Expanding your office is one of the most exciting and important moves a young company can make. But that doesn’t mean it comes without anxiety. Setting goals, budgeting, hiring, holding investor meetings and planning are huge priorities. And with that type of acceleration, other essentials can sneak up on a CEO, including the physical space we work in. When a startup is grinding to get off the ground, necessities like office space sometimes get left on the back burner during discussions about the future. At Rukkus, we wanted to put as much of our energy (and stress) into our product as possible. So when it came to office space, we took the co-working route early on and haven’t looked back.
When transitioning a business from conception to creation, people throw the word “growth” around liberally. Conversations usually come in terms of dollars or KPIs. But at our company, we include both people and physical space in those talks. In a few short years, we’ve grown our team from a single person working out of a New York City apartment to a group of over 25, and that number is increasing on a monthly basis. We’ve been able to grow seamlessly with the help of our co-working space provider, WeWork. They have enabled us to remain focused in other ways.
Like many other co-working spaces, WeWork provides shared office space for entrepreneurs and startups around the world. When Rukkus first launched, I moved from a desk in my apartment to a shared desk in WeWork’s “Labs” space: an open plan of shared desks for other like-minded entrepreneurs and freelancers trying to get their businesses off the ground. It gave me a place to focus and a routine that got me out of my apartment every day, and more importantly, gave me peace of mind as the company began to scale. As we hired our first full-time employees, we rented more desks without worry. We eventually grew to the point where we decided to move to actual office space in the building. What started as one office has now grown into five. The flexibility of co-working has enabled us to do it with ease.
Maybe the most important thing about our decision to stay at WeWork is the collaborative environment it facilitates. We don’t live in a bubble and haven’t had to work in one, either. The conversations I’ve had with people over coffee in the kitchen have been invaluable. The environment is built around innovation and we have hundreds of individuals to bounce ideas off of at all times of day. Whether it’s discussing the benefits of secure protocols or choosing logo design, there is a built-in focus group at your fingertips.
For entrepreneurs in the early stages of developing a company, these are some of the most important tips we can pass on:
- Utilize the member benefits as your company’s own. WeWork and other co-working spaces offer many benefits and perks for its members, such as discounts on gym memberships, restaurants, retail stores and business services. You can pass these through to your employees and provide them with perks you wouldn’t be able to offer otherwise.
- Make maximum use of the network. When we were a two-person company just starting out at WeWork, most of our peers were further along with their company than we were. We worked hard to develop relationships with other co-founders and were able to learn valuable lessons from the successes and failures of others.
- Realize the flexibility of a month-to-month lease. Conserving capital is extremely important for early stage startups, so don’t take any more space than you need. If you’re a team of only two people, don’t take a four-person office because it’s more comfortable.
- Know your surroundings. Most shared office spaces have both lively and quiet areas. To create the best work environment for your company to excel, make sure you pick a location that matches your company’s work style. Today, there are so many different shared office space options to choose from that you can afford to be fairly picky. If you don’t see what you like at one location, just move on to the next one.
Co-working certainly has its drawbacks: battling over conference rooms and phones and playing a bit of musical chairs come to mind. However, it has enabled Rukkus the flexibility to smoothly grow without getting sidetracked. The only significant changes that have come about have been a couple new walls here and there, but it has allowed us to expand our team without taking a hit to our dynamics. Someday we will inevitably outgrow this space. But until then, we’ll make sure to take full advantage of the people (and coffee) that help it feel like home.
Author: Manick Bhan, a former banker at Goldman Sachs, is the CEO and CTO at Rukkus.