By Chris Dines
Even though I’d usually say that there’s no such thing as a typical Workspace customer, they all share a few things in common: they’re ambitious and they’re time poor.
And anybody who is in that tough space trying to develop their business, knows that the best support, feedback and ideas they can get are from other businesses who are maybe doing similar things or have done similar things, or have failed or succeeded. We know from all the stuff we do at Workspace and elsewhere, that people love listening to other people who are in stressful and demanding positions, who are trying to achieve things. So we try to shape the programme to reflect the fact that people want to listen to those kinds of stories.
They’ve got to be stories that are relevant to them, so we focus on issues and challenges that are ones that people do worry about in their business and find challenging.
We’re dealing with businesses of a size that don’t have endless in-house resources or expertise or experience. So we bring in people who’ve done it, been there, talk the language and share their experience. And that’s reflected in the types of topics we treat, both with the video work and the dinner evenings.
For example, we did an evening that looked at the impact of Google on your marketing strategy and digital presence. For most of us running businesses, it’s flipping hard to understand what’s right or wrong – basically what works? What do other people do? You hear all these other great stories about businesses having fantastic achievements digitally, but how the hell do they get to that? So our evening is bringing in a couple of case studies, businesses that have been through it, been through the mill, to share what they did. And it may not be the right way, necessarily, but it’s a way of doing something and dealing with the challenge.
It feels like a community of shared interests.
And we speak to everyone who has accepted the invite on the phone, just before the event. We want to make sure the value of it is right for them. We only really want people there who want to come along and learn, raise issues, ask questions, who can offer something to the discussion as well, because it’s not just about networking – although networking follows very well because of the shared topic – but it’s genuinely about saying these are things that you really want to know more about and learn about. So each topic we plan around that. For example, when we did the session on entrepreneurialism, it would’ve be easy to get some consultant or HR person in who’d talk about what it takes to be a leader, but actually, that’s not that interesting to those people. They’d rather listen to someone who’s built several businesses, and – that’s also in the session we had – failed a couple of times. So people saw the deep downside that we all worry about.
The evening was more about how you develop your confidence. How these people dealt with the fact that thought we’re not all Richard Branson, we can do certain things or find ways of doing them that cover our weaknesses. And the good thing about that is that no one’s selling or pitching, and because of the effort we put in beforehand, people really do come along with questions and suggestions on the evening. It feels like a community of shared interests; people know they’re there for more reasons than because they’re simply based at Workspace premises.
The interesting thing is that a lot of businesses with a different feel will be in a Workspace premise for the same reason: they’re fairly fast moving, evolving businesses and they’ve gone beyond the start-up stage. If you’re a leaseholder you must have progressed your business. You’re in there for a reason; you want to go up a notch. They’re similarly focused businesses but they wouldn’t necessarily know about each other. We know as a follow-up networking environment because as it’s around a particular subject, stuff happens afterwards. People keep in contact with each other. I think it really helps support business.
Workspace have several thousand tenants across London, and across that base there are some frankly brilliant businesses.
I’m an entrepreneur, I suppose, even though I don’t see myself as one. I’ve had a long career in business, built up a couple of businesses, floated a business, sold it. At Knowledge Peers, we’re evolving different ways of sharing knowledge, experience and information between relevant businesses.
We run the Charity Leaders’ Exchange too. So with Knowledge Peers, we’ve got pretty extensive networks, we really know a lot of people, we know how to talk to people, we really do get, I believe, the importance of engaging in the right way with really busy business people.
We tap into the right businesses across the Workspace Group and identify companies who’ve done something interesting or good or relevant around the topic. Workspace have several thousand tenants across London, and across that base there are some frankly brilliant businesses which have done really interesting things. It’s about sharing that.
Find out more about Knowledge Peers.
The next Business Insight Dinner will take place at Kennington Park on March 2. The theme is 'What's Next for Business & Social Media & Internet of Things (IoT)'. Find out more here