It’s a great time of the year to be in Melbourne! the tennis is in full swing and the city is buzzing, we have perfect nights to visit at a rooftop bar, our many amazing restaurants, or to get outside to enjoy a food festivals and night markets that are running.
When it comes to getting work done during the day, Melbourne is a city which provides many options – in the form of Coworking spaces! we are renowned for getting things right with our well designed spaces, friendly atmospheres and our passionate hunt for the perfect coffee! Travelmag has selected 12 of the best spaces around Melbourne as a guide to those visiting the city, The Cluster is proud to be featured amongst this list
Check out the article here:
Receptionist services at The Cluster
If you’re looking for a professional front end for your business, then a virtual office is the perfect solution. With a virtual office, you can continue to work from wherever you like and have a professional receptionist answer your phone, forward your faxes and mail and even manage your calendar. It’s like having your very own receptionist without the cost of hiring one full-time.
Why The Cluster
At the Cluster the receptionist knows your business and gets to know your clients. Your clients will understand that your receptionist is working for your business and we do everything we can to help your business succeed. We are not a call centre, we are a boutique service and we can provide many more services to your business as it grows. If you need an office in the city, meeting room access and technology, we can provide you with everything you need.
Receptionist Melbourne services sign up
So when you’ve decided that you need a Receptionist for your growing business, but you don’t want one full time or you cannot justify the cost of having one full time, then The Cluster Virtual Office is the solution.
I was asked the other day, how do you start a software company with no money. It’s something that happens a lot more than people might imagine, and I’ve done it a few times already.
The way to go about this is a process called “bootstrapping” which literally means picking yourself up by your bootstraps. When you’re first starting out investors are just out of the question. You’ve got no track record, no experience, no rich relatives and no money of your own. So what to do?
Having done this several times already, here are my suggestions:
You need to find people that are willing to work for free or for very little up-front money. There are many people looking for opportunities in the workplace for different reasons. Sometimes they have very little experience but lots of talent, and they just need a foot in the door. Other times, they’re looking at a career change and want to gain valuable experience in a different industry or role. You won’t know who’s available until you start to look, and you will likely be quite surprised at what’s out there.
The kind of arrangements you can have with your low cost, or volunteer team includes:
• Hiring on a casual basis so that you’re not paying salaries when the company has no income. In this way you only pay out money, when the new company has work. If there’s no work, you pay nothing. This is probably the easiest and safest way to start if you’re completely starting from zero.
• You can give them a share of profits from each contract or sales of the product. This can be a risky idea because you cannot guarantee that there will be any profits, and this might cause problems between you and the team, should things turn bad. Make sure you’ve got some good contracts in place to protect you here. You need to be careful in Australia, as in many cases, the person whom you thought you had a profit share agreement with, might come back and claim they were an employee and you would be liable for their salary expenses. You need to make sure that your paperwork is correct and that you’re following the right procedures (which is beyond the scope of this article). The truth is that most people aren’t happy to take business risks, no matter what the longer term rewards might be. This is your role as the entrepreneur. Indeed, there are people that will and if you can find them then great, but if they don’t have much business experience, this might backfire on you as the realities of running a business and making a profit hit-home. If people are relying on profits to make up their salaries and they don’t materialize you’re going to get into trouble quickly.
• The most obvious solution might be to give people a share of the business. In this way they’re not relying on any one product or project to make up their salary, but rather the overall growth of the business from year to year. The problem is that your company is a highly risky venture, and people know this. It’s a fairly good strategy of course if you have no resources and people believe in you and the company’s future. Personally, I would argue against giving away any equity (of significant value). The reasons are beyond the scope of this article, but owning and controlling your own company is very important.
Unless you’re independently wealthy, have some very wealthy friends or relatives, then you’re going to have to get money in some very creative ways.
Believe it or not, the easiest way to get money is to work for it! Well that sounds kind of stupid right, that’s obvious, but when you start a company it’s no different. The company is a legal entity in its own right, and it now has to go out into the world and earn it’s living. It’s as simple as that, and it can start straight away!
Raising money is extremely hard, takes ages and the likelihood of success for someone starting from scratch is pretty close to zero. So, where does this income come from?
You need to think laterally. There are literally thousands of things your new company can do to generate revenue. They’re not things you might like to do, or want to do initially, but they get you started and that’s how you bootstrap your business, collect quality people to work with you, pay competitive salaries, keep good people, increase your capacity in terms of your work resources, environments and tools and so on.
Really, you want to take as much work as you can wherever you find it, but some work is better than others. For example, your new company has a vision, and end goal, and some work moves you closer towards that end goal, and some work moves you away. So, even though you have very little option when you’re starting out, as time goes on you’re going to be wanting to take on the work that’s moving you towards the objectives that you’ve set for yourself.
A lot of these jobs can be tedious, boring, time consuming and pay very little money, but over time it all adds up. You’re moving towards your end goal, you’re re-structuring, learning, getting stronger, and running the business better. If you keep plugging away and never give up you will eventually reach your goals. You only fail when you stop in business, and that’s not really failure but more of a learning experience in my opinion. Maybe you just had the wrong goals from the start. In any case, you now have a business with resources and money. You’ve successfully bootstrapped your company.
The other thing to consider is government money. There’s a lot of money that you can get from the governments in Australia. The more successful your company becomes, the more access to grants you will have. Because of this, you need to just keep your company moving forwards no matter what. You need to keep taking those leaps of faith, you don’t know what opportunities are there until you start moving forwards.
When you’re staring out you’re going to have to do all these things simultaneously. Your margins are going to be much tighter in the beginning. You’re going to be doing more work than you can handle. You’re going to be doing more jobs than one person should have to do, but that’s to be expected. That’s how it’s done.
When you first come up with an idea, or you’re looking to start a company, many people first try to solve the problem of getting money. There are many other things of equal importance however. Things that you can negotiate or get for free for example are just as valuable as putting money into your business account.
So why not
• Negotiate with suppliers such as accountants, lawyers and other business professionals who are willing to give start-ups a go and work for free or for very low fees.
• Share an office with someone who wants to help you out. Work from home or use a coworking or serviced office space with reasonable terms.
• Barter for services and goods. Look for bargains everywhere. Every dollar you save, is money you’re pumping into your business.
• Trade your expertise in return for something you need or want.
4. Business Development
Business is about sales. You need a very talented and tenacious business development person to bring in the work or to make the necessary contacts in order to make the sales. Ideally this person will be you, but that’s not the only way. You need to ask yourself if this is something you enjoy doing, whether you can build the skills required, basically whether or not you’re the right person to do this crucial role. Without business development, you don’t have a business. You need someone who understands your industry intimately, you can’t just go out and find a business development person and plug him or her in, and it doesn’t work. You need someone who enjoys doing this work, who already has skill at doing it or who finds it easy, and most importantly someone that you can trust who has a vested interest in the future of your business or you could be training up a competitor. Obviously it’s better if you’re this person or can become this person, but it’s not critical.
So you’re thinking you need to move into your own office. Tired of working from home? The husband/wife always expecting you to be at his beck and call or the kids driving you up the wall? Or perhaps you live alone and the solitude is starting to get to you? Or perhaps you just lack the discipline needed to separate work from home time?
Luckily there is a better way. A serviced office can be an easy and cost effective way of establishing a more professional working environment and presenting a more respectable image to the wider business community. The real question is how do you select the right one. There seem to be many choices these days.
Here are a few things to consider.
a. Take the time to figure out exactly what you are looking for. Don’t be told what it is you need by the service providers themselves, they will only confuse you. You know best. The physical services they offer are pretty much stock-standard these days, so look a little deeper and try to understand what it is they stand for. What are they all about? As an intelligent business creator, you should instinctively know what’s going to work for you and what isn’t. You will get a feeling about this within the first 3 seconds of walking into a place, so follow your instincts.
b. Does the serviced office have the same values as you. Do you feel that the companies within it are similar to yours. One of the greatest benefits of a coworking space or serviced office is working with other similar companies and leveraging off the flow of ideas and opportunities this generates. You need a serviced office that has the right culture, a culture that you are both comfortable within, and can contribute towards. There are even serviced office operators around these days that will qualify you to see if you meet their criteria, that’s how important the office culture can be!
c. Are you a little insecure about your companies image. Many smaller companies are quite insecure and believe they need very expensive looking swish offices to make them look more successful. This can backfire however. The Collins St. serviced office location might sound impressive to you, but you’re not fooling anyone unless the type of business you have makes sense to be on Collins St. Have you ever notice how the smaller the company the larger the company name. Maga-International companies have names like Sony and Apple. Small home-based business have names like “The Web Institute of Research and Development”. The more secure you are and the more confidence you have in yourself the more successful your business will be, so trust your instincts and select an office that will work for you, not one you think will make you look good. In doing so, you will actually look a whole lot more impressive. When you select a serviced office because it has the relaxed progressive environment that helps your business thrive, your customers will not only understand why, they will wish they were there with you. They will admire you for your brains and sound judgement and that’s much more valuable when you are a small startup or rapidly expanding business. A smart company working in the right environment, in the right location looks more impressive than the same company dressed up with a gimmicky address holding meetings in marble filled boardrooms. Make sure you don’t end up looking like a used-car-salesman, the suit might be expensive, but it doesn’t fool anyone.
d. Lastly cost should be examined. Some serviced office providers draw you in with small up-front fees then charge for each sheet of bog-roll you use. They’re making a lot of money, so where do you think that money is coming from ? Be careful about low introductory rates and special introductory promotions. Try to find a serviced office provider that gives you a package with as much as possible included in it. Look for a provider that is genuine, offers a simple packaged solution and has your interests at heart. Be willing to pay more upfront for a package deal as this will save you big bucks over the weeks and months that you are there and it allows you to predict your costs each month with confidence. Knowing how much things are going to cost you each month is very very important when you are working hand-to-mouth and every cent counts. There is nothing worse than receiving an unexpected bill from a serviced office provider full of nasty surprises.
Chris Mosely is CEO of The Cluster which provides Virtual Office, Serviced Offices, Office Space and Coworking
By definition delegation is the, ‘assignment of authority and responsibility to another person (normally from a manager to a subordinate) to carry out specific activities.’ Important to note is that the person who delegates the work remains accountable for the outcome. It is for this reason that people and entrepreneurs in particular, shy away from delegation. Is the chance of having the task done poorly or even not at all worth the risk of delegation?
Many traits synonymous with a successful entrepreneur naturally hinder delegation. Their independence, ‘get it done’ attitude, impatience and ego often prevent them from passing on even the most minor tasks to other people. Catherine Eibner, serial entrepreneur and most recently Developer Evangelist for Microsoft Australia, admits that she once too held the strange belief that she had to do everything. ‘From scrubbing the floors to hooking up computers to the internet,’ she continuously found herself distracted from what she should have really been doing – growing her business!
Eibner, recalls the exact moment when she realised that these mundane day-to-day tasks were actually making her and her business inefficient and unsuccessful. A friend suggested she hire ‘a sociable, eager and hard-working’ person he knew with no formal training to look after her accounting and bookkeeping. Outraged that her friend would suggest someone with no qualifications she immediately dismissed the idea, before suddenly realising that the person her friend was describing was actually no different from her.
So often, entrepreneurs find themself acting as the office manager, book keeper, marketing director, accountant and ultimately jack of all trades regardless of the fact that they may not be qualified for any of these roles. Unfortunately whilst they may in fact be very capable of all of these things, it can become very easy to lose sight of the end goal.
After being thrown what she describes as ‘the greatest small business lesson [she] ever learnt,’ Eibner quickly became very fond of outsourcing. She realised that if she spent for example, ’10 hours a week chasing new clients and netted $1,000, one hour of her time could then be valued at $100.’ By outsourcing small tasks for $25-$50 per hour to a book keeper or virtual receptionist she was actually saving a lot of money!
Greek mogul, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou of the ‘easy’ empire (easyJet, easyHotels and easyCar – just to name a few!) believes that aside from this it is still extremely important for entrepreneurs to make their own mistakes. Not to say that he is unwilling to also hand over the reins, but he believes it is extremely important for an entrepreneur to prove first that his/her business model is sound. Paying attention to the smallest of details and ensuring that any mistakes that arise are solved properly he says will allow you to build a successful venture that you can trust someone else to manage.
In the meantime, some carefully planned and clear delegation may be the next best step for entrepreneurs. Donna Robinson, a business consultant with the University of West Georgia in the United States of America, believes there are three keys to successful delegation. (Robinson, D. Can Entrepreneurs Delegate? Business Sense, Georgia)
1) ‘Careful planning of what is to be done and who is best suited to do it.’
By getting to know your staff and becoming familiar with their skills and passions you will be able to appropriately delegate tasks. This also acts as a way to offer your employees the opportunity to further showcase their skills and grow within the company.
2) ‘Clear communication of why the task is important, and what is expected, including outcomes, reporting and timeframes.’
You cannot expect someone else to complete a set task exactly the way you would. Their individual mindset, training and experiences will influence how they set about carrying out a task. It is important to outline clearly what is expected and of course by when, but it is also crucial that you allow your staff the freedom to explore possible solutions.
3) ‘Feedback mechanisms in place for ascertaining what worked and what did not work and rewarding good or correcting bad performance.’
It is expected that the ‘delegator’ monitors the performance of the people he/she delegates tasks to. By providing constructive feedback and rewarding great performances, delegation will become a lot easier – for everyone involved.
Whilst, it is hard for an entrepreneur to ignore the fact that they will be held ultimately responsible for the outcome of a delegated task, he/she cannot deny that the possible benefits are far greater. By carefully delegating tasks to capable and motivated employees, an entrepreneur can free up valuable time that can be spent on growing their business. Put aside that ego, and give a little – you may find you in fact gain a lot!
It is often assumed that you are either born an entrepreneur or you’re not. That you either have that risky, quick-thinking, innovative nature or you don’t. That you will either succeed in business or you won’t. However, the truth is anyone with a bit of determination and a great idea can be an entrepreneur!
Almost all references that attempt to educate one on how to become an entrepreneur start with the step, ‘think of a great idea.’ For some this can be the hardest part. It is important to remember that an idea does not necessarily need to be entirely original or a one of a kind invention. Instead, it may be a service – a way to do something better or a product that is more efficient than its predecessors.
Entrepreneurs relish the opportunity to take an idea no matter how brilliant or underwhelming and develop them into successful business ventures. More often than not, at first entrepreneurial ideas either seem too unrealistic or just plain terrible. When Perrier first contemplated the idea of bottled water, there is no doubt that it would have been dismissed as ludicrous.
One of the most unique and powerful characteristics of an entrepreneur is his/her ability to turn an unrealistic idea into a profitable business venture. Above all else, entrepreneurs themselves rate passion and self-belief as one of the most important things to possess when setting up a business. It does not matter if you don’t have accounting skills or any marketing knowledge – these are all skills that can be purchased or borrowed from other people. What is most important is that you believe enough in your idea to stand by it and put in the hard yards.
Hard work comes with the territory of an entrepreneur. Aside from driving the idea and planning for a new business, you will often find yourself working in a myriad of different and challenging roles to keep the business afloat. In the beginning these jobs may include, pitching your business to investors, drafting marketing plans, and importantly predicting and evaluating the profitability of your business. However, as your business grows you may find yourself as the ‘jack of all trades’ doing anything from wining and dining your new clientele to unpacking stock.
To ensure that any hiccups or obstacles that are bound to come your way do not disrupt the entirety of your business you must plan. Passion and belief may be enough to drive your idea but it is intelligent planning that will ensure it grows. A really in-depth and well researched business plan is key to this. Many universities and TAFE’s offer short business planning courses that will go through this step by step. They are also a way to learn from people who have done it all before. Alternatively, there are endless examples on the internet that will point you in the right direction.
A business plan should include a clear mission statement that guides and determines everything else you plan to do in or for your business. In addition to this, a business description/overview, marketing strategy and a financial plan are extremely important in the early stages of your business.
Whilst your path and in the end your business will change time and time again, a business plan provides a focus, and helps to eliminate unforseen problems from arising in the future. The more research and time you put into planning for your business, the easier establishing yourself and producing an initial cash flow will be.
Good luck in your future entrepreneur endeavours!
When you think of a traditional office environment, it is easy enough to imagine a large space, probably on the 13th or 14th floor of a building with city views, filled with people buzzing in and out of small cubicles. It is rare that you imagine a team made up of individuals who all work from different offices, cities or even countries.
These days it is very common for a professional team not to share an office. Remote workers are becoming increasingly popular amongst large companies, a move employees seem to be mostly positive about. Relishing the freedom and independence from the long commute to work and bland office environment, remote workers appear to be more than happy to set up office at home.
The ‘Virtual Workforce’ as it is known, is continually growing. Along with it online business systems, technology and even Virtual Management firms have flourished. Whilst the benefits; lower overheads, improved efficiency and flexibility for your staff are obvious, the downside is that many companies are left to manage a team that are not necessarily ‘there’ all the time. Employers have to rely solely on trust and grade their staffs’ performance on results – not by how much overtime they may be doing.
Debra Dinnocenzo, president of VirtualWork! a firm that specialises in training companies in virtual management, believes the two most important things for a remote team are trust and communication. It is important to believe that your virtual workers can perform their jobs properly, with little supervision. This of course does not mean they don’t need guidance. One of the most common complaints from Virtual employees is a lack of communication and interaction with their boss or team. Dinnocenzo says, ‘it is important to have regular check-ins with employees to discuss their work and progress.’ She believes it is also crucial to commend employees for their work even if you cannot do so easily face-to-face.
Obviously the coveted ‘Corner Office’ is not a reward that can be offered to Virtual Staff. Instead, things like the latest smart phone or computer upgrades are a really good way to reward staff and keep them motivated. On a day to day basis, as Dinnocenzo said consistent interaction and regular check-ins will ensure your staff remain focused. Another option is of course to make the most of the many serviced office and entrepreneurial spaces now popping up in major cities. Often, employers who do not have their own office or require a representative in another state will set their employee up in shared space where they can benefit from both the professional office set up and interaction with other entrepreneurs.
It is also extremely important for companies who employ a Virtual Workforce to make the most of technology. With simple and easy to use programs like Skype and GoogleDocs, one would think all companies would be sharing documents and holding regular staff meetings regardless of where they are located. And yet many companies don’t. Software such as GoToMeeting, Adobe Breeze and Raindance are other great examples of programs that allow teams to easily stay in contact and share thoughts by accessing the same documents in real time.
American company, ‘Evaluserve’, employ one of the largest Virtual workforces in the world. It is no surprise that they manage to do so, once you are made aware of the healthy and completely functional working relationship between their CEO who is located in Austria, their chairman in California and the head of Sales & Marketing in Maine. With over 2,000 employees across every continent in the world, Evaluserve was expected to grow to a $17-18billion company by the end of 2010.
Regardless of whether your team is made up of 5 or 500 people it seems the key to a healthy ‘virtual’ relationship is trust. Having an open door and trusting that your employees will come to you when they need to, will not only ensure they produce results, but hang around long enough to make it worthwhile. Also don’t forget about that important interaction, get friendly with your webcam and schedule your first virtual staff meeting now!
Relishing a reputation as courageous, risk-taking eccentrics; vast differences have often been drawn between entrepreneurs and traditional managers. ‘Rock stars’ with a level of freedom most business people could only dream of, entrepreneurs are often perceived as being far removed from the standard corporate life. It seems however, that the parallels between these innovative individuals and conventional managers are much greater than often assumed. Using similar leadership characteristics and business disciplines to turn their ideas into successful and thriving companies, entrepreneurs’ balanced behaviour is much more like the traditional managers’ than once thought.
Ernst & Young’s recent report, ‘Nature or nurture? Decoding the DNA of the Entrepreneur’ begins to break down the behaviour and typical traits of entrepreneurs; comparing and contrasting them to traditional managers and employees. From their survey of 635 of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, Ernst & Young, concluded that entrepreneurs are in fact made, not born and that external factors such as; business experience, cultural background and their environments influence their success just as much as innate personality traits. In particular, most surveyed entrepreneurs stated that higher education and previous employment had been key to their success.
Regardless of this fact, vision, passion and drive were still rated by surveyed entrepreneurs as the most important qualities to have. Ernst & Young’s research showed that most entrepreneurs have an, ‘internal locus of control’ – an ability to intelligently assess risk combined with a willingness to take them. It is an entrepreneur’s locus of control that allows them to see opportunity where others may only see disruptions, their drive and tenacity is what ensures that these ideas become successful business ventures.
The one downside of being an entrepreneur is something Harvard Business School Professor Noam Wasserman calls the ‘rich-versus-king’ choice. Whilst it doesn’t sound too terrible; choosing between being king and being rich? It is something Professor Wasserman says it is the downfall of many entrepreneurs and their businesses. He says, ‘if the desire for wealth (being rich) drives the entrepreneurial leader, he or she should accept outside capital, give up the reins and enjoy a piece of a bigger pie. [However,] if the desire to run a successful business (being king) is a stronger motivator, the choice should be to rely on debt financing or self-funding, continue to control the company, and accept that growth may be constrained.’ It is entrepreneurs who insist on being both rich and king that struggle to succeed, making inconsistent decisions because they are unclear what it is their truly value.
Like anyone, entrepreneurs face obstacles in life. Whether these are attributed to their business ventures or not, their opportunistic outlook and great levels of persistence are what ensure they overcome them. The idealistic notion that entrepreneurs are born with a ‘success gene’ is greatly inaccurate. Ernst & Young’s report presents an intelligent insight into the real reasons behind an entrepreneur’s success, concluding, that it is in fact a combination of often different personal characteristics and behaviours as well as external factors and past experience.
At The Cluster, we are all about you, and your needs, instead of it being about us and our profits. Most of the serviced offices spaces out there, (whether it be highly corporate spaces with tiny offices and even smaller desks, or small box offices with no windows), charge you for everything on top of your base rental. You never really know what you will spend each month until your bill arrives, and let’s face it you’re not kidding anyone with some of these places! You’re clients are going to look on you much more favourably when you’re not wasting your money hand-over-fist, you have a comfortable impressive office that actually works for you and works to make your business a success. It’s basically what you would have if you had your own office.
The Cluster is different, everything is included in your weekly rental. There are no surprises. We have created an environment that is cost-effective, relaxing, professional and fun. We genuinely want to help you succeed in your entrepreneurial endeavours. We’re concerned for the welfare of your business and in return we hope to have you stay with us for as long as possible That’s good for you and good for us!
The desks we provide are huge. Almost the size of our competitors offices. The space is open, and there is a great kitchen for socialising, eating, and enjoying all the free chocolate and coffee that you can handle. Sometimes you will see entrepreneurs bouncing off the walls at The Cluster. Oh the joys of “on tap” sugar and caffeine!
The Cluster provides more if you want it. We do social gatherings a few times a month. Friday night drinks, a beery lunch here and there, presentation nights (where you can discuss your business, while we watch and eat pizza), and brain bumper afternoons (where tenants get together and brainstorm each other’s ideas, for new and different perspectives).
The Cluster is a wonderful space to work in. We get to know you and your business (super well), so we know what to say when your clients call or visit. Unlike many places and call answering services, the people doing the greetings don’t know you. At The Cluster, we know you! The colour of your hair, what you are wearing on most days etc. Good luck walking past reception and not stopping for a solid and humorous chat!
So what are you waiting for. Give your business the boost it needs and take it to the next level.
The term “coworking” was first used by Bernie DeKoven in 1999 in the context of virtual working practices. In 2005 Brad Neuberg used it to describe a physical shared working space. His now famous “Hat Factory” coworking space in San Francisco was one of the earliest examples of the phenomenon that is now sweeping the globe. Most of the existing coworking spaces are based in the US at this time, but the idea is rapidly spreading to other cities around the world. Typically coworking spaces fill fast and there can be long waiting lists.
What is Coworking Melbourne
Coworking is basically a shared office where different companies with symbiotic relationships work and share resources, ideas and sometimes ideals. In general there is a focus on the community created within the space. It’s a contemporary innovation in a world where more and more people are working for themselves. Many coworking spaces cater to to hi-tech or other creative industries. Coworking has a strong social element with shared values and a realisation that by working side-by-side with other companies or individuals in a friendly social space, that the synergies created lead to new opportunities. Ultimately, companies in coworking environments experience greater levels of success from these synergies.
How Coworking Melbourne helps
In a world of interconnectedness it has become apparent that we crave social interaction in our working lives. Business is created through interactions between people face-to-face. Developing and maintaiing social interaction skills is a necessary tool for any working person who wants to become successful. When the Internet revolution made it possible to work from home , many virtual employees discovered that they felt isolated and missed the human interaction. Coworking offers a flexible solution to the home based business by providing an alternative space away from the distractions of the home.
The Cluster provides a social, relaxed coworking environment for creative innovative companies whilst also presenting the most professional image possible.