In 1935 during the great depression, the owner of a new advertising company set out a bowl of apples at each desk, inviting all who came into the office to take one. Opening a business during this time caused a lot of talk and it was predicted that the company would fail and sell these apples on the streets instead. This is how Leo Burnett started his company, and it still stands tall and mighty today. It is truly an inspiring story, a testament to where out of the box thinking, passion and strive for greatness can take you.
In 2008, during our modern day version of the great depression, companies reorganized, got creative and new strategies were formed to build a more resilient organization. Companies started to evaluate their business practices, costs and the uncertainty of the Affordable Care Act hovered like a dark cloud. Small businesses began sprouting and freelance workers increased. With these changes, one entrepreneur took these new trends and created Enerspace. It is a coworking space that provides healthy and productive work spaces. Jamie Russo, the founder of Enerspace shares with us her vision, business practices and lessons learned.
When did the light bulb turn on?
The Enerspace concept was taken from Jamie’s dream of creating work spaces that supported overall well being. From the experiences in visiting companies with her previous healthcare start up, she saw ill designed spaces, outdated furniture, unhealthy food options and lack of cultural support for wellness. “I wanted to just get totally out of the box and create really healthy, productive work spaces for people that can choose where they want to work. By the year 2025, experts predict that at least 40% of the work force will be independent and will not have to report to an employer site every day. So Enerspace is at the forefront of that evolution.“
Enerspace opened in 2012. It was a response to the idea of building a business that was flexible and resilient enough to get through economic challenges. So she looked into coworking spaces. “Coworking spaces provide a solution to a long-term economic trend of increased worker mobility and decreased corporate real estate holdings. I’m hoping that offering a service/product that helps one group make more money and one group save money is a winner.”
Coworking spaces have been growing and each space is unique. Enerspace caters to the mobile workers, freelancer, entrepreneur. But what makes them unique is that they integrate wellness into their mission. Yoga classes, access to a fitness studio (and shower!) and healthy meals are just a few examples.
What is the secret sauce to your success?
Jamie has a broad range of experiences in business, from working as a consultant, brand management in a big corporate company to several start ups and currently running her own business. Here are some business practices she drew from those experiences.
1. Have a hiring process and hire the best people you can find.
Having a process in place will save you a lot of headache later. She also suggests a good read on hiring entitled Who by Geoff Smart and Randy Street.
2. Pay attention to the changing preferences of today’s workforce.
They do their best work when they can integrate work into their lives. Jamie saw creativity and teamwork when people are given flexibility to work in their terms.
3. Don’t look for the line extension, look for the game changer.
Jamie takes cue from the book Drive by Daniel Pink. “It talks about research that suggests that managers with incentives to drive to quarterly targets are not in the right mindset to be creative or to drive real, sustainable topline results. Organizations must give some people the freedom to be creative and think bigger than the next Oreo flavor.”
4. Work “on” the business rather than “in” the business as soon as you can.
This means hire, delegate and outsource so you can work on making your business grow.
If you build it, do you really think they will come?
Through her many experiences, there were also lessons learned, such as:
1. Learn what customer wants first.
She suggests the Lean Startup Methodology. Do not assume the product will work. Do your research and find out what the customer wants first.
2. Listen to your inner voice.
Her MBA from University of Chicago in finance and marketing, gave her tools to help her analyze data and assess opportunities. But she realized that you need to have your intuition weigh in. “If your “little voice” is telling you something about a new hire or a potential partner or how long you should stay in a certain role, just listen to it. You have 80% of the tools you need to do just about anything – the other 20% is the hard part – it’s having the courage to listen to your intuition and do the right thing.”
What has been your guiding light?
Jamie is a mother, wife and an entrepreneur. As a mom myself, I admire the many roles she has been filling. She believes in 2 things. Aside from “fitness first”, she also says, “ I will not be the best business owner, mom (of a 2-year old girl and a 3-year old mini golden doodle) and wife every single day. I believe that only by focusing on getting yourself enough sleep and exercise and the right fuel for your body will you do your best work and feel like your best self. So just make it happen first. And we all fill a lot of roles for our businesses, families and friends and we just won’t be amazing at each of them each day. That’s ok.”