For the past few years, I have been a member of CoCoMSP, which is a Twin Cities-based co-working collaborative, now with three locations.
The space I use looks more like a coffee shop than an office, and it’s part of a growing trend. A new kind of office for independent contracts, startups and small companies like mine that want to remain nimble and agile.
When I opened my brokerage last March, deciding that CoCoMSP will be our headquarters was an easy decision to make because I was already a member and have been for four years. My business address is the same as the address of the collaborative with a three-digit mailbox number tacked on the end. It costs $20 extra a month to have an address and a mailbox.
The location is in a fast-growing, vibrant neighborhood, which is the home of artists and across the street from a renovated train depot and around the corner from a farmers market and a baseball stadium. There is a bar, restaurant and theater on the first floor called Bedlam.
I love my hip urban real estate office. When I tell people where my office is, they are usually interested in it and excited to see it.
Using a collaborative office is inexpensive. I have a membership, which allows me to use the space for a certain amount of time each week. I could have a fixed office space, called a “campsite,” but for now, the table by the windows and close to the kitchen and coffee pot works just fine.
The campsites are used by small companies that consist of a group of people who need to see each other to get the job done. They often have administrative help of some kind, and they have use more traditional office furniture.
There are conference rooms I can reserve for larger groups or meetings, and there are areas that look like lounges that I can use for smaller meetings. I have used them for writing offers and meeting with clients, and, on occasion, I have used them for presentations to my co-workers.
When someone stops by to see me, the person at the little reception desk tells him or her that I will be right out and immediately sends me a text message. He also lets me know if I have mail, and he never lets the coffee pot run out.
I never understood the kind of corporate model of real estate brokerage where independent contractors work alongside their competitors in putty-colored cubicles. Those agents should be out and about — not in an office. It isn’t like they need to be there to use the phone or to receive a fax.
When I go into the collaborative, I work alongside technology startups, and I work with artists and writers, journalists, a vice president at an insurance company in another state, some lawyers and a PR firm.
There are Web designers, WordPress experts and people who build apps for smartphones. There is a kind of energy, almost like electricity, that runs through the place, as well as a sense of community.
None of these people have real estate licenses, and some are just the right age to be first-time homebuyers. I enjoy socializing and learning from them.
My more permanent office is in the cloud, and it is with me wherever I go. The company forms and all the contracts and access to the bank accounts are at my fingertips no matter where I am. There is no need for a copy machine, fax, landline or even a file cabinet.
There isn’t any advantage in being in a particular location unless I need to meet with someone. When an agent needs something, they just send me a text message or get me through Facebook messenger. I usually respond almost immediately.
I have observed that people who work at companies in cubicles use instant message applications to communicate with each other, too, when they could just walk over for a face-to-face chat.
My overhead is low, which gives me some flexibility in where I spend my money. The first decision I made was to charge a lower administrative fee. Some small brokerages charge their clients the same fees that the big brokerages in the glass office towers charge.
I did a search on Google and learned that there are co-working collaboratives all over the country, but mainly in larger cities. The trend is growing, and the collaborative I work out of is cited in several articles about co-working spaces.
There are so many advantages in not having a traditional company office. The only disadvantage is some agents won’t like it, but I am not sure that is a disadvantage.
I don’t want to spend time choosing fabric or picking out the most comfortable chairs. I don’t want or need the drama of office politics, and I don’t want to handle leases or significant expenses every month. I just want to focus on my job and giving excellent service to my clients.