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IAM1730 – Social Entrepreneur Helps Bring Change to Workspace Members & the Less Fortunate

Podcast Interview with Mike Thakur

Why it was selected for “CBNation Architects”: In episode IAM067 of the I AM CEO podcast, host Gresham Harkless interviews Mike Thakur, a social entrepreneur and CEO of The Work Lodge, a co-working space that aims to bring positive change to its members and the less fortunate in society.

Originally from the UK, Mike's background includes retail, B2B, non-profits, and even hostage negotiation. In the interview, Mike discusses his journey to becoming a social entrepreneur, the challenges he faced in starting The Work Lodge, and the importance of creating a positive and supportive community for entrepreneurs and small business owners. He also shares insights into effective leadership and offers advice for aspiring social entrepreneurs looking to make a difference in their communities.

Overall, the episode provides valuable insights into the world of social entrepreneurship and the mindset and strategies needed to succeed in this field.

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Mike Thakur Teaser 00:00

At the end of the day, we're not really a for-profit business. We created the business and the nonprofit at the same time, and so the work large for-profit funds the Gabriel Foundation nonprofit.

Intro 00:13

Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview? If so, you've come to the right place. Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you are in search of.

This is the I AM CEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:38

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast and I appreciate you listening to this episode. If you've been listening this year, you know that we hit 1600 episodes at the beginning of this year. We're doing something a little bit different where we're repurposing our favorite episodes around certain categories or topics or as I like to call them, the business pillars that we think are going to be extremely impactful for CEOs, entrepreneurs, and business owners, and what I like to call the CB nation architects who are looking to level up their organizations.

This month we are focused on our greatest asset, talent management and hiring. Think from great resignation to the great renovation. And if you disagree with me, maybe these episodes might be especially for you. Life and especially business has changed. It has forced those that are within organizations to look differently at talent, and how it's being managed. When we talk about change, think about it, we have to realize that business as usual is no longer here. And that's evident in attracting and retaining clients, but also in setting up people within organizations to succeed. Think onboarding, think DEI- diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. How it is working from home and even going back into the office.

Things are different in this month. We are going to explore these topics by featuring CEO hacks and CEO nuggets, but also interviews that focuses on these changes and how organizations can make sure they care for and attract the most valuable asset, their people. Sit back and enjoy this special episode of the I AM CEO podcast.

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast, and I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Mike Thakur of The Work Lodge. Mike, it's awesome to have you on the show.

Mike Thakur 02:09

Hey, I appreciate the opportunity and I'm looking forward to it.

Gresham Harkless 02:12

Me too. I'm looking forward to hearing more about you. So first I wanted to introduce Mike so you can learn a little bit more about him and all the awesome things that he's doing.

Mike is originally from the UK. We're not sure if it was Brisket or JR Ewing that brought him here, but he got to Texas just as fast as he could. Retail, B2B, Non-profits, and Hostage Negotiation that's Mike's background. It isn't quite varied as the hairstyles he wears. He's bald. And sure he's a little workaholic, probably eats a little too much curry and mixes beer with Sprite. It's called a Shandy, but he eats sleeps and dreams about how he can change lives for the members of the Work Lodge and their businesses as well as less fortunate in society.

Mike, are you ready to speak to the I AM CEO community?

Mike Thakur 02:56

I'm ready.

[restrict paid=”true”]

Gresham Harkless 02:57

Awesome. I wanted to expound a little bit more on upon your CEO story and hear what led you to start your business.

Mike Thakur 03:03

So, as you can tell from my background, I've done a few different things in life and most recently before this, I was the chief operating Officer for a security company. We were based here in Houston. Most of our clients were not in Houston. So I used to travel quite a lot. When I was home and we didn't have a centralized office, we were famous for kidnap, for ransom, and extortion. So a lot of what we did was pretty sensitive. So I worked from home for about four or five years and it slowly just got worse and worse.

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So one day I thought, I'm gonna go get somewhere to work from, and I can't go sit in Starbucks or do something like that because of the kind of conversations we have. So I wound up in a what I would call a traditional executive suite-type space. I didn't know executive suites existed. I didn't know anything about commercial real estate. I'm standing in this office and the lady looking at me telling me it's 800 bucks a month. All the walls are drywall, the door solid wood, and I'm standing there thinking this is what solitary confinement must feel like.

Gresham Harkless 03:57

All right.

Mike Thakur 03:58

Why would I pay 800 bucks a month to do this? I went home and I said, honey, I don't know a whole lot about real estate, but I got to believe I couldn't do a worse job than that so I'm thinking I should go build something. So we started to think about it, and it was about six months or so before one day I stumbled across a co-working space. I was at Seattle doing a case out there. And I see this co-working space, I walk in, I'm standing there thinking, oh my word. These guys have built exactly what I was talking about. There are people in there. And so I called my wife and I said, listen, I think it really was a good idea. Like I've just seen one and somebody's paying to use it.

So, we were worried about whether we could get customers or not. But evidently, there are few folks out there, I think it's a good idea. Then I started looking for another in Portland. So I went to check that place out and it was completely different, more of a glorified coffee shop, but there were people in there and that was the biggest worry for me was, I knew what I wanted to build. I knew I wanted to create something that was just inspiring, but I just wasn't sure if folks would really spend money to be there or not, or whether it was just a good idea, but not good enough.

So after seeing a couple of guys figuring out and making it work, I came and said, I think we should do this. So we went out and looked for some space and the rest is history.

Gresham Harkless 05:06

Awesome. This idea, like you are not sure if your idea actually has customers or people that actually gonna pay for it, but you being able to see those co-working spaces, you saw that, hey, these are people that are actually interested in that. I think it's awesome to hear your story and how you evolved into actually building your company.

So, I wanted to drill down a little bit deeper and hear a little bit more about what you guys are doing to help support the members and the people that are coming to the Work Lodge.

Mike Thakur 05:28

Yeah. So, obviously co-working is a fashionable thing right now. I don't know that I'd describe us as a true co-working space. We're a hybrid and we think of ourselves as being a workspace provider. So that entails some co-working, it entails some private suites, it entails some team-size suites, the meeting and conference rooms. So we've got a wide range of services there. Then we're in the process of layering onto that a whole suite of professional services so that we can remove it as much friction as possible and let them just focus on business. As long as they're doing what they should be doing, we take care of the rest.

I always tell people, even if we only save you an hour a week, we just gave you back more than a working week over the course of the year. If you're good at what you do, that can translate hopefully into a whole lot more money than the investment you're making in the office space that you take from us or the co-working membership or whatever you wanna call it. So, we do a little bit of stuff with socials and fun and that kind of thing, but we don't go crazy with it. We wanna be respectful of the fact that they're working on their business and we don't wanna be just running a frat house like some places have turned up. So we're a little bit classier than that. That's probably a good way to put it.

It seems to be working. People resonate, they like what we do and they're very organic, subtle. Nudging that, our staff are trained in in helping make those connections and helping them figure out who the other guy is down the hallway that's dealing with the same thing they are or who just did deal with it. Now they can give them some wisdom and some guidance and just seeing those connections get made, especially between people from completely different industries. That would never happen if they weren't in a space like this.

Gresham Harkless 06:59

Yeah. And then a lot of what you're saying, it sounds like you created an environment where people have an opportunity to get that quote and quote unofficial mentorship, but still have the opportunity to be able to learn from other people that might have been going through things. But also get a really cool environment by which they can work and do all the things to be successful and not have to worry about all these additional things that can suck up time, but worry about building your business and working on your business. So I love that motto.

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You might already touched on it a little bit, but I usually ask for what I call a secret sauce or kind of what makes your organization unique. And I know you touched on that but is there anything else you can point to that says this is what makes you guys unique?

Mike Thakur 07:34

Yeah, I think honestly what makes us unique is the heart of the business and the DNA behind it. So I'm not a real estate guy. If anything, I'm a ministry guy. I spent years in nonprofits. I used to be a preacher, and so I think we approach people and serving and helping people from that perspective rather than just from a, hey, here's a target on your back with a dollar sign, let me extract a few more bucks out of you. We just don't play that nickel-and-dime game at all.

I think that translates through we're built on core values. We talk constantly with the staff about being authentically and passionately, being generous with our time and our knowledge. Being humble and being a little bonkers, having a lot of personality. I think it translates really clearly in the way that we interact with our members and in the way that we look after them. And so, Is it tangible? Is it something that's easy and replicable? Probably not. It takes a lot of work and a lot of effort. But does it make us a little different? Yeah, I think fundamentally our approach to people and what we're doing with the business is completely different. At the end of the day, we're not really a for-profit business.

We created the business and the nonprofit at the same time. So the work lodge for-profit funds the Gabriel Foundation nonprofit, and we're very open about that. When you walk in, I'm looking at a 10-foot by 15-foot mural on my wall with pictures of smiling kids from the first orphanage we built in India last year. You can't walk past it without missing it. It's right in front of you. And I think that's very different than a company that's just sat there to make a buck. If I wanted to make a buck, there are easy ways to do it than this.

Gresham Harkless 08:59

Yeah. Yeah. I feel like that's when things go to an entirely different level, is when you have the dollars and cents, and that's important when you're building a business or even running a nonprofit. But when you are able to have that kind of heart-centered pool that you talked about, where you have a reason or a very strong purpose for the foundation that you guys have, that's when things to me go to another level and you get probably that awesome environment that you guys have in place.

What I wanted to do with switch gears a little bit and ask you for what I call a CEO hack. A CEO hack could be an app or a book, but the idea is something that makes you more effective and efficient as a business owner.

Mike Thakur 09:31

Yeah. I saw the question when I got the little cheat sheet when we first talked and I've been backwards and forwards on what would be this awesome nugget that would just make everybody's world rock.

I don't know that I really have anything super special here, but I use my Google stuff real heavy. Gmail, the calendar, the notes, that's my go-to. It's simple. It keeps me organized. I know it's not sexy and everybody probably uses it too, but I stick with it. It tells me where I'm supposed to be. It tells me what I'm supposed to be doing. It helps me get my thoughts in there and it's always with my fingertips. That's about as good as I've gone on that one.

Gresham Harkless 10:03

Hey, that's a good app. I swear by my Google calendar and everything else as well. So sometimes it's the simple things that help you keep the peace of mind, like you talked about with your staff and everybody there where you don't have to worry about all those additional things, whether you lost something or whether that email went through because everything's taken up care of from a Google standpoint. So I think that's a phenomenal CEO hack and it may not be sexy, but I use it just as strongly. So I love that CEO hack.

Now I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO nugget, and this might be more of a word of wisdom or a piece of advice that you might have for a CEO entrepreneur or a business owner.

Mike Thakur 10:36

So when we talk to our staff and try and help them understand what does success look like, you probably saw it in my email signature. I tag everything with ‘Be Amazing' and for us if we get all of our core values right, all of the DNA of who we are, it's gonna deliver this and whatever amazing this is. So I think when I'm thinking about a golden nugget or some advice to other business owners or entrepreneurs, chase greatness don't chase average.

Don't chase mediocrity. Don't do a crappy job. Don't just taste the dollars if you just decide to make a buck, just go work for someone else. Can you do it? Yes. Is it the right thing to do? And I think that's the key. No, it's not. So do the right thing. Be great. Just be amazing. That would be my best advice.

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Gresham Harkless 11:18

I love that. And that definitely hits home. Don't be average. Just go on and do and be the best that you can be and blaze trails and make an impact upon the world. So I think that's awesome.

Now my absolute favorite question, which I call the definition of being a CEO. So I want to ask you specifically, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Mike Thakur 11:35

So I think for me there are two sides to this coin. For my staff and my team, it means leading well and I wanna make sure that I invest in them in every way that I can. If I can coach them better, if I can encourage them more, if I can spur them on to just be better versions of themselves, that's my job as their leader, is to just bring out their best in them.

I think second, from that and it kind of rolls on a little bit, is also for our members and the folks we serve and help. Inevitably they see me in action. They see me interacting with other people, and so how can I inspire them? Obviously, it's not my job to coach every single member we've got. I'm not saying that but just by our example, by what we do and how we do it, can I inspire them to just shoot a little higher, to think a little differently, to go beyond themselves or out of their comfort zone?

I'm very conscious that anybody in a leadership role and especially as a CEO of a company where you interface with people on a regular basis, people are gonna watch. So pay attention to what they're watching.

Gresham Harkless 12:33

I love it. I love it. And by you creating that environment and that culture, I think that definitely spills down whether or not you're doing direct mentorship or direct advice or if somebody is just at your space as well because that definitely helps out as that.

Mike, I truly appreciate you for taking some time out of your schedule. What I want to do was pass you the mike so to speak, to see if there's anything additional you want to let our readers and our listeners know, and how best people can get ahold of you and hear more about the Work Lodge.

Mike Thakur 12:56

I think if you wanna know more about the workload, you can go check out the websites just We've got Facebook and LinkedIn and Instagram and all that kind of fun stuff. So if you do social, you can find us there too.

I think anything additional as a last thought, entrepreneurship's amazing and I think business can change the world if it's done the right way and if we set the right kind of goals. So, I think my best advice to a younger entrepreneur or someone thinking about starting something up is don't underestimate what impact you can have and what difference you can make.

One of our taglines is workspace changing lives and sometimes, I wonder if it's a little corny, but we actually really do. We change the lives of our members when we help them be more successful and encourage them when they're down and connect with other people that can help them. We change the lives of the folks we helped through the nonprofit. Do I change millions of lives? No. But does it really matter if I change one this year or two? It's one or two more than last year. And it made a whole lot of difference to them.

So even as you may be starting out thinking about doing something, Think bigger, think beyond yourself. Think about what impact can this business have. How can I change something in my community? What can I do to make a difference? We don't all have to be world changers, but just touching one or two lives, changing one or two people's mindsets, spurring them onto something that could become a world-changing event or business or whatever.

It's an incredibly humbling kind of perspective when you think in those terms, rather than how to make an extra thousand bucks this month. The money will come if everything else is where it should be. So we just don't worry about that a whole lot.

Gresham Harkless 14:27

Makes perfect sense. And I think it's awesome what you're doing and what you all are doing. Sometimes when you create that ripple effect, even if it's just one or two people, those one or two people can turn into three people, turn into 10 people. Next thing you have made an impact and made a ding in the world.

So I appreciate you for all you're doing, Mike. I appreciate the time you obviously took today, and I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Mike Thakur 14:46

Awesome, thanks.

Outro 14:47

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO podcast powered by Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at I AM CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community. Be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, and everywhere you listen to podcasts. Subscribe and leave us a five-star rating. Grab CEO gear at

This has been the I AM CEO podcast with Gresham Harkless. Thank you for listening.


Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts, ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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