I’m collecting content into our new book today using the itty bitty iPad keyboard because my laptop hard drive crashed and burned yesterday. Crap! Or, as my iPad autocorrect keeps insisting, Veal!
Anyway, I’m looking back through all the DifferentOffice.com stories we’ve gathered in the past year. The process is teaching me so much about myself. Wow. So interesting to see your own heart-felt, in-the-moment words, in writing, many months after the fact. One of the things I learned today are some of the reasons why becoming a very small business, and staying a very small business, is the best choice for me. Here are five excerpts from my conversation with Kevin from NWPeaks nanobrewery in Ballard over the winter.
Becoming and staying a small business is for me because…
1. It helps me experience others as collaborators instead of competitors, which I love.
Kevin: I’m too busy to actually head this up, but I want to have, you know, a 6-punch card. If you get a pint at all 6 [nanobreweries], or something, 5 of the 6, then you get a commemorative glass. So each bar, brewery, is going to have the glassware, and then all the breweries will split the cost on the glassware. That’ll just promote people going and coming down and getting something for coming through Ballard.
Lori: That’s such a good idea. Because we’re not, yeah. When you’re little like this, we’re not competitors, we’re collaborators. We all sort of rise and fall together. I, um, one of the things that I’ve done, as a writer this year, is I turned our home into a community coworking space. So there are coworking spaces all over Seattle, places for digital workers to go instead of working at home. Office Nomads being the oldest one. They’re the grandfather: they’re 5 years old. They’re so old! [Kevin laughs] Everybody else is like a year old, two years old. The same sort of thing. We have the Seattle Collaborative Space Alliance now. And, yeah. It’s the same sort of thing. We aren’t competitors. It’s good if all of us are full. And if we all know each other we can send people to, like well, you go to Office Nomads because it’s more this kind of person likes that place, and this kind of person might like that place.
Kevin: Mmm, hmm.
Lori: Yeah. It’s fun to stay small enough so that you can do that and not have to see the other spaces as competing with your space.
Kevin: I know, it’s great. It brings people in. It kind of makes it a destination. So, people are going to show up here because of the destination. For this industry as well, we’re all trying to steal that tiny, tiny, tiny percent from the big guys. The macro-breweries still have all of the market share. And let’s work together as a microbrewery community and try to nibble away at that market share.
Lori: And that’s kind of how the people who run coworking spaces, or me at least, sort of feel too. The other coworking spaces aren’t our competitors. Our competitors are the big corporations where people are working in cubes and hating their day jobs. We’re gonna get some of them! [We laugh together.]
2. I think people who create small, flexible, efficient, multitasking work spaces — and their work spaces — are really cool.
Lori: What’s your favorite part of this space?
Kevin: I don’t know, because each part is used for many different things.
Lori: The multitasking nature of the space.
Kevin: Yeah. So if you notice, all of these tables are on wheels so that when we’re brewing and the brewery is in operation, we roll these up against the walls and get them out of the way. That bar, if it stayed there, we would not be able to move anything in and out of the walk in fridge. So that’s kind of one of my favorite, I don’t know, not locations here but things about the brewery here. We’re trying to maximize the efficiency and every square inch. We’re strapped on space, but it’s kind of fun figuring out how to deal with the space. And trying to maintain the tasting room and the brewery. And everything else in the operation. And just be able to have it be so you can set it up, take it down, and move things around. As you need.
3. I am drawn to others who honor their own sense of fun at work to the point that they’re willing to walk away from large organizations and salaries to continue to have fun. And they are drawn to me.
Lori: Well, I don’t know, the two of us sitting here. It doesn’t look good for academia long term, does it? [We belly laugh together.] Ah, yeah. For me it was, what I couldn’t get around in academia was how “expert” you had to be before you could say anything. I like to learn as I go. I like to tell stories as I go. And it always felt in academia like you you’ve got to be such an extreme expert, all by yourself. And then you have to publish as if you know SO much. And I just struggled with that. And just couldn’t, in the end, do it.
Lori: It seems like storytelling is just [sighs] fun, easier, and more accessible to more people, and yeah, so.
Kevin: I agree. For me as well, it was, it became political.
Lori: Mmm, hmm.
Kevin: As you move up, and I was going in for an altruistic, I’m going in to study cancer, the knowledge, hopefully maybe go into pharmaceuticals and maybe do something good. Find a vaccine, whatever. And then, as you learn more and more and more. There’s issues with money. There’s issues with this. And there’s power issues between the different labs. At every single different level. And you had to be cut-throat and fight, fight, fight if you wanted to keep moving up and actually do what you wanted to do when you started. It became NOT fun.
4. I deeply value having ample time to notice what’s amazing about right where I am. And for me, that means staying small as a business.
Lori: Yeah. One of the things I’ve learned. Because I started working from home, and then started the coworking space out of our home. Is that when you stay small like that you have more time to notice all the cool things that are going on around you. Because I lived in the Central District for many years when I was full-time Microsoft, and getting a Master’s degree, then getting a doctorate degree. And I didn’t know any neighbors. But it’s only been since I decided, all right, no. I’m going to do this. I’m going to work for myself. That I started to be, “Wow! There are some really amazing writers in my neighborhood. Really amazing artists in my neighborhood. Within a block from my house. And I had no idea!”
Kevin: You take time to smell the coffee, and look around, and notice what’s going on around you in your community. Whether it’s at home or at work: one and the same.
5. Staying small allows me to continue to learn more about what I personally like and don’t like, and the freedom to move toward what I like as that changes…
Lori: That’s a nice thing about staying small. You get to really learn more about what you like and what you don’t like to do.
Kevin: Yeah. And here you have the leeway to change that, and move towards what you like to do. Whereas if you’re in a big company, that’s not necessarily all that possible.
That’s all for now. Back to the book for me!
Great post, Lori! (And I like the new look of the site too. Very slick!)
This is something I think about a lot and it’s helpful to hear other perspectives. Particularly #1 and #4 really get to what I love about being a one-person business.
Thanks Mark. The new site is a work in progress, given my WordPress-specific learning disabilities and the fact that Daniel has only so much time to help me. 🙂
FYI, full interviews currently live at http://www.differentoffice.com. We’re pulling them into a December-release book now too. Lots of other perspectives. We went looking for self-created, soul-satisfying work spaces and ended up talking pretty almost exclusively to folks running relative small (1 to 12 employees) businesses.