Rideshare is a gig economy that became popular in 2012 when Uber burst onto the scene in a blitzkrieg attack of global proportions. While there were a few start-ups involved in ridesharing, none of them scratched the surface of success. It was after Uber made ridesharing a home-based business model, that the new app-based economy become a lucrative and much sought-after model. In fact, it was due to Travis Kalanick's megalomaniac nature that truly drove the company to success. You can decry Kalanick as much as you want; Uber would not be as big as it is without his vision and determination driving behind the company's exponential growth.
Today there are app-based economies for just about everything, and while many ventures do a start-up with a great idea, only a handful become successful.
Success is subjective; it is the model on which you base your dreams. In other words, you set the success you desire. Each and every individual's success is a perception of their own desires. So, when I discuss success, I am generifying the meaning to match whatever dreams and desires you, the reader, want to reach.
Success in business means that the business generates a profit and the business model maintains growth on an annual basis. Business is about making money, being profitable, efficient, and constantly developing new ways to increase your scope and range in an ever-competing market.
Rideshare business is all about an app that connects passengers to a driver. There is nothing magical about this industry; it is all down to marketing and customer relations. Now let's take a look at the five must-haves that will assure you a successful rideshare business.
- Vision and Determination
- Business Model
- Focus and Project Management
- Customer Relations
Notice that the first two are subjective, this is due to the fact that every individual is different and the deterministic models for success are based on certain personal aspects that need to be honed before considering a successful business. The third subject is the plan of action or business model, and the last two are operational area's that have a lot of literature, but I will simplify them and provide you with the basics on to which you will grow.
1. Vision and Determination
Before you start a business, you need to have vision and determination to take you past the first few hurdles. This requires a lot of patience as well as basic understanding of how a business works. Any business is based on one person's vision that affects others and brings everyone together under a common desire to reach the vision. If the business is a one-person operation, then the vision will be the desire to succeed in turning the dream into reality. Vision is not a restricted concept, it is infinite and must always be set far from the base desire of any individual.
This means that your vision for a rideshare business must be set at a global level, where you will one day own your own gig economy worth billions. Owning an app might seem like a fantasy for many, but in fact is much easier to reach than most consider.
The first step in attaining your vision for a global rideshare company is determination. You will need a lot of determination as well as a lot of patience since this will not happen overnight, and there will be many steps to go through on the way.
So, we have set the vision for a successful global rideshare business, we have decided to start, and we are determined to succeed. This is your first step in the right direction. Now the second step will decide for you, whether your vision and determination are enough to carry you forward.
2. Business Model
Defining your business model is all about setting down your vision into an economically sound structure.
What is a business and what is a model?
A business is a legally defined organizational unit that tries to develop, trade and maintain an income and profit thereof. This means you are trying to sell something to someone for a profit.
A model is the structure of the business; it defines what kind of business you are going to do. In relation to rideshare it means that you are going to either be:
- A self-employed individual that sells his/her own driving skills and vehicle type to passengers.
- Build up a fleet of cars and rent the use of the fleet to drivers for either a percentage of income or a base fare.
- Develop (or buy) an app that provides a rideshare platform for drivers and customers, and then use the app to manage your fleet, as well as add additional drivers and customers over time.
Whichever model you decide to take, will be based on your vision and determination to succeed. If you choose the first option, then you have to determine what is your budget and financial capabilities and how will you improve them through driving? If you choose the second option, you will still need to define your budget and work out your projected income as well as factor in loans to buy cars, maintenance costs as well as marketing to attract drivers. If you decide on going all the way, then you will need the resources to develop and app., (not as much as you think), the resources to buy your first fleet or get drivers to take on your app. Then you will need the resources to market your app and get it popular.
Notice that each model becomes more complicated with the scope of the vision backing it. You don't have to be rich to start a global business; you just need to be organized and have a framework to plan your project.
Now let's take a look at the different model requirements (basic):
You will need to meet the application requirements of Uber or Lyft; I won't discuss them here, there are enough articles and information about this.
You will need to cover yourself with a rideshare friendly insurance policy. If you live in NYC, you will need commercial insurance. NYC is different from the rest of the US, so check out the specifics on Uber and Lyft's NYC page.
You will either need at buy, rent or loan a car. I suggest you consider buying one with a bank loan or finding a rideshare friendly lease company. These are the cheapest financial models to work with. Rent or driving for a fleet will take more than you can really afford since you have to factor in your other sources of income or illnesses and setbacks.
Once you have a car, a rideshare contract, and insurance, you can start driving. There are many articles on what you need to do to succeed, and they include everything from understanding the apps to what hardware you need to buy for your car and what services you might want to offer your passengers during their rides.
Contact a CPA to decide which tax framework you want to work within, this will include being self-employed, LLC, S-Corp, C-corp. The decision is dependent on what you do apart from rideshare driving.
- If you decided that you want to become a fleet owner and rent out cars on a fixed or percentage basis, then you will need a budget for buying and maintaining a fleet.
- Check out the different categories of driving and estimate the expenses versus the income for each category.
- Buy cars in a mix that cover the most lucrative sources of income and factor in the costs of maintenance, and redundancy. Redundancy is the days that cars are not rented out, which means you are losing money.
- Prepare a marketing program to assure you have a constant source of drivers. Make sure you take enough to cover the overall expenditure and then add a percentage for profit. Make sure you include a salary for yourself within this calculation so that the profit is estimated after your salary income.
- Plan a dividend yield; this means that you will add to your income a dividend that pays out less tax than a wage. If you add family members to the shareholders, you can take more dividends out, instead of wages, and that way you will earn more and pay less tax.
- This is the big-time start-up you have been dreaming of; it is actually easier to set up then it looks., but harder to reach.
- If you decide to go this way you will need to raise a fund, this can be done through various fundraising sites online, or by using family and friends initially and then through a referral network build up a good private funding source. You should not start this escapade without at least $10,000 for creating the app. Once you have the app, the rest will be easier to handle. Don't try to sell an idea, try to sell a real application.
- Start off by employing software developers (you can do this very cheaply with sites such as guru.com, freelancer.com, upworks.com and more) You just find someone that writes code and get them to create an app for you with all the features and functions of current apps. The quickest way is to reverse engineer a current app.
- You will need to budget for the app development and also buy a dedicated server (DS). A DS is imperative to success in app efficiency.
- Your next step is to advertise locally in both virtual and real life. This is the big cost; you will need a budget of at least $2.5 million to start off with. You will also need a PR executive to help get the ball rolling with press coverage.
- You will start locally, make a deal with a fleet owner for quick access to cars, then do collaborations with as many commercial services and product providers to reach customers.
- Once your local presence is profitable, and I don't mean millions, a few thousand is enough (and it will be very hard to reach that anyway). You can then start on the second stage of your expansion.
- Statewide coverage will require extra marketing budget, but not techniques, the same techniques you use locally will be used statewide. Only when you go national will you start to think in really big budget ways. This will include spending a fortune backing sports events and more.
3. Focus and Project Management
The focus is on blanketing out all the white noise that tries to distract you from reaching your targets. There are many detractors; some come in the form of your closest friends and family, others in the form of media and your own imagination. The focus is on concentrating on what you need to do to succeed and not be swayed by outside forces. For instance, if you like movies, watching a movie takes between one and a half to three hours, depending on which movie you want to watch, where you want to watch it and how you watch it. In 24 hours, 3 hours is over 10% of your time. If you want to be successful, then that 10% is crucial for focusing on what is important, and that is thinking, breathing, and living the business model until you have reached your targets.
For example; Bill Gates and his three partners worked 24/7 in a small garage for two years before they released their first DOS version. They then sought out an Asian PC manufacturer that would allow them to compete with IBM on price. When they combined their operating system with the cheaper PC hardware, they essentially developed the worlds first affordable home computer, and this led to Microsoft's success. BUT, they did not stop, they continued to work hard developing upgrades, updates and essentially providing a highly successful product that is now Windows 10.
Now let's take a look at the two main opponents of focus.
Imagination : this is one of the biggest obstacles to overcome. May great ideas' have fallen foul of their own creator's imagination. When you decide to start a rideshare business, you have to focus on what that business will be and how you will define it and operate it every step of the way. If you start to imagine all kinds of fantastic add-ons and contingencies, you will be overloaded with different paths and routes that will lead you away from your main goals. The best way to handle and control your own imagination is to constrain your vision into a project. This means, project management. Project management is a simple system where you define every resource and action, giving each action a budget, a time, and resources. You then set milestones and KPI's (key performance indicators). This might sound like a lot of science and hard work, and you will be correct in reaching that decision. Building a business is hard work. Building a successful business requires even more hard work and a blueprint for success.
Time Management : you need to set your watch for four modes:
Research and Planning, in which you are reading, studying and preparing information that can be used to help you succeed.
Work, in which you are concentrating on driving a car, managing a fleet, or developing an app and marketing it.
Rest, in which you must refresh your mind and body otherwise you will not get 100% performance and efficiency from your work hours.
Play, in which you enrich your mind with activities that you enjoy, such as family, entertainment and holidays.
In most success stories the ratio in 24 hours is:
15% - 4 hours (it is important to read up constantly and be well advised so you can make an informed decision, as well as constantly evolve.
42% - 10 hours (Actual work hours must not make you exhausted, you will need to split the hours into sections, where you take rest brakes for eating and resetting your mind.)
30% - 7 hours (This includes all sleep and rest periods)
13% - 3 hours (You must give time for your mind to enjoy hobbies, as well as give yourself quality time with your family and friends.
Most entrepreneurs enjoy what they are doing, so play time is sometimes converted into either research or work hours. This won't work if you are married, you need to give time to your spouse and family. Remember this key fact; it will help you focus on success.
Project Management ; this is where you define your vision and set your goals. Project management is a science, but it is not complicated. It is very simple and in fact, makes life even easier to manage when defined properly. The basics of project management state that every action has a resource and time, which means you must break down the process into actions and allocate a resource (work hours and items, processes, and budget) for each step. You then piece the steps in the logical process they work in, and the system will then give you a total time to end of the project, the number of resources, the types of resources and the overall cost. You then set your milestones and check where your bottlenecks are. A bottleneck is where a process cannot be circumvented, and this is usually the action that takes the longest time to process. In a linear model, such as driving, bottlenecks will be the actual time it takes you to drive from one location to another. While there might be many ways to drive there, the actual process of driving cannot be circumvented since it is the core of your business model.
Summary : break down your business model into action plans and steps. Create a project plan and then follow the plan. Make sure you have milestones to follow.
Every success story is based on successful marketing. The rule of thumb is this: No matter how brilliant your idea, or how amazing your patent or process, without marketing you won't sell. Which is the reason why so many bad products and services hit the market and make an impact? The only restraint against continuous rubbish is customer relations, which I will discuss in the next point.
Marketing is not about flyers and posters; it is about planning a budgeted process that reaches your target market. Let's take a look at the three business models and how you adapt your marketing plan to each one:
- Self-Employed : You would want to set up a website of one page, sort of like your digital calling card. Make sure you have a great photo of yourself and your car, make a few photos of the car from inside and out. Describe the services you offer and what you provide in the service. Print out cards and flyers. Take your cards and flyers and put them in bars, hotels, tourist site offices, restaurants, insurance offices. Make up a deal with these sites explaining that you will bring them, customers if they bring you, customers, too. If you want to have a stronger reach, create a blog, a separate site to your one-pager, add post blogs every day, just 500 words a day is enough. The next level would be opening a site on social media platforms, such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn. Since rideshare drivers are anonymous, and you cannot directly contact customers, there is no need to buy an online campaign. The websites and blog, with social media, are to give you a presence that some customers will grow to know and then through word of mouth, hope to catch you in a request.
- Fleet manager : This is where you will budget marketing, you will do all that was proposed in the self-employed section but address the subject matter to a fleet. You will make a lot of photos and create a full graphic presence online. In addition, you will need to budget SEO marketing. This means that you will either need to take on an SEO marketing specialist that understands keywords, website SEO integration, and online viral marketing products. If you already know the basics you can try it out yourself. It's not rocketing science, but there are tricks and tools that require basic HTML knowledge as well as understanding how search sires work.
- App developer : So, you want to be big. You are dreaming of the billions that come from a successful venture. In that case, you will need to outsource (BPO) Business Process Outsourcing is the only way to make a successful marketing campaign, and there are no shortcuts.
5. Customer Relations
Once you start working, the most important part of any successful business is retaining customers. Without customer retention, you will not be adding new customers, only replacing old ones. This will not last, as word of mouth will kill your business. So, the art of true success once you hit the market after you have marketed yourself and have started to work is maintaining customer satisfaction, continuing to improve the service and finding ways to attract a larger customer base.
Self-Employed : There are many articles on this site about 5 stars rated driving. However, here are the basics:
- Make sure your car is clean, smells fresh and is in perfect working condition.
- Include an entertainment system that enables passengers to link their mobile devices.
- Include a mobile power adapter, preferably multi-head so you can cater to more than one type of device.
- If you deal with the bar crowd, make sure you have vomit bags and cleaning equipment.
- Always have a dash cam working.
- Be patient and let the flow of talk be a joint affair.
- Always be on time.
- Maintain a good line of communications when going to pick up a passenger.
- Try to find one area to drive in, this will build up a client base of familiar faces, even if you cannot choose your passengers and they cannot choose their driver.
- Work for more than one service, and use an app switching app to make the switching and ride acceptance rate easier to manage.
Fleet Owner: Operating a fleet is all about logistics and driver support.
If you want to have your cars on the road all the time, you need to be "kind" yet "hard" for your drivers.
Provide them with an incentive to drive; this is done by not overcharging them for the use of the car.
Take a percentage of their income and a base rate; this will ensure that you cover your base overheads (no profit and no loss) the percentage you take from income will be your profit margin.
Make sure you have set up deals with garages, parking services, and maintenance providers.
Make sure the cars come with every gadget to support the driver's success. The driver's success is your profit.
Don't employ anyone that has a rating under 4.8. If someone goes under 4.8 give them a chance to get back up, if not either penalize them with a fee or get rid of them. You are not a social worker; you are a business.
App Owner: As you start to reach customers, you will need to maintain an in-house service station as well as BPO a telephone and e-mail system.
- This is where it all ends up, a budgeted high-cost customer service system. If you wondered what Uber and Lyft spend their money on (apart from AV development), then know that they spend it on marketing and customer relations.
- There is not much to explain here since this section is a whole process unto itself and if you are going to be an app owner, you will need to employ a customer relations director for corporate image.
- You might also consider retaining lawyers since customers and drivers will sue you.
This article has condensed thousands of pages of information. There is so much to write on every section and much more missing. The bottom line is to remember the 5 cores of success. If you decide to be a self-employed driver, then make sure you offer the best service in the bets car constantly. If you are going to be a fleet owner, then make sure you are ready to provide the best cars at the most affordable prices to the best drivers. If you intend to be an app owner, then you will need more than this article. You will need professional partners to help you succeed and the special ingredients that always come before success: Vision and Determination.