A true story from a co-working space - the difficulties and frustrations of starting a business
Updated: May 19
|Author: Tung Shui Yuen
NARRATED BY THE OWNER OF THE COWORKING SPACE
Generally, we have a team of colleagues who are responsible for showing clients around and introducing them various rooms and facilities of our coworking spaces. If the client thinks the place suitable, the colleague will sign a contract with them. However, in this true story, the protagonist is quite special. Since he had a full-time job, he needed to come for the site visit after 7:00 pm. All my colleagues left the office for home at this late hour, so to make the deal, I personally met him that day, so I had a very deep memory of this client.
Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi
This client was referred to us by a property agent. The agent first came to visit us alone to check the place, and thought we were a good fit. There was a good chance closing the deal. While the agent said there was a problem, his customer had just started a business, and budget was limited. Our price although not expensive at all, his customer may still need to make a bargain. I told him to wait until his customer viewed the place.
In the evening, I saw the agent’s customer: A young man in his early twenties. He worked in information technology field. He looked very excited. I could tell, from the first instance, he loved our place. Then, he looked very confident of himself in making a big success, and he seemed to say that the road ahead was super bright. However, based on my extensive experience in reading people, I had reservations about whether he could succeed. Firstly, he revealed too much of his true emotions when he was happy. Generally, businessmen restrained themselves from showing emotions to have a better position in a business deal. Besides, his speech and attitude were a little flippant. If it weren't for business, I would think he was cute and likable. However, for business cooperation, he did not seem to be a stable enough person.
With my wish to support young people, also in line with our company's policy, immediately, we signed the contract with him with a substantial price reduction. I was also glad that he only signed a half-year contract. In case his business was not good, he could leave the field early. After all, he was young and could try something else.
Since I had other businesses, I rarely worked in our offices afterwards. While every time I went there, I saw that he worked there during the day, and it seemed that he had quitted his full-time job; and there were soon two other young people in the room; and occasionally, guests. It looked great then. However, as time goes by, when I came back by chance, I saw only this young man working alone.
Since then, he was only seen alone and his head was often lowered with knitted brows. The colleague said that the business of this young man did not seem to be good. We didn't ask too much as we didn't want to pry into the privacy of our clients. What we could do was to send him some information about the government funding programmes for startups. We also frequently asked him if he needed additional information.
Until a month before the end of the contract period, the question that had been circling in my mind finally had an answer: Will he renew the contract? Although the answer was obvious, we had to wait for his notice. He finally told me to terminate the contract and inquire about the procedure of the deposit refund; and the charges for future use of the meeting room, etc. I then asked him if he would consider applying for the SIE FUND (Coworking Space Funding Scheme under the Social Innovation Fund) as we were among the eligible coworking spaces. If the application was successful, he got full funding of the fee of using our coworking space. Regrettably he said his company was not qualified. He would also not consider to pay for other plans from us for the time being.
This young man has been away from us for a year. I keep thinking of him occasionally. I do not know where he is now. Ha, maybe one day I cannot help but find an excuse to contact him to see if he is still running his old business and if he is doing okay. For me (perhaps I am more emotional), this is a bit sad but inevitable. Seeing it from another angle, young people only grow up after they fall down. There is nothing to lose while you are still young as you gain at least the experience, why not giving it a try?
Indeed, we hope that our clients leave us not because of bad business. What we want to see is that young clients move out because of business expansion with the need to find bigger or more suitable co-working spaces. Or else, we hope that young people move out because of wishing to try new places everywhere; and they want to be in another environment to inspire new ideas or get more connections. We also have such kind of ideas though and let me share them with you maybe in near future.
Author: Tung Shui Yuen – The Founder of Co-working Spaces