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Podcast episode 8: Is the future community co-working?

In the latest episode, iMG. Co Founders, David Coghlan & Richard Johnson talk to Dispace Co-Founder Ross Cox, about community co-working spaces & booting the 9 to 5.

Transcription, Is the future community co-working?

We use AI to record and transcribe our podcasts, so while we give it a whizz through to make sure there's nothing shockingly wrong, the below is our verbatim conversation so it might get a little odd to read in places...


David Coghlan, Richard Johnson and Ross Cox

David Coghlan 00:03

Hi, everybody, and welcome to this episode eight of The Inspired Marketing group podcast. My name is David Coghlan. I'm one of the co founders here. And I'm joined as always by my co founder, Richard.

Richard Johnson 00:17


David Coghlan 00:18

Hey, and this time I'm, again, I'm really excited, actually to be joined today by former colleague, and a good friend, and a pretty bloody smart business person. Ross Cox.

Ross Cox 00:33


David Coghlan 00:35

Good to see Ross, thanks for joining us appreciate it.

Ross Cox 00:39

You too, guys, I'm looking forward to a lively discussion about how we work.

David Coghlan 00:44

Brilliant. So obviously, we work together back at OpenWrks in the VC world, which was pretty fast paced, and pretty crazy. Um, but you bugged out and started your own thing. So you basically you made the brave leap a few years before Richard and I did. So tell us about Dispace, tell us about how it started, what you're doing and how it's going and what you're doing there.

Ross Cox 01:11

Of course. So my, my journey, unlike, like many other people is a little bit kind of convoluted and lots of bends and turns. But I will try and take you through it and kind of help you understand where we got to, and why we got to where we are now. So and I spent, as you know, quite a large number of years 10 plus in a in a kind of corporate financial services environment. And as was consistent with that world, it was, as you mentioned, high paced, high pressured and constant impending deadlines where the world was going to end if we didn't hit them, long hours, lots of emphasis on kind of prioritising work over everything else you had going on.

Ross Cox 02:00

And I think as you kind of transition from a single person to somebody that kind of gets into a serious relationship, and then has some small children, you start to reflect on how work and non work elements of your life fit together. And I think, not unusually, the kind of roles that we were doing, were in environments where, you know, you had to put work first and you had to make certain sacrifices. And that meant kind of, you know, childcare, before kind of school before nursery, childcare afterwards. And childcare during school holidays, occasionally missing out on things that might be really important to kind of from a personal life perspective. So first Nativity plays or sports days, and making those difficult decisions, because your livelihood is important, your job is important. And therefore, you have to make some of those sacrifices.

Ross Cox 02:56

And for a long time, that didn't kind of sit very comfortably with me. And I wonder if there was a different way of operating, being able to be your best professionally, but also being able to be your best as a husband, wife, father, friend, and how we could fit those two things together. And I guess, in parallel, over the 10-15 years that my career was taking off, technology was kind of accelerating at a similar sort of pace. And so whilst people were going into offices and doing commutes, and spending lots of time at desks, they also had access to devices that essentially left them on 24/7. And so whilst your employer made it really important for you to be able to work between the hours of eight and six, Monday to Friday, actually, what was increasingly happening was, you were working again, during the evenings, you were working again at the weekends. And invariably, you were going away on holiday, and you were checking your emails, and you might occasionally kind of sneak off with your laptop and, you know, throw out a little bit of work that you felt was really important. And so you were in this kind of office based nine to five, kind of industrial style factory environment. But you were also working outside of that as well. And work was absolutely consuming everything you did.

Ross Cox 04:19

And there was an expectation on you that that that was how you should operate. And people perceive that those that were most visible were the ones that were working hardest. And ultimately those that we're most visible, we're the ones that we're going to get on we're going to be promoted, we're going to achieve success in their career. And after doing that for a number of years, and after starting to feel guilty and actually quite sad about the things that I was missing out on in my private life. I wanted to break free from that. I wanted to do my own thing where I could kind of make some decisions completely objectively about when I worked and when I didn't and I wanted to see if there was a way to make some money by providing some of those tools to other people that were like me that wanted some of those services, and that's kind of, ultimately why I made the leap. And that's part of how Dispace became came to be in the first place. And kind of where we originally looked at kind of pitching it.

Richard Johnson 05:21

I find that amazing, like, literally, you've just described, probably my late 20s, early 30s. And, and I felt it, I saw it, I partly partake in it. It felt wrong at the time, but for whatever it was, whether it was that stage of your life where you've got to earn a bit more money to kind of, you know, get a mortgage and do all of that stuff. But when you were talking about I just writing it down and flashing back to the competition's in terms of who was last out in the office. That was a badge of honor, oh i was here until eight o'clock last night, people send emails on a Saturday morning to prove they were working. That email was oh is anyone finding the internet slow this morning when you're RASSing in. No, I'm not. I'm not logged on. But they happen all the time. And it's toxic, and it becomes this cycle that you're on. And it's mad. Yeah. Wow, literally, flashback. Big time.

Ross Cox 06:23

Yeah, I mean, I've got so many, so many stories of kind of behaviours that I saw from people that run businesses, people that worked in businesses, and, and kind of most, you know, most kind of, sadly, from from myself, as you've just described, so, you know, looking back now sitting there and going, it's more important for me to be doing this piece of work, which actually, in the grand scheme of things, even to the business I was working for, wasn't that important than it is to be spending, you know, half an hour present with my young children, actually focusing on them, enjoying spending time with them, and being not being distracted whatsoever by what I think is more important over here. And actually, I'll touch on this a bit more in detail later on. But actually, it's become really, it was really difficult even even now kind of three years on to, to stop being institutionalised by the things that have been drilled into you that kind of nine to five, that that sense that actually, you can't go and spend an hour walking around the neighborhood and getting a coffee. If it's in that nine to five, you can't go and do some exercise at 11 o'clock in the morning because it's in that window of work. And, and it's been hard, so hard to shake off those behaviors personally. And I think that's a, that's a sorry, state of affairs. Now, I'm pleased to see, you know, not only with the kind of businesses that are emerging, like yours, that are kind of speaking to this new style of working, but also people's increasing honesty that's come out of the pandemic, the humanisation of us, as workers where we've been able to feel like we can now go on LinkedIn and say, Here's a picture of me and my kid, they've been sat next to me this morning while I've been knocking out a proposal or, you know, by the way, last Friday, I just sacked everything off and I kind of went to Alton Towers and had had a bit of fun with my my teenager and I love the fact that we're starting to break down some some barriers there and behaviors are starting to change.

Richard Johnson 08:30

It's been a force, hasn't it? And actually, if you went to any kind of therapy session, they'd always say take a pause from life. Just you know, step back and just reevaluate. And I think the lockdown made everyone reevaluate everything for work to relationships to to whatever that that looks like but it's yeah, it's really interesting. And I think it's a top down approach which drives that behaviour and it's the leader at the top, you know, in my experience, who actually instills that culture into a business and and it takes a brave leader to change that and I remember one who really stands out to me and she turned around and said on a Friday night at six o'clock to a peer of mine, what happens if you don't send that email go home and see your kids? What happens if you don't send that email? She's like, well, they won't get it and they won't do this. Will that person actually do anything when you receive it at six o'clock on a Friday night? They probably won't. So why don't you go missing your kids and pick it up on a Monday morning? And you could see the fear in that person go yeah, I got I've got to send it. And it's like who's gonna die? Nobody. Go and see your kids.

David Coghlan 09:45

And it's probably and you know, we're all have a similar age in terms of it's like a, you know, a cultural thing in terms of how we've been brought up, you know, work hard at school, study hard, get a good job, go to uni, whatever it is, and you kind of just get on that hamster wheel. Do you think that over the last 18 months or whatever the there's almost, like you say Rich, there's been that reset. And actually the attitude of people like us, employees, is now going to drive it. I think we've touched on this in the past, where culture is driven top down. But now what's happening is, culture is being driven up. So the employees are now dictating how they want to work when they want to work, where they want to work, etc.

Richard Johnson 10:25

We said before in a previous podcast, but basically the revolutions Industrial Revolution, etc, has been like companies driving the change down down the down the internal chain, this raise, this reset, now employees have just gone no, i'm going to demand more, and it's almost like the changes is being forced bottom up now.

Ross Cox 10:45

I think. So there's some interesting things going on this clearly, there's clearly a bunch of people. And most of us with pensions indirectly, they've got a lot of money invested in real estate for whom the interest to try and drive people back to the old world. And that's not going to go away overnight, there's going to, there's going to be a kind of ongoing battle amongst certain types of certain types of individuals and certain types of businesses. But he does feel like we've got a bit of critical mass as, as kind of the employed to draw to keep that kind of change going through. And I think there's certainly from and I'm generalising, but there's a school of executives that are probably a little bit older than others for whom it's actually difficult for them to get their head around the new way of working because they've spent so long in the old model. And, and some of them won't change not because they're kind of resistant, per se, but just because they don't get it, it's not their world, it's a different life. And therefore, you know, we I think there's going to be a bit of waiting for those people to retire and be replaced by the, the next generation of executives before this really takes hold. And so the battle is definitely not won. I think there's a lot of, for every good thing that's happening, there's also a fair bit of lip service going on, that's kind of let's appease people for now, and hope that they kind of get back into line at some point in the future.

Ross Cox 12:14

And, and one of the things that always makes me laugh is that the amount of employees that have suddenly gone well, if it wasn't for COVID, you know, we wouldn't have discovered that the technology could make people productive. The technology has been making those same people productive for 10 years. And that's why they've been answering emails in the evening, the weekend and on their holidays, right? It's been squeezing every drop of energy out of them and, and they've said actually, I want to take a little bit back. So my, my kind of my biggest thing that that that I recognise from my history of being employed is, every time I went on holiday, I never entirely settled and enjoyed it. Because I had to I had two approaches I could take approach one was, go away, don't look at your phone, turn it back on when you get home and approach to was look at your phone, because it's better to know what's going on and feel okay about it and relaxed than it is to not. And in both of those scenarios, approach A I just spent the whole time wondering what on earth there was in my inbox to screw me over by the time I got home. Approach B, I would invariably find something in my inbox that wasn't really that important. But somebody's got their knickers in a twist that then set me off. So every holiday ever went on are stressed because I was always wondering what was going on behind the scenes. And I loved it when it was a weekend while I was away because I was like well, at least there's not that much going on. And I always loved Christmas because it was the one time of year where most people weren't working and you could actually switch off. What a miserable way of existing that is.

David Coghlan 13:49

Yeah. So let's let's move from our woes as previously employed. So tell us about Dispace, because I think the concept was amazing. And yeah, tell us about that.

Ross Cox 14:03

So we, myself and Ben Hancy, he's my business partner who's kind of background is is a CTO, at an EPOS company, wanted to see what we could do with software in this particular space. And so we didn't want to, we didn't want to kind of build a consulting business, we were very much, you know, build a product and sell it multiple times. And the thing that we were quit interested in was a concept that was starting to emerge a little bit in the US, which was the idea that there was a growing army of freelancers, remote workers, that was only going to increase and that needed a distributed network of places to work that weren't their home. That were affordable, accessible, that had other people in there like them that they could build a community with. And at the same time, there's a bunch of venues that were largely in hospitality, and had lots of traffic into them during the evenings in the weekends, but were very quiet during the day and had kind of spaces with Wi Fi and coffee on tap. And the idea is, is we build a platform to connect the two together. So we'd create a membership base of, you know, distributed workers, and we'd create a network of places that they could use with a single membership. And we'd kind of hook them up. And that was the that was the original concept behind the business.

David Coghlan 15:34

Which is amazing. I mean, like, looking at it today, that's as the answer to so many of these businesses challenges, right?

Ross Cox 15:42

Yeah it is, I guess the I guess there were two things that didn't quite work out for us one timing. So we were 18 months prior to COVID. And kind of resolution of people's ideas about work. And, and the other was, if, if you were to truly have more people working remotely more regularly than than weren't, then a bit more kind of thought as to where they were located, and therefore, where they would need accessible space to work from. So we attacked it in what we believe to be a sensible way, which is to go into our city centres and kind of build city center venues. Now, the problem with that was that if people were traveling into the city, they were invariably already going into an office, and therefore they didn't need an alternative space. If people weren't doing that, they were outside of the cities. And they didn't want to commute into the city, because that was, that was one of the benefits of not having to, you know, be part of an office culture. So it, we didn't quite get the adoption that we needed to kind of make that work. But there have been, certainly even at the time we were we were working, there have been a couple of organisations that do a similar thing in London, and in the big capital cities where the model is slightly different. Everyone lives in and around the city, you can't afford office space, you don't have a property big enough to have a room with an office in where they've done really well because the network's on the doorstep. And it's a great model. And we sort of moved away from that. But as I kind of mentioned in a blog piece I wrote about a year ago, actually, I think the model is now is now absolutely right. But the tweak to it is that people are now spending their time in them in the areas that they live in, which aren't generally cities, they're kind of suburbs and towns and villages. And therefore if you could create those networks in the redundant spaces that are in there, then I think people would use them because they want to have an alternative to home, they want an environment that's slightly different. They want to be rubbing shoulders with colleagues and other people that are doing the same thing and just getting getting a slightly different experience. So for us timing and kind of execution wasn't quite quite right. But I still fundamentally believe in the concept, I think this idea of kind of community based workspaces will eventually be kind of part of the future of work.

David Coghlan 18:14

And is that is that something that you're looking at now continuing with?

Ross Cox 18:20

I think the challenge for us and we did look at it during the pandemic is, is we never wanted to be a bricks and mortar business. So we didn't want to own real estate. And because, you know, the benefit of hitting 10 big cities is there's 10 big cities to go after. The downside of doing something like this is you've got hundreds of different places where you need to build a spot. So I don't think it's not right for us right now, because we're kind of concentrated elsewhere. But I'm very supportive of the model. And anybody that's kind of on the same wavelength, we talk about how we can help them with technology. And I think, where we've got to now with our software solution that we provide for venue hire and space hire and bookings is that there's a real consultative lead approach to the venues we talk about where we try to get them to adopt a kind of community workspace model as part of the resources in the facilities that they offer out as a venue owner. So we don't deliver it per se, but it is kind of part of our toolkit when we're talking to venues about how they can make more of the spaces and the facilities that they have within their portfolio.

David Coghlan 19:40

Yeah, got it. Because I think it's almost it's like it's a real opportunity for loads of these places. So back in the day used to run a sports club and we you know, we had a conference space and we're always trying to think about how can we utilise the space how can we make money from this space and it was always just sort of, you know, one off bookings these people will come in and do a thing. But actually, that shift in approach could be that, you know, you make this a community hub it was based in, in The Park is Nottingham just got sort of 1500 houses around it, quite a few professionals, if that was an open sort of available space because Wi Fi coffee on all of those things, there's a bunch of people, I'm sure working in that location that would happily drop in for place to like, say rub shoulders meet people. I think that concept is amazing. And like you say, I think that it's almost a mind shift in terms of what the spaces can be used for, rather than, you know, whatever, just tradition itself.

Ross Cox 20:44

I mean, if you if you took if you took the wework concept or, you know, independent co working spaces, which again, largely popped up in city centers. And because people think that, I've always thought that's where you needed to be, and you lifted it, and you dropped it into, so take Nottingham for example, massive employers Exeprian, Capital One, Boots. Huge employers that persumably now have a large percentage of their workforce spending in some kind of hybrid model. So they're not, they're not in the office, most of the week. And if you looked at where those people, if you went and chatted to those businesses, and said roughly what's the map of where your employees live, you would get your kind of West Bridgfords, your Mapperleys, your Beestons. And if you then lifted those, you know, cool co working concepts and you drop them in to those residential areas, as you've just described, for The Park, I have no doubt whatsoever that the adoption of that would be great, particularly if you built those community services around that so that you had, you know, a means for them to communicate to each other. You had people coming in and doing talks or offering business support, you had a social aspect, so that there was a, you know, you replicated the Thursday, Friday night after work drinks, but in the locality, you know, you hooked up with your local PT and you said, rock up at, you know, eight in the morning lunchtime and take everyone for a run or a bike ride, or you get your local bicycle repair guy and you get him there on the front, fixing people's bikes during the lunch hour this, there's such a kind of interconnected set of resources services, people that you can build out of that hub that's in those places where people live, they don't want to go into the cities anymore, because that's the that was part of the painful experience of kind of the old model of working. So I think it's exciting. It's, you know, like I say, I don't think we're going to be building that solution. Because there's a variety of reasons why that's not a priority for us right now. But we're, we're certainly excited about it. And we're certainly involved in in kind of thought leadership and supporting the people that might want to go down that route.

Richard Johnson 22:55

And I think that's the thing for me is it's not, it's not about everybody jettisoning in full time work and becoming freelance. It's not about everyone, because I think that there needs to be that kind of, you know, some people want to socialise we're social creatures. Some people want to socialise, rather than work from home in their office, you might not have the right space. And I think that and again I think we've maybe talked about this before Dave as well, is almost like, the next evolution of an office to me is satellite offices in like, like you're describing in the fact that you don't have a massive head office where you know, where your big logo above it but actually, how many people not even commute into cities, but commute 30, 40, 50 miles to get to a different city, if you could go to a central place where there's other people you can communicate to and talk to, but you still working for your company, i think that's got a lot of merit to it. And I think I think, personally, I think that's people's, when people say they want to go back to an office full time or whatever that looks like that isn't about the bricks and mortar about building that's about social interaction. And if you can get that remotely and I can go to my local business park, which is a mile down the road but still work for large corporate from that office, and your hiring a desk space or a small space. That's perfect. It was really perfect.

Ross Cox 24:20

Yeah, I agree with that. I mean, I've not been in a in a big business for a while. And I've not seen how HR departments have responded to what's happened with COVID. And I'm sure some of them did a fantastic job and others have not not so good. But part of this is when I see things on LinkedIn about four day weeks, and, you know, arbitrary stuff. That's that's not the answer to this. It's not about replacing one kind of rigid set of rules with another rigid set of rules that might feel a little bit more kind of human friendly. It's about recognising a couple of things. One is that everybody is entirely different, right. And therefore, you take kind of two demographics. So one is, is kind of older people who I put in the i don't know 45 to 60 bracket broadly, who have just had that model for so long that, that that's what they need, you know, little things like, if their laptop stops working, they want to have IT support their, you know, on demand to come and fix stuff, they just, they just need that kind of answer. And then you look at people at the other end of the spectrum, and who want to go into the office, because it's part of that early stage of your professional career is, is about the work that you produce, but it's also about the things that you learn from people, both professionally and socially, it's about the people you meet, you know, let's be honest, lots of people, myself included, meet and marry people that they work with, right, there is a huge kind of human element to it. And there's things like training and mentoring that you know, absolutely work 100 times better in person. So you've got to factor in all these different needs, all these different human behaviours and different types of people. And you've got to come up with a model that kind of delivers different types of services to different people, and then is a mixed bag, ultimately, from a, what the business does perspective is output focused, not time focused. But there is a there is a kind of an underlying, underlying set of principles that allow people to work, learn, and socialise through work in the way that the way that suits them as individuals.

Richard Johnson 26:50

All of that to me make sense. And the one thing I always come back to in my head, and i've been thinking about this more and more, the biggest thing people throw up about why you can't go back into an office or why you need to get back into the office is training, how do you learn, if you're, if you're remote, like, and you're not speaking with people. And, and the lightbulb moment to me was was Open Universities in the fact that, you know, universities was very much you had to go, and that's what you did. And then they created Open Universities. People are still learning law degrees by Open Universities. Massively complex stuff. So why can't you learn a job or a skill or a trade remotely, you know, the precedent set with Open Universities and, and it to me is what you touched on very early on, it's attitude of businesses, and whether that is the business, the leader, whatever that looks like, they nine times out of 10 will dictate how that company is structured. And it's about that personal preference, not how it could be structured.

Ross Cox 27:55

Yeah, I absolutely agree. It's, it's, it's control. And one of the things you have to think if you're, everybody's been in an office where the kind of the most senior person in the room, they might sit behind the glass door, but they'll occasionally come out and yell and go, Dave, where's X, or they'll fire off an email and say, whatever you're doing stop, and you need to write this up for me. And there's a big onus on leaders to, re learn leadership on in this new world, right? It's a completely different model of managing people. And you can be a lot lazier, if all you have to do is open your door and scream at somebody, then you can if you've got to think about A) prioritising their work and B) doing a decent job of professional development, right? So if you think about our experiences, professional development, I would say the majority of them are you with a manager, there's lots of interaction, you get a general feel for what they think about you, because you're interacting with them during the course of the year. You know, they tell you if they're pleased, they tell you if they're not pleased, and then you sit down once a year, they try and remember what objectives they set you 12 months ago, you do a bit of an exercise, everything gets ticked off, you get a rating, and away you go. But so that that kind of review process is actually shite. But because they've been interacting with you so closely, at least they have a, you know, 80/90% accurate view of what you've been producing. If you're not visible and you don't have those little interactions, you've got to be much better at all the structural stuff that that helps them form a view of the work that you've been doing, the way that you've been delivering how you've been interacting. So the old model allows lazy managers and lazy leaders to be lazy because they can just yell, scream and see everything that's going on around it.

David Coghlan 29:56

It's really, a really good point. That's really, really insightful. Because I know, I know, Rich and I were laughing while you were talking then about personal development plans and annual reviews and all that stuff. And I think you're absolutely bang on. Yeah, absolutely bang on because there just is lazy, right? It is lazy. It's completely lazy. And yeah, it's interesting, and I guess is there, go back to your point about control because you can't, it's almost, you know, you need to be better at management. But also if you if you're not getting the outputs that you want or expect or need, have you got the evidence to exit that person in a performance management point of view as well. So it's kind of all of the you know, the learns i guess learned behaviours and structures just fall down a bit, then they if you can label people,

Richard Johnson 30:51

But it's not because this is where technology comes in. So we know that actually, technology allows you to do stuff. So, you know, if somebody walked through the door at nine o'clock in the morning, you, you know that because you're sat there, if you're working for a large corporate, you can tell when they've logged on or not. And i know i'm over simplifying it. Technology enables you to do that GSheets, shows you what they've done and what they've not done on an audit trial, but it's just a new way of working. And why I laughed about for the appraisals. Oh Christ, Let's call a spade a spade they're bullshit. Basically is based on a bloody bell curve as well with a financial bonus attached to it. And you know, Dave's brilliant, he's brilliant, he's brilliant well they can't all be brilliant, because we haven't money for that. It's bollocks.

Ross Cox 31:42

To be honest, so it's worth calling out that I've managed people. And I have been shite, lazy leader doing rubbish appraisals, as well. So I'm not kind of putting myself outside of this. I just think, actually, everything, when you when your output based right everything and your remote, actually what you do, not how you behave, but what you deliver is more visible, right? Because the only way that you communicate, the things that you have been doing is by making them tangible and making and allowing people to see them. Now that doesn't mean there isn't a lot of activity going on in the background when there isn't any output or the outputs half formed. So just because I've got a proposal to do, and you haven't seen it yet, it doesn't mean that I'm kind of in the bath read in a book that I'm kind of, I might be actually. But I'm sort of forming that I just think there's an idea that you can't performance manage someone if you can't see them, which is utter crap, right? Actually, if you've got them, if they're if they're remote, you have to be much clearer collectively about what your expectations are of them, and what you need them to do. And then as long as you're agreed on that, and you've communicated that to them and they understand then you've done all those checks, you're then waiting for the work to be produced. And then either the work gets if the work doesn't get produced, then you've probably got an issue and if the work gets produced consistently and it isn't the standard you require, you've probably got an issue so you can you can still identify those warning signs that might take you down a performance management route. And actually probably more so because everything has to be tangible in the end. Otherwise, there is no interaction between you whatsoever. It's not about you know, oh my god look at him he's off, and this we've seen this happen Dave, that guy keeps going at four o'clock because you've got to pick his kids from nursery don't really know what he does. But he must be shit his job because he's leaving

Richard Johnson 33:50

He's not committed because he leaves at 4

Ross Cox 33:52

He's week is. Yeah.

Richard Johnson 33:59

Or he's just bloody good at his job and he can do it quicker than anyone else.

Ross Cox 34:03

Well, here's the thing, right? So what what if your, what if your productivity is four times the other guy, and your work is done in two hours? And he's taking 10 All right, the old school mentality is Mr. 10 hours. He's working till three in the morning. Wow, how committed is that guy and you are a lazy sod because all you do is you is you clock on it. 10 you're done by 12. And, you know, I happen to drive drive thru nearby where you live and I kind of saw you at the pub in a pint right on my time. Yeah. And the same goes for people that you know this. We're not homogenous, right. So some people function better at different hours of the day. Right? So nine to five is just utterly flawed as a concept. I might work better at 6am till 10am and be awful in the middle of the day. I feel sluggish and need to be somewhere else it's just yeah strange.

Richard Johnson 35:02

But nine to five I and again, this is a thought process which has just come to maybe quite random but 9 to 5 to me is the fact that the world, the world moved on, but the business hasn't, hasn't moved on. So nine to five worked, probably in the 1830s, when everyone worked on farms and factories, and about five past five, we all went to the pub or whatever that looks like, as the world got bigger. And actually, we started doing global trades and stuff like that. I know, I know, somebody who, you know, her business, they trade with Japan, she gets a bit two does calls goes back to bed at three and gets up later. And that's, that's her life because of how she, nine to five doesn't fit into that box because her customers are global. And I think that's been, it's been set in stone that UK is nine to five in reality, and we struggle to move on.

Ross Cox 35:52

Yeah, completely. I completely agree. And this isn't, I always think the defensive part of me goes, this isn't some kind of like woke movement where none of us wants to do anything anymore, right? We all recognise that you have to do work, if you want to achieve your goals, your goals might be different. So my goal might suddenly be what I want to now do for a living is is stand on the beach in Cornwall and, and kind of sell ice cream. But we all we all recognise that you have to graft. And it's just that you can configure how you graft in a way that works for you with how you function as a human being, and the other responsibilities, interests and desires that you have in your life. And that's what it's about. And I know people are going to come along and say, yeah, but my work our clients need to speak to is between nine and five, or, you know, we need to provide certain operations 24 /7, that's absolutely fine. We understand that it's about looking at the pieces on your chessboard, and putting them in the right place to kind of deliver your winning move based on what your business requirement

Richard Johnson 37:01

That's when people just go to extremes don't they. They just don't it never works. You know, how am I going to get by Toyota assembly plant in my front room? Well, clearly you can't work from home if you're on an assembly plan. But it's about looking at job functional roles. And what we've called before about shared services, you know, marketing, HR, finance, whatever you want to call it, but they're ripe for having a new way of working. If you're sat in front of a machine popping out bottles every 25 seconds, that isn't gonna be a home working role. Fact of life

Ross Cox 37:32

Absolutely, we understand although you know, there are more there probably more things and a good example even though everybody likes to moan about his GP's right so there is, I'm personally have the view that actually having a telephone triage is the first step in the process with a GP is absolutely the right thing. And kind of, you know, businesses like teladoc that are really focused on on, you know, the revolution of doctor services, the right thing to do. So there are there are more things that can operate like less than people might perceive is the case and your point, Richard about kind of Open University, teaching is another great example. But yes, there are certain things that physical location is important for but that doesn't mean those roles can't have an element of flexibility.

Richard Johnson 38:15

And the point is on that, this COVID forced that that kind of mentality, the GP's is a great example in the fact that so we're with Vitality as part of our business insurance. And they've always done virtual telephone appointments as part of their service, you can do a video call, or you could do a telephone call. And actually, you know, it's something like earache, they can't diagnosis, you've got to go to the doctors, but nine times out of 10, you can get a video appointment over the phone, the public health, the public sector side of that, just know we have a doctor surgery in the village. And that's what we do. When COVID happened. They had they were forced down that evolutional model for one of the better word. And now if I go in, this is a great cost saving actually, and it probably works a little bit better. So and but again, it's it's attitude of, of the designers of that service, rather than wherever is humanly possible or not

David Coghlan 39:09

So I think, you know, I could talk all day, but just so obviously we've seen we've kind of heard where you've come from Ross and your sort of massive passion for the sorts of shifts that are happening. So what what what are you up to now? How are you, you know, making these changes a reality?

Ross Cox 39:25

I guess. Firstly, it's worth saying that whilst we might not be 100% focused on the area that we were in previously, I absolutely wholeheartedly believe in the things that I'm talking about are in the fabric of the culture of my business. And so the people that work for us understand that it's okay to say, I'm going to do this and this could be picking up a poorly child or going to a sports day or going and having a run for an hour right. So I am of the opinion that all I want from you as somebody that works for me is openness about what you're doing. So I can plan and a commitment to deliver the output that makes our business's success. And that's it and how that all works in hours in the day, days of the week, months of the year. That , that's up to you to tell me how you can kind of make that function for you.

Ross Cox 40:20

In terms of our business, we took what we built, which was a kind of early stage booking system, we took what we understood about venues, which is they had spaces for hire, but actually the process for hiring those was really clunky, it was inquiry form driven, it was slow, long lead times, we looked at the rest of the world that had online booking and travel is the best example where you can go on and, you know, book your ten grand trip to Nepal without talking to another human and said, Well, why can't I hire a meeting room for eight people for three hours a tea and coffee in the same way. And, and we kind of went out and spent some time with the people that worked in those industries. And we built our product switch, which is a basically a property management system for venues that have spaces and facilities hire for hire, with an emphasis on online booking and self service tools for people that are booking events, meetings, functions.

Ross Cox 41:16

And we largely provide that into higher education, further education, local authorities like councils. But essentially it works for anybody that has venues where they hire space and facilities.

Ross Cox 41:31

And so I guess where this kind of comes back round to where we started is those businesses have a great portfolio of assets, and a lot of them are located within communities. And so whilst we've talked to them about the traditional things that they would do, which is hire event space for conferences, and hire meeting space, we've also talked to them about adapting to the new world. So you know, firstly, speak to your local businesses and understand what their, their evolving needs for space are, particularly if they've rationalised or gone away from having an office altogether. So to redefine your proposition around what the new customer looks like, recognise that hybrid services are important to people they might have a bunch they might want, they might have stuff all over the country, and they might want to have a day, but they might want to have staff that are based in Newcastle, at a Newcastle venue and staff that are based in London at a London venue. So think about the hybrid side of things, if you've got outdoor space, talk to people about outdoor events, because they're very, you know, they're very, sort of health and safety conscious now, and we all know it's better to be outside with COVID. So if you've got great if you've got land anywhere, think about how you can use that and how you can pitch that to those people. And, and think about pop up workspace, where you've got, you know, buildings and and facilities within communities.

Ross Cox 42:58

So yes, we are ultimately delivering a product that allows them to execute against running the operation of hiring space. But part of that process is helping them on the journey to understanding what the new customer looks like, and therefore how their proposition needs to be reshaped to speak to those people that are looking for a different set of services now.

David Coghlan 43:21

Amazing. So you're almost by the back door, driving the community sort of led approach through through the people that own the real estate, right?

Ross Cox 43:32

Yeah, we're trying to and I think I think some of it's resonating, and actually, for my sins, I'm also a local Councillor where I live. So I have the opportunity to do both things here and, and kind of help shape some of the services that we provide within the community with my council hat on. And also think about the technology that drives that. So it's really, you know, ultimately, we have a business to run, and it has a product to sell, which is a software product to manage property. And that is in massive priority for us. But I think these the kind of future work is part and parcel of that. And as you can tell, I've got far to much to say about it and therefore impossible for me not to talk about it when I'm trying to sell software.

David Coghlan 44:14

Yeah, brilliant. Brilliant. That's been really cool. We've we've overrun slate but fantastic to talk to you, Ross and I'm so glad we got you on because yeah, your thoughts and your sort of, you know, the thinking you've done on this over the last few years. It's just yeah, it's really inspiring. so brilliant. Thank you for joining us. Really appreciate it.

Ross Cox 44:34

No, thank you both very much. I've really enjoyed kind of venting and getting excited about all this stuff. It's good. It's good to chat about it.

David Coghlan 44:44

Brilliant. Great. So yeah, thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. If you'd like to get in touch with us and like to join our community, and work remotely work in a community hub, then visit our website the Inspired Marketing Group, IM, you'd think i'd know that by know and click join and you can become a part of our community.

David Coghlan 45:08

If you would like some help with your marketing, you want a distributed marketing function that can help you grow without adding overhead. Then again, have a look at the website, the im group at co. uk. We'd be we'd love to hear from you.

David Coghlan 45:24

Thanks again Ross. Great see you and we'll see you all on the next one. Thanks a lot. Bye bye.


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