13. Chris Estrada, Founder of The Operation Spot

Episode 13 - Chris Estrada

Guest: Chris Estrada, The Operation Spot and Coworking Success  

Welcome to the Everything Coworking Podcast Episode Lucky Number 13!

This week I had the pleasure of having a conversation with a fellow podcaster in the coworking industry. I just recently met Chris Estrada and I can’t get enough of talking shop with him. Chris’ love affair with coworking started with his own success story. Which started with a story of a failure. Chris, with his fancy new MBA, got turned down by a consulting company in Atlanta. With a little bit of attitude and a little bit of not knowing what else to do, he decided to start his own consulting company out of a coworking space. Within a year, driven largely by his experience and network at the coworking space, he had outpaced the income he would have made working for the company that turned him down.

Now Chris is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs be successful by introducing them to coworking. He interviews entrpereneurs on his weekly podcast show called Coworking Success.

Chris shares some perspective on how smaller coworking spaces can compete with companies like WeWork. We also talk about how intense hobbies like mountain biking and Crossfit contribute to business success. I hope you enjoy the show.

What is it about coworking that inspired you to start The Operation Spot?  Chris pursued an MBA with the dream of working for one of Atlanta’s top consulting firms. After he finished his degree, he secured an interview, but not the job! Rather than being discouraged, Chris thought about the fact that he had a strong, established network, and a lot to bring to the table. So, without a single client, he quit his day job and decided to start his own consulting firm.

Part of the decision he made was to run the business from a coworking space, despite never having set foot in a coworking environment. Chris was driven to really become a part of the new coworking community. He wanted to engage with and serve the other members of his community. The strategy worked, because within eight months of working for himself, he surpassed the income he’d been pursuing at the consulting firm that turned him down. That’s what he calls Coworking Success! After hitting that milestone, he tried to learn more about why other people were not pursuing coworking, and he learned that most people simply were not aware of it.

That understanding led him to establish the Operation Spot, which focuses not only on coworking spaces, but on the people who work there and drive the industry forward.

Do you feel that starting your business from home could have held you back? It really could have, Chris says. One of the things he loves about coworking spaces is the number of opportunities you have to connect with people. He’s landed some of his biggest clients from being a part of a coworking space. The amount of time is so much quicker than it might otherwise be because you’ve already built a rapport with the client, from seeing them at work every day. That close contact holds you accountable.

What do you expect coworking to look like in 2020? Chris sees a lot more niche coworking spaces appearing. He’s already seen a few, generally focused on CPAs and attorneys. Coworking kitchens are also getting off the ground - where else can food truck owners and caterers test new recipes, outside of commercial kitchens? Chris sees coworking touching every industry and expanding to different areas, including malls and airports. After all, how often is it that you’re waiting in an airport and wishing you had a space where you could sit down and get some real work done? He thinks the changes will come soon despite the red tape, especially as public demand grows.

You work with businesses, and marketing is your area of focus. This is an area that I see a lot of coworking spaces struggle with. What’s a piece of advice that you would give to someone struggling to market their space? Chris likes to get down to the foundation of what the business is, rather than apply a one-size-fits-all solution. Who do you need to be, to have the business that you want? How are you presenting yourself in the community, and to new members? It’s all about knowing who you serve and what problems you are solving. The “if you build it, they will come” strategy can cost valuable time and resources.

How do you think smaller, independent coworking locations should differentiate themselves from larger players like WeWork? One of the ways they can set themselves apart, Chris noted, is to highlight their members and the impact they’re having. Just like in marketing, it’s about the people, not the desks. They can also promote themselves by hosting events outside of their communities. For example, they could try sponsoring a lounge area at a local food festival or partnering with the local Chamber of Commerce.

What role does podcasting play in your marketing strategy? Chris says it’s both about building exposure for the coworking industry and the people who have the guts to quit their jobs and put themselves out there. He wants to inspire a million people to develop success through joining a local coworking space.

Tell us a little bit about your hobbies. What about mountain biking? Does your hobby have an impact on your business? Chris uses it as an opportunity to step back from the business. It helps him be in nature, but think about his business, and come up with new ideas. He’s actually had business meetings on bike trails. He equates the endurance required for competitive mountain biking to the endurance required of an entrepreneur.

Resources Mentioned in this Podcast:

Coworking Success Podcast
Operation Spot
Twitter: @operationspot

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PodcastJamie Russo