To get a new space open, you need to do probably at least several thousand different things.
No matter what you do, you’re not going to get to all of them, and you’re not going to get them all right.
It’s amazing how much leeway you get, actually. I realized, having built a business from scratch, just how many things I could get wrong and still succeed.
If you’re stepping up to lead where no one else is doing so, people give you the benefit of the doubt. They will, to some degree, be patient with you. They’ll even help pick up the slack, so long as you show that you’re pulling far more than your weight.
But I still want to be sure that, when you approach opening day for your new space, you’re as ready as you can be.
Which is why we need to talk about the Red Zone.
This came up in a recent Mastermind call as part of our Organizers Club, where several people are working together to help each other start their spaces all over the world.
In the course of one of those conversations, I noticed a recurring temptation to wait until later to address things that one might naturally expect won’t be necessary until the doors are open.
The trouble, however, is that there are a whole lot of things you don’t need until you do—and then you need them all, right away.
The Red Zone is the crazy crunch time just before and after you open your space.
From my own experience, I’d estimate this time period to extend six weeks in either direction from the date of opening.
In the six weeks or so leading up to the opening, many things start to come together at once. Final preparations. Activating accounts. Planning the launch party. Finalizing buildout. Dealing with arriving furniture. Testing the wifi infrastructure. Marketing plans implemented. More than I could reasonably list here!
In the six weeks after, the doors are open and people are (hopefully!) flooding in. You’re getting calls, emails, walk-ins.
You’re getting tested in ways you never anticipated. Can you rent out the conference room for a half-day? How much? Is there a member rate? You haven’t thought of that, have you? Can a part-time member bring in a monitor and leave it on a desk? The list goes on.
Then there are the operational challenges. Figuring out just how often you have to get toilet paper, and from where. Do you order online, or run out to Costco to pick it up yourself?
You get the idea.
The Red Zone is intense. To get you ready for it, I’ve got my top list of things I would have told myself if I could go back:
1. Do whatever can be done before you enter the Red Zone.
If there’s something that needs doing that can be done before the final six weeks before launch, do it! Leaving anything unnecessary to the last minute is asking for trouble.
Schedule posts. Develop your onboarding process and start using it with your pre-launch members.
2. Put the non-essential things on the back burner.
On the other side, look out for fun ideas that conspire to distract you. If there’s something you want to do, but it doesn’t have to get done until after you’re through your first six weeks open, move it to your back-burner list.
You don’t want to be midway through working on something that’s ultimately not-so-urgent when you realize that 50 people on your wireless network is suddenly causing major issues. You want to be as available as possible.
3. Create a catch-all for speculative appointments.
As you approach the big day, decide on a cut-off past which anything significantly outside the current plan will have to wait.
A last-minute new potential partner who wants to turn your conference room into a device testing lab might be the perfect collaborator you need to boost membership and culture, but they don’t need to soak up a lot of your time and attention in the days before you launch.
Book them for a more substantial meeting at least a few weeks after you launch, invite them to join you for your opening party, and ask if they’d like to hang out and help make the opening few weeks run smoother.
Direct that excitement energy into making your life easier, not more complicated, at least for this stretch of time. The good collaborators will be on board.
4. Practice self care.
This is a mantra that belongs on any list, but especially during this period. Once you’re getting into the final stretch, make a concerted commitment to caring for your body and soul.
If you have a day that requires you to be working from 7:00 am to midnight, so be it—it’s probably going to happen more than once. So notice when that’s happening, and ask yourself what you need to do to ensure you’re able to recharge and bring your best self back to the project as efficiently as possible.
You don’t want to be harried and burned out while you’re making major decisions. Eat well, drink water, sleep, take some breaths… keep coming back to these things, over and over, as much as you need to.
5. Celebrate the moments.
It’s tragically far too easy to let yourself get caught up in the minutiae as pivotal, memorable moments pass you by.
Plan to take the time to really acknowledge, document, celebrate, and commemorate meaningful milestones.
Every one of these moments is an opportunity to infuse your space’s story with meaning, lore, legend.
Don’t count these things as unnecessary. You might be able to get by without them, but then what’s the point?
Prepare yourself, never lose sight of why you’re doing what you’re doing, and before you know it you’ll be well on your way.