It was the end of my work day and I needed a lift.  Embracing the shared economy, I opened the Uber app.

It was 4.42pm when the Uber driver finally picked me up.  He’d been a good 10 minutes stuck in traffic trying to reach me said the Uber app, keeping me updated every moment.  At 5.03pm he dropped me off at my destination.  In that 21 minutes, we drove 4.8km.  It cost $9.21.

During those 21 minutes, we had a surprising conversation.  This man had done the numbers – the kind of numbers that would make my (let alone any) accountant proud.

He told me that Uber would take 30% commission of the fare.  That would leave him a mere $6.45 to pay for his time, the petrol and maintenance of the car.

If he had another 2 short rides like this taking him to 1 hour, he would earn $19.35 gross.  Of course, it was peak hour, traffic was slow, and grid locked.

Even so, he had done the maths and was left wondering whether Uber was the right financial option for him.  It had been 3 months now and he had seen through the glossy marketing sales pitch.

This was a reality check.

Work on my Terms

I have travelled with many Uber drivers and their stories have similar themes.  On another occasion, I had a different Uber experience.

An 8km trip took 23 minutes to get to my destination in free-flowing traffic.  It cost $19.72 so this driver if he had 2 more trips like this would earn closer to $60 gross.

His motivation was different.  He was disillusioned.  Having worked in a large manufacturing plant, he was but a cog in the wheel and worked long hours.

He was not happy.  It wore him down.  It cost him time with his young family which tore at his heart.  It was a hard sacrifice to make.

He decided to quit and take control of his life by being self-employed and joining Uber.

He valued freedom and loved the fact that he could work his own hours, taking the children to school if he chose and being at home in the evening to spend time with them.  This made him feel very happy and enabled him to do more Uber driving after the children had gone to bed if he wanted to.

In fact, there’s more.  He was flexing his entrepreneurial muscle and was looking into other opportunities in the shared economy.  He delighted in communicating his ideas and the apps that make it that much easier for anyone to get started with their own business.

He was doing the numbers too.  But in a different way.

I admired them both.

The Shared Economy

It made me think about the changing workplace and how people want more control over their lives and well-being.  We all know money is not everything, yet I can’t help but ponder on the idea that while Uber is losing money worldwide, is the model financially sustainable for the most important people in the long term – their drivers?

And as a customer, am I helping or hindering them by using their service and being willing to accept a lower fare which means their drivers are potentially earning below the minimum wage?  It’s good for me, but not good for all.  Is this the spirit of business?

Of course, this is not unique to Uber.  It happens in many industries from tourism to hairdressing and everything in between.

Well-Being for All

I remember a story a long time ago which was about a courier company in New Zealand whose workforce were contractors or owner/operators.  It’s very similar to the above with most owner/operators barely making ends meet.

The CEO did something radical.  He went and spoke to the drivers and asked them to tell him how much money they needed make to be sustainable.  They then re-engineered the business model to enable this to happen.

That took guts.

A sign of real leadership, of heart and in the spirit of what business is all about.  Such a powerful win/win for the company, its drivers and ultimately the community we all live in.

Endless Possibility

We are all in this together.  Everything is interconnected.  Today’s technology makes it even more so with the rise of apps and smartphones that keep us in touch and put us in charge of our life, on our terms.

Apps that are seamless, convenient and easy to use.  Making the most of under-utilised resources in the shared economy whilst challenging the traditional concepts of ownership and the workplace.  Re-purposing space like in Tokyo where they are trialling bookable booths in train stations that offer a seat, desk and free wifi for those moments when being in a café doesn’t work.

The mobile office takes on new meanings as we partner and collaborate in imaginative ways allowing new businesses to emerge that potentially create greater sustainability and well-being for all.  Now that’s exciting!


Jo Hutchinson MBA

Engaging Leaders@Work ǀ Building One Team

Great Spirit NZ Ltd

e. m. 027 414 4291  w.

Our Vision: A world where all people prosper

Our Purpose: “To ignite the spark, so that you may fulfil your greater purpose”

Lead confidently, live courageously and communicate from the heart. 

©2018 Joanne Hutchinson