How AirBnB May Launch Itself Into A Regulatory Sh*t Show

When it comes to the true understandings of how to run a business, Silicon Valley built enterprises have never ceased to amaze.

However, with that said, what has left me slack-jawed, more often than not, is the increasing tone-deafness emanating from C-suites everywhere. And I mean just that: everywhere. Hint: Enter the term: “Wells Fargo, fraud” into your search engine of choice as just one example.

It was in this vein of “tone-deaf” leadership I recently made the argument about the current initiative coming forth via the NFL®.

As I iterated in that article, it doesn’t matter whether you agree with the message or not. It’s the venue of where it will be articulated that’s the issue. i.e., Football fans have been avoiding games and broadcasts, because they take umbrage with the open insertion of politics – all politics. And yet, the NFL has decided that’s just what the increasingly, dwindling and very upset fan base needs to get them to tune-in. i.e. Launch a political initiative (“Let’s Listen Together”) directly into the remaining two weeks and more than likely, directly into the “Big Game.” Talk about tone-deaf.

But wait, I believe there’s one that may actually outdo it: The “#weaccept” initiative, advertisement from AirBnB™ that will play on some networks during the State of the Union speech.

What is this for one may ask? Well, it’s to make known to all that they are not happy with the alleged “sh*thole” comment attributed to the president. Their catch phrase? (Because you have to have a catchy catchphrase because a hashtag alone is so 2017, right?) “Let’s open doors, not build walls.”

The reason for this reported “six-figure” ad campaign is out of some self-defined defense as to stand up for many of these alluded to countries which AirBnB has a stake in. e.g., Haiti, El Salvador and Africa.

As I’ve always stated when I was opining on such topics: It doesn’t matter if you agree with the stance or not. It’s about how it’s being implemented and where that is the key. Because, in business: Doing what at first appears to be the right thing, for the right reasons can boomerang around faster and harder if done at the wrong time, or at the wrong place.

And yes, sometimes even far worse, more often than not – than doing nothing at all.

That’s why, in business, one needs to avoid politics like the plague. Today? It would appear CEO’s, more often than not are out looking to infect themselves with the political virus. Hint: Tim Cook.

AirBnB has a very deep existential issue (my opinion) that overhangs its entire business model that grows more onerous, and larger with every passing day. That issue? Regulatory.

Much like its once Teflon® coated stalemate, Uber™. AirBnB is always under constant alert (or attack) for where the next regulatory charge, or want of reporting for tax purposes, for all is involved.

If one thinks this is just hyperbole, let me use my own area as of just a few weeks ago. Here’s the headline: “Columbus plans to regulate home-sharing services, worrying Airbnb hosts”

As I’ve iterated ad nauseam over the years: It’s all fun and games till the regulators show up and want to get paid, or the investors. Hint: See Uber at 30% off.

What makes this AirBnB initiative so seemingly tone-deaf are two very big issues. First: You are brazenly trolling the Chief Executive Officer in charge of all the regulatory agencies of the United States. (in theory anyway) Second: He’s a H-O-T-E-L business mogul.

AirBnB’s business model undercuts, and in many cases completely ignores (i.e., the regulatory: beg for forgiveness, rather than ask for permission model) the rules, regulations, and more that hotels and others have to contend with. The Hotel industry is not happy with, and have never been happy with AirBnB’s seemingly wanton disregard for the rules they must abide by. e.g., Think fire egress or handicap standards just to name two.

And it isn’t just the Hotel Lobby that seeks compliance. It’s also governments both state, local, and in some cases national that want to make sure they are collecting their piece of the regulatory “pie” via taxes and such.

This openly rebellious, in your face, type of ad campaign directed squarely at the administration may be just the impetus that gets the entire Hotel Lobby into gear, and in unison. I’ll garner they’ll be adding more stays in their own properties along “K Street” to protest how AirBnB is using their all but in-your-face non-compliance (at least in the spirit that is, all my opinion, of course) to be in-the-face of the current administration. And will gladly stay as long as it takes. After all, “the stay” may even be a write off. But I digress.

It is the most tone-deaf piece of media relations I’ve seen to date.

I believe this may backfire in ways AirBnB hasn’t even contemplated. As a matter of fact, I’ll go ahead, based solely on this initiative, they didn’t even contemplate it as being a possibility to begin with.

The reasoning here is this: that’s what happens when one allows politics to enter the business. And is the reason why you don’t do it to begin with. Mistakes that are easily seen in retrospect are always glossed over via the “political glasses” of the moment.

Another reason why this is entirely plausible is this other glaring issue that should have called for far more forethought. And it is this…

That “Hotel Lobby” will not be rooming at any AirBnB as they call for increased regulations, but rather, and more probably (wait for it…)

Trump International Hotel™, 1100 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.

© 2018 Mark St.Cyr