Moving On Down the Road

I was speaking with the cabdriver the other day who is waiting for his next fare. The weather was beautiful, which evidently is not good for his business. On top of that, those darn Uber drivers are stealing money out of this pocket.

Now, while I wasn’t willing to engage in a long-term discussion on the pros and cons of Uber,  it got me thinking.  Anyone who has ever tried to get a ride from a taxi company in New York City or late at night or even in a remote location can understand why the taxis failed  and Uber (and the other ride companies)  have made massive progress on their market share. It’s really simple, Uber makes it easy and exceptionally convenient to get a ride somewhere.

These ridesharing companies take the guesswork out of getting someplace. No more mystery fares, no more wondering when your ride will arrive. The rider is now in charge of their destiny. If you taken a cab more than 10 times, in a strange city, then you know the fun of literally being taken for a ride as the meter takes away. Or even better yet, calling for a cab to go to the airport early in the morning, simply to be told that none are available for the next 45 minutes  – Only to find five or 10 cabs waiting at the transit station.

While not completely transparent and without problems, these ridesharing companies hit the nail on the head. They allow passengers to control their fate and manage their destiny. They take the guesswork out of local travel. And since you have to have a debit or credit card to pay your fare, the mysterious “my card reader is out of order so you will have to pay cash” excuse is no more. For those of us that travel on business, not having to hang onto little pieces of paper that are really a big hassle, is a godsend.

What’s even better, is that they offer opportunities for those who have standard schedules or for whatever reason can’t commit to a 9-to-5 job. All you need is a car, a driver’s license, and insurance, and you’re good to go. Plus, the likelihood of you being robbed or attacked as you collect a fair has vanished, since they take care of all of the payment details.

On the other side of the coin are those passengers who couldn’t afford taxi fares or chose not to ride in a smelly 25-year-old car. I can just imagine the change in my father’s life if Uber would’ve been available when he was alive.  He would’ve no longer been shut in and chained to his home. (We won’t discuss how much fun it would have been to explain a smart phone to him here.) He would’ve been able to find a new sense of freedom in his world would’ve gotten much larger, and been a lot more fun.

The cab companies were dinosaurs. They didn’t want to change, and they didn’t feel that they had to change. They have the monopoly, as they were the only game in town if you didn’t want to ride a bus. And the municipalities that regulated them were more than happy to take their franchise fees from the companies, without thinking ahead to how this business model may change in the future.

I had occasion to be in New York City on business about a month or so ago and I was amazed at the transformation the taxis had made. They were all clean, pretty much brand-new, and the real showstopper – the drivers were friendly! They were also advertising their smartphone apps that allowed you to see in real time where the next taxi was the one you had hailed.

Thank you Uber! Your business model successfully changed an institution faster than anyone would have thought possible. How is your industry changing? Where will it end up? Will you be in front of the pack or run over by it? Ask your employees, especially the younger ones, where they think things are going.

By doing this, you’ll get some great paybacks. Initially your team members will feel engaged and part of your organization. The other benefit is that you will most likely hear where things are really going. If you live in a vacuum, you will suffocate. Just ask a taxi driver.


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