Time has this really exasperating tendency to change things. One day you’re something, and then ten years later – bam – that something is completely different. And in all likelihood, that something is a little less toned, a little less firm, and a whole lot plumper.
But time doesn’t just change people. It changes life itself. How people interact, work, eat, commute… it’s all changed, is changing, and will continue to change until life itself is over. And if we were to give any one thing credit for all of this perpetual changing, it’d have to be technology.
Technology has the propensity to change everything about anything – usually for the better, often without any conscious recognition (it just kind of happens), and typically with a buildup. It’s not like the transition from poorly lit caves to data-infused smarthomes occurred overnight or that the leap from horse-drawn carriages to a Tesla Model S was a leap most could predict. These changes are accepted by society and then they gradually become part of the everyday norm. And this integration is so gradual that people don’t even realize what’s happening or that it did happen or that they even accepted it to begin with.
However, it seems this might not always be the case. With the rise of the Gig Economy and the not so subtle introduction of Millennials into the workforce, the ‘Uberfication’ of life as we know it has begun. And not only have we recognized this particular shift in how society does things as it’s occurring, but it’s also not as gradual a shift as we’re accustomed to.
With Uberfication, many companies have – as you’ve probably guessed – started to think more like Uber, and as a result, society is starting to do things differently – from the way we make and spend money to the way we manage our work and personal lives. But what exactly does it mean to think more like Uber? It means that to own a successful transportation company, you don’t necessarily need to own any cars. To have a flourishing culture, you don’t really need employees. And to have a big business, you don’t actually need a physical business.
For example, Airbnb owns no property, but they’re quickly becoming one of the most popular sources to rent a place while traveling. And Etsy doesn’t exactly make any products, but they’re overflowing with unique, homemade, handcrafted items.
Uber, Airbnb, and Etsy all function in the same manner. They created the hub, they deal with the marketing, and they handle the operations, but individuals – not employees – make them profitable. These companies have become incredibly successfully in such a short amount of time – not just because what they’re doing makes sense, but because the public genuinely likes the idea that they can work for these companies when and how they want.
But people don’t just like these companies because they can make extra money off of them; they also like these companies because the platforms they build allow for lower costs, less hassle, and on-demand services. For instance, Uber has cut down on both the wait times and the cost for a traditional taxi. And Etsy has given many people the opportunity to compete in a market with high barriers to entry and to sell to people who may never have been able to purchase from them without the platform.
But what does all of this really mean to the run-of-the-mill business who isn’t exactly looking to Uberify their dental practice, law firm, furniture store, or coffee shop? Well, if you learn anything from the sensational leap that companies like Uber and Airbnb have made, it should be something along these lines…
Never fight the way that technology is going. Don’t try and sidestep it or prolong your acceptance of it. The longer you put off new technologies, the further behind your business will be – behind the times, behind the competition, and behind the needs of consumers. For example, some taxi companies are attempting to fight Uber because Uber is shutting the door on the traditional notion of a transportation company. But does the public care? Not a chance. They love Uber, they want Uber, and they will stay behind Uber. Why? Because Uber is giving the public exactly what it wants and never even knew it needed. In the meantime, all of these companies that are trying to shut Uber down are missing out on the chance to become just as successful as Uber is.
These companies all know the business world really well. But do you know what else they know really well? Technology. They’ve hired the best of the best, and they’ve been successful because of it. They’ve each created an international business that operates solely within one central app or website without hiring a single person to produce the actual product. It’s genius. And while your business might not have the capital to hire internal IT people or the need to build your business around one central technology, it is still incredibly important to partner with people who know technology. Find an outlet and stick with it.
Technology is not stagnant. It’s not done changing, and it never will be… which means part of your job is to make sure your business never falls too far behind technology. You can look at this negatively – that your business will always have to change to compensate for new technologies. Or you can look at this positively – that your business will always have the opportunity to change into something better, bigger, and more valuable.