Cabs will not be out-innovated.

uber-muggingsUnless you’ve been fasting from social media to do some sort of life re-centering with your fellow yogis, there’s recently been a lot of hullabaloo surrounding the ridesharing company, Uber. Articles like this one, this one, and even this one, all poised themselves to purport that the company’s ethics are all out of whack.

TL;DR: Uber’s C-Suite is comprised of a bunch of fratty misogynists, their favorite pastime is hoarding your data and stalking you, and they hire criminals to deliberately kidnap you.

Oh and as of August, the service became available in 45 countires, more than 200 cities worldwide, has raised over $49 million dollars in VC funding, and is valued at over $40 billion dollars. They’ve also managed to initiate the biggest monetary outreach the nonprofit No Kid Hungry has ever had, simply by offering a “donate” option in their app. But that’s not nearly as important as the fear-mongering coming from the big brother blogs.

All this to say, ridesharing companies like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar are not only disrupting the way we travel, but the way transportation companies do business. And it’s awesome.

Ed Kargbo, President of the Greater Austin Transportation Company (Yellow Cab Austin) and my good buddy from the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, recently had words on My Fox Austin in his segment entitled “taxis fights back“. In the video, Ed, cool as a cucumber, essentially goes on to explain that Uber and Lyft are mere pawns in his game. Sure, their use of technology has forced them to work a little more efficiently, but it isn’t innovative.

In fact, he says, cabs cannot and will not be out-innovated. Here’s why:

  1. Your trusty yellow steeds were the first to the app game. And I do mean “your” – Austin was the first city to equip cabs with both application capabilities and GPS technology. Today, the HailACab app claims more than 30% of the company’s bookings.
  2. They’ve already got the infrastructure. Since it’s a city-governed company that has been around for what seems like eons – implementing the technology was a cinch. So because of this system, the supply, tech, and drivers are all taken care of; all parties are satisfied.
  3. And lastly – no surcharges. Sure, surcharges are appealing for rideshare drivers during high volume times, but what about all the other times? Fluctuating rates are hard to rely on. With Yellow Cab, drivers never lose money.src.adapt.480.low

Based on what I know from companies like Uber, and what I know from companies like Yellow Cab, both could use a lot of work in their public relations and customer service departments. Now, I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure allowing a surcharge during a very traumatic hostage situation  – where people are fleeing for their lives – isn’t the best way to convey you’re a company who cares (and an algorithm is not an excuse). On the flip side, cab drivers have to battle years of being notoriously late and non-communicative – so Ed and his fleet have some work to do on upping their level of reliability.

But, with their use of technology and ability to rapidly adapt with the needs of commuters, both companies (and their respective areas of competition) are transforming the way we get from A to B, making this an exciting time for the transportation industry at-large!

Just maybe make sure you have a rockstar PR team…

Guest post: Chelsea Woodhead, CPO of BuildASign.com, on keeping your employees informed.

Chelsea Woodhead- 2014-2BuildASign.com is an interesting place to work. On the one hand, our culture rivals any small startup; impromptu office happy hours, company parties for all occasions, Taco Tuesdays, Dr. Mario competitions – and I do believe Tiff’s Treats is making a delivery as I type. We work hard to maintain the startup attitude and atmosphere that came organically when BuildASign first launched.

On the other hand, we’re now officially “started up” and have surpassed the small scale numbers – both in fiscal terms and employment size. What that means is now an announcement from Dan can no longer reach our entire team simply by yelling it from the ping pong tables. As we continue to grow, we have to get serious about creating processes around how we communicate to our employees – especially with having our team in multiple locations and half our 300 folks not regularly on email.

The communication process is incredibly important and applies to just about any piece of news or company happening – from a great performance or team effort, to policy changes, to structure and title realignments. Keeping every employee informed of news, regardless of content, offers cultural benefits like overall department alignment, individual excitement for company growth, employee engagement, and a sense of stability and predictability.

With an employee group as diverse as ours, we at BuildASign have to communicate in many different ways and at many different times. We email (duh), have a robust structure of department meetings and huddles, casual stand ups, one-on-one meetings, quarterly all-staff reporting sessions, weekly newsletters, bathroom posters (yep) and printed information posted all over our facilities and, well, we still occasionally yell from the ping pong tables. Sometimes, because we can, we even print business cards with a message on them and put them in everyones keyboard.  We know our options and can plug and play where needed from our menu of communication channels.

Are all of them effective? Debateable.

Are we constantly innovating around how to communicate better and in different disruptive ways? You know it.

All that to say, creating patterns and consistency in communication helps folks know when and where to look for different types of information. And how do you know what to communicate? Just remember that anything that impacts company priorities, people’s jobs, the way people do their work, or how they feel about the company are all important pieces to communicate. From the serious stuff to the fun stuff – keeping everyone in the loop will prove to be a huge cultural positive and will provide your teams feeling tremendously valued.

Now, we aren’t perfect. As I mentioned, we’re rapidly growing and with growth comes change, and sometimes we miss the mark on communicating those changes effectively. Failure to inform folks about big initiatives or give updates on sensitive projects leads to too many unknowns, which then leads to confusion, lack of trust, and ultimately create lots more work on the communicators. Ask yourself regularly: Who needs to know this information? How quickly do they need to know? How do they receive information best? What is the best method to use in delivering the information? Doing it right from the get-go takes less than half the time it does to correct a botched communications job.

Bottom line – just because you are in the know, doesn’t mean other folks aren’t. Water cooler conversation is very real, and as the communicator you want to do everything you can to eliminate the unknowns (read: rumors). Even if it feels redundant and unnecessary, a truly engaged team is one that is informed and unified on the communications front, and one that takes the time to appropriately deliver information to their teams.

Remember, no amount of free booze can cover up a miscommunication.