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Horizontal Integration As A Leadership Strategy: Lessons From Community Management

In the vibrant world of coworking spaces, where innovation meets collaboration, community managers stand as the captains of the ship, steering the communal ecosystem toward success and growth. My journey as a community manager started with IWG (Regus at the time) in 2002 and led me on an enlightening path of learning, adapting and evolving. My experience touched upon various aspects of business, marketing, sales and human relations. Here, I'll share the wealth of knowledge that this role has imparted upon me in hopes of shedding light on the multifaceted nature of managing a coworking space and how it can prepare people to become CEOs.


Financial Insights: Mastering The Art Of Business Management

One of the first revelations of my role was understanding that managing a coworking space is akin to running your own business. Every decision impacts the bottom line. From deciphering profit and loss statements to recognizing the importance of both top-line growth and bottom-line health, the financial acumen required is vast. Controlling expenses became a daily mantra for me, not just to survive but to thrive and ensure that our space could continue to foster creativity and collaboration without financial hindrance. I quickly learned that financial discipline and daily monitoring of margins is not a glamorous task but one that can have a significant impact on whether a location achieves profitability.

Marketing Savvy: The Front Lines Of Space Promotion

As the face of our coworking space, I quickly learned that marketing is not just about promotion but also about connection. Terms like SEO and conversion rates, once foreign to me as a recent college graduate with a BA in history, became second nature as I delved into the digital world to showcase our space. Each tour, blog post and social media update is a piece of a larger puzzle aiming not just to attract members but also to build a community and a brand. While "brand" has become a buzzword in our industry, it's crucial to remember that the true drivers behind any coworking brand are the ambassadors who operate the spaces. Their actions and interactions embody the essence of what the brand stands for and bring it to life in meaningful ways.


Sales Skills: Beyond Just Selling Desks

My love language is sales. Mastering the art of sales is not just about closing deals; it's about mastering the art of communication, understanding needs and building relationships—skills that form the cornerstone of virtually any professional role. Success in sales requires empathy, adaptability and a keen sense of strategy, qualities that are invaluable in any job context, including for CEOs. From negotiating partnerships to leading teams, the principles of sales are ubiquitous, making it a foundational skill set. If you can navigate the complexities of sales, you're equipped with the universal toolkit to thrive in any career, because at its core, every job involves the fundamental elements of selling—be it an idea, a vision or a project. Sales teaches you not just how to persuade, but also how to listen and respond to turn challenges into opportunities—a mindset that's crucial for success in any field. Every interaction with a prospect is a stepping stone toward creating a diverse and dynamic coworking environment.

Networking And Interpersonal Expertise: The Heart Of Community Building

When I initially embarked on my journey as a community manager, whenever the question of my favorite aspect of the role arose, I wouldn't miss a beat before highlighting the unique privilege I had in being the singular link that connected everyone at the location. Forming relationships with each individual is not just a part of a community manager's job—it is the essence of it, and undeniably, it was the part I enjoyed the most. Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of this role is the vast network of individuals you'll have the privilege to meet and work with. From budding entrepreneurs to established corporates, the daily interactions offer a deep dive into the myriad ways businesses operate and thrive. Learning to read the room, to sense the undercurrents of collaboration and competition, can be invaluable. It's these connections, these moments of shared triumphs and challenges, that truly define the essence of a coworking community and can prepare you for a leadership role.


Conclusion: A Role That Shapes More Than Just Workspaces

In reflecting upon my journey, it's evident to me that the rich tapestry of experiences and skills gained during my time as a community manager laid the groundwork for my ascent to CEO before the age of 40. This role, often underestimated, can be a crucible of leadership for others, as it teaches the nuanced art of negotiation, the importance of empathy in team dynamics, and the strategic foresight needed to steer a company toward its vision. Moreover, it underscores the significance of building and nurturing relationships—a skill that translates seamlessly into managing a diverse and sometimes disparate team.

Ultimately, my tenure as a community manager equipped me with a foundational skill set and a unique perspective that have been instrumental in navigating the challenges and seizing the opportunities that have come my way. It taught me that leadership is as much about fostering community and connectivity as it is about vision and strategy. As I look back on my journey, I am profoundly grateful for the myriad ways in which being a community manager sculpted me into the leader I am today. This dual path of professional and personal growth has been both a challenge and a blessing, shaping a leadership style marked by empathy, resilience and a deep-seated belief in the potential of every individual and every community to thrive.