Last week many of London’s black cab drivers staged a protest against the way that the authorities had treated a new competitor in the marketplace. This reminded me of the strident views that some qualified accountants express as regards the competition they face from unqualified people.
Some of the reports of the cabbies’ protest suggest that their beef was with the new competitor – ‘Uber”, an online app. Essentially it enables prospective passengers to call for a mini cab which picks them up and then charges them a fare based on the distance they travel.
I understood that the complaint was that the authorities are not upholding the law. As a result, unlicenced cars with the ‘uber’ app are able to operate in much the same way as black cabs but without any of the safeguards or restraints that are imposed on black cab drivers. The app enables minicabs to operate in much the same way as black cabs but without the training, licence or regulation that makes black cabs generally safe, reliable and professional.
The authorities are refusing to get involved presumably as they do not agree that the rules are being broken. What lessons can accountants draw from this stalemate?
- There is no point complaining that unqualified competitors are stealing clients. You need to ensure you offer a compelling case for people to engage YOUR services. How do you STAND OUT from the competition?
- The marketplace is evolving and cloud computing makes it easier for clients to access their data online. Many will prefer the traditional service, just as many people will prefer to continue using black cabs. If however too many passengers move to uber the black cabs will have to evolve. If you find that many of your clients exercise their right to choose convenience and web, tablet or smartphone focused services you will need to adapt too.
- If you build strong relationships with your existing clients they may be more inclined to resist the temptation of going with a new, easier to use alternative service provider. If you’re lucky.
- You need to decide whether to become an early adopter and adapt early to new services and alternative business models.
- Good PR can really help you to STANDOUT even if you are not that different to other accountants. The uber app does little more than does Hailo, the black cab app. Hailo enables you to find local black cabs who will then come and pick you up. Uber does the same thing with unlicenced drivers. But Hailo hasn’t had the benefit of the PR that has been generated by the fuss about uber.
What other lessons can accountants learn from London cabbies?