Last week, we caught up with Alessa, Head of Community at The Office Group
Tell me about your Coworking Community here at Thomas House.
We try to be as organic as possible - nothing is ever forced. Our community events and efforts are put together so they’re available for people to take advantage of if they’d like to. We like to be certain that people are doing exactly what’s right for them, when it’s right for them. Sometimes people would just rather be alone and we get it. You can do that too!
And what type of event do your members ask for?
We get so many people asking to host their own event, so we created a series of platform events for members to use to reach out to and engage with the TOG community. They pick a date, book a space, and we handle the rest. We provide the marketing, we put it out in the newsletter, we promote the event on social for them and they bring the goods and the knowledge.
From our side, we do our best to cover as many bases as possible. We have a community of upwards of 16,000 members and all of them from different industries and backgrounds. We know that there is no way to make everyone happy, but we do our best to appeal to the masses; it keeps us on our toes! Our events could be appealing to the business side of things - a thought leadership talk for example. Alternatively, on the social side, we endeavour to put on two badass parties a year. Everyone is welcome to have some food, a drink, and a sore head the next morning. This is still networking of course, but you just don’t feel it.
Tell me about the Community Team.
How much time do you have? We exist to provide opportunities for our members to connect to one another. We do this through events, face to face chats, or marketing tools like our TOG&Co. App. We’re also big on encouraging random acts of kindness. For example if someone’s daughter graduates, if someone goes on maternity leave, or if someone had a big night last night, we bring them flowers, chocolates or a huge bacon sandwich. We really work to know our members and what they do, and it’s at that point that we start becoming something more. We can provide more, and start curating connections.
What do you mean, “curating connections”?
Our community team is a walking, talking rolodex. It’s our job to know everyone in the building. If we’ve been chatting to a member and know they are looking for someone with this or that skill, or someone from a certain industry, we will point out the person they need - and the right person could be right in front of you!
Do you have any examples?
Well, - this is years ago now - we had a huge company who deal in cloud based storage. When they first came in, we took a tour of the whole building including the coworking space. We explained that everyone there was a mix of startups, SME’s, freelancers or entrepreneurs and so on, and that they covered X, Y and Z industries. The company stopped us immediately and asked for the opportunity gift them all with free digital storage.
This was our first glimpse into the benefits a coworking space provides, not only to its users but to the members in the building as a whole. Another good example is graphic designers. For someone in an industry where all their peers are using the same agencies, the smaller studios and the one-man-bands give them an edge over their competitors.
And our buildings are designed for this stuff - to encourage serendipitous meetings. You could meet someone while you are waiting for your toast in the morning, or in one of our gym classes - one class together with a stranger and you’re lasting friends. In that kind of environment, that community, the camaraderie is thick. In my view, it is imperative to have those kinds of facilities in your buildings as it makes a huge difference to the types of relationships people are making.
So, what is your vision or overall goal for your communities here at TOG?
The overall goal is for our members to get everything they need from us and to feel comfortable enough let us know when they need something. It’s all for them. The buildings aren’t branded; you’re not going to see “The Office Group” everywhere. Each building has its own identity, which allows TOG members to take ownership of their space. It’s their building, we just work here.
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