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The New Sharing Economy

Recently Lyft, Uber and Car2Go came to Columbus. They all just showed up, practically at the same time, seemingly overnight. Surprised? I wasn't. It's just another sign of the rapidly growing "sharing economy."

Also called "collaborative consumption," the sharing economy is an old idea applied in all sorts of new ways. It can be summed up as "Some things I don't want or need to own; I just want to use that thing when I need it and return it when I don't." Essentially it's the old-fashioned public library concept, applied to everything. From apartment rentals to couch surfing, bikes or cars, vacation rentals for you and your dog, tools or art, there seems to be a sharing service for pretty much anything you can think of.

Entrepreneurs are happy to serve this growing market, and new "sharing" platforms are popping up all the time. Companies own and rent things that people need. The item is returned, and then the next person can use it for however long they need it. One car, chainsaw, book, or bike can serve the needs of many people because no one needs it all the time.

When I'm out of town, someone could use my house through Airbnb and my dog can stay at a place I found on DogVacay. If my car is parked all day, I could rent it to someone through RelayRides; if they're still using it, I can rent a CoGo bike to ride home.

This explosion of sharing is not popular with everyone-just ask the taxi drivers about their new competition from Lyft and Uber. And sharing is not for everyone or everything; you may want to own your home, car or tools and be the only one who uses them. But more and more people are embracing the concept, especially younger generations. It's not as important to them to own things, they just want access. This collaborative consumption offers flexibility, a low level of commitment, just-in-time use, and appeals to a desire to live more simply, with less "stuff."

Does this whole concept sound familiar? Staffing firms are pioneers in the sharing economy. We're experts on offering flexible, just-in-time access. Our businesses excel at finding people with specific skills and experience, and giving our clients the talent they need, when they need it. Once a project is done, the talent comes back to us so we can share them with another client. If our client decides they really need that person all the time, they can decide to hire and keep them.

And, while cars and tools don't care about flexible schedules, variety or whether someone chooses to keep them, people do. By sharing their skills through a staffing firm, our talent also gets to work with different people on a variety of projects, maintain a schedule that fits their needs, and try out a company before deciding whether they want to stay long-term.

An old idea becoming new again, the collaborative sharing economy is expanding into new industries and being applied in new ways. But staffing companies have been proving the viability and value for years. Everyone else is just catching on!

Kristen Harris is co-founder and owner of Portfolio Creative, a workforce innovation firm that was named a fastest growing company in by Inc. magazine for the past five years. Portfolio Creative connects clients with talent in all areas of design, marketing, communications and advertising. More information is posted at Portfolio Creative.

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