An Entrepreneurial Lesson Uber Has Yet To Learn

Posted on June 8, 2015 by - Also by this author

Entrepreneur Magazine published a paean to Uber on its fifth birthday recently that cites FIVE key entrepreneurial lessons that Uber has learned based on a speech from its CEO, Travis Kalanick.

Compliments to Kalanick and Uber for learning these lessons, as they are eternal principles all businesses should follow. The article presents a lot of good advice. There's just one caveat to Lesson #5 about "roadblocks."

Roadblocks fall into two categories: Those that life throws at you, and then those that are self-inflicted, whether through ignorance, stubbornness, or bad intentions.

"Uber has had to change the laws (or just flat out ignore them) in order for it to be able to expand," Entrepreneur writes in explaining the fifth lesson learned. I'd put that roadblock into self-inflicted.

Let's think about that: Ignore the rules in order to grow. Imagine if all of us dealt with roadblocks that way: We could ignore paying the IRS or cheat on our taxes in order to grow our personal assets. You could deflate footballs to win games. Or, if you own a fleet business, you could just ignore all those sticky licensing, insurance and safety rules, so you can grown faster in gypsy mode.

What Uber has not learned is that in America, a nation of laws, you either follow the same rules as everyone else, or if you don't like the rules, you work to change them for everyone. Uber calls itself all sorts of things, from a technology company, to a broker, to an app, to an innovator, although it's obviously a transportation company (Got wheels? Got drivers? Got passengers?). State by state, it is trying to redefine itselt into a category separate from limousines and charter party carriers and taxicabs. They are essentially saying, "We're better because we're different, so we need a different set of rules." If TNCs create their own category, the potential for mischief and unfair advantage is endless.

Think how much limousine companies and taxicab services could grow following the approach and practices of Uber. So let's add entrepreneurial lesson No. 6 to the Uber birthday cake: When rules, laws and privileges are not extended to everyone, some other American traits kick in: Rebellion, lawsuits and civil disobedience.

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