New Year's Blog Post by Mark Hooper
On St David's Day this year indycube will celebrate its sixth birthday. For anyone who has set up in business, they'll tell you that just getting to six is a major achievement. I agree - it's been hard work, but I'm not complaining - I've never enjoyed work so much. As many people know, my job basically involves chatting to people over a coffee, or if I'm really lucky a beer or two. Not bad, eh? Even better, I get to have these conversations throughout Wales. Over the past six years, I feel like I've become more Welsh - in my outlook, my motivation and my passion. With the help of my family, I've come to understand what 'Hiraeth' means. It may have taken me 40 odd years to 'get it', for sure, but it's definitely been a journey worth making.
As we turn the corner into 2016 we have over 25 spaces in our network, with a further handful scheduled to open before the end of February, and we are represented throughout the entire length and breadth of Wales. I'm really pleased with what we've achieved, but I want indycube to do more, and we need help to do that.
Our focus hasn't changed since the day we opened at Culverhouse Cross, Cardiff - we want to change the way Wales does business. We're not happy that for too long Wales has languished at the bottom of economic league tables, and we've become increasingly disillusioned with the lack of trust shown in our own capacity to build a more prosperous Country. What's happened is that most of us have become used to seeing Wales' economic policy being skewed by certain interest groups, whether they be international mega-businesses taking grants for creating poorly paid jobs; those moneyed or society types whose voices can have an undue influence on Ministerial ears; or the same old consultants peddling business support, that given Wales' GVA performance evidentially has never worked (doesn't stop them being paid, mind). Even more concerning is that we've collectively abdicated our responsibility to change things ourselves; we expect politicians and civil servants to have the answers. I think it's fair to say that they don't, so frankly it's over to us, all of us.
It became apparent that the only way we were going to achieve our aim was through encouraging our users to do what they do best - run their businesses, but to do it from within their own communities. That doesn't mean encouraging freelancers and micro-businesses to travel miles to one of our spaces; quite the contrary, we're bringing spaces where you can work alongside others, to every part of the Country. At the same time, we're seeing the strength of our network grow, as associates link up between spaces - it's actually what we're good at in Wales - real, uncontrived, PRollocks-free networking. We're a people-centric Country, and trying to be something we're not, is, at best, a waste of time, energy & money. At worst it represents a huge lost opportunity.
So today - as we prepare to enter a new year, I wanted to take the opportunity to do a few things that I don't do enough. Say thanks, update you on our plans and, as I've alluded to, ask for some help.
Firstly, a word of thanks
Firstly, a big thanks to everyone who has ever used indycube. We've had well in excess of 1,500 people through our various doors over the years, and I hope, for however long they stayed, the experience was worthwhile. Many have stayed with us for a long time now, and have become our strongest advocates. I'm hugely grateful for their support and patronage. There's also a long list of individuals who've been remarkably influential in our progress - they've challenged, cajoled & questioned me over the past few years, and I've done my level best to listen. You all know who you are :-)
Secondly, I wanted to tell you a bit about our future plans. There's quite a lot going on in the coming few months, so read on....
We now think the time is right to pass the ownership fully on to the community. On the 23rd December, we 'pushed the button' to start the process of mutualising indycube, and on our sixth anniversary, St David's Day 2016, we'll go (subject to regulator approvals etc) from a Community Interest Company (CIC) owned by Kev, Tristan and myself, to a Community Benefit Society (CommBen) owned equally by the members.
For those business anoraks amongst you, the business model we've chosen is a type of co-operative. We'll become a Community Benefit Society, and will therefore be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). We've chosen the cooperative route for a romantic reason too - the founder of the cooperative movement, Robert Owen, was born in Wales (Newtown) and for many years cooperative organisations were the lifeblood of communities across the Country. We're keen to replicate the same with our mutualisation.
From March 1st, one thing we'll be doing is changing our pricing structure. In general our prices will rise, and we'll be introducing a completely new pricing option (half-timers). Our website will display the new prices, alongside the current ones, so everyone will be aware of what's happening.
This is the first time we've raised our prices since we started up (it works out at the equivalent of a 3% rise per year), and although we've done this reluctantly, it's important that we ensure the prices paid by our associates match the costs we expend in order to run the network. I'd hope we can maintain these new prices for the next six years. That's the plan! But more importantly, this is the last time we'll take this decision alone - next time this will be agreed upon by the members.
During February, we'll be working with our current associates to change them over to the new price plans. We hope all our associates will understand, and recognise that with desk day prices from marginally over £5 per day, and never exceeding £12 a day, we really do offer exceptional value. More than that we offer the chance to work alongside others and let serendipity do the rest.
The new prices effective from March 1st 2016 are set out here (all attract VAT, currently at 20%):
Pay-As-You-Go - our most flexible option will be £12 per day.
Part-Time Associate* - £60 per month for 5 days
Half-Time Associate* - £100 per month for 10 days, which works out at £10 per day.
Full-Time Associate* - £180 per month. Your own desk, as and when you need it. This averages out at £8 per day.
Company rates - teams of between 4 & 8 Full-Timers can take advantage of these special rates - 4-6 desks - £720, 7 desks - £820 & 8 desks - £920. These prices gives an average desk day price of between £5 & £8.
Registered Office only - one business registered office is available to Part, Half and Full timers. All subsequent businesses registered will cost £240 pa. Anyone who just needs a registered office can choose this facility on a stand-alone basis for £240 pa.
Meeting Room - meeting room hire over 2 hours (which is included in all rates), stays the same and is chargeable at £35 (1/2 day) and £70 (full day).
The Plan for 2016
We want to continue to grow the network, such that freelancers and micro businesses can access like minded people to work alongside, within, at worst, a short drive from home. That doesn't mean all the spaces need to be 3,000 sq ft offices - far from it, you'll start to see indycube spaces in smaller locations with maybe 5 or 6 deskspaces in them. We're planning to find larger spaces that can act as a hub to these smaller satellites.
This continued and accelerated growth will mean we need a few more people to join the team over the next year, but we're going to be doing that from within our own (still limited) resources - we've never believed what we do should be supported from the public purse, particularly when other priorities are so pressing. Many others disagree with this view - could it be that, more often than not, they are beneficiaries of said public sector largesse? Keep an eye out for opportunities as they arise - I promise they'll be challenging and rewarding.
indycube Ventures will continue to support high growth potential businesses to develop, and that opportunity will expand as indycube moves into parts of Wales we've not reached before. We've already started conversations with those who can help develop the support provided, and we'll be moving ahead with those in the early part of the year.
I hope you join us (and/or stay with us) on the next leg of our collective journey. I genuinely want to cede control of indycube to a team I'd like to join. We've worked hard to get the organisation to the position that it can deliver for Wales, but now we need to realise that ambition - and for that we need you.
I'm free to chat through anything I've written above; the price changes, the mechanics of becoming a member of the new indycube Community Benefit Society when it goes live, or even your interest in jobs that currently don't exist. If you don't have my number, best bet is to get in touch via Twitter @markjhooper
Thanks for reading this - Here's to a wonderful and happy New Year.
Blwyddyn Newydd Dda i Bawb!