Firmology’s Techweek Series profiles tech startups & companies, products and services that small businesses can leverage to innovate and grow their business. Learn more about Techweek 12 and some of the small business-centric featured speakers.
Small business professionals travel for business just as often as management consultants or corporate executives, so why shouldn’t they travel in style, comfort and convenience?
Uber is a mobile app for iPhone and Android smartphones that lets users hire a private driver at any time anywhere the service is available (At the time of publishing, Uber is available in 4/5 of the top U.S. cities visited by small business travelers.)
A private driver? Like in the Grey Poupon commercials?
Yes, but it’s BYOGP (Bring your own Grey Poupon).
Also, no foofy Rolls Royce. The Uber fleet includes Lincoln Town Cars, Cadillac Escalades, BMW 7 Series, and Mercedes-Benz S550 sedans.
Here’s how Uber works:
1) Request an Uber. Hire a private driver using your Uber iPhone or Android app. Added bonus: you get to watch your black sedan on a map as it approaches your pickup location.
2) Ride like a BALLER (A person who finds success and wealth.). Uber sends you a text message with the estimated arrival time and once the car arrives at your pickup location. Tell the private driver your destination and hop into the black sedan.
3) Pay Automatically. Once you arrive at your destination, Uber will automatically charge the credit card on file on your account. No need to tip, as the driver gets paid by Uber. The fare is calculated one of two ways: When traveling over 11 mph, Uber charges a distance fee. Below 11 mph, Uber charges a time fee.
Why would a small business owner or professional use Uber?
Business Travel. A buddy of mine travels extensively throughout the U.S. and uses Uber heavily, especially in Chicago and San Francisco. It’s easier for him to order an Uber on his mobile phone and have it waiting upon his arrival at the airport, office headquarters or client’s office. Uber’s online receipts are emailed to you and are easy to include as expense receipts on client invoices.
Downtown Travel. Another buddy of mine uses Uber in Chicago and NYC. He’s taken Uber to the office, to his condo, to restaurants and to the gym. He prefers an Uber to a cab as its far more comfortable and convenient. It helps that he’s a jet-setter, works in PR and reminds me of a character in Mad Men.
In the Middle of Nowhere and/or No Taxi Cabs in Sight Travel. This is one of the biggest benefits of using Uber. While everyone is trying to hail a cab at the airport, the conference center or during rush hour downtown, you can order an Uber on your mobile phone and enjoy your time stress-free while waiting for your private driver to arrive. It’s also a time-saver if you live or work in one of those “notoriously deserted areas to pick up a cab parts of town.”
Entertaining Clients. I spent a lot of time helping my dad entertain clients and suppliers in town from other parts of the U.S. and Canada. We would pile into my dad’s SUV at the window factory and park downtown at some overpriced parking garage. Instead of paying attention to his guests, he spent his energy on driving cautiously in the city in the middle of rush hour. With Uber, you can ride in style, impress your customers and suppliers and actually relax on your night out on the town.
ADDED BONUS: Entertaining Spouse. Here’s a funny story. I’m stuck in traffic trying to find street parking (I didn’t feel like paying for valet) on the way to a popular restaurant for a friend’s birthday party. A black Lincoln Navigator suddenly stops in front of me and out hop the guests of honor! It was an Uber, of course. Why travel any other way on your birthday?
I’ve personally tried the service out twice and had mixed experiences.
The first time I used Uber was a magnificent experience.
It was hot outside and traffic was slammed. I could have ordered a cab, but wanted to try Uber out since it had recently arrived in Chicago. My private driver texted and called me when he arrived and opened the door for me at State and Dearborn in Chicago. As soon as I hopped in, he had cold bottled water and mints waiting for me. He also had a fine selection of business papers, ranging from the Wall Street Journal to the Financial Times.
I spent the majority of my ride asking the driver questions about Uber. He had nothing but great things to say about it as he enjoyed meeting the business professionals using the service, as well as the added income he earned from using Uber during downtimes of his normal private car bookings.
The second time I used Uber was a horrible experience.
My Uber driver arrived 35-40 minutes late, which in turn, meant that I arrived late to the event I was attending. That would have been fine, if it wasn’t for the smell of Big Mac and fries in the sedan. I was pretty annoyed as, not only was my driver late because he was getting dinner at McDonald’s, but he clearly scarfed it down in the car.
I smelled like Mickey D’s after the ride! Ha. Don’t feel bad for me, though, as Max Crowley from Uber apologized (ironically, he was at the same event!) and gave me a $5 or $10 credit for my bad experience. I chalk this bad experience out to a rogue driver.
ICEBREAKER: Would you use a service like Uber to travel in style and comfort on your business trips?
-To contact the writer on this story: Philip Nowak in Chicago at [email protected]
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