The gig economy is all the rage. According to Intuit, the percentage of Americans in the gig economy sat at 34% in 2016—and it is expected to grow to 43% by 2020. New gig economy companies enter the market with incredible frequency, joining the commonly known stalwarts like Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and others. These companies are empowering a nationwide army of self-employed entrepreneurs, coupled with hyper valuations reminiscent of the dot-com boom of the 1990s.
For CEOs of gig companies, the broad mandates and responsibilities are not all that dissimilar to those CEOs of more traditional concerns face to manage growth and lead with accountability and transparency. But the gig CEO faces a unique set of challenges operating in the chaotic, growth-fueled gig economy, where assumptions about customer values and attitudes are ever changing and where the workforce is not only dispersed, but at times also concurrently employed by your competition.
For gig CEOs, here is some advice and guidance to help navigate the unique aspects of the job:
You cannot control what you can’t measure.
Gig CEOs must cultivate a metrics-aware company culture to ensure the entire organization is moving in the same direction. Collect data at every turn. Rally the company around captured critical data such as daily active users, monthly active users, and yearly active users. While every team member understands the overall mission, it’s not unusual for certain individuals to misunderstand their specific role in fulfilling the mission. Hire slow, fire fast and pivot.
Scale with Care
Managing scalability is the bane of every gig economy’s existence. In today’s world, everybody wants to scale. However, what works in Chicago may not be appropriate in San Francisco. Different geographies and regions have their own unique attributes and idiosyncrasies as related to demographics, regulatory issues as well as sociocultural, socioeconomic, and geopolitical diversity. Always welcome ideas as to how to improve the app or user experience, but ensure you are investing in features that will generate value across the entirety of the business and for the broader user base, not just one specific geography. Balance great features with usability metrics—it’s OK to say “no” to ideas that don’t scale.
Cultivate a Brand-Aware Culture
For new gig economy upstarts, your performance and success will constantly be measured against the success of established brands. This can be a blessing and a curse. Identify the brands you’d like to be associated with, and communicate your differentiators clearly, consistently and frequently. Inside your organization, find an internal champion to deliver these key messages –ensure it’s not always the CEO talking. There are always willing collaborators ready to help.
Prioritize Diversity in Delegation
Any CEO needs to master the art of task delegation to maximize productivity. For the gig CEO, the requirement to delegate and lean on resources is even more pronounced. Spend more time with the rank-and-file, such as millennials who best understand how your service is likely to be consumed by end users and empower internal staffers to share their perspective as how the company should approach the mission objective.
Negative Feedback Is Part of the Deal
Running a gig company can be a thankless job. When things are working as they should, it’s just another day at the office. However, when an issue arises, you may find yourself being dragged into the dark hole of Calcutta. Negative feedback comes with the territory, and it typically comes from all corners – comments on the app store, social media commentary or inbound feedback. Accept it and don’t overreact. The gig economy, while available to everyone, isn’t for everyone. As the face of the organization, you as CEO need to balance the positives and the negatives.
Understand Workplace Uniqueness
Remember, some members of your labor pool likely work for your competitor as well. How many Uber drivers also drive for Lyft? Managing a dispersed, decentralized workforce and individuals who may also work for your competitor is a challenge inherently unique to gig companies. There will always be comparative analysis. Keep your labor pool paid and engaged, as that is the currency of the gig economy.
Staying Ahead of the Competition
The gig economy is all about disruption. But disruption is more than just taking action, it’s a state of mind. Gig CEOs need to understand there will always be an entity or more trying to one-up you. Instead of fixating on the competition, get intimate with the company’s unique differentiators and value proposition, and always focus on being the disruptor and not the disrupted.