Nailing It 13: Co-Working Spaces - Stephanie Campanella

Nailing It 13: Co-Working Spaces

Stephanie Campanella
February 19th 2019

Well hello. Imagine this, you’ve just finished in the gym, and you make your way over to your office, grab your stuff and take a nice shower. You’re standing there in never-never land, feeling the water come down from the top and cascade over you. And yeah, you’re just … you’re there, and you’re showering and it’s just you and the water.

And then next thing you know, someone opens the door because you forgot to lock it.

I think this is appropriate to kick off the “Hey, what’s it like working in co-space” episode.


Well g’day, it’s 2019 and I hope you enjoyed the new intro. I thought what a better … what not a better way to kick off my first podcast for 2019. I’m pretty sure this is the first. My first podcast for 2019, with a story about office space. Now, I have been through such a office space thing. Ask any client from back in the day and they’ll say, “Where are you now?” Because for a little while there I was sort of moving around every two or three years.

And what I wanted to do was just kind of take you through my achievements, or my wins and my losses and what I learned, so that you can take these on and consider what was going on with yourself. And I think there’s two … there’s a key influencing point here at about 2016, 2017, that moved my business in a direction that I didn’t actually wanna go, and I want to share that with you guys here today.

All right, awesome. So first things first, where am I now. So I am in Work Inc. I am under the Sydney Harbor Bridge. I landed from LAX to Sydney yesterday morning, got in an Uber, and we were talking with a awesome guy call Will.Lives over in Balmain, Balmain East might you have it.

He says “Oh, where you going?” I said, “Well, to be honest I was gonna go to the office but I think I should go home because I just wanna throw my suitcase open, throw things in the wash, freshen up, see my dog, and then just do a bit of work from home.” He says, “Oh, where’s your office?” I said, “My office is under the Sydney Harbor Bridge.” And yeah it is.

So I’m sitting in the Work Inc. office, the bays are x-Highway patrol, I think that’s why I feel so at home here because I am very popular with Highway Patrol. If anyone knows me, they know I do love highway patrol. So yeah, so right now, and I mean this place is freaking epic. I got my own space here, and what it has really allowed me to do is to just be myself. I can close the door, and what happens in here stays in here kind of thing. Unless I’m hitting record and talking to you guys.

All right, so back in the first job I ever did and the for first few years, I worked from home. I was in my bedroom. I’ll never forget the first cheque, or job that I won, from the Cancer Council and I got paid to do it from my bedroom my pajamas. That was like, holy cow. If this is what running a business is like, then this is freaking awesome.

So that was cool, and I was there for a little while. I was there I think for a few years, because I remember going to networking events, BNI, Business Networking International. I would be leaving from my place. So eventually I moved out of my place, because obviously I find it really hard to work from home. And even like today, if I was not at work right now, I’d probably be at home, music would be on loud, I’d be hanging out with my dog. I’d probably be sitting there making my own breakfast, and sort of jamming out some emails, and reading some stuff. And I probably wouldn’t be as productive as I am right now in the office.

I felt it was like a cornerstone, like I needed to move out of my bedroom and into an office. And maybe if I was in my own home, because I was still with my parents 10 years ago, then maybe I would have made a space in my home which I definitely plan to do in the coming years. Have a little retreat inside your place, and that is … le office.

Yeah, so I was originally at home, and then I met a few people and … I’ll try not to name off any names. But I met a gentleman and I’m fresh in this world of business, and he said, “Why don’t you come and sub-lease with us? I’ve got two other guys, and you’re cool. So … And I’m an accountant. I’m sure I can give some work to you, and there’s an IT guy, and rah rah rah. I’m sure that the three of us could do some really awesome stuff together.”

I’m like, “Cool man, I just need an office. So thank you.” And I was probably a bit sniffing around for jobs back then. I was building my business. I was in that build phase, so yeah probably thought, “Oh wow, there’s gonna be people walking into this office and then they might need me, then I’m right there. So this is brilliant.”

So I signed a sublease and I think six months later, or eight months, I can’t even remember, not long after things went crap pretty quick. I learned that I needed to call a lawyer and that friends in business, they’re hard to come by. This mate of mine that sort of thought yeah, great, sub-lease, everything in the leasing document was leaning towards him and there was some ridiculous clauses that I needed to get some legal advice on. I’m really trusting, and so if someone says something, I take your word for it because if I say something, I mean it. And I expect the same back from other people, and yet that first office experience was horrible. It just left me red raw, because I just copped so much crap.

I was paying fees out the wazoo. Exit fees and all this sort of crap, and just the whole thing, my god. It was a nightmare. But what was nice was that I had a spot, and this was in Epping, New South Wales, Australia. It was in Epping, and I could close my door and I had my bookshelf and all my designer books and all my … I’m looking around my office now. The Smashing magazine, I had a whole list of books about usability, UX, I had some JavaScript books from the times I was learning how to do JavaScript.

So it felt like my little office, and that feeling I wanted to carry through. So as I moved out of the Epping office, I found another sublease over in Castle Hill. So this guy was insane, in a good way. I had come from this office in Epping with these gentlemen, and absolutely got just taken to the cleaners. The contract was a nightmare. I meet this guy and he’s like, “Look, I’ve actually got a whole bunch of space you can just have. Just come ’round, pay this, and how much do you want to pay?” And I said, “Oh, well I was paying this.” He’s like, “All right, that’ll do. All right, move in on Monday.” And I’m like, “Wait a minute dude. I need to see a contract.” He’s like, “A contract? What do you mean? Just move in. It’s this, that’s what it is.”

And I’m like, “You don’t understand. I have been burned, like seriously burned. And I want to learn from my mistakes and never do the same stupid thing ever again. So dude, I need a contract.” I mean, he gave me a contract, and we signed it, and I moved in, and man oh man. Castle Hill office was freaking awesome. I was there just on that Norwest Boulevard, if you’re in Australia, Sydney. The Norwest Boulevard, really great spot. I was 10 minutes from home, I carpark, drive straight in, absolutely brilliant.

I can’t say that I did a lot of work in the area. It’s not like work came from being in that surrounding Castle Hill, Baulkham Hills area. And I … Not for nothing. I’m not sure why, is it because I didn’t try or I wasn’t Google juiced in the local area enough? But yeah, that wasn’t really a thing that I did to move into the area to get work. I just needed a roof over my head and Castle Hill was fantastic. I got to close the door, and do my thing and be in my space and just get things done. I had a really great growth spurt there.

So it’s funny how when you change your environment, you start to have growth spurts. Now in Epping, that was not happening because I was basically this accountant’s … I don’t know what to you say? Here you go, do this. Here you go, do this. Here you go, do this. Oh, this guy wants to see you. I’ll do it for this much. It’s like … And you’re just so fresh in business, and you haven’t really got your processes and systems in place, and you’re just kind of saying yes to everything. So that just … I drowned in that Epping office.

So it was nice to get into Castle Hill, and nice to be able to shut down all the walls and just have no one else there kind of pushing me into a certain area of business, and just get back to myself. And yeah. So a really nice growth spurt there.

I then moved into Chatswood. So again, another awesome accounting friend of mine had some really cool space in the middle of Chatswood. By this time, I had moved out of home and I was on the North Shore, so I didn’t want to go all the way to Castle Hill anymore. That seemed like an absolute hike, plus the train line was being built so traffic was insane. So I found a awesome office in the heart of Chatswood, and I stayed there for a fair amount of time. Great spot. Lots of food, got really fat thought because boy oh boy, me and the rest of the crew in the office all would go out for lunch every Thursday, I think it was. And we ate ourselves through the entire Chatswood, like I know every restaurant in that area. And you could tell, because boy oh boy, I think I put on like 10 kilos. So thanks, Lachlan. I blame you for that.

The thing that happened in this office is that I had an influence, and not that … This is not their thing, or this is not their fault. But in my own … I could see how their business was working, and they had staff and all this kind of stuff. And I thought, “You know what, this looks good. I think this is what I want. Let’s hire some staff, and let’s build an Australian team.”

Now I already had some awesome Filipino workers, some of them still working with me, I’m pretty sure. But I thought, “Yeah, this is what success looks like. It’s you being a lady boss and having some Aussie’s sort of sitting there doing a thing and your clients will respect you more because you’ve got real people in a real office, and rah rah rah.” And these are all the things that I kind of told myself to believe, that this is the right thing. When really, clients don’t care what your office looks like, or who’s working in your office. All they care about is, can you do the thing. I have a problem, do you have the solution, and can we do it together?

So yeah, just realising that … Gosh, I think it was a year, a year and a half? It was a while, but a little while later, I just realised that I didn’t want Australian staff. I actually felt like babysitting. So I felt less of fully sick lady boss chick, and I felt more like … I’m gonna say this softly, but yeah. More like a babysitting club, because … yeah.

Australian staff are … they’re awesome. But I think there’s something about … There’s a big difference between the Filipinos and the Australians, because an Australian staff member might come to work at 9:30am, supposed to be there at 9:00am, mosey in, check emails, it’s 11:00am, they’re finally doing some work. And then next thing you know, it’s 4:00pm and they’re packing up, and then Fridays we have drinks days, and Thursdays were lunch days. And it just turned into more a circus than an office. Here are my awesome Filipinos doing some … just smashing out the work like 6:00am Sydney time some of them get on and they don’t sometimes finish ’til 9:00pm. And they’re just there, they’re just smashing the work.

And then here we are in the Sydney office, and we’re kind of sitting by the fig tree that’s in the office. Sitting down at the pub having drinks, socialising, and it just … I don’t know. I just looked at myself and I spoke to my fiance at the time, I was like, “I just … this is just not for me. I don’t …” I actually felt immense guilt. Every time I was out getting work done, I actually came back to the office and I felt immense guilt, like “Hey, how you going? Are you all good?”

And I mean, not that we didn’t have processes, because we had processes like crazy in 2016. But yeah, I just felt this immense guilt and I was like, “I just … I feel like I’m just taking care of this person, no matter what happens.” And yeah, I just realised that that’s just not … that is not what I want. So yeah, I closed all that enterprise up. One of my last office experiences coworking, copartner experiences was with a friend and boy oh boy, we looked for six to eight months for an office.

I mean, it’s just … I don’t know what it’s like over where you are, but the real estate agents, they don’t call you back. You book in a meeting to go and see these commercial offices, and they don’t really know all the facts. It’s really frustrating. I just need an office, I need internet, I need garbage disposal, and I need desks. And trying to put all those figures together to fill that office, I just took a big gulp, and I was like, “You know what? This is not happening.”

And my mate and I at the time found Work Inc. here in North Sydney, because we were looking at all the coworking spaces, you know. Is there gotta be a better way, how about we just go into a coworking space, and let the big office thing go? And by this time, November 2017, by then, I’d let go all Australian staff, and I was kind of like, “Dude, I mean these offices are nice but you’ve got four physical staff and I’ve got just me now. I really don’t think … I mean are we splitting the office 50/50? I really don’t think this is what I want anymore.”

It took us eight months just to finally find something, get a contract going. And by then my business had completely changed…. We found this space, this North Sydney space. The Amazing Tom was working here and he took us around, he’s now moved on. But that showed us the two-desk offices, and the four-desk offices, and the five and the six, and I mean, there was a couple of issues with lights because the lights are automatic and my mate didn’t want automatic lights, and I kind of didn’t care. And it just kind of dawned on me that we just didn’t want the same thing anymore.

And a long story short, I moved into Work Inc. What is Work Inc. right? So they’re … it’s like four bays, four big, industrial commercial bays that have been fitted out. There’s Bay Ten Espresso down in Bay 10, and they do amazing coffee and food. So if I want to do a meeting with a client, and we want to keep it casual, no pressure, no meeting room, no boardroom, no whiteboard, that kind of crap, if we wanted to have a chat about what’s going on with the market and some strategies, then we can just go down to Bay 10, have a coffee, have an espresso, thank you Claudio. And yeah, just get some food and just in a real vibing atmosphere.

The other thing is that there’s this full-on … I mean, there’s a cleaner here, so there’s a lovely lady that’s always there that’s cleaning all the dishes in the kitchen. There’s kitchens in every bay, there’s bathrooms in every bay, especially the one that I got caught sharing in this morning, and I also set the fire alarm off one time as well. Sorry guys. I guess I just tested the fire alarm for you.

But yeah, this place is freaking awesome. It’s a big reception. Everyone knows. It’s like “Hey, how you going Steph? Yeah, hey how you going?” And there’s always parking out front. Everyone’s like, “Oh, is there any parking in North Sydney?” I’m like, “Yeah, there’s parking in North Sydney. You just gotta turn up at the right time.” I mean, there’s always parking. You just … yeah. Just don’t … Definitely pay your fees, because the rangers are out like crazy.

Everyone knows who you are, and there’s a kitchen, great bathroom facilities. If I rode my bike here, I could lock my bike up. I started on the first floor down in Bay 9, and then once Bay 7 got built, then we moved up here, I’ve got the most beautiful space. 12 months into this space, I look back and I just think wow, I have accomplished so much in this space. Like seriously, I’ve accomplished SO much. Because I just … I have peace and quiet. I have a little capsule that I pack my bag and I get to work, and I open the door, I walk into the space. I lock the door behind me, and I just hammer down and just get things done.

And that is what makes this space so good. Of all the other office spaces, they were all brilliant and there was that war story, but the thing was that I just wasn’t getting any productivity. And they were all … Oh, they were a mix of open and closed spaces. The one in Chatswood was open plan, and my mate Lachlan just hated that space because nothing ever got done. And yeah, seriously. Nothing ever got done in that open space.

I’m so happy to have one of the ‘twos’ here in Work Inc. There’s not very many of them, and I got the top floor, so it’s just freaking awesome. Right now it’s raining actually in Sydney, but I can look out and just chill, and the Harbor Bridge is basically right there. I can go for a run across the bridge if I wanted to have a run across the bridge. I got a bad knee, can’t do that today.

I just gotta say that you really gotta be aware of your space because the surroundings that you’re in are gonna impact your business. And I can’t repeat that enough. If you just hit that 30 seconds back button and just repeat that, seriously, the people and the atmosphere and the space that you surround yourself in is gonna make or break your brain and your mindset and your business.

So my takeaways that I really want you to be aware of where you’re working, and who you’re surrounding yourself with. And do you have clarity on what you need to do every single day.

Well, I want to thank you for listening, and until next time Legends! Go nail it!