The last decade has seen the growth of “the sharing economy”, with Uber and Airbnb the most famous examples.
The fundamental idea driving the sharing economy is that ownership is inefficient. Most assets sit idle most of the time: Most cars spend most of their time parked, houses are left empty when their occupants go on holiday, music CDs spent most of their time on the shelf, dining room tables are unused most of the day, clothes spend most of their time in the wardrobe, and so on. As a result, savvy entrepreneurs created platforms for people with these assets to share them, to get more value from them.
Now, the coronavirus pandemic has created a new kind of sharing economy – this time from the asset’s owners themselves. Many business owners who have been hit hard by the effects of the pandemic have found innovative ways to use their assets to serve customers.
One example – which you might have heard of early in the outbreak – was gin distilleries switching to producing hand sanitiser. They had all the equipment and knowledge, so they were able to tweak their production process to create a product that was in high demand at the time.
Other smart businesses have made similar changes to serve their customers in other ways. Here are just a few examples from other businesses around the world:
Coffee company Melitta switches from producing coffee filters to face masks
Restaurant booking platform OpenTable lets shoppers book time slots for grocery shopping
Manufacturer of handbags and leather accessories, Prolet, teaches people how to make their own anti-splash face shields
Apartment rental company Kasoku helps couples get away during lockdown
Experts at Leeds University convert obsolete sleep apnoea machines into ventilators for COVID-19 patients
UberEats partners with supermarkets to deliver essential items to homes in lockdown
Stage design and construction company Stagekings builds desks for people working from home
Mannequin manufacturing company Fusion makes face shields for healthcare professionals
Pepsi franchise ‘cbc’ converts Pepsi bottles into face masks
Hotel chain Zoku offers day rates to workers who find it too distracting to work from a home office
What assets could YOU leverage?
Many businesses – especially those that have been established for a long time – have become used to doing things the same way, over and over again. If your business has suddenly lost its main sources of income, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have no other options. You might be able to leverage some of your assets to create new opportunities.
Take an inventory of all the assets in your business – the things you could use to create value and serve customers – and look for ways to use them differently to solve your customer’s problems.