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The Role of Technology & Digital Innovation in Community & Property Management with Ben Howe

A creative at heart, Principal of CoSpaces, Ben Howe, oversees the management and operations of commercial property venues in South East Queensland.

Ben goes above and beyond to manage CoSpaces facilities to provide tailored innovation and commercial spaces with educational and networking solutions to early-stage start-ups and entrepreneurs.

Along with traditional commercial property management roles, CoSpaces’ dedicated concierge team operates front desk facilities and organises networking events, entrepreneurial programs and mentor sessions.

Ben discusses the importance of tech innovation for modern businesses and why technology is essential for business scalability and growth. Read now to find out more!

What is your education and professional background?

I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication and Media Studies from the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver, where I majored in 3D animation.

Once I finished my degree, I entered the film industry as a 3D Modeler. As a creative person, I found having one particular speciality restrictive. I was interested in all aspects of the film industry and wanted to do a bit of everything; photography, advertising, property- pretty much anything creative.

I started working as a creative in advertising agencies, eventually working in digital advertising.

Towards the end of my career in advertising, the internet was changing a lot. It was a really exciting space. I began my venture into the entrepreneurial space and started my own company; CoSpaces- which is where my career really changed!

What is Cospaces?

At CoSpaces, we are a community management company. We manage the community on behalf of the landlord and the organisations. We combine our community management skills with traditional commercial real estate services to create innovative and flexible workplace environments. But we don’t stop there.

We account for the problems entrepreneurs encounter. We assist founders and entrepreneurs by providing support and connections with like-minded industry professionals.

We organise, design and deliver educational and networking events, programs and physical spaces that are functionally well designed and visually appealing. We take guiding themes throughout the areas, centring the communities around a topic genuine to the space.

What type of work do you specialise in at CoSpaces?

We differentiate ourselves as a commercial real estate agency by not selling property or acting as general facility managers. We are involved in every stage of the end-to-end process. We work for landlords and clients who want to create an educational and inviting place rather than a standard building.

I’ve always been a designer and incorporate my skills when creating and designing spaces, creating spaces where people want to be. Our properties are inviting, engaging and educational for working professionals, entrepreneurs, start-ups, and more.

Why are you passionate about your work at CoSpaces and community management?

I am passionate about creating good work and bringing designs and ideas to life. I find it exciting when we can take a boring office and improve the area, to make it educational and innovative.

Working with entrepreneurs is always inspiring. Bringing creative people together and connecting them with like-minded professionals always encourages creativity for new ideas and companies.

What does your day-to-day look like?

Sporadic! I work with a fantastic team that each has their own unique skillset, bringing structure and inspiration to my chaos.

Day-to-day, I could be doing any number of things; designing and consulting on new spaces, creating and improving new or existing programs, marketing, design, sales, accounting – crossing t’s and dotting i’s.

When focusing on new jobs and raising revenues, we look at expanding upon our technology suite to increase efficiencies and work toward our moonshot ideas. We need to be constantly innovative in our approaches, so we don’t get left behind. We must position ourselves in the right tech areas to drive efficiency and productivity.

How do you use technology in your role?

Technology is a huge aspect of our business model. We always consider;

  • How do we sell our product?
  • What is our competitive advantage?, and
  • How do we make a more compelling product, with less overhead to drive more profit?

The answer: technology.

We use our CRM to manage spaces and book rooms, ensuring our pipeline processes are seamless, from enquiries about properties, virtual tours, application forms, membership agreements and general information about spaces available for use. It also connects new members with events and programs easily and efficiently.

We are heavily moving towards automation; the only way for our business to scale is through improvements in automation. The more autonomous the pipeline is, the better our service is.

How would you define digital and technology leadership?

People who are inexplicably working towards the next iteration of technology are digital leaders. Nowadays, innovation is everywhere and it is everything. It’s constantly evolving and making things better which, to a leader, is everything.

Leadership involves taking risks and doing new and creative things. It’s not always easy, but risk takers are always working or experimenting with new technologies. This field is cool, exciting and it’s accelerating faster and faster.

With consumer behaviour constantly changing, being able to find a way to implement the right technologies at the right time, is digital leadership. If you aren’t creating new opportunities through tech advancements, you’re moving backwards.

What do you believe are best practices for technologies from a business leader’s perspective?

As a business leader, it’s your responsibility to stay up-to-date with the latest technologies and systems. Everything in the tech sphere changes so rapidly, so business leaders need to stay constantly educated and understand social and tech trends.

Whilst I don’t think you need to be a ‘tech expert’ to be a business leader, I think it’s important to stay up-to-date and current. Attend events, do your research- whatever you can to grow your knowledge.

Tech is leading the world, and if you don’t understand IT, you aren’t leading.

What is your experience with technology in terms of digital transformation, and what does this mean for you and CoSpaces?

For us, digital transformation is 100% essential. We started CoSpaces in an analogue manner: pen and paper with filing cabinets for managing our spaces. As we expanded from one space, we outgrew this process.

Digital transformation improved CoSpaces automation and streamlined our processes by integrating many IT systems, removing double-ups and other manual and time-consuming practices. This allows us to unlock new revenue opportunities.

We have a long way to go before we have the perfect digital solution, but we are constantly striving toward it.

How did you move technology from the back office to the front office function?

As part of our digital transformation, we moved our management and booking systems from back-end functions to front-end. This means our tenants can now book their rooms, view and download agreements and invoices, and register and see events online.

Taking this from a ‘behind service’ and putting it on online portals has made it more efficient for not only users but for our team as well. There’s a lot less admin for our team in maintaining these tasks, giving us more time to do other jobs.

How is this beneficial to CoSpaces?

We now have more opportunities to scale our business. We get to focus our time on improving other areas that make the customer experience even better! Without having to look after time-consuming and manual tasks – we can spend more time on services that can’t be automated.

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