For many entrepreneurs that are tired of working from home, the corner coffee shop has become a haven for getting plugged-in to get productive with laptops out and headphones on. I can see why many entrepreneurs make coffee joints their place of biz; they’re from open morning til night, offer a warm atmosphere and have plenty of startup fuel flowing. However, I personally have never been a fan of this work environment and have not fallen under the spell of the cafe mystique. Leaving reeking of the smell of coffee grounds is not all it is cracked up to be. I say its time to realize what the coffee shop is good for: grabbing a cup of coffee, and conversing with friends, or reading a book in leisure. Its not the place to get your startup started and I have five reasons why.
1. It’s Distracting - All entrepreneurs can agree that focus is key to success. How can anyone concentrate for a full work day in an environment of chatting, bean grinding, and brew wooshing? Not to mention the overly-loud music filling the room; most prominent at Starbucks where music labels are forcing music down your ear canals in hopes of a purchase with your latte. If you do plan to work in these distractions, invest in some noise-cancelling headphones and blinders to keep your eyes on your laptop. Just pray no one bumps the back of your chair, asks to sit at your table or spills something on you.
2. It’s Unprofessional - I have never been a fan of taking meetings at coffee shops, mostly because of reason #1 above, but in all seriousness, its just unprofessional. Sure, it depends on whom you’re meeting with and your relationship with them. I would hope entrepreneurs would never schedule an investor pitch meeting at a Caribou. Coffee shops can be a logistical nightmare for meetings, even if they’re quick. There’s nothing worse than scheduling a meeting, showing up and not having a place to sit to conduct your meeting. Fail.
3. It’s Un-Collaborative - There may be other startup junkies in your vicinity at Intelligentsia, but since they are also desperately trying to stay focused they’re not exactly open to having collaborative discussions. Contrast to the environment at a real co-working space that promotes and breeds collaborative behavior like 1871 or the Inspire Business Club. There, it’s acceptable to join forces with other startup geeks and not have to worry about someone stealing your seat if you need to use the rest room.
4. It’s Expensive - The average latte in Chicago costs $4 and if you buy one a day that adds up to be $120/moth and $1460/year. That’s an expensive habit for bootstrapping entrepreneurs. With that money you’re spending on coffee you could afford most open-seating co-working spaces and those typically include a warm caffeinated beverage. Good luck trying to get away without making a purchase, they’ll toss you out for loitering.
5. It’s Lacking Resources - I have yet to see a barista hand over an entrepreneur mail deliveries with his caramel mocchiato. Not gonna happen. You can’t have mail sent to Starbucks; you wouldn’t use their address for your business; and they probably don’t have a fax machine you could borrow. Sure they have free Wi-Fi, but its not and will never be an office. Try reserving group of tables ahead of time to have a group brainstorming session. Nope!
These reasons may be my opinions, but you gotta admit, they have some merit. I’m not saying to not frequent coffee shops, they are local businesses that need our support. I’m just saying to think twice before working there. A coffee shop may be a fine escape every once in a while, but I recommend to find a place that you can be most productive with your startup. Kudos to you for at least getting out of the house.
Tim Hines is a serial entrepreneur, consultant and keynote speaker specializing in social media, mobile technology and entrepreneurship. Based in Chicago, Tim has been working in marketing, social media and the corporate travel industries for over ten years with companies such as the Tribune Company, TicketMaster and the CIA.