If you follow the startup scene and community, you’ve heard about Airbnb. It’s a company that is disrupting the hotel model by offering a platform for individuals to offer up their apartments at whatever rate they choose and provide a traveller with a better stay for much less than they would pay for a hotel. You win with help on rent. Travellers win with a lower rate and better stay.
The idea is simple. And it took off. The company has recently raised $112 million in funding, valuing the startup at over $1 billion. The idea however also places absolute trust in people in 100% of every transaction. Although a very small number, at some point someone somewhere is going to violate and take advantage of that trust.
That day was Wednesday, June 29. At least that’s when this blog post hit. It took a month for the web to find it and react, but it did find it.
This is not a post about the business model or critique of Airbnb or the dangers and risks that can come with it. This is about the need to assume a crisis and having a strategy in place to handle it.
Sh*t Happens – Prepare For The Rainy Day
It does not take a rocket scientist to assume that when strangers are staying at other strangers’ homes, one bad thing may happen one time. Airbnb should have assumed that this day would come. It doesn’t mean that it will, but you need to plan for the worst and hope for the best. Regardless of your business, you need to assume that something can happen. Prepare for how you would handle it.
Handle Your Bidness
PR 101 is that if there is a story out there, address it yourself before it runs wild. The most baffling aspect to me is that this incident happened in June and we are hearing about it in July. Why would Airbnb not have handled this themselves? Assuming that this type of news is going to never surface is a naivety to delusional.
When this happened, they should have announced it themselves along with new security measurements to assure that they are doing everything they can to ensure the safety of their customers. A heartfelt apology even if sincere should not have been released this week. That was four weeks too late. A month later and the story is no longer yours and there is no way to shape it. They have lost all control and now await what happens next. That is an unnerving seat.
Have a Crisis Strategy In Place
Now, this one incident is unlikely to take down the company, I certainly hope it doesn’t. I know several friends that have used it with raving results. But there should have been a set strategy in place just for handling this. And it appears there wasn’t. Airbnb is obviously working with law enforcement and I’m sure doing everything they can to try and capture the culprits. But even if they catch the evildoers all is not back to being right in the world. Bad people exist and sometimes do bad things. This could easily happen again and they need to assume it will.
Assuming that someday something bad could happen is not being a pessimist. It’s not being untrustworthy of your fellow man. It’s just protecting your business.