A Chat with Airbnb's Chip Conley

By Rosanne G. Dunkelberger

Chip Conley — Airbnb’s head of global hospitality and strategy, bestselling author, hospitality entrepreneur and social change agent — will be the featured speaker at this year’s First Commerce Credit Union Power Forward Speaker Series on Jan. 31. Before his talk, which will focus on today’s era of business disruption, the 57-year-old gave FCCU a preview of some of the topics he’ll be touching on during his appearance at Power Forward. Be sure to check out part 1 and part 2 of this conversation.

FCCU: What’s the biggest mistake a businessperson can make when faced with disruption in their industry?

There are four.

• The first one is if a business person or a company has grown complacent by their past successes. They’re just doing things the way they’ve always done them. There’s a risk in that.

There’s also a risk in losing touch with your customers’ evolving needs. When I was a boutique hotelier, what I saw was that the chain hotels of the world had lost touch with the fact their customers in the 1980s were looking for more personalized, design-oriented hotels, whereas Holiday Inn thought that the Holiday Inn in Denver should be just like the one in Dallas.

Thirdly, I think they’re at risk when they didn’t imagine a whole new set of customers with different needs entering the market. For example, the hotel industry could not imagine why millennials would want to do home-sharing. Millennials are less wedded to their home than past generations, in many cases they’re living on the road a lot. The idea that people could actually stay in a place that’s much larger for less money, that’s something the hotel industry just didn’t fathom.

The fourth risk is when you don’t take new competitors seriously because you feel like you’re competitively safe, sometimes due to regulation. The taxi industry, generally speaking, I don’t think they were creating a product their customers loved, but … regulations were, in essence, helping to make it an industry that didn’t need to evolve and get better.

Click here for part 4 of this series with Chip Conley.