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Wisdom on cloud technology from the Uber driver

Mar 25, 2016

Big confession: A few months ago was my first Uber ride, ever.

Copyright : Aleksey Boldin

Copyright : Aleksey Boldin

For whatever reason I had never needed one, or just grabbed a black cab if I did.  But this particular time I was at the London Luton airport, and seeing as transport options from that airport are about the worst ever for London airports, I decided to bring up Uber on my phone and give it a try.

It worked like a charm, just as it’s meant to, and my driver came zooming up, and we got to talking about Uber itself, and his taxi, and (as it turns out) life and business in general.

This Uber driver had a great deal of wisdom to share – and I realised that this wisdom applies to accountants facing the change that cloud accounting technology has already made for the industry.

Cloud accounting, and cloud technology, is not a revolution. It’s not disruptive – anymore.  It was all of these things, but it’s not anymore because this is life. This is how we do business, how we live, how we communicate.  And if your accountancy firm hasn’t quite caught up yet – or even if you have – you could learn a little from the Uber driver.

Enjoy!

“When it came out a few years ago, I saw an opportunity.”

This is your classic entrepreneur.  He didn’t wait until Uber was the powerhouse it is now, passing the $51 billion mark and in 58 countries around the world.  He saw it in its infancy, and seized the day.  Carpe Uber.

Many accountants we’re working with saw an opportunity with Xero, and with cloud accounting, several years ago.  (I myself saw it at my first Xerocon in 2013.)

Those are the accountants who are a step ahead of the game, and who are now well past using Xero, settling it in, getting their team trained, using other cloud technologies, and moving into the advisory space.
When something new shows up, see an opportunity, and if possible seize it.  It will move your accountancy firm forward very quickly.

“No, I wasn’t driving a cab before. Most Uber drivers were doing something else before they started this.”

Now I was really intrigued. Here I thought that all the cab and taxi drivers would have seen Uber, seen the opportunity (as this man did), and use it to expand their existing business.

Nope.

If our driver is right, Uber appealed to a new audience.  A new kind of driver.  Many of the old-school and old-style taxi drivers waited, or missed out, or didn’t pick up on it.

The same applies in accounting.

There are still so many accountancy firms who are finding it hard to make the change to everything cloud, online, and social.  It takes far longer to turn a huge ship which has been steaming ahead for a long time, than to whip around a little sailboat which has just dipped into the water.

I’ve said it many times before: if you can make a success of a traditional accountancy firm, focused on compliance, with hourly rates and 9 to 5 workers, brilliant.  But it’s becoming more and more popular for non-accountants to start up accountancy firms, run them with the latest and most modern technology (and good branding and design, too).  Rather like the Uber drivers.

“Happy customers, happy drivers. That’s what makes a good company.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.  Can you say the same for your accounting business?  Happy clients, happy workers?  Happy you?

“Have a bottle of water. I provide them free, because it’s a nice touch.”

This driver went beyond just getting me to my destination.  I’d just come off a plane, which is always dehydrating, and I was racing from one meeting to another.  He thought ahead.  Just a little nice touch to make my day somewhat better.

What ‘nice touch’ can your accountancy firm give?  Can you think ahead to what might be difficult or frustrating for your clients, and ease that a bit?  Some of the firms we work with give free Xero subscriptions or other add-ons.  Some send a bottle of wine whenever a client refers someone (whether or not the person signs up as a client, which I think is impressive).  Some send a free charger, or iphone case, or a business book, or a Kindle gift card.

“If you don’t mind rating me on the app, I would appreciate it. I have really high ratings and I like it that way.”

Unsurprisingly, when Uber emailed me after the ride was over and gave me the chance to review, I opened the app straightaway and rated him.  When you look at his request, it was so simple:

  • He was polite. He didn’t demand, or push, or make it sound sales-y.  This was a request.
  • He asked specifically. Just one request – nothing difficult. Here’s what to do, and where to do it.
  • He increased credibility. He’s already got loads of high ratings, so in a sense he doesn’t desperately need mine: but he appreciates it.
  • He explained why it was valuable. More high ratings means he stays at high ratings, and he likes that.
  • He let me do it on my own time. His request hovered there in my mind so that when the email came in, I took action at the right time for me.

“The people who use Uber tend to be of a different calibre – they have smartphones, they don’t use cash, they prefer the latest technology.”

He knows his audience.  This is one of the reasons he likes being an Uber driver – because the mentality and approach of those who use it tend to be different than those who grab a cab randomly, late at night, and perhaps in varied stages of sensibility.

When you run your accountancy business in the most modern way possible, you attract a new kind of client.  The young, cloud-using, technology-loving, fast-acting, social-media-using, enthusiastic kind of client.  Perhaps the kind who has three or four businesses, and is growing all of them faster than you ever grew yours.

If you’re going to appeal to them, you need to be like them.  Be present where they are, and provide what they need, and you’ll get the kind of clients who are going to keep your accountancy business going for many years to come.