I guess the title’s mostly unfair since I’m not going to deliberate on the future of Co-Working, or Telecommuting, or Teleworking, in the large. This missive is actually an extended response to two well-thought-out posts from a couple of folks I respect.
I will not steal from you the opportunity to read Jeremy’s post and Jim’s post. Go read them, for they provide the context behind this entry; I’ll wait for you.
I may ramble; I may not. But the journey should be fun. Enjoy!
What are they talking about?
I believe both approaches have merit and may even be complimentary. However I feel both approaches have a different set of motivations and goals which it seeks to achieve.
In my short, illustrious career of some 17 years I’ve been involved in several different types of employments: full-time employee, contractor, but all in an organization I did create or have influence over. Over this time I developed likes and dislikes; we all do. And when I seriously started thinking of working for myself, my old prejudices came to light, shaping the kind of organization I wanted to grow.
I believe both posts come from a position of the ideal organization they would like to have, based on the experiences both gentlemen have accumulated over their careers, and, dare I say, their lives. Like was mentioned in a comment: “top-down” vs. “bottom-up”. But I think there’s more to it. I will not pretend to speak for Jeremy or Jim.
What does my Co-Working future look like?
I recognized early on that I would not have employees, that Juicy Parts Software would be a one-man show. As with everything, there are pluses and minuses to this approach. This approach allows me to focus on the relationship aspect of the project. But it does limit the kind of services I can provide, on the surface. Because I value the relationship above the technology I value a large and diverse network of professionals. There is where my approach, I believe, more closely aligns with Jeremy’s post. Working with people with whom I’ve built a relationship is like an ongoing interview process wherein I don’t have to have employees.
However I also recognize the allure of Jim’s post. As with the aspect of employees, I knew I didn’t really want to be involved with the business part of my business (I quickly outgrew that position, though), wanting to focus on what I’m good at: building resilient software solutions. Being able to offload all the icky bits of business is attractive to me. But, I don’t believe I would partake in Jim’s approach for personal reasons: I need to know AND trust the people I task with running my business. The one thing I’ve learned over the years: everyone has different motivations. Even if everyone really likes a CPA or a Lawyer, there’s no guarantee I’m going to like them. In that respects I find Jim’s approach no different from the typical corporation. And though it would seem ownership is the differentiator, I posit: that won’t scale. Maybe it doesn’t have to, but if it doesn’t you lose economies of scale when it comes to negotiating rates and what not.
I readily admit that I’m not a business guru; that’s why I try to listen to everyone around me that have successful businesses. But for me co-working is a chance to work with people whom I enjoy being around without any pretense of trying to build a larger organization above the community of which we’re a part.