TL, DR (aka Executive Summary)
Graham Wong, LAUFT founder and Visionary, always wanted his Toronto-based flexible workspace company to provide more than just a shared space. He obsessed over how to maximize a customer’s experience at LAUFT locations. By Running on EOS, LAUFT not only survived multiple pandemic lockdowns but came out prepared to change its industry completely.
As a service industry consultant, Graham often struggled to find a consistent, convenient, and professional place to work and meet with clients. In January 2017, he launched a flexible workspace solution for people like him. Activated through a mobile app, LAUFT offers spaces designed for workers who can work from anywhere.
“Shared spaces allow people to interact with others from all over the world in many different industries,” Graham said. “This naturally leads to inspiration and more creativity.”
Users can book a space for as little as one hour via an on-demand reservation platform. But Graham didn’t stop at desks and conference rooms. He wondered: How could he customize an experience for a remote worker with other needs and responsibilities? He wanted LAUFT to level up the optimization of a work environment that maximizes work-life freedom. Shared spaces only serve as one part of that equation.
Rather, Graham sees LAUFT as a technology company first.
“I just thought there had to be a better way,” Graham said, citing the technology available for ride-sharing and video streaming. “We thought about how to marry technology with this opportunity.”
Yes, LAUFT’s software allows customers to reserve spaces and equipment. But more than that, its roadmap is to serve as a micro-engine for economies around their locations by offering wraparound services as add-ons. LAUFT is beginning to connect customers to a menu of local services whenever they enter a LAUFT workspace. For example, LAUFT is working on helping clients schedule things like childcare, dog walkers, car detailing, lunch delivered from a local restaurant, or having their coffee waiting at their desk when they arrive. This on-demand work ecosystem is optimized by plugging local businesses into the LAUFT workspace platform.
“The flexibility of work-life freedom is everything,” Graham said. “Yes, we start with a space, but our real business is the experience of work. What does that look like? How do we facilitate a more meaningful experience using technology?”
“My Business Hurts Right Here”
Achieving this vision has taken a lot of work. And LAUFT had a long road to reach its current level of success.
Vision Without Traction = Hallucination
During its early years, things had grown quickly at LAUFT, but soon Graham and his now Integrator™, Jesse Sharratt, felt stuck. Graham said he’d find himself going through the day-to-day motions, grinding it out, but never feeling like he could get ahead.
Graham and Jesse had (excuse the pun) LAUFTy visions for the company. They struggled to find ways to accelerate the business. Despite their shared passion to keep expanding, they felt they lacked the clarity to reach the next level. As creatives, Jesse admitted they often got lost in their love of creativity instead of focusing on the day-to-day logistics.
Doing All the Things Alone
Before Running on EOS, Graham and Jesse did nearly everything. Their entire staff had come from part-time retail services without any corporate responsibility experience to even the load. So, as leaders, Graham and Jesse shouldered the responsibilities for everything, including product development, sales, marketing, project management, legal, insurance, finance, and human resources.
“These weren’t our areas of expertise,” Jesse said. “We were just totally spinning our wheels without a lot of extra support.”
How Does a Shared-Space Company Survive COVID?
And then the pandemic hit. With their eight locations closed by COVID lockdowns, they had a new problem: how to survive. After all, how can you keep a business alive that depends on strangers coming to a shared space during a pandemic? They suffered painful staff layoffs and got by as best they could. But by the summer of 2020, they knew they needed help.
“Obviously, COVID has posed huge hardships for lots of companies in our industry,’’ Jesse said. “A lot of the largest coworking companies in the world went bankrupt because they were no longer able to service their leases.”
Because of Graham’s vision, LAUFT’s model was designed to be resilient during shutdowns. So they had a reasonable business rainy-day fund from venture capital that helped stave off immediate disaster. However, watching their valuation shrink, they had real concerns they could’ve been next on the bankruptcy docket.
Since Andrew is the brother of one of Graham’s friends, Graham already casually knew him. Over the years, they’d talked about entrepreneurship and business. The fact that Andrew was a fellow entrepreneur made Graham feel comfortable talking with him.
When first introduced to EOS® in September 2020, Graham and Jess found that the simplicity, clarity, and transparency of EOS resonated with them. Coming out of their first meeting, Graham immediately felt a shift. He said many things just seemed like common sense.
“Even the idea of establishing a leadership team was a step in the right direction,” Graham said. “EOS defines the need for a leadership team, having people you can trust, and building The Accountability Chart™. That formalization really helps to bring a level of clarity.”
For Jesse, the timing couldn’t have been better. To minimize taking funds from LAUFT that could support their staff, he’d taken on multiple jobs and freelance gigs to get by. But he started to burn out from all the extra work and hours. The duo realized Jesse needed to focus solely on LAUFT.
Graham gathered financial investments to make that fiscally possible. He was partly able to secure additional support because of the intentional pivots the team made during lockdowns. With dedicated discipline, LAUFT made itself more valuable by devoting time to developing and perfecting its industry-shifting software technology. That was also one of the big selling points for its win of a government flexible workspace solutions contract.
In addition, using EOS Tools, Graham and Jesse found avenues to discuss the company’s challenges openly and honestly with their team. That level of integrity and transparency increased trust, a rare commodity in startups.
Too often in the startup game, leaders strive to project a certain level of confidence and success. Rather than putting up false fronts, they discarded their fear-based mindset.
With Andrew’s help, Graham and Jesse adopted a new abundance-minded approach and started by becoming more internally focused. They learned to shut out the outside noise of conflicting information in the news and focus on the company and its staff.
“Maybe you can’t change the world, but you can change the world for the people on your team,” Jesse said. “And you can set an example. EOS gave us an avenue to look at what we were doing, how we could adapt it, and where we needed to pivot. And it gave us ways to communicate that effectively with our staff.”
By the Numbers
Once Jesse fully took on the Integrator role, they really got moving. Soon, Graham and Jesse felt things quickly clicking into place. They began seeing real results even as the pandemic kept their industry off kilter. All those creative brainstorming sessions now had action plans behind them.
By making decisions with open and honest information, Graham saw better outcomes and realized the system was working for LAUFT.
The increased level of trust led to their ability to Delegate and Elevate™ many of their former tasks. They now have a full corporate staff and teams to manage their locations. This has helped Graham and Jesse focus on growing the business instead of getting stuck in the daily details. And they’ve experienced 100% retention.
Even though ongoing lockdowns strained their resources, aligning their team on a clear vision made an enormous difference. Instead of employees choosing to find other jobs, they doubled down on their commitment to LAUFT, even with delayed paychecks or part-time hours.
“They trusted us; they felt passionate about their jobs,” Jesse said. “EOS gave us the ability to share our vision in such an honest and transparent way that people bought into it. And they stayed, even when things were really, really hard.”
The continual push for being open and honest brought an even greater level of transparency between Graham and Jesse. They now easily discuss things that Graham might not have previously shared with Jesse, like financials or whether they had the right people in the right seats. And they run the business much more efficiently.
As the Integrator, Jesse now thinks about how to take Graham’s vision and make it a reality that actually performs. They systematically tackle one thing at a time to make it stronger and then move on to the next thing.
“We always joke now that Running on EOS has made it difficult to have meetings with other companies,” Graham said. “Because if they call the meeting and it’s not structured, it’s painful!”
Why We Run on EOS
“One of my favorite things to see during this journey is how people step into roles when you give them the space to do it,” Jesse said. “Using EOS Tools taught us to trust people and expect them to show up for us. And they have.”
“Our motto is locally grown, globally known,” Graham said. “We strive to be the ‘Starbucks of space with an Uber-like sensibility.’ Our 10-year goal is to host 100 million sessions. EOS has given us the clarity and motivation to achieve it.”