I guess it sounds a little funny that the President of a company our size would be an Uber driver in his spare time.
When you think about it, it makes perfect sense.
First, I relocated from Dallas to Austin TX back in December. I knew basically two or three people, and two of those were my ex-wife and my son. So, that didn’t help me out much with meeting people....
Austin Texas - Hidden Camera Video of Riders in Uber Cars
Secondly, I wanted to know about the Uber experience...what it was like, who I would meet, how it worked and how much money can a person make. Basically, I just 'wanted to know' so I could figure out if it was a good fit for some of our employees who want more work, or part time work, that’s fun, safe and profitable.
A little history
When I started F2OnSite, and we began doing onsite IT field services (fixing computers, printers etc...) I had no clue about how the business operated from a functional level. How did parts logistics work, how would end users react to a technician coming to their home or business? So , I did what most good businessmen would do, I went out and did service calls! This gave me a good idea of what my employees would be doing, and most importantly it gave me some insight into what the customers expected and needed from our employees.
I remember when we decided to enter the Point of Sale business, my business partner and I did the same...we went to Racetrack, Chili's, Dunkin Donuts, etc...and did the work. We wanted to make sure we knew what our people would experience and if we weren’t willing to do it ourselves, we shouldn’t ask our team to do it either.
The best example of learning by example, was when get started working on ATM's. We were in a rough part of South Dallas with an outdoor drive through ATM open, and cars with sketchy looking people were circling us just wondering how much cash might be sitting there for the taking. We learned a lot that day! More on that experience another time...
So, back to Uber....should we partner with Uber to promote driving part time to our employees across the Country as a way to supplement their income? What would a recommendation or program look like, and what would being an Uber driver entail?
I decided to find out!
UBER & ME
I started the UBER process and it was pretty simple. I filled out the forms, did the background check, (crushed it!), went down and met the Uber folks and finally got approved.
I washed my truck, (A Tundra with four doors and a big ol' lift kit and big black wheels), had the interior detailed, bought bottled water for my riders, and even got them some gum and peppermints just in case they wanted some...I was after the elusive "5 Star Rating" and I wanted to know if I could make it happen! I set up multiple iPhone and Android charger cables, and I was ready!
I took my son to baseball practice, and during practice I decided to turn on the Uber app and see if I got any potential 'hits'...I did! I accepted the ride and thought I could go do the ride while my son was at practice, and make it back in plenty of time. I picked up two couples who were heading into downtown Austin for a dinner out. We chatted the entire way and we even ended up exchanging business cards and I was able to refer some business to one of them. Awesome! I met some new friends, made $35 and hooked up two real estate people who actually ended up doing business together. That was cool! I rushed back and picked up my son and listened to him make fun of me for being "Uber Dad" the rest of the night.
My first night, in downtown Austin Texas, was a wild one! My first pickup was a very pretty young lady and her even prettier young friend. They looked around at my truck, opened the doors, stared inside, and one of them said "Yeah, we can do it" I didn’t know at the time they had six more even prettier and still young friends who came out of the Airbnb house they were renting for the weekend, and started climbing in my truck for the ride down to 6th street. Eight - Plus Me... that’s NINE people in my truck and Yes I should have said "No", but I didn't, and it was awesome and although there is no tipping in UBER, they tried to throw $20 bills at me when leaving my truck. (I did decline the tips FYI)
The most telling
I could go on and on about the 90 or so trips I did with UBER, especially during the SXSW (South By Southwest) technology, film and music festival. I DO have some awesome stories to tell, and you would be shocked over who you will meet. I was shocked I made it to 90 trips, as I just thought I would do four or five. I only drove during the evenings and weekends, as I too have a job during the day obviously...and like I said, I do have some stories to tell!
This one spoke volumes to me.
I picked up a rider at a hotel during SXSW, during a "surge" period, (that means that people pay anywhere from Two to Five times more than the regular charge because of low supply of drivers and high demand of riders; mostly during evenings or during festivals etc...
The lady I picked up was heading to the airport and was at SXSW for the Technology symposium, in fact she was a speaker at one of the events. I asked her about her 'social media company', what they did, how it works, and most all the normal questions you ask someone who works for a startup. She explained that they weren't doing well...they had burned through over $15million from their investors and are yet to make a profit, and didn't see profitability anywhere in the future.
Here is the crazy part...I took a wrong turn going to the airport and the drive took much longer than it should have. And since it was a 4X surge, her trip cost her $80 instead of the normal $20. I apologized to her about the cost and reminded her about the surge - she said "Don't worry about it, the company is paying for it". That struck me a little weird, because if the company is losing money, why on earth would anyone "not worry about it" who relies on that company for their livelihood?? When we arrived at the airport, I told her i was going to message Uber, tell them to reduce the fee since I took a wrong turn, and save her some money. She screamed at me "I told YOU to NOT WORRY ABOUT IT, THE COMPANY IS PAYING THE BILL, I DON'T CARE WHAT IT COST!!".
DONNY'S BUSINESS 101 TIP:
Treat company money like it's your money, or you won't have any money, when the company runs out of money, cause you won't have no job! (End of speech)
HERE'S WHAT I LEARNED:
1. Uber is truly independent contractor legitimate. I am the biggest proponent of using W2 staff only, and Uber (or Lyft) is about as close to being truly gig based than any other scenario. Lots of reasons why, but I won't go into them here
2. Dealing with the public is hard! Not everyone is as nice as you and me. Most people are awesome - but every now and then someone isn't. The lady who didn't care about the fare, she wasn't nice, and I think she gave me my only Four Star rating, which ruined my Five Star goal.
3. Uber is a great way to make extra money at night or on a weekend. I highly recommend driving if you are in a city that Uber operates in.
4. I ride in Uber when I travel, and have stopped renting cars. It's easier, it's cheaper and it saves our company money!
5. Our employees have a tough job working with the public. Even when you offer them cold bottled water, candy, gum and an iPhone charger, people can be rude. I can't imagine how people react when their computer or printer is broken and their world sucks.
Treat people the way you want to be treated, that's our company Mantra....and treat pennies like dollars and dollars like millions. Don't assume that just because the company is paying for something, it won't affect you in the long run.
Uber isn't a full time alternative for most people, but it can supplement your income if you are doing something that you love! Most of our company family loves technology and working on computers, servers and printers. Uber can't and won't take the place of doing what you love, but it will certainly help you make some additional cash and you might even meet some new friends along the way!
Have a great week,