iQ’s very own Co-Founder and CEO Kane Willmott was recently featured as a special guest on the Global Workspace Association ongoing Ask the Experts webinar series.
From the story of how he broke into the coworking sector to his business tips, leadership approaches, and industry expertise, here are the 4 big takeaways from Willmott’s talk with GWA.
Breaking into the Coworking Business
With a degree in Economics & Finance, a diploma in Property Management and a Post Grad Diploma in Accounting, Wilmott started his career at PriceWaterhouseCoopers before entering the field of commercial real estate in 1998.
He eventually became involved in the start-up of a real estate brokerage before starting a brokerage in 2009. Finally, in 2012, he co-founded iQ Office Suites with Alex Sharpe, his business partner in the real estate brokerage.
Shortly after founding iQ Office Suites, the partners moved into an 11,000 square foot historical building in downtown Toronto.
The business has since grown to include five locations, each of which Willmott proudly proclaims is the result of a conscious effort to choose buildings with some unique features within which iQ infuses its own character.
Staffing and Business Development
Expansion and growth. That was always the plan for Willmott when he co-founded iQ Office Suites, and he created the business’ staffing model accordingly.
As the business continued to evolve, Willmott built an executive team to handle certain facets of the business but allowed his location-level staff to operate similarly to franchise owners.
While many operations are handled at the location level, several positions at iQ Office Suites – such as VP of Sales, VP Operations, Accounting Controller and a marketing consultant – are shared at a more corporate level.
“In looking at that, we had to really dig into who could do what and who was capable of what, and where is everyone’s time best spent,” said Willmott. “A lot of it was driven by capacity as far as what I can do and what my business partner can do. We broke the business into three segments: sales, operations, and accounting.”
This unique final location-level staffing model he created has been replicated in other locations and includes a Director of First Impressions, an Operations Manager, and a General Manager.
Lessons in Leadership and Communication
As the business continues to scale, Willmott stressed the importance of internal communication in driving business success. At iQ Office Suites, this has grown to include setting up platforms CRMs, documentation, and platforms for communication between staff in different locations and different cities – a lesson learned from the competition that arose from having two locations within walking distance of one another.
As Willmott learned early on the importance of communication in his business model, he adapted a communication and leadership approach centred around ensuring everyone stays on the same page.
In addition to platforms like Slack, Willmott began implementing daily in-person or virtual meetings as he understood consistent communication was key in keeping his team aligned, regardless of their location.
“It offers everybody on the line the opportunity to see how we think through issues, where our values lie and we enforce our values with our actions,” said Willmott. “But it’s also sometimes talking about fun stuff you did on the weekend which creates a set sense of community within your staff.
And when you have geography and you’re a long way apart, it helps to do that,” continued Willmott.
Continued Learning and Growth
On Willmott’s journey through the coworking industry, he learned many valuable lessons about business, leadership and building a brand. But among the greatest lessons he learned was that of the importance of continued learning and growth.
To those who might be making their entrance into the industry, Willmott stressed the importance of developing a formula or process that works for them. From establishing a sustainable staffing model which they can replicate in other spaces, to finding procedures to keep teams connected and give members an exceptional experience, scaling a business is different for everybody.
But the consistent key factors are growth and learning: the art of constantly evaluating, tweaking and revising practices to find the best possible method. Most importantly, Willmott also stressed the value in leveraging relationships and expertise from colleagues in the industry to continue learning and growing.
“I find in this industry, everybody is just so willing to share information,” said Willmott. “It really is amazing.”