Elliot Darvick shares what it’s like to run a ride-sharing company in the Motor City, how Lyft is engaging with drivers and the community, and his favorite spot to Lyft to.
By Stephanie Steinberg
Name: Elliot Darvick
Title: Lyft General Manager of Michigan and Ohio
City: Huntington Woods
Schools attended: Cranbrook-Kingswood High School and Washington University in St. Louis
1. How did you get started at Lyft, and what year was this?
In 2013, I interviewed for a position with their Los Angeles office. I didn’t get the job, but I fell in love with the founders’ vision. Three years later in April of 2016 I had the chance to interview again, this time for a position in Detroit. Things worked out better this time!
2. What does your job entail? Walk us through a typical day.
I oversee all local operations and profit and loss management for Michigan and Ohio. Every day is so very different; in the past four weeks I’ve worked on projects ranging from negotiating a sports sponsorship to hosting an impromptu driver meetup in a Cincinnati airport staging lot. As our team grows locally, I am spending a lot more time thinking about how to create the best environment for what is a high caliber group of individuals.
3. How many drivers do you oversee locally?
While I can’t state specific numbers, we have an incredible local driver community across Michigan and Ohio. Make sure to sit up front next time you call a Lyft and get to know your Lyft driver. At best, Lyft isn’t just an on-demand transportation company, but human connection on-demand.
4. How do you excite drivers about the Lyft brand?
Very simple: Listen to their challenges, solve their challenges, expand their opportunity to earn, and then go right back to listening to their challenges again.
5. Lyft is a national brand, but is trying to form a local identity in Metro Detroit. How do you go about doing that?
Lyft embeds teams locally so that we can build the defining brand of our generation in a way that we know will resonate with locals. For example, if you were managing the market remotely, you might not have Detroit City Football Club on your radar, but to be here on the ground, to see how much that club means to the city — you realize it’s an investment you have to make when given the opportunity (and we did).
6. We live in the Motor City, where people are proud to own and drive their own cars. What are some strategies you’ve used to encourage Michiganders to try ride-sharing?
We’ve made it a point to be top-of-mind for events that have parking in very short (and expensive) supply, like Tigers Opening Day or Movement. Increasingly, it’s really anything that brings people downtown; there is a reason Little Caesars Arena has quickly skyrocketed to being one of our top destinations. In that context, we’re often the less-expensive, more convenient, more responsible option compared with driving a car. It will take time.
There is also the other end of the spectrum, and that’s the reality that the city of Detroit has many households without access to a vehicle due to the incredibly high cost of insurance. One in three Lyft rides in Metro Detroit starts in a low-income neighborhood. Cognizant of this reality, we’ve invested in programs, such as partnership with DDOT, that bring us closer to these communities that are a significant part of our business.
7. Lyft partners with big local events like the North American International Auto Show to give ride discounts with promo codes. Are promo codes an effective way for local consumers to try a product?
Yes, they have been an incredibly effective way to scale our brand locally, but an event like NAIAS isn’t just about distributing promo codes; it gives us an opportunity to control the pick-up/drop-off experience for our passengers and drivers, creating a great impression when the code is actually used.
8. Lyft and Uber both operate in Metro Detroit. How does Lyft differentiate itself?
At the highest level, we continually lean into our own unique set of brand brand values, which lead us to invest in community partnerships, to seek out opportunities that uplift our driver base and to do our part to improve the lives of others.
9. Lyft is the sponsor of MusicTown Detroit in the Hockeytown Cafe, where you’re hosting musical performances and giving drivers access to a recording studio. Why sponsor a music venue?
Our investment in MusicTown was built on the fundamental belief that we have incredible talent within our Metro Detroit driver community, and that we have a duty to help foster that talent. So far that belief has been shown to be spot on. Beyond that, passengers choose Lyft because they value a unique experience, and by creating the Lyft Lounge, we can deliver exactly that outside the confines of a car.
10. You grew up in Metro Detroit and returned in 2016 to work for Lyft. For other native Michiganders who moved away, and are contemplating returning, do you have any advice for them?
Don’t wait, move now.
11. What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Knowing that everyday, people rely on us to get to jobs, to get to doctor appointments, to get home safely — I don’t take that responsibility lightly, and it creates a lot of pressure on me and our team to perform at our best, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
12. What do you enjoy most about your job?
Hearing stories from drivers about how Lyft has made a difference in their life.
13. Who’s been a mentor in your career?
My father above all. He taught me the value of life balance by living it every day of his career.
14. What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t be known as the person willing to make personal sacrifices, be known as the person who gets results.
Now on to some fun questions…
15. Favorite place in Metro Detroit to Lyft to?
Keyworth Stadium, home of Detroit City Football Club.
16. If you could take a free Lyft ride anywhere, where would it be?
It would have to be a Lyft Lux SUV ride. I’d go to Dairy Mat on Woodward, hop out and order a shake, and then get back inside my Lyft. I’d then have a small identity crisis because I typically don’t eat dairy, and I don’t like being ostentatious.
17. If you could take a Lyft ride with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I never met my grandfather on my dad’s side. I have so many questions.
18. What do you personally drive?
I sold my car in November. I take Lyft and public transportation.
19. If you could drive any kind of car, what would you drive?
1992 Buick Roadmaster
20. When you’re not working, where can we find you?
Playing on my front lawn with my daughter.
Bonus question: Anything else you’d like to share?
Support public transit in Metro Detroit. For the long-term health of this region, we need a more unified, accessible and robust transit system. Selfishly, it’s good for business, because Lyft and public transit work well together. Beyond that, if we want to attract talent to this city from places like New York, San Francisco and Chicago, we need transit. No one wants to go back to gripping a steering wheel for 30 minutes every morning when they’ve been used to gripping a book.
Each month, we interview executives in Metro Detroit to get their business and career advice. If you know someone who should be featured in SEEN Around the Water Cooler, email firstname.lastname@example.org.