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For this Podcast, we have Hector Kolonas of Included.co with his portion on Sustainability, in a call with Stavros Messinis, Co-founder of The Cube in Athens, Greece.

They are going to be talking about what is the core of sustainability and how a coworking community can be more sustainable. And Stavros also shares how coworking is a family business, their family’s. And how they make it work. 

How can the Coworking community be more sustainable?

So community wouldn’t exist if they weren’t as sustainable. But again, sustainability doesn’t mean that every element of the community needs to sustain operations. Just like any ecosystem there are, there are elements of it that thrive and elements of it that die relatively quickly. And that’s just natural in, in terms of how ecosystems work.

And, and, and we see that, we see that pretty much every other day here. We will see teams that are thriving and teams that are teams that are failing. 

And what we can do in terms of making sure that our community remains sustainable is I guess keeping ourselves sustainable.

First of all, is that we can survive into the next day. Um, and uh, being positioned to be in a position to plan for more days but also be in a position to help others in our community who might need either our advice or more resources or connections to other tools and things that they might need to, to sustain operations going forward. 

And, you know, sustainability is not just survival. It’s also sustaining, sustaining the conditions for profit. So that there is always there’s always a reason to do things right don’t could be monetary profit, could be societal profit. And any one of those things so in terms of what we can do, it’s making sure that we are continuing, sustaining the conditions so that we can maintain sustainability continuing, being active, always experimenting, always trying new things. failing fast, the old, the old cliche

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March 30, 2020

Hector Kolonas  0:02  

This is the Coworking Values Podcast and you’re listening on the We Share Radio network. Hi, everybody and welcome to my portion of the Coworking Values of talking podcast. I’m Hector Kolonas from Included.co and my portion is going to be all about the sustainability elements of core values. Today I’m joined by Stavros Messinis from Athens. He’s calling in from Athens. How you doing Stavros?

Stavros Messinis 0:30   

How are you Hector? Great to talk to you.

Hector Kolonas  0:32  

Not doing too badly. I’m so stoked. Ross has had a very colourful history in the coworking world. If you want to tell us a little bit more about how you got involved with coworking and what you’re doing now. 

Stavros Messinis 0:48  

Gladly. So, I got involved, what must be eight or nine years ago now. We decided to set up a coworking space in Athens. The first working space was called Cola, and it’s been a lot of fun since then, a bit of a roller coaster really, up and down. And since then we’ve expanded the operation from a relatively small space thing which grew significantly larger, probably the largest space in the country. And, you know, ups and downs we’ve had various crises, I suppose. But, still standing, still having fun still meeting interesting people doing interesting things. Normally, I mean,

Hector Kolonas 1:35  

You guys have put me up into space. It’s just one of those spaces that really inspire me, and I’m guessing inspires quite a lot of people. I’m doing this for a good amount of time. So I’m going to start with a little bit of a doozy of a question. When you think of the word sustainability, what does that mean to you?

Stavros Messinis 1:55  

Sustainability for me means making sure you have the conditions right so that it can be another day, it can be the following day, right? You can continue your operations despite any major issues that might happen in your operation.

Hector Kolonas 2:24  

Sure, man, that’s a perfect, perfect guns. I really like the idea of making sure that conditions allow you to have another day, and I think that’s what the core of sustainability really is. So we’ll follow up with another sort of tricky question. I like to put you on the spot. And if you had to be like 100% honest, how close is your community to being truly sustainable? And is there anything that you could be doing better to make your space and your community much more sustainable?

Stavros Messinis 2:55  

So community wouldn’t exist if they weren’t sustainable and, but again, the ability doesn’t mean that every element of the community needs to sustain operations. Just like any ecosystems there are, there are elements of it that thrive and elements of it that die relatively quickly, and that’s just natural in terms of how ecosystems work. We see that pretty much every other day here. We will see teams that are thriving and teams that are failing. And what we can do in terms of making sure that our community remains sustainable is I guess; keeping ourselves sustainable first of all, so that we can survive into the next day, and be in position to plan for more days, but also be in a position to help others in our community who might need either our advice or more resources or connections to other tools and things that they might need to sustain operations going forward. 

And, you know, sustainability is not just survival, it’s also sustaining the conditions for profit, so that there is always a reason to do things right. It could be proud of monetary profit, could be societal profit, and any one of those things. So, in terms of what we can do; it’s making sure that we are continuing sustaining the conditions so that we can maintain sustainability, continuing being active, always experimenting, always trying new things. failing fast, the old cliché. Those types of things.

Hector Kolonas 4:49

Oh, yeah, that makes perfect sense. I mean, we spoke a few minutes ago. I think it’s nine or 10pm in Athens right now. When you sign up to jump straight into a call with us and have this, so that putting things into action definitely resonates. And then something I know that you’re pretty well known for?

Stavros Messinis 5:07  

The sense of urgency in business is probably the most important factor, right? Do things urgent. I don’t do them in a rushed manner just for the sake of doing them. But if you can do something now do it now. 

Hector Kolonas  5:23  

Yeah, exactly. You never know what’s going to be around the next corner, right. But one of the things you mentioned in previous answers was, I was smiling the whole way while you were saying it, and it’s the fact that most publications forget that in the coworking community. It’s made up and run by actual people. And with so much to do, and so little time to actually do things. Do you think there’s something to be said about how people can structure their lives and their life balance in order to be more personally sustainable?

Stavros Messinis 5:58  

It’s a really tough one. I don’t think I’m succeeding at that, to be frank.

Hector Kolonas  6:04  

I know that it’s a topic that a lot of people are kind of looking at, and I realized that it’s a tough question to answer. I mean, it’s a question I challenged myself with every day. I mean, the candles not burning on both ends, it’s burning in the middle, and there’s a flame on top of it, it is alarming. So it’s not really to put you on the spot. It’s more it’s something I know that we have to think about. And would you have any sort of advice to me as to how I should go about that or things that you’ve tried and maybe failed?

Stavros Messinis 6:39  

So in my case, I’ve effectively involved my whole family in the business and in that sense, the lifestyle, in fact, life revolves around the coworking space or the spaces that we sometimes find. We buy some of the spaces as well around the valve and the lifestyle, the coworking lifestyle, coworking culture and the culture of openness the culture of always be doing. And in my mind, my wife is very involved, my two kids are very involved. And effectively this type of business lends itself to that. I mean, it’s quite appropriate to do it, because very much is a lifestyle. And it’s not yours, it’s not your average nine to five job. Whoever does treat this type of role as a nine to five job, almost certainly should. To not succeed, to actually fail. And we’ve seen similar spaces that, I guess, open with the support of municipalities of cities of states, state agencies, etc, the staff with civil servants who have a relatively ,if you like, rigid work regime, nine to five or specific shift etc you know and that’s that just doesn’t kind of lend itself to the system’s ability, especially when we’re working in such a fast paced environment where everything is changing so fast, so dynamically, and that we can’t react to changing situations if we’re not on top of things all the time and imminently so. And so for us as a family, we’re very involved and it doesn’t scale very well, I must say. Replicating ourselves is quite difficult and we effectively need to find the right mix of people who are passionate enough about this kind of lifestyle.

Hector Kolonas  9:07  

I mean, that’s well said, and obviously not everyone’s as lucky to have a family as dynamic as yours. I mean, you guys run the space as a family unit. And it’s definitely something I asked him 100 more questions about, but yeah, just keep doing the great work that you’re doing on that. But you did touch on something that I did want to talk about a little bit, and that it would zoom out a bit. And we look at the fact that, you know, coworking is exploding. You know, the real estate developers are getting involved, the governments are getting involved, cities are getting involved, you know, venture capital is getting involved with this huge growth. I mean, I’m worried about sustainability of the sector. What do you think as you know, players as members of the sector, what can we all be doing to improve the sustainability of Coworking as a movement?

Stavros Messinis 9:58  

So again, it all depends how you look at it, I mean, they certainly aren’t getting involved. There’s big money getting involved, and big corporations, kind of rebranding themselves as coworking entities. And, that’s just one of those things that we should expect to happen, given that what we do makes sense. So, the fact that we work  in a very agile way, kind of means that bigger agencies, bigger organizations will also want to kind of replicate the way we work, and it’s good that they do. Sustainability of Coworking as a concept, I think isn’t in danger. I think perhaps sustainability of smaller spaces, individual spaces, perhaps family-run spaces, like the one we’d run here, might be put under a certain amount of stress given there are more powerful players coming into the scene.

That’s an interesting challenge, and I welcome it because it basically makes us more creative and we invent new things and basically be one step ahead. We may not be one step ahead of them in terms of the financing that we have, but you certainly are one step ahead in terms of the ideas we can work with in a much more agile fashion. And so, I don’t really worry about the sustainability of the model per se, but there will be consolidation definitely. Smaller spaces will merge, land landlords, or property owners to put it more correctly will be more involved. More involved, and more invested, if you like, not only in their property but also in the businesses that that those properties host and I’m talking specifically about coworking. I do see that that will be a trend for the property owners. They will want to engage and have more to say about the operation of each individual ritual space.

Hector Kolonas  12:09  

That’s true. I mean, we’re kind of seeing that everyone’s kind of getting involved. But I mean, obviously, a lot of coworking spaces are kind of started. Ss you know, communities like yours, I mean you started at a smaller space, you’ve grown really well. And do you think that your sustainability is tied implicitly to your agility to the fact that you can respond?

Stavros Messinis 12:31  

Absolutely. I absolutely think so. And, of course, one of the key things that we did was, we took on a bigger space that made much more sense, you know. The economy of scale was a better equation. Sure, we tried the experiment with a small space. We stretched that as much as we could in terms of the revenues that could generate. The minute you start scaling things up, new things emerge, new opportunities emerge, new revenue lines emerge or revenue streams emerge. And scale, of course, has its challenges. To be scaling a space means you need to be properly scaling your team. It is quite people centric, but I’m happy with what we’ve achieved, I’m happy with the success, if I can call it success, you know, for me tomorrow will be a success. The fact that we’re still there, we’re still standing and still doing interesting things and have gained the respect of all the respectable ecosystem and considered one of the leaders in the city. Is it a massive monetary success? Probably not. But, you know, each of us count success in a different way.

Hector Kolonas  13:54  

No, definitely. I mean, there’s definitely social capital, there’s financial capital and a big part of what we do and included, is making sure that we know who the movers and shakers are. And you are definitely one of the movers and shakers. And one of the earliest.  

Stavros Messinis 14:11  

I’m definitely a shaker. 

Hector Kolonas  14:14  

It all depends. It’s a Friday evening right now, it depends how early I catch your eyelids. I catch you, I guess, on how much you’re moving and shaking. Thank you very much for being my first guest and for taking the time out to share a little bit about your insights. Where can people find more information about the Cube?

Stavros Messinis 14:33  

if they want to just google The Cube Athens or The Cube.gr. That’s a simple, simple address. And I’d be happy to happy to talk to you again, or talk to anybody about coworking, keep up the great work, Hector, and I look forward to hearing more.

Hector Kolonas  14:54  

Perfect. Thank you very much. Everybody else, thank you for listening. The next show is going to be on another section hosted by another member of the coworking world. I’ll be back in a few shows time with my next sustainability episode. And please let me know on Twitter or Facebook in the comments what you think about the show? What I can do better? And what you’d like to talk about in the next segment? Thank you very much and have a fantastic day, everyone.

Transcribed by Otter.

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