In one of our first interviews, we chat with Anthony Marinos (his job title is “The Position Formerly Known as Sales and Marketing”) of Grind — a US-based network of coworking spaces.
What is Grind and how are you unique as a coworking space?
We’re a members-only collaborative workspace and coworking community with two locations in New York, one in Chicago, and more on the way in the very near future. We’re unique for a lot of different reasons including the professional diversity of our members (we’re not just tech like most spaces), our modern, open design, and our focus on gender balance among our Grindists. If I had to choose one though, it would be our staff and the customer service we provide on a daily basis. Grind is as much a hospitality company as it is a workspace provider.
How important is community in a coworking space? Is it still a coworking space if there aren’t community elements?
As our cofounder Benjamin Dyett often states, ‘No one is paying us for just a desk and a chair. If that was all we were offering, our spaces would be empty.’ Grind was built for entrepreneurs and free radicals who would rather work in a community than a company. It’s our lifeblood. As for spaces that don’t provide any community elements? They should never be categorized as coworking. They’re just traditional offices or executive suites. Cue the boring music.
What is your on-boarding experience like for new members?
Our on-boarding experience is very hands on. For example, when a new member comes in for the first time, we meet with them to learn more about their business, which types of professionals they’d like to be connected to, what they’d like to get out of Grind, etc. We then take that information and immediately connect them to relevant members of the community. This often results in collaborations, partnerships, and, in some cases, new businesses altogether. It’s also a great way to provide the new member with familiar faces at Grind instantaneously.
How do you build relationships and nurture collaboration between coworkers?
Collaboration is naturally engrained within the overall Grind experience due to our focus on open, communal space. We also host several social events, including something called Grindist Show & Tell, that help members build relationships with each other. Our team is often connecting members directly as part of our hands on approach as well.
Grind doesn’t use online instant messaging services — what was the rationale behind this approach?
We don’t want members hiding behind avatars or screen names. To us, it’s all about the in-person meetings and conversations. That’s one of the main reasons people join the space. They want to get off their living room couches and out of the coffee shops. They want to be around like-minded people, who they can talk to directly about their business or even about their weekend plans. Face-to-face interactions are simply irreplaceable.
What are your tips for building an offline community?
My number one tip for building an ‘offline’ community is to be yourself and encourage others to do the same. I know that sounds silly or in some cases obvious, but it’s true.
For so long work has been the place where people transform into someone or something else that is a misrepresentation of who they really are.
I’ve always found this to be unhealthy and ineffective. How are you supposed to make a genuine connection with another person if you’re not being yourself? It’s impossible.
How do you measure the health and happiness of the community?
Our number one priority is the health and happiness of our members. We have a constant feedback loop with the community thanks in large part to our proactive staff, and this helps us ensure that we’re delivering on our promise. Receiving personal thank you notes from members or hearing them speak fondly about their experience are nice reminders that we must be doing something right.