Have you seen those perfect lifestyles online, you know the type; sit on a beach or overlooking a lake, laptop open, mobile phone at the side chilling and working out how to spend your $20k per month? Well, a few years ago I was working far too many hours for an insurance company owned by a bank, managing teams in a call centre, working unsociable hours (early starts, late finishes and weekends), coordinating multiple projects, trying to do the work of 3 people and barely saw my young family.
Bombshell Number 1;
I had a breakdown and then followed serious depression.
So I decided that I needed to leave the corporate rat race and to live the dream instead.
After lots of due diligence and much deliberation I bought a franchise with all our savings and borrowed some more too. It looked like the perfect business (and lifestyle) for me; It was an online marketing directory platform, working locally, supporting local business owners, being my own boss. I could take my children to school, I could become financially independent and create a legacy.
Malibu beach and a Ferrari were definitely on the cards!!!!!!
That was the dream; the reality was a just little different.
First I needed an office.;
Working at the kitchen table was distracting. My Dog PJ, my best friend who is a Golden Retriever, wasn’t a productive team member and the sports channels began to be distracting. So I decided to convert the garage into an office, it was too small to get the car in and had become a large shed.
A few weeks and another £2000 later I moved into my brand new “office”. The commute was very convenient, I only had to walk through the kitchen to get there. It had freshly painted magnolia walls, a brand new laptop, lots of shelves for my accounts, free wifi and abundant coffee. It seemed perfect.
BUT, I had created the worst working environment I could imagine. It had no windows, no fresh air, no-one to talk to, I was so miserable. The isolation increased my depression. WHAT WAS I THINKING?
I looked for any excuse to leave the office. There is only so much coffee and walking the PJ 3 times a day was getting boring.
I had a business advisor who suggested joining networking groups. This was great advice. I visited BNI (heard of them?) 4Netowrking and joined the Oldham Business Network. This was a great move. I quickly became regular at morning breakfast networking groups, developed lots of friendships and quickly learned so much from others who had been in business much longer than I had.
One of my new networking friends, Kieron, was having similar problems as myself, namely focus, isolation and needed more room to work. So we decided to rent a tiny office at Chambers Business Centre. I had become friends with the owner of the business centre (I had sold him an advertising package on my website).
A week a later we had our very own office for less than £300 between the 2 of us, including all bills! Yes we had a real office. I actually began looking forward to going to work again, sharing ideas, successes and lessons and lots of coffee. Trust me Kieron makes STRONG coffee, prefect. Things were looking good again.
A few months later other networking friends became envious of our perfect little office and wanted to do the same as us, join forces and get their own office. So the 4 of us decided to move into a much larger office. In 1 room we had a sales and marketing professional, HR consultancy, IT department and a recruitment agency. 4 very valuable and collaborative businesses.
Imagine what we had accidentally created; 4 different businesses sharing our own experience and knowledge, networking at different events, sharing contacts and up-skilling each other. More importantly I had 3 new friends who I could trust and my depression was fading away.
Sharing a workspace with your friends is fantastic. But then Bombshell Number 2; when my both of parents we’re diagnosed with terminal cancer I really needed the company, the friendship.
I have no idea how I would’ve coped if I was working alone. By having people around me in the office and the business centre I felt I could face each day. Working alone could’ve tippped me “over the edge”.
Bombsell Number 3;
One Tuesday morning I received an email; My franchise business was being liquidated. The franchisor hadn’t been paying his taxes and wound up his business and all the franchises. So I, along with the others who had invested in him around the country, suddenly became unemployed.
I had no job, no income, a 3 bedroom house to pay for, my wife 2 young children, a dog a rabbit and a goldfish. AND lots of debt from the purchase of the business.
I was lower than I you can ever imagine. Mentally ill with depression, flat broke, caring for terminally ill parents. That’s when I really needed friends around me. Kieron became my mentor although I never actually called him my mentor or even asked him for that matter, it just kinda happened naturally. He had been through hell too. He took me for lunch (he paid obviously) and helped me through the most painful time of my life. He listened, he talked, he asked questions, he helped me get my priorities in order and it felt like I had hope.
A shared working space literally saved my livelihood and life.
I had no choice but to find an income and immediately started my own business. Talk about lean start-up. £40 for business card and a few hundred pounds for my website and my sales and marketing consultancy AHEM was alive. In my first week I had 4 new clients, shortly after that rose to 8. Half of them from the business centre where we rented an office.
I had the perfect place to grow my new business, to meet clients and drink gallons of coffee. Being part of a business community meant we referred business to each other. Referrals we’re passed to each other weekly and many residents of the centre became clients and suppliers.
As my business grew so did my confidence and I was asked by the Business Growth Hub to become a voluntary business mentor. I couldn’t resist, it was such an honour to be asked be a business mentor. My confidence grew higher and I loved helping other business owners by sharing what I had learned about sales, marketing, business growth and how to work through desperately hard times.
So how has co-working in a shared working environment helped me?
- A space work which allowed me to focus on growing my business separate from my home.
- Kept my costs down, less than £150 per month for all my bills
- Learned lots from my co-residents. Free IT support, free legal advice, Free 2nd board of non-exec directors when making key decisions.
- Plenty of new customers
- Lots of new friends (lifetime friends)
Do you have a similar experience?