How to create the perfect Partnership Program for your coworking space in 7 steps.
A quick and handy guide to good partnerships for coworking space managers. How to choose best ones, negotiate them and measure their impact on your community and business success as a coworking space.
As part of my contribution to this year’s great and unforgettable Coworking Asia Unconference I gave a workshop on creating a partnership program for coworking spaces. Below you’ll find the written out version of my workshop. It is based on a collection of learnings and best practices of 10 years of experience from our own coworking spaces at betahaus. It should give you an idea how we run things at betahaus and help you to setup your own partnerships.
Step 1: Understanding what a partnership program is and why you want to have one.
A partnership program is a collection of complimentary services, discounts, free products etc that you can offer to your members as a part of the memberships provided by thirdparties. Those thirdparties interest is to sample, showcase or spread their content to your community and network. The basic motivations for you to do this are:
- to provide added value to your members
- boost revenue
- generate new leads that can turn into customers
- get free advertising
- support / add value for your employees
- form strategic partnerships / involve important stakeholders for future returns
A good example from betahaus is the creation of our hardware lab. For two years we were able to offer our members access to a high end laboratory and tools to work on IOT hardware that they (and us) otherwise would not have been able to afford. Our partner Conrad Electronics in return wanted to get in touch with local hardware startups and the hardware community in Berlin in general and learn more about their needs. It played out nicely and it even became a USP to join betahaus since no other space would offer this in Berlin at that point in time.
There are many other examples like sponsored infrastructure or free products and software, coaching for your employes. You can find a couple of them in the slide deck from my presentation.
One special example that I additionally want to mention here are partnerships with other coworking spaces. At betahaus we partner with more than 50 coworking spaces around the world to give our members a worldwide roaming option when they are traveling. Those partnering spaces welcome our members one day per month for free and we welcome their members in return. It is a big added value to our membership and additionally brings the communities closer to each other. We manage those memberships with our spin off One Coworking. Take a look at it and if you think your Coworking Space should be part of it, reach out to email@example.com and we get back to you.
Step 2: Defining relevance and meaningfulness to your own community
Consider the impact of the partnership into your community. Does it suit your type of members? Does it help them to be successful and happy. Does it support them to do their job? Is it a true benefit?
- Consider locality: Maybe there are complimentary businesses around your geographical location that would love to grant your members a discount on their products? Free Haircuts, discounts at the office supply store, local micro breweries, yoga studios etc…
- Think about typical daily challenges your members have or things that would make them more likely to sign up: Do they need a language course or a mobility solution? What about an accountant to setup business in your country?
- Growth: There are lots of software companies out there that would love to give your members a discounted price or free tryout. Your members are about to grow and turn into real customers. These are valuable leads for your partners. Go ask your members for their favorite software tools and then try to get them for free for them. Amazon and Google are known to support entrepreneurs in coworking spaces.
Step 3: Does it fit into the big picture
The possibilities for partnerships are plentiful and it is very probable that you receive a lot of requests or offers for partnerships every week. And while free stuff generally sounds great, you should always pay attention to the bigger picture to not cause friction with your coworking space’s original purpose. You should ask yourself these questions:
- How does the partnership agreement support my overall vision?
- Does it support my strategic objectives and business goals?
- Does it reflect and foster our values?
At betahaus and One Coworking we use the OKR Model as a general management tool and to keep the whole team stay true to our vision. Below an example of the betahaus Vision -> Mission -> Objectives Tree. With this little chart we now can always check if the proposed partnership is inside our vision, mission but also which of our objectives it does support.
Step 4: Money versus Community
Another way of benchmarking a partnership (but also every other opportunity) is the “money versus community” matrix that we somtimes use in group discussion to understand which of our actions supports our community efforts and which one brings in revenue. You can put every partnership into a matrix relative to each other due to their impact on your revenue and their impact on your community. Example below:
In this case “betabeer” performs better than “free software” because it safes real costs (for beer and food) and at the same time we feel it brings in a lot of new people that later on become our members.
Step 5: Making the Deal
To negotiate a good outcome you need to be on top of your outreach scores. As a coworking space you are an attractive multiplier with a vast outreach within a very interesting target group for whoever is partnering with you. Know the detailed reach of your website, social media, newsletter down to the daily visitors that come to your space. Compile a full set of demographic information and don’t be shy to round up all numbers and enter the negotiation. Don’t be shy!
Once you got an agreement, write down all details of the partnership. How many free products do they agree to sample? What is the discount rate or sponsoring? How much can you charge your partner? Documentation is key! For bigger partnerships a MOU or a full contractual agreement does the job. For smaller things an informal email drafting the deal with a “yes, let’s do it” from the other side does the job. It makes sure that everybody is on the same page.
Step 6: How do I get the word out and keep track of the impact
Once you sealed the deal, you are ready to get the word out and let the world and most notably your members know about the awesome new things that are included in your membership now. At betahaus we usually kick things off with an initial blogpost or at least a social media shoutout about a new partnership that we have in stock now. See our Blogpost for a partnership with a language school. Here is a quick checklist about where you possibly can share the partnerships to spread the word:
- your website
- onboarding emails
- welcome leaflets
- member platform
- member slack
Also be sure to mention the awesome partnerships you got in your personal sales pitch when signing up new members. We always get an “awww” when we explain that with the betahaus membership you can check into 50+ partner spaces worldwide with the help of One Coworking.
Step 7: Creating the perfect partnership
Last but not least I got asked a lot what the best partnership looks like from my point of view. I think the best partnerships are those that help you doing things that you would do anyways even without the extra support. They just get better with the help of partners.
My favorite and very simple example at betahaus is betabeer which we organize since the beginning of betahaus. A sponsor pays the drinks for a community event and gets exposure in return. We host it every last thursday of the month. It is a small social get together for our members and their friends. Sometimes we combine it with a bbq or take-out pizza. For most of these events we partner up with a startup or company that is part of our network that sponsors beer and bbq. In return we allow them to slightly theme the event, hold a quick talk or do other creative things. Our community enjoys it because we try to make sure that it remains a social event and does not turn into an eternal sales pitch.
It is a low level partnership because there is no big investment involved also the partners change all the time. But I like it because a little bit of sponsoring and interesting partners makes this event even better and it fully supports our goals and the community benefits and it works for years.
Final remark on saying “no” to things
Steve from Hubud mentioned this in his post and it was also talked about behind the curtains of the conference a lot: It is the ability and need to say “no” sometimes.
Most of the coworking entrepreneurs that I know are warm, open and welcoming people with a genuinely positive attitude towards life. I think this comes naturally with the encouragement needed supporting a community of creatives, makers, entrepreneurs. We are enthusiastic people easy to thrill. We are excited about new things, starting new projects and getting to know crazy ideas. We live in a world of opportunities. I feel in this environment saying “no” to something is one of the hardest things to do. It might even be a taboo in some situations and we have to learn how to do that and why.
Having tools at hand that help us to rationalize our thinking and clearly analyse why we are doing things is crucial. Frameworks like the OKR System can help to simplify decision making for us and our team. Sometimes easy checklist do the job or a simple matrix like in Step 4.
This applies not only to partnerships but to nearly every other aspect of managing a coworking space an I encourage you to look into this more if you feel overwhelmed and exhausted on a daily bases by all the choices, opportunities and decisions you have to make.
Now what do you think?
Thanks for reading so far and please leave your comments and thoughts below. I am interested what your experiences are with partnerships. What are your best and worst experiences? I am also keen to learn about more best practices. Let’s make this a really useful resource!
About me: I am a serial coworking entrepreneur for10 years now. I founded betahaus, one of Europe’s first coworking spaces where I guide international growth and partnerships. At my new initiative, One Coworking I work on a tool that enables coworking spaces to offer a global membership.
Apart from that I really like speaking on conferences about my work. I also like advising organisations to understand the transformation of work and the coworking and coliving phenomenon.
Find me on: