Don Ball is an incredibly passionate individual, and one of his greatest fascinations is connecting people who have common interests. An early advocate of the social media boom, Don brings a strong social element to everything he does—something that’s reflected in the dynamic culture of Fueled Collective, a new coworking franchiser born out of the collaborative efforts of a handful of experienced coworking leaders.
It’s this unwavering belief in the power of bringing like-minded people together that drives him to harness the social elements of the shared workspace to reimagine the workplace experience. It’s a bold concept, but one that resonates with today’s urbanites. So, without further ado, here’s Don’s vision for the future of work (and play!) in his own words.
All of the informal social methods of people meeting and sharing information blew my mind—I was totally hyped-up on that stuff back in 2009! Around that time, I stumbled onto something about coworking. I told a friend of mine about it, and he ended up becoming my business partner. We went to the only friend we knew who was sitting with an empty building and said: “Hey, would you let us try this out in your space?” He didn’t fully get it, but he loved the idea, so he said yes.
Early on you had to explain to your would-be landlord what your business was about and they scratched their heads as they listened. To them it didn’t seem “professional”, like a business center would be. It just seemed like a bunch of hippies hanging out on bean bags. But now they’re asking for it. They want it and they see it as a vital amenity. If it’s not coworking itself, they’re asking for some derivative of it, because big business now sees it as a way to attract and retain employees.
The human touch
This business is very human and it addresses some important human needs. That’s what excited us from the beginning. If we weren’t careful, we would just see our members as individual coworkers, but we coined a phrase we use internally ‘Groups without borders’. They might just be three people who sit at the same table every time they show up, but we’re treating them as special customers and talking to them about their expansion needs. We’re making a point of identifying them and treating them as a group.
Just earlier this afternoon, I glanced at the click metrics for our newsletter. It goes to members and friends of our community. It featured the cool things that our members are doing; their accomplishments. I thought: “Wow. We need to use our platform as a megaphone to amplify our members, so they feel like we’re giving them an extra boost.” I was pleased to see that the outside world is interested in what our members are doing and I see us doing a lot more of that going forward.
Join the club
One of the reasons we’ve latched onto the social club idea at Fueled Collective is because we’ve always had people who’ve approached us and said: “I really like this community, but I work in an office. What else have you got?”
One way of saying yes to them was to create a program where they can be involved, even though from 8am to 5pm they’re somewhere else. I think that’s really exciting and it has a lot of the same characteristics of the early days of coworking, when you just wanted to be around people who were like-minded. That’s how it was in the early social media days as well.
A recreational rebirth
I’m looking at an idea for a campground for urbanites that would be within an hour and a half of the Twin Cities, where we live. It’ll be on the lake and there’ll be happy hour on the pontoon every day at four o’clock. There’ll be a bonfire every night and we’ll bring in musicians.
The reason people will go there is because they’re not big into hunting or fishing because they’re city-dwellers, but they want to go out and enjoy the country, meet other cool people, and drink good beers while they do it!
After all, why can’t the same organization you belong to give you the coworking experience, the social club experience, and the retreat center experience? It would help people with deeper values to really connect. When I associate with people with deeper values, it makes me a better human. It makes me feel I have more opportunity in my life – and my life is richer as a result.
Don Ball, Co-Founder & Chief Social Officer at Fueled Collective, as told to the Optix Team exclusively for the Optix blog.
The ‘Future of Work’ series shares insights from thought leaders who are on a mission to drive the future of work forward. We speak with members of our diverse network of entrepreneurs, journalists, flexible workplace operators and others, then distill their insights into a 5-15 minute read you can enjoy while sipping your cup of coffee and preparing to start your day.