When you hear the term ‘access economy’—the model where goods are traded on the basis of access rather than ownership—you typically think of P2P or B2C applications, like Spotify, ZipCar, AirBnB, etc. Taking Spotify as an example, you have access to a vast music catalogue, not just the few songs you have decided to pay to download. In the access economic model you don’t have to buy every Adele, Drake, Taylor Swift or Bruce Springsteen MP3 or CD to have access to all of their songs that you like.
What’s really cool about the access economy model, and this example in particular, is that you can have access to everything but only consume what you want. For example, let’s say you only want to create a play list of all of Bruce’s power anthems from the early years and his most recent tour. Spotify makes that possible. Or you can just listen to Hotline Bling.
With the success of the access economy in the P2P and B2C markets, we are starting to see it become more prevalent in the B2B world as well. WeWork is a great example. With WeWork, you have access to Class A office space, administrative support and a number of other services within a shared “co-working” office environment. Like Spotify, you essentially pay for what you need.
Additionally, the access economy is spilling over into professional services. Specifically, the services of C-level executives on a part-time basis.
Most start-ups and small businesses already have their CEO or founder – often they are one in the same. But they also need the skill and experience of a COO, CFO, CMO and any number of C-Level executives, just not on a full-time basis. Or, if they do want them on a full-time basis, the company can’t afford the salaries that a quality C-level professional would demand.
So, what options does that leave the small business/startup?
Option 1: The owner wears as many hats as possible—CEO, CFO, CMO, etc.—and does his or her best. Of course, this overextends the owner and limits his/her effectiveness.
Option 2: Hire a company that offers these C-Level services on a part-time basis.
For the start-up/small business that has part-time needs for C-level executives, this works on a number of levels. First, it delivers the insight, knowledge and experience of a C-level executive at a fraction of the cost. So, if you need a CFO for about 20 hours a month, you’re not paying a six-figure annual salary for them to have little to do the rest of the time.
Where this concept gets really interesting is when it goes beyond simply hiring a part-time C-Level executive to include the executional resources that typically surround the C-Level executive. It is truly powerful for startups and small businesses when the C-level executive comes with the fully trained resources of a team to execute the strategy and all the tasks that go along with it. For example:
· CFO supplies bookkeepers and/or Controller to work at the startup/small business to pay bills, process payroll and prepare financial statements.
· CMO is paired with a graphic designer and copywriter to create company collateral marketing pieces.
· CIO directs his/her own IT staff to review software systems and deliver a hardware solution.
So the end result is the small business/start-up has a complete solution—leadership, management and execution. And this is at a fraction of the price of hiring one or more of these parts on a full-time basis.
For the start-up/small business that requires full-time C-level executives but does not have the budget, this access economy principle offers a budget compromise without compromising quality. The company can engage the part-time C-level and his/her team for as much time as its budget will allow. Some of that time can be spent being a business partner to ownership and coaching up staff, bridging the skills gap to take them where they want to be.
Another advantage of the access economy model as it pertains to services is the flexibility and room for growth. The startup/small business will likely one day have the need to hire full-time C-level executives—or several. By utilizing the part-time model to retain the amount of services you need, you have a bridge from each level to the next as the company grows.
In an environment where company’s needs change constantly, the B2B segment of the access economy model allows you to have the quality, depth and breadth of support your company requires, with the flexibility to address very specific issues, in the most cost effective manner.