Rise of the sharing economy raises some questionsBy Al Cervero, AEM Senior Vice President, Construction, Mining & Utility  

Are you using your networks for a sharing economy? Or do you think the sharing economy is just for Uber and airbnb?

Sure, the most notable sharing economic success stories are airbnb and Uber, and yes, we have a few contractors sharing their fleets with other contractors, but you, too, should put your valuable networks to work.

What networks? Your customers who own your products are a network or multiple networks, depending on your definitions. Your distributors and their employees are networks. Your suppliers and service providers are networks. Your employees are a network. Are there more?

Think about who in the industry is using their network.

Your customers may be your customers, but could the loyal ones also be a network you can put to work?

Your obvious network is your distribution, but are they working for you?  Could they do more if you made it worth their while?

The next question is, does your distribution help or hinder your knowledge of your customers, but more about that in my next blog. Bottom line, if you want to access your customers and put them to work as your network, could you?

Does Marriott use you to generate more income?  Do any of the reward programs use you as an advocate and do you help them generate income?  Uber is not only using someone else's owned vehicle to transport you, but as an enticement they encourage you to bring on more customers. I have brought maybe 10-20 customers to Uber over the past two years. I guess I am their network and using my network to increase their network and create more wealth for them. I also receive value, free rides, and my network receives value, free rides.

Why can't our industry use our networks to move the needle? 

First review your established networks and assess their capabilities and interest to work for you. What value do you provide to them for them?  Is it a win-win-win for all parties?

Are you leveraging your participation at shows to build, enhance and activate your networks?

Going back to a previous blog (Is Our Industry Thinking Big Enough?) on activating your interns, put them to work on thinking out of the box on how to build a sharing economy within your networks.

Don't stop at thinking just about reward programs, that is kind of a given. If you have a rewards program, can those in it use their network to increase your income and what is in it for them?

What else could you do with your networks? Drive increased sales, rental, service, utilization (how does this drive your future income - okay, I am giving away an idea), customer retention, innovation, etc.

Last question/idea: Who is using their networks, all of them at the same time, to design the next generation of their products in a full-open concept?  Will this generate revenue or save costs or both?  Is this sharing economy or crowd-sourcing by your networks? Depends on how the value is being exchanged.