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For decades, the importance of services to the global economy has grown steadily while the importance of goods has declined. In fact, services now dominate, making up about 70% of the aggregate production and employment in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nations and contributing about 75% of the GDP in the United States.1 It’s only natural, then, that companies are constantly seeking to provide better services, regardless of whether they are in a “pure” service business or in a manufacturing industry that must increasingly rely on its service operations for continued profitability.
However, most improvements to service activities are incremental. Stores stay open longer; product makers establish Web sites with e-commerce functions; airlines, casinos and supermarket chains enhance loyalty card programs. These improvements are useful and indeed necessary, but they are limited in the kind of returns they can produce. Only rarely does a company develop a service that creates an entirely new market or so reshapes a market that the company enjoys unforeseen profits for a considerable length of time.
One such organization is Enterprise Rent-A-Car Company. Enterprise has been strikingly successful: In an industry long led by The Hertz Corp. and Avis Rent-A-Car System Inc., it exploited a new idea to overtake them both. Founded by Jack Taylor in St. Louis in 1957 as a car leasing business, Enterprise added a rental division in 1962 when Taylor’s customers began telling him that they often needed a car when theirs was in the shop for repair. While other rental car companies targeted travelers at airports, Enterprise focused on local customers who needed a replacement vehicle temporarily. This strategy required Enterprise to locate its offices close to where people live and work, and encouraged the company to develop such innovations as its “We’ll pick you up” service. Today, Enterprise’s revenues exceed $8 billion, and the company boasts the largest fleet size and the most rental locations in the United States.2 Ninety percent of the U.S. population lives within a 15-mile drive of one of Enterprise’s offices.3
In effect, Enterprise’s innovative view created a new market for car rentals in the same way that FedEx Corp. redefined the package delivery market.
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2. “Enterprise Rent-A-Car Revenue Exceeds $8 Billion: Records Set in Revenues, Fleet Size and Locations,” September 21, 2005, www.enterprise.com; and “Car Rental in the United States — Industry Profile,” October 2004, www.datamonitor.com.
3. “Rental Car Industry Expansion into Neighborhoods Fuels and Fills Americans’ Appetites,” Enterprise Rent-A-Car press release, May 18, 2005.
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16. B. DeSimone, “Cirque’s Siren Call to Athletes,” USA Today, July 7, 2005, sec. C, p. 1.
17. D. Joachim, “FedEx Delivers on CEO’s IT Vision,” Oct. 25, 1999, www.internetweek.com.
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19. S. Munoz, media relations manager, FedEx, interview with authors, July 8, 2005.
20. B. Elgin, “Managing Google’s Idea Factory,” Business Week, Oct. 3, 2005, 88–90.
21. B. O’Reilly, “The Secrets of America’s Most Admired Corporations: New Ideas, New Products,” Fortune, March 3, 1997, 60–64.