What challenges should Uber’s next CEO expect to tackle first? We asked some experts, and one thing is clear: Whoever lands behind the wheel should expect full throttle from Day One.
Jeff Reid, a professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and the founding director of the school’s entrepreneurship initiative, said success will flow from an improved corporate culture, which could start with filling the company’s numerous senior vacancies with “people with great integrity and the right gravitas.”
“I think the first thing you’ve got to do is clean up the culture. And that means putting the right people in place,” Reid said. The right management team, and accompanying management systems, will signal to employees, customers and Uber drivers “that things are truly going to change.”
Having the right people in place starts at the very top, Evan Rawley, a professor at Columbia Business School and an expert on corporate strategy and entrepreneurship, explained to HuffPost in an email.
Uber doesn’t need a visionary anymore, they need a capable pair of hands to steer the ship.
Rawley said Uber needs a new CEO who is an outsider, with experience running a big tech company.
“Uber doesn’t need a visionary anymore, they need a capable pair of hands to steer the ship through some known challenges,” Rawley explained. Those challenges include “fixing the culture, competition with Lyft, international competition, fixing or selling off the autonomous car business, dealing with regulators, [and] managing driver relationships.”
Reid and Rawley both said Uber also needs to put serious effort into recruiting and hiring a trustworthy chief financial officer.
Uber has attracted substantial amounts of outside investment, but it’s no secret the company is burning through money and needs to get its cash flow under control.
“The biggest issue for Uber is how to generate enough cash to fund internal investments,” said Rawley. “If they have to go back to the capital markets with so much red ink flowing, the current investors will take a huge haircut on their investment.”
Rawley also suggested a new Uber leadership team may view this as an opportune time to raise prices to help increase cashflow, and to bring in an external consulting firm like McKinsey & Co. “to ‘professionalize’ the organization.”
You have to keep the drivers happy at the same time you’re investing in technology that might replace them. That’s not an easy task.
As for self-driving cars, Reid said it makes sense for Uber to continue devoting significant resources to develop the technology. He noted a new CEO will have to focus more on the company’s drivers as well.
“You have to keep the drivers happy at the same time you’re investing in technology that might replace them. That’s not an easy task,” Reid said. “But if you stop doing the things that are clearly manipulative in relation to drivers, that’s a good first step.”
Despite substantial challenges, Reid was optimistic about Uber’s potential.
“Uber has transformed the transportation industry. If they continue to innovate and work on the core business model, then I think they should continue to be successful,” Reid said. “But the self-inflicted wounds are significant.”
The CEO role isn’t Uber’s only vacancy. Take a look at how much the company’s top leadership has crumbled in the last six months: