Industry Research

Industry Truths That Should Be Told

Martin Romjue
Posted on November 8, 2019
Uber just can't seem to play by the rules in even the most basic of competitive games. (LCT illustration)

Uber just can't seem to play by the rules in even the most basic of competitive games. (LCT illustration)

The end of a decade creates a tension between mourning and motivation. Another 10 years are gone, swept into the mists of time and experience as one fifth of the century passes and the third decennial emerges. Yet the promises and potential of the unexpected are guaranteed ahead, with optimism always the best hedge.

As we’re now in the last quarter of the year and decade, the bridge of time brings an interlude for cleaning up and clearing out, and stating some truths ignored or trampled. I come from the school of sunshine, telling it like it is and letting the circumstances settle however. I don’t want to let the 2010s pass without putting on the record what we can now accurately assign to the past:

Uber Victories

For most of this decade, Uber and transportation network companies (TNCs) have roiled the industry and spurred regulatory and political battles. The results are in: Uber is still not profitable and its IPO tanked. The media followed its usual cycle of build up and tear down, and has turned on TNCs with an avalanche of bad publicity over corporate malfeasance, misbehavior, and gross safety and crime violations by too many drivers. 

Related Column: What CA Victory Means

The takeaway lesson is genuine progress in fighting TNCs happens at the state level and in the courts more so than in the halls and fundraisers of Washington, D.C. or in the plush public relations nests of Manhattan. The biggest industry breakthroughs so far have come from passage this year of AB 5 in California that codifies the unanimous 2018 ruling by the California Supreme Court in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles that makes it harder for companies to misclassify workers as independent contractors. It shows how operators and vendors would be best off funding state association lobbying efforts and any costs for lawsuits or legal maneuvers that protect the interests of chauffeured luxury transportation over those of TNCs.

Business Bungles

2019 brought another puzzling industry behavior where a few companies and vendors formed exclusive deals with only one magazine brand and set of trade shows. That’s all a legal free choice and business decision, although it defies logic and looks shortsighted. A first rule of business is to keep your options open to as many customers and as much profit as possible.

Limiting your audience or customer reach is about as smart as, say, an airline declaring it will only fly to red states or blue states, but not both. Or a petulant politician declaring he won’t appear on Fox News (or CNN); you just cut off an opportunity to reach more people.

The other related retro move is boycotts, of which we’ve heard some industry chatter about this year. Unless you truly motivate the masses, like in Hong Kong, forget about changing the course or the world. Most business boycotts flop, and are a desperate move to stifle customers. A boycott might make an individual feel more valid, as in cancelling a subscription or avoiding a specific airline, but it’s a temporary personal victory at the possible cost of convenience. Business is about building and undergirding bridges, not burning them. You never know when you’ll need a new customer, valuable service, or helpful frenemy.

Confidence Plays

You can find plenty of articles and seminars on social media do’s and don’ts and the traps users fall into. One of the more notable ones is the reflexive defensiveness and insecurity of some followers when faced with contrary facts, opposition, or just plain old competition. Get over yourselves. If you’re confident in your service, product, or purpose, then a respectful statement of views and facts supports your cause. Long, explanatory posts full of bragging, self-pity, and promotional blather betray weakness. What at first appears assertive quickly degenerates into pettiness, spurring the question: What is wrong over there?

Cleaning Out The Sureties

Oh, the comedy routines that could pillory the dramatic, overblown, gas-baggy predictions we’ve heard in recent years from some industry speakers. Around mid-decade, we were warned operators had six months before Uber crippled livelihoods. Five years until driverless cars siphon away most clients. All operations must sign on to one software system (and it’s mine!) or the industry can’t compete. Artificial intelligence will gobble up all the transportation jobs. If you’re not posting to social media a certain number of times a day, you could lose your brand. [Tip: Superior quality + service x solid ethics = word of mouth = more customers].

In hindsight, none of these predictions would have been worth our trouble had climate change wiped us out, as was predicted by now in 2000.

Those extreme warnings dovetail with a cultural vat this decade lathered in acrimony and absolutism that spreads to more areas of life. The sure way to navigate this chaos is to know who you are and what you’re about.

At LCT, we strive to stay rooted in our values of being inclusive, diverse, open-minded, professional, and creative. Those principles stand up to the fads and follies of the moment and can generate a start-up plan for success in 2020.

Related Column: What We're Learning So Far

Related Topics: building your clientele, business development, California operators, client markets, industry trends, LCT editor, Lyft, Martin Romjue, social media, TNCs, Uber

Martin Romjue Editor
Comments ( 0 )
More Stories
Despite concerns about potential disruptors, travelers contniue to embark on new adventures (Photo via Pexels user Matthew Barra)

Luxury Travel Will Surge In 2020

The results of a recent survey reveal an overall positive outlook, despite concerns about political and economic stability.