about how you are marketing and messaging to online audiences but also how it is in observance of the latest rules and algorithms.” – Forbes.com.
The More You Know
There are multitudes of acronyms out there when it comes to digital marketing, but don’t let that dissuade you from getting your business out there digitally. These terms are critical parts of running a successful business venture of any kind today. The more you learn, the easier it will be to navigate your online presence.
When it comes to running a business, few things concern owners more than achieving a successful return on their investment (ROI). It’s not an issue that disappears after you’ve officially reached a profitable term or a well-developed client and customer base. In fact, it’s a concern that will dictate your business decisions for the duration of your operations.
Whether you’re an established entity with decades of experience or just starting out and toying with the idea of a new business, you’ll be focused on generating ROI. Why? It’s more than simply earning back the basic start-up costs. As you will continually invest in your business, you’ll be continually focused on the ROI of those investments.
What Is ROI?
In order to understand how to maximize your ROI, you must first understand what it is. Most business owners are already familiar with the definition, but a refresher never hurts.
In layman’s terms, your ROI is quite simply, the probability of recouping the costs of your investment, and the potential profitability ratio. According to Business News Daily, “ROI is used to calculate how much of a value an investment is.”
There is a basic formula that is used to determine the ROI of any individual project or business investment. In short, your ROI is calculated by dividing your net profit by the overall cost:
ROI = Net Profit (Profits – Investment) / Cost (Investments, Maintenance)
It goes without saying then, that in order to increase your ROI, you need to increase your net profits – which, let’s be honest, is the whole purpose anyway. The higher your net profits, the higher your ROI and the greater your investment is worth. So how do you go about boosting profitability?
Well, for starters, you need to fully understand the overall costs of any particular venture. Whether it’s advertising, investing in a new product or service, or developing new merchandise lines, using the ROI formula will be your first step in understanding the likelihood of a successful endeavor.
“Understanding the return on investment of any project or marketing campaign helps in identifying what is a successful business practice versus what isn’t.” – BusinessNewsDaily.com.
Tips to Increase Your ROI
Once you are confident you’ve got a successful concept for investment, the next step is to optimize your profitability in order to increase your ROI. Determining what factors will positively impact your ROI isn’t a cut and dry process, as every investment venture has its own unique set of influences. However, there are tips to help increase the ROI of many ventures as a whole:
It may seem like a given, but electronic communication is a highly efficient method of increasing the ROI of any given investment. Why? Because it cuts the cost of generating hard copy mailers and takes a significantly lower amount of time to complete. It also gives the invaluable insight of digital analytics which allows you to fully grasp which markets are working best for your investment.
With marketing campaigns focused largely on digital platforms, it makes sense to track their success rates digitally as well. Online analytic programs will take the guessing out of your ROIs by tracking all traffic and success rates for you.
Another concept that is crucial to the equation is to ensure you maintain competitive pricing. While it may be tempting to stay conservative on pricing options in order to increase your profits, experts say it’s best to remain competitive.
“Consumers view value in different ways and pricing yourself out of competition is going to kill your ROI.” – Chad Reid, Director of Communications for JotForm via Comidor.com.
Lastly, one of the best ways to increase your ROI is to carefully choose the costs that are incurred on the front end. While you don’t want to skimp on critical pieces or strategic campaigns, there are ways you can minimize costs. Determine what pieces of your investment can be done in-house (successfully), and keep your in-house overhead to a minimum. Co-working office spaces are a great way to do this, as are mobile work stations because they allow ample opportunities to develop your investments at minimal cost. Overall, there are a number of ways to increase your ROI at every step. The key is to fully research your costs and carefully determine the best strategies for each particular venture.
One of the most critical decisions to make when starting a new business, is choosing the right business structure. There’s a lot of jargon out there that can be quite confusing when it comes to choosing a business structure.
“The business structure you choose influences everything from day-to-day operations, to taxes, to how much of your personal assets are at risk. You should choose a business structure that gives you the right balance of legal protections and benefits.” – sba.gov
With so much riding on which structure you choose, it’s easy to understand the importance of making the right choice. To ensure you make the best decision for your business, there are a few things to keep in mind:
Understand the Differences
First and foremost, you will need to understand the differences between each business structure. You can’t very well decide one or the other is better if you don’t know what each offers or requires.
Should you file as a Limited Liability Company (LLC)? A Non-Profit? A Corporation? What about C-Corp, S-Corp, or B-Corp? How do you know which structure is right?
Start by educating yourself on the details of the most widely-used legal business structures. Sites such as the U.S. Small Business Administration (sba.gov) or the IRS (irs.gov) can offer helpful definitions of each structure.
Identify Your Options
Once you have a basic understanding of the typical structures available to you, you can begin comparing them. Some of the choices will automatically be eliminated (for example – if you’re not forming a business with a partner, you can obviously rule out filing as a Partnership), but others will need a closer look.
Create a small list of the structures which are not ruled out by basic criteria. Even if you may not initially consider one, if your business qualifies, add it to the list for now.
Create a Short List
From here, you can begin to compare and eliminate options. Do this by adding criteria, pros and cons, regulations, and whatever else you discover in your research under each structure on your list. By short-listing the highlights, you will be able to do a side-by-side comparison later on which will help you make the best possible decision for your business.
Be sure to include details in your comparison list such as tax liabilities, company control levels, legal liabilities, and any other form of protection you may need down the road. This will help you to weigh the risk-factors of each structure in terms of protecting your business (and your personal assets) in any future unforeseen issues.
Speak with Established Owners
Another thing to consider when deciding the right structure for your company is the invaluable insight from others who have already gone through it. Speaking with other local business owners, colleagues from a coworking space, or friends and family who have entrepreneurial experience can give you an inside look at things you may not think of by simply doing online searches.
In short, such an important decision is best made with all of the facts and details in mind. The only way to do that is to be thorough in your research and seek the advice of others who have been through the process.