June 7, 2016
I sat down with MakeOffices CEO Raymond Rahbar on the eve of the grand opening of their new flagship coworking space – a 40,000-square-foot chunk of real estate in the heart of Clarendon, Virginia – because I wanted to know how he planned to compete in a market that has already created several billion-dollar, behemoth landholding companies.
The cynic in me was prepared to receive your standard boilerplate marketing copy, but Rahbar had an actual answer for me – a great one even, and one I was able to see firsthand by touring what MakeOffices describes as their “signature location.”
Rahbar’s unique approach to coworking spaces, centered on two key differentiators, is not only viable today, but into the future as well, when coworking as a practice will be the center of business in cities around the globe.
Retention Is the Key to Everything
When I asked Rahbar what specifically was so special about MakeOffices’ coworking spaces compared to the competition, he answered without hesitation:
“You can get real work done.”
MakeOffices is full of tenants who actually make things, meaning there are no “wantrepreneurs” lurking around looking to simply raise their credibility by associating with a popular coworking space or incubator (yes, that happens). The hope is that once people sign up – what Rahbar describes as “the easy part” – those tenants will renew for years to come because the environment has been, and will continue to be, a place where work gets done and their companies thrive.
“It’s easy to be sold out right now because supply-and-demand is in our favor, but we want to be sold out in Year 7 and beyond, so we made the decision to invest in our spaces with that in mind,” said Rahbar.
The Details Matter
Most coworking spaces I’ve visited since 2010 have utilized an open office layout (few walls, no plenum, and lots of raw surfaces). And, while these are usually incredibly attractive workspaces, they’re often places in which actual work is hard to get done because of ambient noise pollution and a lack of basic office functions that are pushed aside by form.
Rahbar and his team, on the other hand, carefully handle every detail to ensure the open office format doesn’t get in the way of work.
MakeOffices’ in-house construction designer, interior designer, and project manager have leveraged their experience from building out MakeOffices around the country (three in Chicago, one in Philadelphia, and six in DC), to know which details matter. These details range from having custom doors that are thicker and designed to reduce noise pollution, to vibration-absorbing materials under floor finishes to reduce the cacophony of heel strikes that commonly plague open offices. They have even put thought into occupants’ seat preferences – offering more than six different types of chairs in a single collaboration space. The list of subtle details goes on, and even for someone like me whose mother is an interior designer and whose father is an architect, the attention-to-detail is overwhelming – even a bit obsessive.
This level of commitment to form and function has enabled MakeOffices to focus on Rahbar’s retention metric that’s been key to the company’s success.
At the beginning of this year, MakeOffices announced its expansion into Chicago and Philadelphia and appointed Shana Glenzer as chief marketing officer.
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