Patrick Roche is the Founder of Think Tank, Portland Maine’s telecommuting hub. Think Tank is part of a new wave of “shared office space” that is cropping up in cities all over the world. Think Tank offers a variety of private offices, dedicated desks, conference rooms, and shared workstations. In addition to founding Think Tank, Patrick also sits on the board of Mensk, a stellar non-profit arts council that generates public arts programming for the city of Portland.
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- “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” – Bill Cosby click to tweet!
- Patrick followed his gut and purposefully failed by walking away from a sweet HBO job. This decision saved him from potentially being arrested and changed the course of his life completley. You have to hear this turn of events.
Entrepreneurial AHA Moment
- Patrick knew he could succeed when coffee houses were failing. People need affordable space to connect with others and share ideas. Enter, Think Tank.
- Portland Maine is proving to be a great place for Patrick. Nearby cities like Boston and New York are just not livable for many people, and Portland offers the best of both worlds to the new age tele-commuter.
- I love Patrick’s answer when asked what was the the best advice he ever received. Short, concise, classic.
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John Lee Dumas: Hire Fire Nation and thank you for joining me for another episode of EntrepreneurOnFire.com, your daily dose of inspiration. If you enjoy this free podcast, please show your support by leaving a rating and review here at iTunes. I will make sure to give you a shout out on an upcoming showing to thank you!
John Lee Dumas: Okay. Let’s get started. I am simply thrilled to introduce my guest today, Patrick Roche. Patrick, are you prepared to ignite?
Patrick Roche: Oh, indeed I am, John. Thanks.
John Lee Dumas: Wonderful! Patrick is the founder of Think Tank, Portland, Maine’s telecommuting hub. Think Tank is part of a new wave of shared office spaces cropping up in cities all over the world. Think Tank offers a variety of private offices, dedicated desks, conference rooms and shared workstations. In addition to founding Think Tank, Patrick also sits on the board of MENSK, a stellar nonprofit arts council that generates public arts programming for the city of Portland.
Patrick, I’ve given Fire Nation a little overview. I know you do a lot more than what I just described, so why don’t you take it from here and tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?
Patrick Roche: Alright. Thanks, John. I think you encapsulated it pretty well. I moved to Maine about two years ago and founded Think Tank. We have two locations now. We’re on Exchange Street and we’re on Congress Street, and it’s growing very fast, becoming a pretty vibrant network of professional creative tech sector people. People are sharing their work, they’re collaborating, and we’re hosting a lot of events and networking events. And really, I’m trying at this juncture to really coalesce a lot of creative talent here in Portland and give them a place to kind of think of as a hub for their social networking and for their professional networking.
Yes. Beyond that, I’ve got a lot of projects going on. I’ve got a very diverse background in the building trade as a contractor. I worked in film production for about six years in New York City and San Francisco. I kind of have, essentially over the years, been steadily acquiring a lot of skills sets and I apply them day-to-day with this new space. I think it takes kind of a diversified individual to kind of run a space like this in that there’s a lot to do and a lot of ideas to share.
John Lee Dumas: That’s very cool. Thanks for sharing that with us because myself, I’m originally born and raised in Maine, but after I graduated from high school, I took off for 13 years. I was in the army for a bunch of that time and lived in a couple different cities like Boston and New York City, which are very cutting edge technological cities and I really enjoyed living in that environment.
When I finally came back to Maine myself just last year, one thing I was a little worried about was were we going to have the kind of cutting edge stuff that I was used to, and it was so nice to see stuff like what you’ve created with Think Tank and a couple other things that are going on right now in the Portland, Maine area that really are taking us into being relevant in the virtual space and in the telecommuting space. So I really am glad that there’s people like you out there doing what you do, Patrick.
Patrick Roche: Thanks, John, seriously. I just have a quick follow-up on that point. I chose Portland very deliberately – it’s kind of like my adopted city – because this place is growing very quickly. People are recognizing it as an excellent place to work and live. I think the co-working paradigm that I’ve kind of established here is part of solidifying Portland as a place where you can actually have a viable career. It’s a great place to live, but to work, it is a little bit of a challenge. So I hope that in the future, people can telecommute from here and forego living in New York City or Boston or these ever more so untenable cities where Portland I think can pick up the slack and become a great place to be.
John Lee Dumas: I truly believe that, and I think that Maine is finally living up to our motto, “the way life should be.”
Patrick Roche: Right. Yes, yes. We’ve got some work we have to do, but we’re getting there.
John Lee Dumas: Alright. So listen, Patrick. We’re going to transition now into our next topic, which is the success quote, because at EntrepreneurOnFire, we always start every show off with a success quote. It’s kind of our way of getting the motivational ball rolling for the listeners here and getting them pumped up for the great content that you have yet to share. So what do you have for us today?
Patrick Roche: A success quote that I kind of identify with is “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” That’s a Bill Cosby quote. I partly believe that, and I also in part don’t. I’m constantly trying to please everyone. I’m learning very quickly that it’s not a viable way forward. We must be true to ourselves. So it’s something I grapple with and I learn from regularly.
John Lee Dumas: Bill Cosby just has some great quotes, and I truly do love the one you just shared. It’s always just hard for me to take his quotes that seriously because he always just plays such a non-serious character on TV, but I guess you just need to take yourself out of that role that he played and just realize that he’s a very smart and successful man and there’s obviously a reason for it. So that’s a great quote.
Patrick Roche: Right. Absolutely. Even if he’s like a charismatic comedian, there’s a lot of professionalism and a lot of work that goes into that, the way he has conducted himself all along. This goes for a lot of celebrity. They don’t really get the credit they often deserve as professionals.
John Lee Dumas: So true. So Patrick, you did mention that you are always trying to please everybody, but you are realizing that that’s just not a tenable way to go about business. So at EntrepreneurOnFire, we like to kind of drill down to the story because this is about your journey. So give us a specific example of how this quote maybe has played a role in your life or maybe where you are starting to realize that you are just not able to say yes to everybody.
Patrick Roche: Right. Yes. Learning to say no is a valuable character trait. Yes. Since moving to Portland, this town is really excitable and energetic and there are a lot of people who are actively working to network it. I feel like I was just thrown right into the lines down here with all sorts of projects and taking on a lot of responsibilities, and almost spreading myself too thin. I think it’s important to recognize, one, the skills sets that really set you apart from other people, and to focus on those, but also to not try and please everyone and say, “I don’t have the bandwidth for this project right now at this time. I would love to help you out, but I have other things that are more important,” because you don’t want to again, spread yourself too thin and not do any one thing very well.
As a dilatant my whole life, pretty much someone who’s jumping from project to project, one could also say I may be more of a renaissance man or well-rounded, but I’m learning that I need to start focusing on specific projects and see them through all the way, as opposed to obviously, bouncing from idea to idea. No one’s looking for that in this world.
John Lee Dumas: Absolutely. One thing that I’ve always kind of relied upon and has worked very well is when people come to me with these projects or these commitments that I just don’t have the time for. I’m very honest with them. I say, “Listen, this is a great project and you really need somebody who can commit time, effort and passion to it, and I would be shortchanging you because I don’t have that time to commit to this project that you want. So I can recommend some great people who would be a great fit for this project, but that person is just not me.”
Patrick Roche: Right. Yes, that’s a good lesson. I mean I feel like I should be saying that more often, but I’m just getting there now.
John Lee Dumas: Awesome! So we’re going to transition now to our next topic because again, we’re talking about your entrepreneurial journey. Although you’re not an old, grizzled veteran, you still are a person who has been in the trenches and you have been there and done that and you’ve had your failures. You’ve had challenges, you’ve come across obstacles, and we want to hear about one in your past during your journey that was a big failure or a big obstacle that you came across and how you’ve dealt with that.
Patrick Roche: Well, I feel like one of the biggest obstacles I’ve faced I think was probably in television production. At the time, I was a bit younger. I was living in New York City. I was very eager to get involved in TV and film production. It seemed very kind of glorious. I don’t know, it was exciting. I got paired up with this particular reality TV show that was like a pilot for HBO that never even made it to HBO because it was too scandalous.
I remember having a real kind of moral quandary of deciding really like what purpose I wanted to have in the world, moving forward professionally, and not to let my ambitions cloud my morals essentially. So I was on this production that had great potential and had a great potential for me professional, but I actually had to bow out of it about six months into it because I didn’t agree with what was happening on set, thereby severing a tie that might have given me a leg up professionally. Again, it was antithetical to my own ethical standards.
So I think the lesson that I drew from that at my much earlier age was just that our ethical standards are really important. You should know your way forward and have a very acute vision of what it is you’re trying to bring into the world, and not veer from that. Like if you believe something, not to compromise your beliefs in order to make a short term – I guess I’m not sure of the word I’m looking for here, but to make some kind of game, a short term game.
John Lee Dumas: Thank you for being so specific about exactly what the situation was and what it could have potentially caused you professionally. Let’s really drill down now to right after you decided to walk away from this opportunity. What happened?
Patrick Roche: A great sense of relief. I felt much better about my standing in the world and not being party to something that I thought was deviant and sadistic, such as so much reality TV actually is. Yes. I felt like it gave me a greater sense of self-worth in knowing that I had grounding and foundation that was valid and more important than some notion of success.
John Lee Dumas: Was there a specific opportunity that cropped up soon after that that you were able to take advantage of that you may not have been able to if you were still delved into that prior situation?
Patrick Roche: It could be. I know some of the cast and crew all got arrested on set on Hollywood Boulevard and I have managed to avoid that catastrophe. If I’m not answering your question correctly, I mean who knows what direction that path would have taken me? Again, I was young, and I think you have to kind of throw yourself into it, into the mix, and get an idea of where you’re situated in that mix. I mean at this point, it’s like the butterfly effect. There’s no way of going back or trying to trace back your path and determine how you arrived at where you are today, but I’m happy with where I am, despite all the trials and tribulations.
John Lee Dumas: What was the next specific opportunity that you jumped on after walking away from that?
Patrick Roche: Again, being interested in a lot of diversified fields and such, I ended up kind of moving out of working on film sets as a P.A., and started branching out and doing my own video editing. I took on a lot of freelance work as a video editor. Then I eventually became an Associate Producer for a Russian company called Principal Pictures and we did work for Lifetime TV. So it opened up doors there and it allowed me, again, to move forward without some guilt burdening my shoulders and I was able to choose more effectively the projects I want to be a part of.
John Lee Dumas: Great lesson. We’re going to use that to transition to our next topic, which is an aha moment. At EntrepreneurOnFire, again, we’re really focused on your journey as an entrepreneur, and every entrepreneur has small aha moments throughout every day, week or month that really propels them to the next level and inspires them to just continue to create and to move forward in the direction that they’ve set for themselves. But every now and then, we do have that one big light bulb that just comes on and we just see the clouds part and the sun shines through. Have you had an aha moment like that, Patrick?
Patrick Roche: Yes, John. I think I can say that I have. I think for me, again, this is kind of becoming a theme, but this idea of kind of the well-roundedness factor of just having a lot of different interests in the world and having worked in different fields. One of the things that’s led me in all these different directions over the years was just the interest in different people and all of their ideas, and sharing ideas and developing ideas with people collaboratively.
One of the aha moments I’ve had was realizing that my instinct to build up a space in a community of people to work together so as to more effectively generate new ideas and bat them around, that was kind of my way of like satisfying my own desire, which was to surround myself with brilliant people and helping both them and myself to achieve greater things in doing so. So the aha moment was just realizing that I could have it both ways. I could create a business that actually satisfies my social desire to surround myself with brilliant people, but also to foster a community that enhances the intellectual promise of that group.
Like for me, like I stumbled upon this idea of co-working. I didn’t look into it in market research. It was kind of more of like an instinctual kind of organic process of creating this space. So I think that might suffice as an answer.
John Lee Dumas: So when you did have this aha moment, what were some actual specific actions that you took to turn that into a reality?
Patrick Roche: Well, it started out with a lot talk, I think. A lot of networking, a lot of pounding the pavement. Developing this idea was like finding out whether or not people were interested in having a shared office space where autonomous freelancing people could all kind of work separate but together. So what I was trying to do was talk it up and talk about synergy and talk about collaboration and talk about all the brilliant opportunities that would kind of arise out of this kind of community.
For a long time it was kind of just I guess wishful thinking. Kind of fake it till you make it, kind of believing in something that wasn’t tangible yet, but I knew instinctually that if I didn’t build this thing and do it properly and stylistically, aesthetically and culturally, that it would come to pass, and it has.
So the first step was kind of selling an idea. Selling someone on an idea that didn’t exist yet. So that was a bit of a challenge. It took a lot of belief in the idea.
John Lee Dumas: So when you first had that idea, there was not an existing Think Tank type shared office space, telecommuting anywhere in the United States?
Patrick Roche: No. There were, but I wasn’t really that aware of that. There were some similar platforms in New York. There was one called Paragraph I belonged to in New York a long time ago. It was for writers. It was like a space just to write. I had heard of a hub, but I hadn’t really looked into it yet. Really, it kind of evolved. The idea kind of evolved here in Portland. Then simultaneously, there was this idea of like hive mind or whatever. Basically, two weeks after I opened my original space, a second place opened up. My competitor down the street with a lot more money and a lot more infusion of capital upfront. But to this day, I think Think Tank still remains the vibrant kind of hub for Portland. It’s got a very active scene here.
So it’s not like I invented co-working by any means, but I kind of did it my own way and I kind of stumbled upon it accidentally, which I think is what’s been happening throughout the country and throughout the world. People are realizing this is a new work paradigm that suits people very well socially and it’s bringing people together that would otherwise have been separate and disparate, working on the Internet and telecommuting. Now, people have a real tangible place to be and a real tangible community again.
John Lee Dumas: I could not agree more. Patrick, have you had an I’ve made it moment?
Patrick Roche: Not yet. We’re getting there. I feel like the city welcomed me with open arms and my role here is continuing to evolve, and I have to continue to challenge myself and step up to the plate and fulfill duties and social obligations that I’m not always prepared for. But the city is recognizing I think what I’m bringing to bear and the value of what this space is, both culturally and professionally. So I think it’s around the corner. I think I have not quite arrived. Even once I have arrived, I think, I will continue to pursue other endeavors and challenge myself and other people’s perceptions of myself so as to keep the ball rolling. I’m not about stasis.
John Lee Dumas: This is about the journey, so there is no actual destination. Although it is important and I do definitely stress when you do get to a certain goal that you’ve reached, it’s time to sit back, smell the roses and appreciate what you have accomplished, and then drive forward. So I definitely applaud you for that mentality and wish you the best of luck in that venture.
Patrick Roche: Yes. Thank you, John. Yes. It’s been a great trip and it feels good to be settling in and having reached a critical mass and seeing the community kind of flourish around some of the ideas that I created. It’s nice.
John Lee Dumas: So Patrick, we’re going to move to the next topic now, and this is your current business. A lot of the listeners here at EntrepreneurOnFire are entrepreneurs in the making. They’re thinking about just breaking away and making that launch into their passion or into their idea or into their potential light bulb moment, or maybe they already have and they’re still just really enjoying and grasping everything around them. Soaking it all in, so to speak. Paint us a picture of exactly what your vision was for Think Tank, and then what the reality of it actually is right now for entrepreneurs.
Patrick Roche: Okay. Yes. I think speaking to future entrepreneurs or budding businesspeople, I guess, I saw a way to connect. Again, on a tangible level, people that I was finding that technology has driven apart. So it was kind of a matter of like necessity being the mother of all invention. I just saw like an opening. I think every invention idea, every product, every new business model, you need to have an angle. What are you going to bring to the table that’s unique and interesting? What’s your spin on existing phenomena or business models?
I think what I’m going for personally is trying to like reconnect. Like weave together the social fabric that has been kind of dissolved over the years with the computer age. People are often now obviously skyping and video conferencing and emailing, but they’re not actually convening socially as real human beings. I think part of my purpose is to try and bring some of that humanity back into the workplace and find ways that we can benefit from that.
So I think moving forward in this society, I think that message alone actually, however inarticulate that might have been, is really valid. I think in the next, let’s say, half a century, I think we’re going to see more emphasis and not less on tangible networks. I think people want to be in real time with real people, and I think we need to gravitate back towards that if we want to see our societies and our businesses succeed.
John Lee Dumas: I’m going to tell a quick story just because I do feel like it relates to that and really just kind of shows that you are passionate about what you’re doing as far as connecting people face-to-face in what can be oftentimes too virtual a world because for me, yes, I’m based here in Maine, but you are one of the very few people from Maine who I have interviewed. So it’s just kind of random that we are located quite close to each other.
You were having a little difficulty with Skype this morning, and you finally just sent me an email and said, “Why don’t we just talk on the phone like normal people?” and I had to come back and just say, “Well, unfortunately, it’s really the phone quality is the reason. I mean Skype to Skype has extremely high quality. Whereas phone to phone would be pretty poor when it translates to an MP3.
The reason why I’m saying this is because it really does show that you really are a person that’s looking to bring people together physically, which is so important for the creation of ideas, and just that whole kind of perception is reality where you’re together and your ideas are just molding together and you’re working as one. So I do applaud what you’re doing and I’m definitely looking forward to delving more into that in Portland and in other cities that I visit.
Patrick Roche: Yes. Absolutely. Yes, John. It’s a privilege to have you here in Portland. It’s a great coincidence really, as far as I’m concerned. Actually, it’s no coincidence. It’s a great city and really great people are gravitating here.
John Lee Dumas: I definitely agree with that. So Patrick, what is one thing that’s really exciting you about Think Tank today?
Patrick Roche: Just its scalability. I feel like it’s going to become a model for other cities, other places that are needing redevelopment. I feel like there’s opportunity galore. The network that has kind of like been kind of forged through this space and my own personal network, the sky is the limit. I’m working every day with brilliant people who have exceptional ideas, and all of them really care about the sense of place. They care about the state of Maine, they care about Portland, but also just big ideas.
Like this idea that like if we’re going to advance culture further and not destroy ourselves, that we need to kind of reevaluate how we work together. I think this model, albeit somewhat young and still kind of a new concept even globally, has got a lot of potential, and I think the world can learn a lot from – like not communal, but co-working spaces in general. So I feel like I’ve tapped into a very important growing zeitgeist, and it feels good to be a part of that, basically.
John Lee Dumas: Wonderful! Now, one thing I will have to comment on is that your vocabulary is quite incredible. My transcriptionist, I’m sure, is going to have to have a dictionary next to her while she’s typing away here, but that was just a little side note.
Patrick Roche: Yes. That’s good. Well, I think people need to work on their vocabularies in general. I think that words are important, and I think the more specific you can be, the better.
John Lee Dumas: Well, you definitely succeed in that venture. So you have touched on in the last answer, but I really do want to know. Give me something specific as far as a vision that you have for the future of Think Tank.
Patrick Roche: Well, I’d like to see this model scaled out. I think that there are other cities around the state and throughout the country that let’s say they’ve fallen on hard times or old mill towns that have a great infrastructure downtown, but the people have kind of fled. If we want to reinvigorate those cities, I think that Think Tank is a business model that can be scaled out and franchised, essentially, and supported by a municipality in order to attract the talent that might surround the city, but have no one place to convene. It’s kind of like a modern day coffee shop type environment, but where people actually get real work done and actually really do collaborate and not just look around at like all the people coming through the door.
John Lee Dumas: That’s exactly what happens right now, is when you walk into a coffee shop, there’s nobody collaborating. They almost feel like they can’t collaborate because they’re going to be bugging other people. So that’s why it’s so important to have an environment that promotes that kind of activity.
Patrick Roche: Absolutely. Yes. Through networking events and through like just symposiums and workshops. We’re definitely driving that side of things. That’s kind of like the second or third phase of this space. Again, this thing can be adapted and repurposed for any given community. It would take some doing. You have to look at the real estate and a lot of other factors and demographics, but a lot of other cities similar to Portland who are just now burgeoning or growing their creative economy, could do well to kind of undertake this kind of project because this is going to be good for Portland and it would be good for Providence, Rhode Island, it would be good for Portsmouth, New Hampshire or Burlington, Vermont. The big cities, they take care of themselves. They’ve got abundance of these places. But I think the smaller second tier cities, I think that’s like a really interesting marketplace for this sort of idea.
John Lee Dumas: Well, being a Providence College Friar alum, I’m glad you brought up one of my favorite cities.
Patrick Roche: Yes. It’s a great, great town. I think it will go around.
John Lee Dumas: So Patrick, we’ve now reached my favorite part of the show. We’re about to enter the Lightning Round. This is where I provide you with a series of questions, and you come back at us, Fire Nation, with amazing and mind-blowing answers. Now, we’re going to have to limit these to about 10 seconds or less answers, so you can be very succinct and direct with them. Does that sound like a plan?
Patrick Roche: Yes. Let’s do it.
John Lee Dumas: What was the number one thing holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Patrick Roche: Money. Personal capital.
John Lee Dumas: What is the best business advice you ever received?
Patrick Roche: It’s not business advice, but I like it. It is find what you love, and let it kill you. That’s what Bukowski said.
John Lee Dumas: Wow! That could have been your quote too.
Patrick Roche: It could have been.
John Lee Dumas: [Laughs]
Patrick Roche: It’s a little dark, but it’s true. You have to be that passionate, I think.
John Lee Dumas: I love it. What’s something that’s working for you or your business right now?
Patrick Roche: My social capital. I think it’s essential here in a city like Portland, but it’s essential everywhere.
John Lee Dumas: What is the best business book that you’ve read in the last six months?
Patrick Roche: I haven’t really read a business book in the past six months, but there’s a few out there. It’s already past 10 seconds.
John Lee Dumas: Do you just read the dictionary? Is that all you do?
Patrick Roche: [Laughs] Yes.
John Lee Dumas: [Laughs]
Patrick Roche: That, and The New Yorker.
John Lee Dumas: Alright. Well, that’s great. The New Yorker. We’re going to use that one. I love it. It’s the first magazine on the show. So that’s awesome.
This last question, Patrick, is my favorite, but it’s kind of a tricky one. So take your time, digest it, and then come back at us with an answer. If you woke up tomorrow morning with all the experience, knowledge and money that you currently have today, but your business had completely disappeared, forcing you to start with a clean slate, which many of our listeners are facing right now, you couldn’t do the exact same thing that you’re doing right now, but what would you do?
Patrick Roche: Yes. I think I would envision my next project in full. I would like flesh it out to its highest potential, completely conceptualizing it. Then I would basically draft a simple business plan maybe until I could get my pitch kind of straight, my elevator speech.
Then I would go out. I’d pound the pavement. I’d hit every networking event I could. I would make very clear my intentions with the projects, make clear my honesty and sincerity and my drive, and I would get people to believe in the idea and get people to believe in me as an entrepreneur because I think there’s a ton of serendipity and a ton of synergy out there waiting to happen, and I think people want to connect with that. They want to believe and they want to believe in entrepreneurs. So it’s a matter of just being confident, but having your ducks in a row.
John Lee Dumas: I love it, and I love your offline take of this because too many people these days are just solely focused on the online world and it’s really a combination of the two that’s going to equal success. So thank you for sharing that, and thank you for sharing all the advice today in the show because we as Fire Nation are definitely better for it.
Patrick Roche: Yes.
John Lee Dumas: Give Fire Nation one last piece of guidance, then give yourself a quick plug, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Patrick Roche: Hello, Fire Nation. Progress is critical. Do right by your community, by your friends, by your loved ones, and do right by yourself and recognize that we’re all in this together.
John Lee Dumas: Great stuff.
Patrick Roche: I am Pat Roche. I am the founder and director of Think Tank, which is a co-working space in Portland, and it is a very cool thing to be a part of. If you’re a professional in the Maine area or you’re passing through Portland, look us up at ThinkTankPortland.com. You will be pleasantly surprised by this awesome community of professionals.
John Lee Dumas: Awesome, Patrick. I will all those up in the show notes. This transcription will be live on the show notes as well. So thank you once again. Fire Nation salutes you, and we’ll catch you on the flipside.
Patrick Roche: John, thanks a lot. This is a great, great project you have going here.