One year on … What we did, what we’re doing and what’s the future. It’s been quite some year!
So many businesses have had to adapt, hold on…and wait for the world to get back to some normality. Some have really struggled, some have thrived. We’re just happy to still be around doing what we love, thanks to amazing support from our members and a little help from the bank.
Here’s my summary…
Like for many businesses back in March last year, the prospect of shutting up business was daunting to say the least.
While like many, I was sure it was coming, being told for sure was still a shock. How does a business whose very existence is based around people coming together for work, work when you can’t work from there?
Our first email went out on 16th March, preempting the announcement from the UK Government. I knew it was coming and anyway numbers of members and visitors in the space were dwindling by the day. Of course at this point we were all expecting a number of weeks, not months, no way a whole year!
We offered credit for the closed time to our members and thankfully, many accepted. We lost some too of course as all business owners reeled from the news and figured out how to put their own houses in order. In turn, I knew I wanted to keep on as many of our suppliers as possible and that we’ve done all year. What goes around comes around, we all need to help each other.
To support our members in this new world, we created Pro Zoom accounts and connected them to our software to allow for members to use the technology as part of their membership. We set up online events to stay connected including our Friday morning Coffee Chat which has run every week since then. It’s always been a boost to my week for sure!
As the weeks went on, with no immediate end in sight, our wonderfully creative member host, Alena, came up with some fantastic online events, coworking sprints, quizzes, escape rooms among them. We’ve also had a magician, Michael Buble tribute, cookalong…
Now closed for more than 3 months, waiting on the non-essential indoor office reopening announcement from the Government (which never came by the way), our members are saying, “but you are essential to us”. As things opened up and it was now possible to arrange meetings, carry out face to face training, we had to be available to those members who needed us so on 20th July, we were back and very excited/nervous!
The space has been altered of course, to allow for social distancing. All of our rooms and desks are at least 2 metres from each other, and we have other measures in place, such as our bubble packs to minimise sharing.
Hand sanitiser and masks are everyday necessities, but we managed to keep the treats and hopefully the same Collabor8te welcome :-).
We added a new online private meeting room for every one of our members as an extra benefit. Another new addition is our digital visitor registration. Set up for Test and Protect, but we’ll keep it forever now. It’s a great service that sends an alert to the member when their visitor arrives too. Some necessary innovations to come out of COVID, have improved our service so it’s not been all bad…
Christmas at Collabor8te is always a big deal. We love a party and it’s a highlight on the calendar. This year would clearly be very different and I was pretty nervous of it being a damp squib! In the end, it was an online/offline affair, with party packs filled with homemade goodies, party hats and fizz were delivered and we got together along with a fabulous comedian via the magic of Zoom. It worked, phew 🙂
And then, another Lockdown.
We stayed open this time, obviously with the proviso working from home is a legal requirement unless working in essential services or not being able to work from home. It is very quiet here and in the city again. The longer this has gone on, the more I wondered, can we survive it?
Truthfully, the only reason we are here is the support of our amazing members! Falling through the cracks of the grants, we’ve only been able to rely on the furlough scheme and bounceback loan for support in addition to much reduced revenue.
I’m so grateful to everyone who has remained with us over the past year, but of course with not being able to use the space, many have lowered their membership. While we have retained around 85% of our members, revenue is down around 50%. I’m not going to lie, it’s been pretty tough.
BUT, we’re still here! And the light at the end of the tunnel is there, twinkling away. With the stay at home order lifting all being well, on 2nd April and as the vaccine programme rolls out, Summer looks like it could offer a lot more liberty to all and in turn hopefully a return to Collabor8te for work for many more, we can’t wait!
It’s been an interesting experience, not one I’m looking to repeat anytime soon right but some very good things have come out of it. We will for certain retain our online coworking and Coffee Chat events, as well as the additional Zoom benefits for members (video meetings aren’t going anywhere soon). Alena and I have had experience of working remotely at times throughout the year, when not furloughed, which we’ve adapted to pretty well and it’s allowed some time, which might not otherwise have been available, to start the process of becoming a BCorps company.
The future is bright, I really believe that. Coworking will gather even more pace as this ‘new’ working world sees an increased demand for flexible working. The pandemic has offered a chance to reflect and review. There will be some changes to the space and our offering, more about that another time.
We’ve realised that our members do really love what we do, evident in the fact that so many are still with us and that’s given us the drive and motivation to be better, to do more to help others as a business, to be sustainable and to support our members to do even greater things themselves.
Go far with others is our motto, how true that has been this year.