No More Sink Full of Mugs!Anyone who’s ever run a coworking space knows that while it’s wonderfully fulfilling work, it’s also not without its un-glamorous and downright gross parts. Running a workspace every day is no easy undertaking; entropy creeps in at every opportunity. Things get messy. Culture shifts in unpredictable ways. Without careful management and smart tricks, the job can easily drive one to burnout.

Since I first got started organizing coworking communities in 2007, I’ve learned the hard way that so much of what it takes to maintain sanity comes down to doing a lot of big and little things to make the community something that not just you, but everyone, can feel ownership over and permission to help make better.

I realized that I could help people avoid a lot of the pain of learning how to handle things the hard way by writing down some of my favorite simple tricks and making them available in the form of a handy little eBook.

And voila, here it is! I’ve been wanting to publish something for a long time now, so getting this out the door has been huge for me. It’s focused completely on practical solutions, with very little in the way of theory and fluff.

It focuses on how to deal with some common issues:

  • how to keep the kitchen sink from constantly filling with mugs and dishes
  • how to keep up with the never-ending demand for coffee
  • how to give people a wide variety of opportunities to connect with each other without being overly pushy
  • how to accommodate never-ending changes to membership statuses with no delay and minimal labor
  • how we set up our memberships so we never have to chase down non-paying members
  • how we strike a balance between maintaining consistent business hours and accommodating the needs of members who need to start work early and stay working late
  • how to handle members who we fear may not be a good fit
  • how we handle the sharing of limited resources like printing, coffee, and conference rooms
  • how we handle conference room bookings to minimize labor, potential conflicts, abuse, and maximize availability for everyone
  • how to give people who belong in the space but can’t afford it a way to be members
  • how to set up a membership exchange volunteer program

In addition to all of this, I share eight key rules of thumb that can be applied to any of a number of situations. These basic philosophical approaches have been a core part of what’s allowed us to run an extremely efficient operation with a continuously strong culture for over seven years.

It also comes with some handy templates and resources so you can implement the concepts in the book with minimal additional effort.

It’s available for order now for $19.99. Jump on it!

Buy now

You won’t regret it! 

You’ll actually be quite happy!

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There’s a particularly awful kind of feeling to have when you’re a coworking space owner. It’s the one you feel when you’re looking around your space, seeing some seats sitting empty while others are filled by people on their headphones staring at their screens. People come in, they go to their desk, they work, they leave. There’s maybe some chitchat.

You planned some ice-breaker events and had decent attendance, but for the most part people just don’t respond.

When you got started, it was better. There was excitement and energy. People wanted to help. Now, it seems like people just want to be customers. They just want to be served.

What happened? Wasn’t this supposed to be a community? Where did it go?

If you resonate with this, then you and your community may be in a cultural trough. It’s not unusual; every community experiences a natural ebb and flow as people come and go and time marches on. People who were excitedly helping you get started move on, or become complacent.

You come up against the hard reality that you can’t force people to want to participate in a community.

So now what do you do?

This is where our conversation begins. While it may seem impossible to dig a stagnant community culture out of its trough, it’s not—we’ve been there before.

The trick to revitalizing a community’s culture is to think of it as if you’re starting a new community from within. You start with a basic question: what are the unfulfilled wants and needs of present and future community members?

Then: how can you take these needs and create opportunities for people to see how they can fulfill those needs through your community?

With the right kind of focus and effort, you can have a vibrant culture bursting forth once again in relatively short order.

Let’s talk about how. Over the past several years, we (Susan and Tony, hi!) have been running programs in our spaces that have consistently revitalized our communities. Join us Thursday, August 5 at 2:00 ET (see your time zone here) for a special informational session where we’ll dive into what it takes to revitalize your community in the best possible way.

Space is limited, because that’s how video chats work. RSVP for the Hangout, register for email updates, or tune in below!

You can also learn more on our Cotivation site or apply now for our next training session, which runs August to October!

Tony + Susan

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If you’re interested in becoming a Cotivation organizer, learn more here, register for updates, or apply now!

We’re midway through our first-ever training of new Cotivation organizers, and I’m already excited to get more people on board! Susan and I have been meeting weekly with three new organizers who are each developing their own communities, and so far it’s been a tremendously valuable experience for everyone involved.

To that end, Susan and I are kicking off the next round of training the week of June 27. Apply now if you’d like to be a part of our next class of organizers!

Prepare for the post-Labor Day rush.

Summer is a great time to plan and prepare for the fall, when many people look for a new coworking community to join. Kicking off a Cotivation group right at the peak of a seasonal shift will help you onboard newcomers with intention and give people who are on the fence an excuse to pick a day to join.

If you run a coworking community, you might be aware of the natural generational shifts that happen as members of your community join and leave over time. With each incoming generation, you have a chance to shape the future of your community’s culture and the attitudes of the people who join in subsequent generations.

Cotivation was designed to give you a powerful cultural refresh by building a new core of highly bonded people from within. We did this to great success at New Work City, and others have done so in their spaces over the past few years as well.

The training program: 10 weeks of awesome.

Our first training program has at once been instantly very valuable to everyone involved while also being a great opportunity for us to learn how to help people become more effective facilitators.

Meeting primarily over a Skype video session every Wednesday, we create an implicit sense of routine and accountability that mirrors the benefits a Cotivation group provides members—each week we check in with each other, see how everyone is doing and brainstorm solutions for challenges anyone is facing.

Throughout the week, we continue the discussion in our online discussion group, where all organizers are invited to contribute their experiences and ideas.

If you want to cultivate a better culture in your space, and get more members to not just join but stick around, Cotivation is a great program to make that happen—and September’s a great time to launch it!

If you’re interested in joining us for our August training session, contact me or apply now!

We’ll also be doing a free Cultural Revitalization session on Monday, August 3 at 1:00pm ET. Register for updates to learn more about how to join!

The more coworking community organizers I speak to, the more I get the powerful feeling that, while new communities are starting daily and many are doing well on paper as workspaces, the culture and participation in these spaces are sorely lacking.

To that end, I’m kicking off a new effort that will give organizers a way to revitalize their community through a fairly simple but powerful program. See below to learn more!



Register by July 31 to participate!

The process follows three basic phases: Evaluate, Identify, and Implement. Each exercise will be valuable unto itself, with the following phase building on the previous.

noun_form_39234 1. EVALUATE  Fill out a questionnaire.
We begin by looking at how things currently work. What’s working well? What needs attention? What hasn’t been addressed at all? Let’s get a really good sense of how community works in your space right now, so we can make informed decisions as to how to proceed from here.How it works:
You’ll fill out an evaluation form with questions ranging from simple to in-depth. Responses will be used to guide the rest of the process.Timing:
Evaluation phase begins promptly after an engagement commences and ends after all of the necessary information has been gathered.
noun_meeting_19165 2. IDENTIFY – Meet for a 90 minute video call.
With all the necessary information in hand, we’ll now identify the best opportunities to make improvements to culture and operations. We’ll look at simple tactical shifts that will be highly impactful yet easy to implement, while also charting out longer-term goals to work towards over time.How it works:
We’ll meet over the phone or in person to discuss analysis of your evaluation and to determine actionable next steps.

We’ll coordinate a time to meet after you fill out the initial Evaluation.

noun_construction_2029 3. IMPLEMENTWe’ll send you recommendations for next steps..
We’ll work with you to develop a plan for implementing these changes in your space over the coming weeks and months. As you go through the process of implementation, we’ll check in regularly to assess progress and make necessary adjustments.How it works:
After our discussion, we’ll develop an Implementation Plan based on what we learned from our previous conversation.

The Implementation Plan will be delivered within one week of the completion of the Identify phase.

I’m offering this as an experimental pilot program for $250 for the first 5 registrants, then $450 for subsequent registrants. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at tony [at]

Ready to begin? Register now!

After the initial consultation, more in-depth work is available, from ongoing training to full-blown in-person transformational on-site takeovers, where my partner and I will invade your space and help run it for a short period of time.

Also, if you’re interested in boosting the culture in your coworking community, you can also check out the Cotivation licensing and training program I’m offering with my friend Susan.


How fun would it be to take everything– everything– that goes into a complete support system for employees and see how we can make new, better equivalents for in(ter)dependent workers?

For a good long while now, I’ve been focused on this idea of a meta-corporation that looks like a traditional industrial employer, but is in fact completely different under the hood. Instead of existing as a hierarchy that funnels value upward to executives and shareholders, it would exist as a networked system that facilitates value transfer between peers.

It would still have all of the support structures of a traditional employer, but re-engineered for the needs of the new workforce.

So what would we call it?

It would have to sound a little corporate. If we’re going to be printing this on letterhead and putting it on the sides of buildings, it’s got to sound like something that could be well-established. Institutional, even.

It would have to be more than a little tongue-in-cheek. It could go so far as to be a living parody of everything that wasn’t so great about the old way of doing things. It could invite people to laugh a bit, and then wonder: “okay, but seriously though. How can we do this better?”

It would have to pass the Mom Test. That is, one should be able to tell their mom that they’re a part of this company and it would sound sufficiently secure and legitimate as to not make mom worry.

I’ve had a few ideas for what to call it, but I know there are some great ideas out there. What would you call this company?

Leave a comment!


NWC 2015 Brainstorm

Yesterday, my friend and fellow New Work City coworker Ray of ThinkDesign took a bunch of us through a creative brainstorming exercise to drum up lots of ideas for where we can go with our community next year and beyond. It was an incredibly awesome exercise, because we were forced to throw out ideas in such a rapid-fire way that we didn’t have a chance to second guess ourselves. We also took on the personas of famous figures, which forced us to look at things from different perspectives. On the other side we ended up with ideas that we may never have thought about otherwise.

The central question revolved around what we could do next year to set up NWC to be something that is secured for a long time, while also taking on a renewed sense of purpose and ambition.

What kinds of things did we learn? Here are a few takeaways:

What would George Washington do if he ran New Work City?

At first, I didn’t think there’d be a lot to come up with for this. For all we revere George, what do we really know about him and his beliefs? Well, maybe we can just use our rough understanding of what he means to us, and go from there. What would he do?

  • He’d declare war on his oppressors.
  • He’d collaborate with his friends to articulate a set of core values.
  • He’d develop an open source system of democracy.
  • He’d keep the power in the hands of the people.
  • He’d be first and most famous.
    • (Really, think about it. We have a capitol city, a state, a currency, and so much more in his name, in part because of this fact.)
  • He’d envision things 100 years down the road.
  • He’d forge alliances.
  • He’d look at the current circumstances and find ways to turn them to his advantage.

What would Donald Trump do if he ran New Work City?

We used him as the “anti-example,” and sure enough the first few notes I drew up were more punchlines than productive ideas. But after I got that out of my system, something funny happened. It turns out that, while we may never want to do things the way Trump would do them, we might have something to learn from it anyway. What would he do?

  • He’d be unafraid to take big risks.
  • He’d commit to a really ambitious project and compel everyone to believe it can happen.
  • He’d not be afraid to make people angry with his beliefs.
  • He’d write a book about how awesome and successful he is and why people should emulate him. (Okay, we’re not going to do this, but maybe we could glean something from it?)
  • Brand brand brand brand brand.
  • He’d find a way to profit from the legions of unemployed and underemployed (ha!)

What would Martin Luther King, Jr do if he ran New Work City?

We have much to learn from the Civil Rights Movement and one of the great leaders of the past century. What would he do?

  • He’d give a voice and vision to the oppressed.
  • He’d have a dream and talk about it.
  • He’d write and give a speech that resonates deeply with people.
  • He’d empower people to organize and act.
  • He’d appeal to human decency.
  • He’d focus on the needs of a specific group of people.
  • He’d align himself with an unstoppable force (God).
  • He’d stage visible protests.
  • He’d call out injustice and publicly oppose it.
  • He’d bring the power to the have-nots.
  • He’d show the power of gentleness and compassion.

How do these notions filter down to an actionable plan? We’ll cover that next. Whatever we decide to do, we’ll have the wisdom of some great (and not so great but remarkable nonetheless) individuals to guide us.



It’s easy to hate on the boss. The clueless middle-manager. The power-hungry doofus. Bill Lumbergh. Michael Scott, if we’re lucky.

So when we see that more and more people are starting to work for themselves instead of for bosses, we celebrate the fact. We throw up giant flags that say “do what you love.” We romanticize it, and for good reason.

But there’s a flipside to all the newfound liberty. While we may be right to take joy in shedding the oppression of full-time employment, we also must take caution in acknowledging the support and security we lose along with it. Shedding the personified human boss above you on the org chart doesn’t mean that the role of the boss ceases to exist; it means that the role now shifts to elsewhere. In large part, it shifts to inside of you.

You become the boss now. You’re the man. You are, now, perhaps, the clueless middle-manager. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, right?

Do we really want that responsibility? Are we well-equipped for it? Are we going to love it?

In a world whose attention is increasingly being consumed by an ever-improving system designed to stimulate our brains with shocking listicles and engagement-optimized tweets, do we really trust ourselves to manage ourselves well?

When the boss is us, who’s going to tell us to unplug the social media and get back to work? Who’s going to remind us that instead of playing into the development of the 21st century Couch Potato, we should be doing what we love– like we said we would?

Not everyone who is making the shift toward independent work is going willingly. Traditional full-time jobs, like them or not, are going away and not coming back. Some people welcome the change, but some are kicking and screaming. They fear a world in which they’re on their own, and with good reason. We’re not meant to be on our own.

I know how badly I need to not be on my own. I don’t want to be consumed by my own lack of discipline. I really really don’t want to hate my boss now, because he’s not going anywhere. I know I’m not the only one facing these sorts of things.

And therein lies an opportunity to shape how this plays out.

We can scatter, each of us on our own, battling social media and our own shortcomings and ever-increasing costs and who knows what else, and hope that we might eek out a happy life somewhere in between. Or we can find new ways to organize and help each other.

This is why I believe so deeply in the potential of Coworking. By putting us in the same room together, it gives us a fighting chance. But it can’t just be window dressing on an office space rental business, as many believe it is now. We have to think of it as a tool to build better ways for us to support each other.

How we approach that is something I’ve been looking at from a lot of angles. I’ve found some answers, but there are so many more yet to be found.

If you’re around next Saturday, a group of us will be talking about these kinds of things all day. I’d love for you to join. I’d also love to hear your voice in the comments below if you have a moment.

Cotivation at New Work City

Back at the end of 2012, I was facing an interesting challenge: New Work City’s membership was lagging after a slow Fall season, and the culture was starting to slide into one of passive workspace consumption. Which is not what we’re about.

So I wanted to undertake an effort that would simultaneously stimulate interest in membership while also creating an opportunity to revitalize the culture from within. I wanted to promote our place in a way that was more substantial than just “we’re great, come hang with us! Really!” — so I thought about a program that would give people a way to forge deeper, more intentional working relationships with each other.

I thought about what I needed myself, and what I saw in others. Two themes came up consistently: structure and accountability. In traditional employment, these things are taken care of, but for independent workers these critical constructs are nearly nonexistent without some kind of deliberate effort.

So to that end, I cooked up a basic but powerful concept for an accountability group, dubbed Cotivation (think collaborative motivation), where participants would meet weekly to set goals, keep each other accountable, and discuss whatever’s holding them back.

I themed the first one around making and keeping a New Year’s resolution and published it just before the end of the year, inviting people to join for our official kickoff in mid-January (why mid-January? because that’s when you most need a boost; after the initial excitement of the new year has worn off. But also because it gave us some time to promote it).

What resulted was incredible: a dozen or so people, some existing members and some newcomers, got together and started opening up to each other. We dug deep. We talked about our hopes and dreams and what was holding us back.

We set monthly goals and then weekly interim milestones, checking in each week to see whether we’d done what we’d said we would. Inevitably, some of us would fail, which gave us a chance to examine why. We’d discuss, we’d adjust, and we’d repeat.

When the first Cotivation came to a close in February, the next step was obvious: let’s do this again. So we repeated the format, inviting others to join.

We quickly formed deep bonds. The people who participated in those early Cotivation sessions ended up being the same people who went out for drinks after work and joined our volleyball team in the springtime.

Today, Cotivation groups are running or in development in New York, Seattle, Toronto, and Fort Collins. A handful of members run their own Cotivation group at New Work City now, with new groups on the way.

I’m excited about the ways Cotivation can help independents have a sense of the crucial structure and accountability they need, while also giving coworking spaces a valuable way to facilitate stronger connections and greater value between members.

If you’re interested in starting a Cotivation group, contact me!

I have this terrible tendency to flit from one idea to the next. Ask me what I’m up to today, and I’ll tell you something I’m really excited about, but then ask me again in two weeks, and odds are I’ll give you a different answer. Ask me again in a few months and I might tell you about the first idea I mentioned to you again.

In Bruce Lee terms, it’s like practicing 10,000 kicks once. It’s paralysis.

To combat this, I’m practicing developing a routine in which I funnel all new ideas onto a Trello list that I’ll make space to look at with intention at the end of each month. This will be a time when I’ll be setting intentions for the following month, so it will be a good time to look at this.

This allows me to feel good about letting the ideas go in the immediate moment, knowing that if they’re true winners they’ll prove themselves out when compared to the many others at the end of the month.

More importantly, I’ll keep the shininess of those ideas from interfering with whatever I’m working on in the present moment, which incidentally was probably an idea that was really shiny to me sometime in the past. If I can clear enough space to follow through on those ideas, execute them well, and build on them, then I’m onto something.



One of the main areas of professional self-improvement I’m focusing on right now is developing, refining, and, perhaps most importantly, trusting a routine.

In theory, everything that comes across my transom should be able to be handled in a consistent and predictable way. I’ve found, however, it really hard to nail that down. I think I just have to start somewhere, identify what doesn’t fit with the system, and refine as I go.

As I work towards that, I thought I’d share some things that have so far defied my attempts at systems:

  • A request from a friend to help me find sponsors for her conference. She’s a good friend, so I want to help her, but I’m not sure how to allocate time to reach out to potential sponsors for her. It seems like a painful task, so I’m not sure where or how to slot it in.
  • A friend of a friend who’s looking for a job. I’m getting a sense that this, and other things, could be batched together into a single, let’s say weekly, digest of things I post to NWC’s group and maybe my blog. It wouldn’t be much work if I focused on it for a solid hour or so once a week. I’m going to start a “Batch Favors” label as an incremental step for this.
  • A member who wanted to introduce me to someone who might want to add coworking to their space. I have some pretty good systems in place for this. I have a primer I send to people who ask my advice, which includes a compilation of questions I’ve answered in interviews and similar correspondence, and an appointment system I can direct people to for office hours-like meetings. I think, for now, this is largely a matter of trusting the systems I already have in place.

    …HOWEVER, I can’t help but feel like more can be done to better gather even just the NYC-area coworking organizers I encounter. I don’t want to obligate myself to organizing Another Thing, but… something. Another puzzle piece.

  • Friends sharing ideas for projects I’d love to do, but have no space to tackle.
    • A program for helping people get on their feet working for themselves (establishing an LLC, bank account, basic routines, etc).
    • A Welcome Center program where we create little brochures introducing people to the core communities and resources available to them in NYC (and then partnering with like-minded coworking spaces to have them offer the brochures as well.) Maybe also a paid consulting service for people who want to sit down with someone who will work with them to get them properly acquainted.
    • Lots of possible accountability / shared structure groups

This is a partial list I put together just from spending an hour going through things in my backlog. Perhaps I’ll add to it as I identify more.

Do you have a consistent way of handling things like these in a non-painful way? Help me out!