How Hub Australia plans to make its low-margin co-working business model work

Co-working network Hub Australia has grown three-fold this year, from five team members with one venue to 15 team members at three venues, and is looking to expand further by hiring a general manager and experimenting with business models.

Hub Australia’s growth and development facilitator, Julian Waters-Lynch, told StartupSmart the year had been a steep learning curve for the group.

“When you grow like we have, the whole structure of how you organise and communicate has to shift a little,” Waters-Lynch says. “When you’ve got five people in a room, you don’t need to make policies as explicit, and codify your values as you can get by improvising like a jazz quartet. But when you get bigger, you need to become a lot more precise.”

Waters-Lynch has been leading the formalising of approaches and policies for the Hub group. He’s also working on a PhD about co-working and says the growing industry is breaking new ground in how Australians approach work.

“There are so many intangible or subtle newer offerings to co-working that people are still working out what the value of, and we’re trying to work out how to communicate it better. Many of these benefits, such as community and connections, are non-transactional as well so they’re harder to sell,” he says.

The Hub Australia group is looking for a general manager to bring experience and strategic oversight to the operation.

Waters-Lynch says they’re still trying to work out how to make the business model work best.

“It is a challenge. While it’s low margin we also see it as feasible, and certainly there are networks around the space that are making a multi-location space work financially. But Hub is one part of a bigger vision around shifting the vision of work in Australia,” he says.

He adds Hub is increasingly focused on building out their education program.

“Our learning part is where we see a lot of unrealised value,” Waters-Lynch says. “When we talk about expansion in the coming years, we talk a lot about how learning will take place in this era, now that it’s less about connecting to information and more about connecting to people and have meaningful contexts in which to activate this learning.”

This article first appeared on StartupSmart.


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