Part 2: The conversation continues with our leaders in the co-working industry who are seeking to create intentional space to curate communities for collaboration and innovation. Corey Wardell and Chad Kimberlin of Roam in Atlanta, GA help us unpack the shift in the workplace to remote work, why co-working is rapidly expanding, and help us dispel common myths.
We talk about partnering in accomplishing dreams. And part of you know our dreams are accomplished when you, and all the other members, when your dreams are made reality.Chad Kimberlin, Director of Operations, Roam
You’re listening to Episode 5, where we continue to talk with Chad and Corey about coworking and the workplace environment.
Chad Kimberlin: [00:00:22] And that’s the question. That’s the issue. What is the most productive environment for people to be in. And so even let’s take the remote worker or corporations reducing their footprint and they’ll send people home. That’s actually how we got our start believe it or not several years ago. So there were five guys who were sent home and it was not the most productive place for them to work, right. So how do you have or how do you help solve the issue of you know reducing your real estate footprint and create productive environments for the people that work for you to still get their best work done.
[00:01:00] It is a great solution. At the end of the day, if you’re not productive here then there’s no reason for you to be here. Even as great as we are and know love hanging out with us, you still have to be productive. That’s true for every single member, or guest that comes through our door every day. So really our job as “Roamers” is to create that environment. We talk about creating the environment where you can be productive, you can focus, you can collaborate as you need to. That’s our job and part of that too is how you’re productive is going to be different than the person sitting next to you potentially. So when you come into coworking space it has to be designed with that framework in mind ultimately. So technology that has to support that, even seating arrangements, the types of furniture we provide have to be productive. And so, that’s the thing I think,one of them, is really companies have to watch is as they’re people home to work. That’s solving one problem. It could inadvertently create another issue which is people not being productive at all. We have a great solution for though.
Jen Kelchner: [00:02:07] Well I think it’s -first for any organizations that are even thinking about how we do that or maybe we’re at that scaling point, that we really don’t know that we afford adding on for real estate. That’s really how we do this. And in coworking as a solution for some of the workplace challenges, it’s very affordable. Extremely affordable. It kind of blew my mind actually. To think about how do you how do you not only create – so if you’re the entrepreneur where you’re launching something – you have the place to do that and have an opportunity to scale. And or if you’re in the organization that looking to reduce real estate footprint by putting people remotely, it’s also extremely affordable.
Chad Kimberlin: [00:02:50] That’s right.
Corey Wardell: [00:02:53] I think what you’ll see is these guys who are responsible for the real estate for these large organizations are going to be pressed and pressured to not only solve the actual years of building. But they’re going to be challenged with how do we get the most out of our people within that environment. And so I think historically those guys just looked at things like square footage, rent per square foot, and being in a specific market and market demographics. And now the organization is challenging them to say what is the best environment, to Chad’s point, in which our people can be productive.
[00:03:27] And then I think it falls right along the lines with there are certain things that you know we can outsource the things that we don’t do well. So that’s payroll or legal services or whatever. I think Roam is that solution. I think those guys are going to say I don’t really know much about how people work or how they actually interact within the space. And that’s where I think you know Roam and other coworking spaces come right in and say listen you know we have experience we have these kind of hand crafted spaces where we know how people work and interact let us handle that for you. And I think that’s what you’ll start to see.
Jen Kelchner: [00:04:00] It speaks a lot to that talent/people development piece. It solves challenges also in the financial and operational space as well then. Not many workplace solutions can do that. It’s a challenge it’s like pick one. Let’s tackle one isse. You know if you’re faced with meeting all three of those things this is a potential solution when we look at how do we create open and very creative places for people to get their work done.
Corey Wardell: [00:04:28] That’s right.
Jen Kelchner[00:04:31] Next next popular myth is everyday must collaborate. And as an ambassador of open and open organizations, collaboration obviously is foundational piece in how we do our work. Generationally speaking it is something that is expected both from Millennials and then our new Gen Z – which is just now entering the workforce. You know they also have a very high expectation around how they do work. And that’s having opportunity to lead in any level. Leading project teams and having collaborative environments to work together.
[00:05:06] And so going into coworking some people may think well if I’m in a space like I have to collaborate with people. So let’s let’s dispel that myth next.
Chad Kimberlin: [00:05:15] Well I mean collaboration is one of our organizational values as well. So we get that. Well you know it’s funny it’s you have some people that are introverts. We know, that’s part of our job as you get to know people. You know there are certain people that when they walk in will greet you, but they will go to their same spot with headphones on and they won’t speak to anyone else until they leave. We have to know that we have to make sure that we’re creating those environments where they are most productive.
[00:05:44] There are other people who, whether it’s just based on style or just the work that they’re doing, really have to and need to collaborate with people. So again it’s our job is making sure that those environments are there for them and they’re accessible to them. To be able to collaborate and whether again if collaboration is going to be face to face or it’s video you have to provide all those opportunities for people. And again without that, they’re not going to be productive.
[00:06:13] We always say we never force collaboration. We’re force networking. The opportunities are there. That’s our job to curate the opportunity. But then, we back out right and never force it to happen.
Jen Kelchner: [00:06:27] I like how you go back to just creating and curating this environment. It’s the same thing with that community piece. It’s here and we’re here to provide the right place for you to do that in. But community is not community if we are forced in to it.
Corey Wardell: [00:06:50] We joke it’s collaboration on your terms. Right. So no one is forcing you to do anything. We just want to set up, to Chad’s point, the opportunities then and then you choose, you decide. We’re going to you know…I think the other part of collaboration is a lot of times where we actually see it played out within teams, or within that kind of you know consultant or service provider customer relationship. And that’s where we see the most collaboration happening. Right. So it’s a company of 10 and they’re kind of together and small groups breaking out and collaborating. Or it’s a service provider bringing in their client or their clients you know week in week out. And that’s, I would say is the most collaboration that’s happening. But then you know working alongside of each other doing different things. There’s opportunities for the members to collaborate. So the challenge is just creating the ability for all of those touch points to happen within – It’s really up to our members you know to do the collaborating.
Jen Kelchner: [00:07:51] I think another thing, although I didn’t find it under that popular myth section of my research, I think sometimes there is a fear mostly unfounded that this fear that if I’m in a space and a collaborative environment, it’s very open (and we have the open sessions and we some closed off sections),but that somehow my client work or work I’m doing might be seen and/or taken. So like that fear of a breach of confidentiality. Which isn’t true but often there’s that fear that if we collaborate in this space somehow (of course, that’s probably a whole separate podcast of fears and perceptions). But that somehow that can happen and I can speak to that personally that I find professional coworking spaces to be – people come into the right mindset and they’re very respectful of everybody and their time and space. You know again I think there’s random one off speaker phone conversations and loud typing people are sporadic and they’re not a daily occurence. And one other thing,around workplace and coworking aspect, one thing I do love that Roam has is every conference room or meeting room – be it soft seating or table top – provides whiteboards. So that you can really have true collaboration sessions or solo ones. Like I did the other day where I mapped out a solution. Mapping it on paper or the computer wasn’t working with my creative flow. And so providing those spaces for people to work differently, which again supports the workplace challenges of doing our best work. Everybody has a different way of doing it. We all have a different flow that we go into to tap into that innovation seeking to solve a problem. So providing those places to do it is pretty important. So next couple of questions before we wrap up is, I want to know from each of you what challenges you faced in your roles in the industry or at a local level. You each can answer one.
Corey Wardell: [00:10:00] I think for us you know each time we go into, even within Atlanta, go into a specific market. I’d argue there’s a decent amount of educating that still has to happen. So I think if you look at the numbers, and you say there’s going to be you know 26,000 spaces by 2025, and you think oh everyone knows about coworking. But the reality is that’s not the case.
Corey Wardell: [00:10:27] We’ve open for two years at this location and more folks walk in the front door and say is this a restaurant or is this a furniture store or you know. And so there’s still a decent amount of educating. And so I love you know to go to other co-working spaces to just get out there and community and kind of showing hey here’s here’s what we have to offer. Here’s a solution. We know there are people out there still need it. And so I think a challenge for us is getting in from the right people and really kind of promoting definitely Roam. But the industry as a whole and how coworking can be a solution. I’d say that is one of our challenges.
Jen Kelchner: [00:11:06] Educating people on what it actually is.
Chad Kimberlin: [00:11:09] Yeah. So my perspective, the other one is just consistency across you know across all of our locations. And so for you as a member, one of us, I want when you get to Buckhead or you go to Dunwoody or Alpharetta or Galleria I want you to have the same experience when you walk in. Because you’re member of Roam we want to make sure that you have the same high quality, high touch experience across.
[00:11:41] And that’s not unlike any growing business right now. It just looks different for us. You know when we talk about consistency it’s more experience the member experience or the guest experience is really important us.
Jen Kelchner: [00:11:58] Like you said it’s a challenge for any business scaling – is how do we open into the market. How do we keep the consumer experience the same.
Chad Kimberlin: [00:12:07] You know that’s exactly right.
Jen Kelchner: [00:12:10] And my favorite, which I can actually add to, what positive changes have you seen in the community because of coworking, meaning the Roam community, what kind of positive influences from coworking and then at a local level for the community.
Chad Kimberlin: [00:12:26] I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
Corey Wardell: [00:12:26] Yeah yeah. I think the most kind of rewarding and fun part of our job is when we get to hear the stories of – just kind of you know – lives that have been touched you know from being in the space. And there’s a story that comes to mind the most from our Alpharetta location. UPS hosted a series of meetings there and one of their meeting planners, throughout the series of those meetings, their house actually burned down. And the staff up there did a fantastic job and had a great relationship with her. And they put together a little basket of just you know gift cards and things like that they knew she would need that would be tangible you know going through something like that. And she was just ecstatic. I mean she was so thankful. So you know positive and encouraging about it. And you know she made the comment you know that this is above and beyond what some of my own coworkers have done for me. And so we just thought that was amazing. Because you know you guys have both made the point, even in this discussion, that we think of ourselves as an extension of your team. And so that was really a neat experience of you know of the team acting like the team. You know and stepping up and stepping into that.
Jen Kelchner: [00:13:45] I got busted the other day because I said “we” and then I had to tell Corey. I didn’t mean we I meant you.
Chad Kimberlin: [00:13:51] Don’t apologize for that.
Jen Kelchner: [00:13:54] Because I don’t know if this was the same conversation or a day later, someone said, “I didn’t realize you actually were a member. I thought you worked with them.”
Chad Kimberlin: [00:14:03] That’s awesome.
[00:14:07] Well I would say that – it’s funny – that was the same idea that came to mind. So a lot of times why people come in, they’re not sure what coworking is, they’ve never heard of Roam, they come in for a tour, and they’ll say oh I’m going to join, and give this thing a trial. I’ll give you guys two months, right.
[00:14:25] And we’ve had several of those and see the progression of that two month trial. To they’re here and they really are part of our team it feels like. To where one of my favorite things is sitting at the front a member comes up and they just landed a huge deal. And we’re like the first people they come and tell. To us – that is the most rewarding thing. Again we exist so that you guys succeed, Right.
[00:14:53] We talk about partnering in accomplishing dreams. And part of you know our dreams are accomplished when you, and all the other members, when your dreams are made reality. And so I think of story after story where they literally got off the phone or they just got an email, you know the first place they come is the front desk. And, we’re all celebrating. So that’s the idea of community, right. Is we become your coworker. We become your colleague. We become the extension of your team. We are your team. And it’s my favorite part for sure. The positive contribution.
Jen Kelchner: [00:15:35] It is a positive contribution. You know one of the things that – with wanting to talk about openness so much – it goes back to why these five foundational pieces that all tie together. You can’t have one without the other. You can’t develop inclusivity and great community if you’re not willing to be transparent. That’s just even in your communication and not neccesarily the vulnerability aspect of that.
[00:16:01] But for me, the community piece is what so important about openness. That kind of all goes back to having a group of people. It’s shocking for most people that they do or don’t. I’m an extrovert and I need conversation and I need to be around people to keep my energy up. But for me, because I enjoy being around people so much I need the community aspect. I think many times in my past, that not being part of an engaged community has directly contributed to my “failing foward”. And not achieving that goal at the right time – both timing and for what it was. I think not having an actively engaged and supportive community has been part of that.
[00:16:44] So for people that are looking to have a healthy workplace, whether you’re not exploring coworking or you are looking at the benefits of coworking. Building community, either way, is integral to how people do their best work. To feel comfortable, to feel supported, to know if they’re having a challenge whatever that is. I’ve had a couple of the ladies here yesterday that went through a personal story with me. It actually turned out to be a fun story, but not so much yesterday, but today it’s fine. So now I can go have conversation with someone. In my old days of working at Deloitte, where I’d walk into the cafe and have that dialogue with someone. It’s important for all of us to have that.
Chad Kimberlin: [00:17:30] That’s right. And even as an introvert, since you come from the extrovert side, so I’ll speak for the introverts. It’s the same thing for me. You know I wouldn’t necessarily talk to ten people a day. I was in an environment around other people. I was in community. And I was able to go deep with a handful of people. It is for both. You know the options or the opportunity for both the lots of different personality types really can thrive in the coworking environment.
Jen Kelchner: [00:18:12] And I think no matter where our workplaces, it matters how it’s structured, no matter where the workplace actually is I think that it it’s not just a generational thing. I think we all actually have an inherent need here to be part of something bigger. And to know that we belong to something. Hence going back to community and inclusivity piece. I think that’s a big deal that if you’re in an unhealthy dysfunctional work environment or you’re working at home that still creates that gap of what do I actually belong to. Does my contribution really matter? Which is becoming more and more important to how we structure our work – especially for Millennials and Gen Z who have to have a deep deep connection to the work that they do. And I’m not making fun. I mean I’m actually really excited by it because people have thought I’ve been a freak for decades about this. Because I get so connected passionatley.
Corey Wardell: [00:19:06] The one thing I think you hit the nail on the head. I think what people are starting to realize is that Millennials, or whatever generation, aren’t necessarily that weird. You pull out kind of the key pieces that say I want to be connected and passionate about what I’m doing. If you honestly, if you can get people to answer honestly, I think just about anyone would answer the same. So I would really love to love to go to work. I would love to do what I do. But maybe in the past we made concessions for certain reasons or experiences or whatever.
Jen Kelchner: [00:19:39] Or we didn’t know we had the permission to choose. You can actually go do something you enjoy. Definitely older generations have had that kind of you know place which is why I’m excited to see it open up. As it’s what I’ve always told my kids go do what you love. I don’t care what it looks like. I don’t care if you make nothing at it. It is are you going to be happy and are you making a positive contribution to people – then we’re good. So I think we you know again I think having healthy workplaces and openness that can contribute to that and or an environment like Roam provides is the place to do our best work.
[00:20:15] Well thank you so much for having this conversation with us today.
Chad Kimberlin: [00:20:19] Absolutely.
Jen Kelchner: [00:20:19] And remember guys if you’re in the Atlanta market, you definitely need to come visit us at Roam. You can find them at meetatroam.com. And we will provide a link you on our web site of how to get there. For those not in the Atlanta market, if you’re here and need to meet clients then visit with us. This is also where the LDR21 office is.
Jen Kelchner: [00:20:45] Thank you guys.
[00:20:49] Huge thanks to Chad and Corey from Roam in Georgia for joining us for Episode 4 and 5 of the podcast. Thanks for listening to the Generation Open podcast with LDR21. If you would like to find out more about how to improve the health of your organization or would like information on our rapid change program, go to our web site ldr21.com.