The pictures speak for themselves. The freshly sanded floors are looking awesome, and Hailey has found the perfect sofa for the best little coworking space on the South Shore. But we’re in that (fun) phase where, for every problem you solve, three more appear. Next we need to figure out desks, and ethernet switches, and power sockets, and phone lines, and drywall, and security alarms, and, and, and…
Seriously, it’s looking awesome. If you’re patroniszing the pub, go and press your nose up to the windows downstairs.
Now since you ask, there are a few things we’d love input on:
PS Sorry for the punny title, I hope it doesn’t sit badly with you.
We’re moving to the Old Mader’s Wharf building. Until recently, the space was occupied by The Emporium, a consignment antique store, but the store has now closed, and the space is almost empty. With Tim recently back from his long trip to the US and Costa Rica, and a bitter wind blowing through town, the three of us got together on Saturday to talk about the move, the space, and the future. As you can see from the picture, it was a bit cold on Saturday, and the heating has been off for a fortnight!
The HUB has been ticking along nicely recently, but Saturday was a throw-back to the winter of 2012–13, when we spent many evenings hashing out what The HUB South Shore could or should become. Now it exists, so the conversation is different — less uncertain, more based in evidence — but the feeling of starting something new is back again. It’s a good feeling.
The next two or three months will be a joyride of planning, designing, renovating, and moving. HUB member Meg Craig of Skysail will be doing refresh of the HUB’s visual identity (not the name though!). Dave’s wife Hailey Thomson (check out her awesome blog) will be designing the physical space. And you dear reader, are welcome to send any tips or thoughts about the new space our way! We’re all ears.
You may have heard.
2014 was a quiet year for the HUB. Early in the year we reached a kind of equilibrium. We had about 20 members, and our room at the Mahone Bay Centre usually had about half a dozen people in it. The prevailing atmosphere was one of industriousness. With enough people, we largely stopped looking for new members. And with a lot of community activity around NOW Lunenburg County, Mashup Lab, Awesome South Shore, and everything else that’s going on around here these days, we’ve ramped down on events too.
It felt like in 2012 we saw this need, in 2013 we figured it out, and in 2014 we met it. Awesome!
But the community is still small — still only about 20 people. We’re sure there are more out there, but haven’t been able to accommodate more people — until now. Or rather, until about April, when we’ll move down to the ground floor of the Mader’s Wharf building on Main Street. Classic South Shore: on the shore of the bay, on a busy rural high street, under a great pub, in an old wharf warehouse. About 2000 square feet of it. It’s going to be amazing.
There’s a bit of work to do before we can move. We’ll try to get back on the blogging wagon with updates on progress. There will be a party. Watch this space.
An investment fund for south shore businesses. A dodge ball tournament.
Those were two of the topics pitched and bandied about at a recent gathering at the Hub South Shore. It was the second meeting of a fledging — and as yet unnamed — group of south shore dwellers looking to connect, network, and find partners for new projects.
The first meeting was held in Bridgewater on a stormy night in November, and drew about 25 people. Over drinks at the River Pub, each person introduced him/herself and explained why they decided to show up. Some were new to the area and looking to connect, others were long-time south shore residents simply looking to find like-minded partners for new projects. Others were just happy to have a beer and chat on a rainy night. No formal decisions were made. But it was agreed that the group should meet again.
I organized the second meeting at the Hub South Shore, where I’m a full-time member, because it’s an obvious place for sharing ideas and launching new projects. Instead of a group discussion, I thought it would be helpful to break into small groups, so specific topics and ideas could emerge. The process of actually breaking into groups and brainstorming ideas was led by Tim Merry, a Hub co-founder.
A half dozen ideas were thrown out. Some were similar and merged together. In the end four groups emerged. It was simply a matter of jumping into the one you found most appealing.
The group discussing a possible fund for south shore business investment didn’t arrive at any concrete decisions, but the session definitely revealed the need for further discussion. There was one definitive decision, however: the need for a dodgeball tournament (details to come!).
The plan is to hold these meetings regularly, at different venues on the south shore. It’s important to stress the gatherings are open to everyone. If you’re looking to connect or if you have project to pitch, come out! It’s an easy way to network, meet new people, explore different topics, pitch new organizations and projects, or simply hang out and have a beer or coffee with other south shore dwellers.
The next meeting will be held Wednesday Feb. 26 at the Boscowen Inn in Lunenburg, from 7-9 p.m.
Don’t hesitate to drop me a line if you’d like more info. firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the main struggles we have at The HUB is explaining to people that the main value proposition is not just a place to work, it is the community of like-minded people and the removal of that feeling of isolation.
All too often I hear “but I already have an office in my house!” Well I do too. I actually spent $10k renovating an incredible space when I first decided to become self employed. However did the cool space alone complete me? No: I was still missing the human interaction, the buddy sitting next to me who listens to my latest business idea which may well come to nothing, but none the less it’s critical to have that human interaction.
One lady even asked me “so am I just paying to share the same oxygen?” This initially riled me a bit, however on reflection this is actually a very important question. It’s one that as founders we should be asking ourselves all the time. We need to ensure that we are actually providing a service, whether that is space, Wi-Fi, events, community… However, part of the question lies with the members; what do they want it to be? Our first members café later this month will hopefully help us get some of those answers. Further than that, what does the community want it to be? We have a huge following of supporters which has not always translated to membership, so what is it the community needs from The HUB?
I previously tried to explain the difference between Community and co-working and this still rings true. However 6 months on I can now say with complete confidence The HUB is now an integral part of my business, it helps me generate new leads and business, it provides a support network of people who have my back as I manoeuver my way through the challenges and stresses of being self employed. But ultimately it’s where I come just to feel part of something, this sanctuary where everyone around me are just incredible people doing incredible things, I can think of no greater inspiration and environment to develop my business.
The new global Impact Hub website describes it like this: “Impact Hubs make up a global network of people, places, and programs that inspire, connect and catalyze impact.”
On the flip side, we have to appreciate that some people are not looking for these things and perhaps have no idea what I am rambling on about. But hey, that is what makes The HUB different from other co-working spaces, and perhaps some people just don’t get it.
Listen again…A few months ago journalist Zak Markan came to Mahone Bay to meet me and Matt. I listened to the interview again recently and it was nice to remember why we got into this in the first place.
You can listen to it again on CBC’s website, or below if available on your device:
Lately, all I seem to read is non-fiction. Most of it comes from that familiar class of modern business books — thought-provoking, quirkily written, and usually quite short. I guess they are self-help books, the thought of which sends a shiver down my spine, but I’m not really looking for help. I’m looking for ideas, stories, and a little injection of enthusiasm. But if all they do is help me fall asleep at bedtime, sometimes that’s okay too.
We’ve got a nice library at the HUB. Members are welcome to borrow the books any time, or just chill out in the space and browse. There’s something for everyone…
Linchpin, by Seth Godin — the best thing I’ve ever read on being extraordinary as a career strategy
The Four Hour Work Week, by Tim Ferris — cutting the clutter from your professional life
The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries — one way to think about starting businesses today
Business Model Generation, by Alex Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur — Lean Startup in action
Back of the Napkin, by Dan Roam — why you need to talk less and draw more
Gamestorming, by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, & James Macanufo — getting people thinking
Applied Imagination, Alex Osborne — the original book about brainstorming, still relevant
The Magic of Thinking Big, by David Schwartz — don’t confuse starting small with aiming low
The Fifth Discipline, by Peter Senge — one of the best guides to thinking about complex systems
How about you? What are you reading at the moment? Let us know in the comments…
The world is daunting enough for the new entrepreneur or freelancer, but if you’ve been coddled in a traditional business, then you might have taken some of your tools for granted. A MacBook, Microsoft Office, and Adobe Creative Suite can set you back well over $5000 — and that’s before you’ve even done any work!
So here are some of the things I’ve done, or seen others do, to be just as awesome, but without the wedge of cash.
Make do with your hardware
You’d be surprised what an older desktop or laptop can do with a bit of care. Archive old files, delete software you don’t use, buy a some extra RAM (crucial.com is the place), plug into a larger display, and it’ll feel like a new machine. Avoid upgrading the operating system if possible — it’s a good way to wish you had a new machine. And start saving up for a new computer — it’s probably one of your key tools, and you deserve it. When you do upgrade, see if you can cash in your old brick on Gazelle.
Back up, back up, back up
Once your machine is running sweetly, make sure you’re backed up. You’re on your own now and can’t afford a catastrophic failure. Carbonite is an inexpensive way to not only keep a constant backup, but also to access your files when away from home. You could use Dropbox or Google Drive in a similar way. But don’t stop there. You also need a reliable local backup — for Mac get a spacious drive and set up Time Machine, or buy a Time Capsule. For Windows, look around for options, or use scheduled backups from the Backup & Restore control panel. But don’t stop there. I also make a bootable backup drive every week, using Carbon Copy disk cloner. This way, even if your drive fails completely, you can boot a recent version and get on with your day. If you’re not using cloud-based backup like Carbonite, keep at least one backup drive in a different place from your actual computer.
Software for superheroes
When it comes to business apps, there are more options than I can list. But there are a few must-haves:
We had a great discussion last week at the Thursday night event Leadership in uncertain times. Provoked by Dee Hock’s model of Chaordic Design we got right into the times we live in and the leadership that is needed. Check out this article by Dee Hock himself if you want to know more about the model, or watch these videos from Tuesday Ryan Hart and Tim Merry. Matt also made a great short video of the session:
A few great insights came out of the session:
We quickly touched on the chaordic stepping stones which are the minimum order needed for the chaos to evolve meaningfully and productively. I use them again and again for project planning, organizational start up, meeting design, and my own personal development. Check out more on the stepping stones in this video and we may do a session on them in the future.
If this catches your attention, you will love the Art of Hosting event on 15 June at the HUB. Please register before coming as we may to have to move into a bigger room because of demand.
Two weeks ago, we held our first evening event — Tax, the law, and so much more. I thought I’d try to summarize some of the ‘tax’ part here… If I feel up to it maybe I’ll try the law part next time.
John Swain was there to share his insight and experience in tax matters. He focused on a critical question for many newly self-employed professionals: should I incorporate or not?
We’re lucky to have plenty of pros that understand small business in Nova Scotia. Ask around, seek them out, and treat them as a partner. In John’s confident words, “they willsave you money in the long run!”
There is a very clear distinction between what being a member of The HUB can offer you in comparison to a traditional co-working space. It’s that part you can’t put a price on, the part where people on the outside perhaps don’t understand because they have never been on the inside, it’s the community…
In Lean Startup we try to establish the value proposition for our customers, why would someone pay to become a member of The HUB South Shore? Well it’s that word again, community, and I’m going to prove to you that it’s real.
I look back to early October when Tim, Matt and I did our first video, I was a nervous wreck sitting beside these 2 awesome confident guys and I really felt like I did not belong there. Fast forward 6 months and I’m doing a live interview on Global TV. Where did this new found confidence come from? Well it comes from spending time with amazing like-minded people—people who teach me, challenge me, and ultimately motivate and inspire me.
But it doesn’t end there. I am now connected to skills that enable me to move my business forward and do great work in situations which were previously unavailable to me working in isolation. I can use Stephen and Katy at The Picture House for video, Zsofi’s company Tangerine Sky for amazing graphic design, I can collaborate in development work with Chris at Media Farm. I can enter into the type of contracts which were previously inaccessible to me. And if I’m feeling tired from all of that I have Jason over at Peak Performance Therapy for some strength training.
The community also spreads organically into our lives outside of work. My wife has set up a playgroup in the Mahone Bay Centre which is filled with kids connected through their parents to The HUB. Many of the families are becoming great friends and get together often. We also have Sunday night soccer, started by Tim for parents at the Waldorf School, but now full of HUB followers.
So if you are thinking of joining The HUB South Shore don’t think of this as just co-working. You will of course have an awesome space to work, after all this is what we are here for. However, the real value proposition is the community of smart progressive business people who will inspire you and support you, and you may just make some new friends along the way.
A couple of weeks ago CBC radio journalist Zak Markan came to Mahone Bay to meet me and the family, then we headed over to The HUB to chat to Matt about moving to the area, and starting up this project.
His piece aired on Monday morning, you can listen to it on CBC’s website.
What to charge?
Two weeks ago, 12 of us had a wide-ranging chat about pricing professional services — a subject that affects almost everyone with a small business. Punchline first: There’s no formula. But there are some approaches:
Pro-bono: We all work for free occasionally, and it feels good to be generous. I often help people out as a loss leader, and because it feels like the professional thing to do. Everyone present said they done the same.
Cost-based: You can add up your overheads, plus a mark-up of 15% say, and call that your price. But then the only way to make more money, without increasing your price, is to reduce your overheads, which may well reduce quality. The group talked quite a bit about what Seth Godin calls ‘the race to the bottom’ — a race you don’t want to win.
Time-based: I’m a scientist. I like the idea of formulas, and of the transparency they suggest. If my prices are formulaic, based on the hours I work, then it’s fine if my customers talk to each other, because my prices are fair and predictable. But the reality, at least for me, is that this is difficult to maintain. Some customers are, well, difficult. Sometimes I feel generous. Some projects bring a different kind of value to me. (Remember your other bottom lines: reputation, relevance, brand, and so on. You can leverage these types of capital almost as easily as cash.)
Value-based: This is where the money is, and most people present felt this was the place to focus. Charge in proportion to what your insightful judgment — your professionalism — is worth, usually on a turnkey (fixed-price) basis. Of course, your client may perceive your value differently from you. It’s up to you to help your client see the difference you make. Snags include feature creep, with the client expanding the scope after you’ve agreed on a price, and over-delivery. Do understand that turnkey pricing reduces risk for the client — there must be a price on that risk reduction.
Tim and Dave and I have been over all this and more in connection with The HUB’s pricing. One thing we’re trying to do (help us!) is:
Listen to your customers: Your customers know what they want to pay. Ask them! One of Tim’s strategies is to ask the customer to “pay what you can, and a little bit more”. The little bit more ensures buy-in, commitment, and seriousness. He can write more about that one day.
Have you nailed pricing in your line of work? What is your strategy?
Remember the date, 22 March 2013, the day The HUB South Shore officially opened for business. It has been an exciting journey so far, not only for Tim, Matt and I, but also for our families and the entire community as we start a new chapter together in what has already been an exciting adventure.
It was fantastic seeing so many of our followers and supporters come out in numbers on Friday to join in the celebrations at our opening party. The fact that there were around 20 children running around really symbolizes what is happening in Mahone Bay right now, and The HUB will play a big part in all of our futures for years to come.
View more photos from the opening party.
Our first 2 members of The HUB, Alastair Jarvis and Susan Johnstone were there to celebrate with us, and the feedback on the space has been very positive thus far. We have all been working out of there this week and I must say it feels great to be cracking on with some uninterrupted work in the knowledge that I can leave it all behind at 5:30 and head home to be with my family. Alastair probably summarises it better than me below:
“The HUB South Shore is a space that gives me energy, confidence and courage to start something epic from the South Shore. Working from here instead of out of my home office has me stepping up my game. We’re collectively raising our sights and while we have no illusions that this work is easy – we know that we’ll see failures along the way, – but there’s a sense that we’re aiming higher knowing that we’ve got each other’s backs. In two days at the Hub, I’ve already learned some pretty massive insights from other Hub members and the promise of cross pollination of ideas has already become real within 72 hours of the doors officially opening. There’s a clear appetite to share whatever knowledge we’ve built up in our own domains with others who have similar aspirations to build and do it from here. Only time will tell whether these new shoots will eventually bear fruit—but what an exciting community to be a part of this spring.“
We are open 08:30 – 17:30, Monday to Friday… please pop along for a visit any time!
Working from home might not be a viable alternative to showing up at the office in Halifax, especially if you’re easily distracted by kids, dogs, or your domestic to-do list. And your boss might have visions of you sitting there in your jammies with your feet up and the TV on. But not when she finds out you’re working at The HUB.
What do you get out of coworking?Sometimes you have to go to Halifax… Sometimes, you don’t.
At its most basic level, The HUB is a clean, bright, professional work space, but there’s more to it than that. There’s 40 Mbps Wi-Fi. There’s free caffeine and awesome office equipment. There’s a quiet spot for phone calls. And then there’s the community of other professionals, freelancers and entrepreneurs that make up Nova Scotia’s hidden economy.
Those other people aren’t a distraction, because they’re hard at work, just like you. They are busy running their businesses, delighting their clients, and changing their industries. They’re people you want to meet, and who want to meet you.
What do you save when you don’t drive to Halifax?
Poll for members: How essential is a photocopier?
I started letting my vision expand. I imagined us renovating the kitchen next door. A small, funky cafe moving into the space. The small breakout rooms becoming podcasting and multi media centres. We expand the co-working space into the room opposite because members are pouring in. The conference room down the corridor becomes part of the HUB as a meeting space, creative lab and workshop venue. We open up the entrance with the big stairs for the HUB and suddenly we are occupying the whole first floor. It is thriving hub of entrepreneurial activity, full of people building a resilient economy, and supporting each other making a good living doing work they love.
The visit of Premier Darrell Dexter and MLA Pam Birdsall to The HUB on Friday brought much attention and excitement to Mahone Bay. A quick coffee at the fabulous Biscuit Eaterand it was over to the MBC for some great chat about the future of The HUB (South Shore and beyond) and Nova Scotia, and in particular how they are an integral part of each others DNA.
It was particularly refreshing to hear that our belief that a hidden economy exists in rural Nova Scotiais shared at high political levels. And how encouraging to hear that something is being done to give that economy a voice.
There is a realisation that Nova Scotia is an attractive option for Canadians to start their own business, as well as an amazing opportunity for come-from-aways to come and start a new life. This is affirmed by the governments committment to increasing the number of immigrants and also supporting them to settle into their new way of life. The HUB network can help facilitate the transition.
Our conversation also proved that this is not a 3 man crusade: it is more than Tim, Matt and Dave. This is a movement across Atlantic Canada born out of a need within Rural Communities. As Mauricio Duarte explained, The HUB Annapolis Valley represents a need to keep local talent local, with increasing numbers of young brainiac’s heading to Halifax and beyond.
Alastair Jarvis made the point that Halfax is the centre of gravity, but The HUB South Shore and other rural hubs can help change that. Tracy and Jo from The HUB Halifax explained that the model for Atlantic Canada cannot be to force a HUB upon a community, rather than to let the need for one provide the catalyst and they like the rest of us will be there to connect and support it.
However, as explained to the Premier these Hubs do not come without a cost, the major stumbling block for many hubs being start up cost. The founders of The HUB South Shore lead a fortunate life with the capacity to invest personal income, supported amazingly by the Mahone Bay Centre and the incredible volunteers who work there. However, not all hubs are in this position, and investment is required to make them become a reality. Our meeting today was a great opportunity to highlight the problems we all face, and to acknowledge that we are not alone.