Coworking Influencer

Tap into 200+ years of coworking experience with Cat Johnson and The Lab

For nearly a decade, Cat Johnson has cultivated relationships with coworking space operators. And in the last three years, the CJ Co ecosystem has evolved in exciting ways.

The Lab is the platform where operators can connect, communicate, kvetch, and continue their business growth. Coworking Convos™ is a virtual event series for workspace operators with free, informal and community-focused discussions on topics in coworking every month.  Johnson is also a coach, offering custom 1:1 sessions for “clarity” in branding, customer service, and community building.

Coworks partners with Cat Johnson because we want the spaces that use our platform to be successful — and that means making more than great software choices. That’s why we offer a month of access to The Lab for our customers.


In light of that, we have a unique opportunity to capture time with Cat and pick her brain, getting a read on what she sees in her network, hears in her conversations, and looks forward to as the coworking industry continues to evolve.


What are some challenges for indie operators in this "post" pandemic, remote-work world?

Educating people about coworking continues to be a big challenge and opportunity for indie operators. I’ve been talking about coworking with anyone who will listen for many years now, and I still meet people every week who aren’t clear on what coworking actually is. In fact, a young guy I met in a coworking space, when I mentioned coworking, said, “What the F is that?” I burst out laughing and said, it’s what we’re doing right now!

Differentiating is increasingly important for all operators, but especially the indies. Coworking is growing far too fast to just be a desk rental and meeting room facility. Operators have to understand who they serve, why they serve them and how they serve them in order to stand out in what is an increasingly busy and noisy industry and to attract their great-fit members.

Understanding the value and potential of coworking, and sharing that through storytelling, community building and education across all of your channels, is now a must-do for indie operators. The flexibility, human touch and nimbleness of being an indie operator is a huge advantage. Operators need to lean all the way in to this advantage.

Why should operators learn from each other? Isn't it competitive?

The Lab is the best example I know of how leading with a collaborative and generous approach, which is part of coworking’s DNA, makes everyone better. We have 200-plus years of combined coworking experience in our community and everyone’s perspective, experience and insights are essential to the community as a whole. Operators with 10 or more years of coworking experience have so much wisdom to share, and operators who just launched this year also bring a whole different dimension of insights and expertise to the conversations. 


Coworking is a growth industry with plenty of opportunity and room for everyone. And we’re still very much still building this movement. No one has it all figured out and the more we share, the more we have.

What does 1:1 coaching offer and what would an operator get out of it? Do you have a favorite aha moment from a coaching client?

The benefit of 1:1 conversations about your brand community and content strategy is to get out of your own thinking in order to clarify who you are, who you serve, where you’re going, and how to get there. I always appreciate and gain new insights through conversations with trusted colleagues and coaches, and I try to provide the same for coworking space operators.

In terms of a favorite a-ha, I was working with an operator who is helping to revitalize their depressed, post-industrial town. We kept digging in, further and further, to the potential of coworking to contribute to their vision, and the conversation was so full of purpose and service and vision it choked me up. Coworking is about so much more than selling desks and wifi. It truly has the potential to transform lives and communities. Helping operators do this, across all my channels, is a profound honor and joy. 

Any new trends you're watching for coworking in general?

Always! I love the emerging trend of coworking spaces that are also social clubs. The Candy Factory in Lancaster, PA is a good example of this. They have all kinds of clubs, a music venue, and lots of programming, including a fashion show earlier this year. 

I love seeing indie operators lead the way around creating brand communities, and it’s thrilling that some of the biggest brands are now leading with humanness, mutual support and wellness—the pillars of a great community. We’re deep in a loneliness epidemic and there’s a huge opportunity for coworking to step up and help address the problem. Coworking isn’t the whole solution, but it can be a big part of it as remote work becomes the norm and isolation reaches new heights.

Who coaches the coach? Who do you look to for your own guidance and level-setting?

Within coworking, I look to the operators in the Lab and Coworking Convos for daily insights into their opportunities and challenges we may be able to help with. I’m also very active on LinkedIn. It’s a great tool to keep up with quickly changing perspectives in the larger workspace world. Outside of coworking, I read a ton, about everything from brand strategy, content best practices and productivity, to neuroscience, human behavior, marketing, belonging, entrepreneurship, community building etc.

Specific people I follow closely include brand expert Marty Neumeier; Chris Do and Brene Brown for inspiration and examples of brand ecosystems I admire; Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron for helpful and practical perspectives; recovery literature to keep me sane and balanced; Seth Godin for evergreen marketing wisdom; Ann Handley for writing inspiration; and so many more. One of my daily todos is to learn something new that furthers my work and CJ Co. I can’t go to bed until I’ve checked that off the list.

What's your favorite part about what you do?

Seeing coworking space operators grow into their potential—as humans, business owners, community builders and entrepreneurs. Supporting people as they level-up, in community, is just the best. Coworking helped me go from a side-gigging freelance writer, to a full time freelance writer, to business owner, to wrangler of the CJ Co ecosystem and brand community fueled by purpose, connection, service and year-over-year growth. I love being able to support space operators as they do that and as they help their members do that. 


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