Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Zip Ideas: Three Lessons from the CEO of Zipcar

Scott Griffith, CEO of Zipcar, recently offered key lessons learned in the his seven years in the driver's seat of the company.  Zipcar is trying to “redefine the way people think about transportation.”  Giffith’s "Zip Ideas" could apply to media companies in a time when the way people think about information is rapidly changing.

Giffith has led Zipcar from a three-year-old, struggling start-up to an a 150 million dollar company, still without profits, but a market leader on the verge of an IPO.  For an audience of fellow University of Chicago grads, including your humble blogger, he boiled his lessons down to three ideas:

  1. Branding: Keep it Simple
What he means is keep the idea of what your brand provides clear and easy to understand; e.g.  Zipcar is a car sharing service that provides a less expensive, more convenient alternative to ownership for urbanites, businesses and university communities.

  1. Sell the steak, not the sizzle
A quick look at the Zipcar website is helpful in understanding this point.  The online pitch includes two pairs of bare legs sticking out of a station wagon (“if your boss asks, you were on a sales call”), two twenty-something “dudes” with expressions more evocative of a roller coaster ride than a car ride (“as a matter of fact I do own the road, just not the car”), etc. so he’s hardly opposed to using sizzle to make a sale.  But what he is saying is that management attention and resources should be focused on the execution of the experience. 

  1. Innovate Yourself
“If alarm bells are going off all around you,” Griffith said, “you may be the cause of the alarm.”  This rings true to your humble blogger. I’ve observed that the common denominator in repeated problems I see, might be the observer.  Griffith credited his awakening on this point to his personal fight with cancer and his brother’s supportive but challenging intervention: “I know you’ll get through this Scott, but you need to think about what kind of person you want to be on the other side.”  Griffith advocated both personal and professional self-innovation.

When you are working to turn good information into good business (which is the key part of our simple statement of what we do) these three lessons are worth keeping in mind; retain a simple view of what you do, how you do it and for whom; keep a firm grip on basic operations that create the value you sell; and constantly improve not just your organization and its products but your own character and capacity.

Next time you see a Zipcar, take a moment to recall these “Zip Ideas.”

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Anonymous car service said...

Great advice here. ZipCar should know, they've become one of the market leaders within their industry.

January 15, 2015 at 9:24 AM  

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