Founded in 2010, WeWork exploded on the real estate scene over the next decade as THE co-working space. At one point, the company was estimated to be worth $47 billion and was the largest commercial real estate operator in Manhattan.
This week, WeWork filed for bankruptcy—its value estimated to be less than 1% of what it was worth at its peak.
What caused this precipitous fall? WeWorks invented the co-work space category and brought an innovative option to gig workers and others who wanted the companionship of an office environment, but on a part-time basis. Certainly the pandemic and the change from in-person working environments to remote and hybrid had a huge impact. But the company was showing big cracks as early as 2019—before any of us could spell COVID.
The arrogance, excessive spending, and poor decision making of its founder, Adam Neumann, derailed the company’s planned IPO and resulted in Neumann’s departure. The shift in workspace needs just added fuel to the fire.
But beyond all that, there was something else off about WeWork. They acted as if there was no limit to the people and organizations who would buy into their concept. They ignored the fact that business models tend to have a lifecycle and that no brilliant idea lasts unchallenged forever. They expected the robust economic environment would go on forever, and acted as if there was no downside and they would always be the best game in town.
It’s easy to get arrogant when you’re on top, and to breathe too much of your own exhaust. The lesson for all of us is to not get too caught up in the hoopla of the moment and lose our perspective of the bigger picture around us.
What works when things are great may not keep us going when things change. Ask WeWorks what works. . . and what doesn’t.
Let us help your business rise to the top.