Key Point: It is important to know the model we’re “married” to. To a degree, everyone one of us working in an organization is “married” to a model. (A business model, of course).
It was 6:45 a.m. on a chilly, fall morning when I scrunched into a cab in a North American city, yawning my way through a 45-minute drive to the airport. The cab driver (let’s call him Gary) jumped out to throw my luggage in the trunk. With a cheery, “good morning,” he introduced himself. (Gary is not his real name but the story is totally true). “What’s your name, sir?” “Lorne…”, I somewhat grumpily murmured… (I wasn’t exactly fully in the Triangle yet). “Lorne… What type of water would you like, still or sparkling?” Geez… That was unexpected and kinda neat. As I took a swig of water, Gary goes on to say, “Lorne… I have six genres of music in my cab,” (he goes on to list and elaborate in a way that made him sound like a DJ from the 60’s). “What would you like to listen to?” At the next red light we settle on some easy morning jazz. (Wow this is definitely a different cab ride). Not finished with positively surprising me, Gary goes on to ask, “Lorne you may not have had time for breakfast and I have a nutritious offering of snacks in my cooler up here. Would you like anything?” (Ok, Gary… You’ve got me to put down my iPhone and enjoy the ride).
I came to know Gary a little more as we cruised to my destination. He had a business degree from a very reputable university and after graduating, he struggled with serious addiction that led him down some very dark alleyways. His ability to find enormous value in giving to others through his role as a taxi driver eventually helped him find a purpose, dignity and a way out of his personal challenges. Driving a cab wasn’t in his original personal “business plan,” but creating value and his generosity of spirit was. Needless to say, Gary and my trip ended with a generous tip from an appreciative customer. And appropriately, he concluded by offering me his business card for pre booking any future rides. (I will call Gary next time I’m in town, for now).
I asked Gary if he had encountered competition from Uber or Lyft yet? He hadn’t, but had heard of them. Uber, of course, is a disruptive offering of rides to patrons and is sweeping its way into many US cities. It is totally web and data science based; essentially a new way of giving people safe, predictable, reliable, high value rides using independent drivers. You see, people don’t need taxis but they need dependable rides at a fair price/value. This is happening in my industry too. People don’t necessarily need banks, but they definitely need banking that is more aimed at their needs. So for Gary (and me), regardless of how good his exceptional personal brand and service is, if he stays “married” to an outdated, dispatched, metered cab business, his phone may stop ringing. In all markets where Uber and Lyft have been able to operate, they have powerfully disrupted the taxi industry and taken an enormous share. They frankly have a much more attractive model. In the end, a better business model overwhelms well-intended, individual service providers.
- Remember that regardless of what role you have in any organization, you can differentiate your personal brand. Gary is an inspiration to us all. Every cab driver could do what Gary does but most don’t. Why? What distinguishes you? What’s stopping you for creating a personal brand exponentially better than anyone else delivering a similar service? And if you are fearful of being too enthusiastic or outstanding, then look in the mirror. That’s a scarcity mentality, not abundant thinking.
- Be aware of the business model you are “married to” in the organization you’re part of. Most of us are not in the position to change the business model we live in. However, we have a personal responsibility to know what it is, how it’s changing, needs to evolve and how we fit in and adapt. (BTW… If I were Gary, I’d look to apply to Uber. He’d “kill it” in that model… And me, I better help us make banking much, much, much better for people).
- We need to have one eye focusing on developing a differentiating personal brand while the other remains focused on the model we’re married to. Both need to be growing, adapting, and differentiating on every disruptive, distinguishing value.
Beautiful models in The Triangle,
One Millennial View: Me and my friends are frequent Uber users who once upon a time used a local taxi service instead, then dumped them overnight when the new “model” came along… I’m exactly what “Gary” should be worried about. What’s unfortunate is that Gary is in a lose-lose situation, because while cliental may specifically request him now, the odds are in Uber’s favor… It’s far from Gary’s fault, it’s just too convenient, cheap, comfortable and easy to press the Uber app button… I guess we all need to be aware that there’s probably someone who is more convenient, cheaper, more comfortable and easier than us who can offer a similar service… We can only hope to be Gary, no one wants to lose Gary… But to me, Gary sounds qualified for the limo/private driver industry. Maybe by attempting to be as evolved, adaptive and simply good as Gary, we can step into a more “premium” position in our own industries as well.
Edited and published by Garrett Rubis