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April 21, 2016

Are the Days of Uber as an Adjective Numbered?

It didn’t take long for the meteoric growth of Uber and its transformation of the taxicab industry to create a cadre of copycats across the economy. There is nearly nothing that couldn’t escape “Uberization.” We heard about the “Uber” for shipping a package or the “Uber” for dog walking or the “Uber” for home cooked meals.

A new economy that replaces the traditional employer/employee relationship with millions of independent contractors working when, where and how they want seemed like a foregone conclusion. But, as a recent story from CNBC points out, maybe what’s good for the goose isn’t good for the gander.

Perhaps, one size does not fit all. Maybe Uber just struck the holy grail of business success – Preparation + Opportunity + A Little Bit of Luck. Because in reality, wasn’t the taxicab business a gig economy all along? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20 percent of taxi drivers and chauffeurs were self-employed. Drivers work with little or no supervision and their work schedules were extremely flexible with most working evenings and weekends.

The taxicab industry was ripe for a gig-economy disruptor. It was inherently suited for the private contractor and it was a critical public service that was underperforming and in need of revolutionary change.

So, maybe the next “Uber” won’t be so Uber after all.

Startups are finding that they must find their own way of doing business. The CNBC story points out that as the economy strengthens companies will need to provide more benefits in order to retain talent. For Managed by Q, an office operations and management startup, all 500 workers and full-time employees with health insurance covered 100 percent.

Several other start-ups have converted their independent contractors to employees. Maybe the predicted overnight change in how benefits are delivered to employees and the transition to a world of “employees with many employers” has ebbed.

As quickly as the Gig Economy came to be, it is already morphing into something totally different, where hiring full-time employees to perform on-demand tasks will be necessary to retain top talent and maintain customer satisfaction. In an on-demand economy, the product is the worker and the ability for talent to perform correctly, consistently and admirably will determine a brand’s success.

So, maybe the next “Uber” won’t be so Uber after all.

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