When we were kids, one of the first lessons we learned was to share. In a world where business is under increased pressure to be more socially responsible, easier on the environment and take a more active role in social issues, some businesses are getting the message.
The share economy is made up of companies like Airbnb, Elance, VerbalizeIt, Mechanical Turk, co-working spaces and numerous other services that unite those who have available goods and services with the people who need access to them.
The “share economy” is changing the way people access the resources they need. But it’s not all rainbows and puppies, there are downsides. If you are already participating in the new sharing economy or considering it, you need to know these nine things.
1. It requires companies to make better products
When a product is shared by a large number of people instead of just one person or family, a different level of quality is required. It gets passed around more and is subjected to more wear and tear. Cheap, throw-away products are no longer acceptable.
2. It’s better for the environment
When you aren’t using something you own, you can share it instead of throwing it away. This saves natural resources. For example, we don’t have to manufacture a whole bicycle for each person who uses a bicycle only occasionally. They can use bike sharing to get access to a bike only when they want it.
3. It destroys jobs
St. Louis cab driver and ride-sharing critic Umar Lee, believes that car sharing facilitated by companies like Uber and Lyft hurts people by taking away their jobs. He says:
Driving a cab in St. Louis is a job that has allowed drivers to buy homes, raise families and send their children to college. Its not a plaything for me. I work six or seven days a week on this job (usually 10-12 hours a day) and that’s the money I use to support my children and pay my bills.
4. You can own less
The share economy lets you have access to things instead of owning them. If you want to use something, you don’t need to own it because access is an option. This saves money and resources and gives you the ability to have richer life experiences because the cost of access is reduced.
5. It’s hard to regulate
In the traditional economy, regulation by the government is how we ensure safety and quality. When the parties providing and receiving the goods and services are distributed individuals, it becomes difficult to regulate. According to Jeremiah Owyang, share economy expert and founder of Crowd Companies, it’s also difficult to stop:
This is powered on mobile and social; the only way you can stop this tech-based movement is to stop the Internet.
The share economy depends on reputation instead of regulation.
6. It brings economic opportunity to everyone
Those who do not have the means to start a business or job opportunities available to them can make money by sharing their skills. Ryan Frankel, share economy enthusiast and co-founder of VerbalizeIt says:
The shared economy model allows us to disrupt a traditionally broken translation industry, be a driving force for business internationalization and create job opportunities around the globe for those with a proven and tested skill-set.
7. Company growth is driven by reuse
In the legacy economy, company growth came from selling more products. Growth meant getting more people to consume more goods. Companies that facilitate the share economy grow when their customers share more of what they already have.
8. It’s harder to tax
It’s easy to tax hotels, cab companies and industries dominated by large companies, but when the service providers become distributed, as they necessarily do in the share economy, it gets messier, but not impossible. However, San Francisco recently reached an agreement with Airbnb to collect taxes on rentals in the city.
9. It helps people get access to resources they need
Resources that were previously inaccessible due to a higher cost of owning or purchasing them can made be more accessible. For example, entrepreneurs, who would have previously been limited to working out of a spare bedroom, can get access to workspace in a collaborative environment. Jason Deem, founder of Nebula Coworking, says:
Coworking encourages innovation and experimentation by fostering a collaborative community of entrepreneurs who benefit from the diversity of skills and connections in the coworking environment. It also minimizes the risk of starting a new business by keeping costs low through the use of shared resources.
How to start participating in the share economy
You may find that you can benefit from both being a consumer and provider of shared resources. Begin by looking at things you own, but don’t use as much as you could. Start with your most expensive assets, such as your house, car, boat or other large, expensive items. Then research your options for sharing those things and making some money doing it.
Next, look at resources that you use. Think in terms of access instead of ownership. Research and understand your options for getting access to those things you want instead of owning them. You may find that you would be better off getting rid of things you own and accessing them instead. Or you may find that you can get access to things, like a boat via Boatbound, that you previously thought were inaccessible.
You’ll get the most benefit by participating on both sides of the sharing economy (consuming shared resources and sharing your unused resources). You might find that you can get access to more of the things you want and spend less money.
Give it a shot, it’s the future, so you might as well see if it will help you, right?
Featured photo credit: Ted Manasa via facebook.com