Operations

Newcomers to the Top 100 on What it Takes to Succeed

Posted on July 1, 2007 by LCT Staff - Also by this author

I had the privilege of dining with Jim and Carol Jimmerson during the LCT International Show and was astonished by the rapid growth of Executive Limousine of Las Vegas. The excitement and enthusiasm of the Jimmerson’s is reflected in their responses which were answered as a team:

LCT: Is there anything that you believe to be special in your market that helped you grow to the size you are today?

Jimmerson’s: Yes, the fabulous growth and maturation of the City of Las Vegas and its surrounding areas has provided wonderful opportunities for companies to grow in our community, including Executive Las Vegas. From a six-car company to our current size in a three-year time period is certainly an accomplishment that is both humbling and daunting. Las Vegas was ready for a new limousine transportation company that emphasized professionalism and quality of service. One of the benefits of being a new company emphasizing quality and timely service is the fact that our company has not yet acquired any “bad habits”.

Also, one other important factor that certainly aided our growth was the opportunity to build a fleet for Steve and Elaine Wynn and their fabulous Wynn Resort here in Las Vegas. Executive Las Vegas has internalized the same high service standards that has allowed the Wynn Resort to be the only casino-resort in the world to have achieved both Five-Star and Five-Diamond service awards.

LCT: How long have you been in the industry and how did you get into it?

Jimmerson’s: We have been in the industry for approximately three years. We got into the industry by agreeing to initially manage and then purchase a small company, completed in 2004. We thereafter purchased Star Limousine’s assets here in Las Vegas and completed that purchase in December, 2004. Our interest in transportation stems from my husband having been privileged to serve as the Chairman of the Nevada Taxicab Authority under two governors, Governor Bob Miller and Governor Ken Guinn, and as a result of that experience, he got the transportation “bug”.

LCT: Ever think of getting out?

Jimmerson’s: Hardly a day passes that we don’t! Ha! The challenges of the business require that you be extremely nimble, responsive and accountable. Excellence in transportation only occurs by attention to detail.

LCT: What advice could you offer to new operators attempting to grow?

Jimmerson’s: Research your marketplace. Find a niche that is under-served and create and implement a business plan that emphasizes quality and timely service. Large or small, a company’s reputation is only as good as the service that is being performed today. Stand behind your commitment and emphasize service first and dollars second. The dollars will always be there if you provide good service first.

LCT: What do you do for fun in your spare time?

Carol Jimmerson: What spare time? I love to shop. Shopping is my cardio, handbags and purses are my weakness. Our family loves to travel with our four children, Jimmy, Chad, Jacob and Bentley.

LCT: How do you separate the business life from the personal life in this "life style" career?

Jimmerson’s: For us, it is a matter of setting priorities. We dedicate ourselves to our business and to our clients throughout the course of the day. Nonetheless, we take time out to transport our kids to and from school, attend to their homework, and insure that we are home to spend some quality time with them.

LCT: Belong to any associations or civic organizations? Which ones and why?

Jimmerson’s: While we belong to several associations and civic organizations, the one that we spend special time and attention to is the After-School All Stars Charity. It is a national charity chaired by California Governor, Arnold Schwartzenegger. The Nevada Chapter is co-chaired by Elaine Wynn and John Pucci, and my husband Jim is a member of the Executive Board. It emphasizes after-school programs for schools in our City that are disadvantaged and provides great educational and sports after-school programs to benefit the children and their parents.

LCT: Can you describe your local market and who you target as clients?

Jimmerson’s: Las Vegas is an extremely competitive transportation market and attention to your day-to-day operations is crucial. In this regard, we are fortunate to have an outstanding General Manager, M.K. Prevez, who was the General Manager for Las Vegas Limousines and CLS Limousines in Las Vegas prior to coming to work as a part of our team. We are very selective in who we target as clients, so as to not sacrifice service standards. We are privileged to serve some of the nation’s and our City’s most valued clients here in Las Vegas and are humbled and gratified by the opportunity to do so.

LCT: Do you use outside sales reps?

Jimmerson’s: We do not use outside sales representatives.

LCT: Did you find trouble turning over some of the reigns to others?

Jimmerson’s: Yes, we do. Being new to the industry, my husband and I spend a great deal of time everyday dedicated to our business. However, the ability to delegate responsibility is commensurate with the strength of your supporting management staff. In this regard, we are indeed fortunate to have as our General Manager, M.K. Prevez, who is a seasoned professional in his field, and, who prior to being General Manager for Executive Las Vegas, served in that same capacity for Las Vegas Limousines and CLS. We also have strong staff in operations and accounting.

LCT: Lease or buy your cars and why?

Jimmerson’s: We generally buy the vehicles. We do so because we find that buying vehicles can be less expensive and further there are certain equity requirements that Nevada TSA requires which causes us to lean towards buying our vehicles.

LCT: How often do you turn cars over?

Jimmerson’s: Our fleet is turned over in its entirety every three years. With our being a new company, all of our cars are new and while these things change daily, we believe we have the newest and freshest fleet in Las Vegas. The average age of our cars is just over one year.

LCT: What are the key ingredients to your success?

Jimmerson’s: Hard work, professionalism, humility and a bit of luck. We really pay attention to detail, and we don’t take anything for granted. We communicate to our clients our appreciation for their business, and we believe that the customer and his service comes first. Everything else is a distant third.

LCT: What are some pitfalls or mistakes that nearly ate your lunch early in your career?

Jimmerson’s: In this business, the capital investment associated with the limousine field is huge and keeping your costs in line is absolutely necessary. We didn’t do the best job of that in our first years’ operation and definitely could have done better. We quite literally “paid” for our inexperience; in this business you are forced to learn quickly or fail. LCT: How many cars in your fleet and what is your fleet mix?

Jimmerson’s: Not including nearly a dozen vehicles we use for our medical rides, which work is federally funded and serviced through the State of Nevada, our fleet currently offers 92 vehicles to the riding public. The fleet contains seven categories: sedans, stretch limousines, VIP limousines, SUVs, stretch SUVs, vans, and buses. We also operate 30 shuttle buses and have the privilege of serving Door 8 at McCarran International Airport serving all major hotels and casinos in the Las Vegas area.

LCT: How many employees in your company?

Jimmerson’s: There are approximately 230 employees in our company.

LCT: Of those, how many are considered management level employees?

Jimmerson’s: Of the above, we consider management level employees at approximately 8-10.

Do you offer employee benefits? If so, what kind?

Jimmerson’s: We offer medical insurance for our employees. We are in the process of employing paid vacation for our employees who have been with us over a stated minimum period of time.

LCT: Where do you see your company being in ten years in terms of fleet size and employee size?

Jimmerson’s: It is hard for us to think of the size of the company in ten years simply because we are very much focused on serving our clients properly at the present time. Executive Las Vegas is a great company to work for. Our employees are part of a valued team. Our staff takes pride in its work, and they are rewarded for their hard work.

LCT: Do you work side by side as husband and wife or have completely separate duties?

Carol Jimmerson: There are separate duties that we have informally undertaken over time. I am involved daily in the business along with working with senior management in handling the more minute operational matters. Jim and I talk about events at the office everyday. With Jim being a legal professional (attorney), he is very much in tune with the quality of service requirements, as well as handling all of the regulatory and legal aspects of our business. Both of us live and die by the success of our service. Honestly we feel as bad or worse than the customer might if there is a service failure issue. We work very hard to ensure that those times are few and far between. LCT: What benefits do you see and what obstacles are involved working together?

Jimmerson’s: The benefits of working together are the ability to call upon each other for strength and for support, in trying times. We find the business to be interesting and, dare I say it – fun! The obstacles involved in working together are no different than any married couple may experience where there may be conflicts in priorities. Stolichnaya Elite Vodka on the rocks, with two cherries, is the antidote.

Robert Vaughan is the founder of Best Transportation. With eleven years in the industry beginning at the ripe age of 25, Vaughan has grown his company to a fleet of 47 in one of the fiercest, most competitive markets in the country. Serving the affluent Orange County, California and the southern parts of Los Angeles County his success is impressive.

LCT: Is there anything that you believe to be special in your market that helped you grow to the size you are today?

Vaughan: Orange County is a great destination for companies planning or hosting a corporate meeting. We specialize is full service transportation solutions for groups of any size and have built our business to accommodate this niche market.

LCT: How long have you been in the industry and how did you get into it?

Vaughan: I have been in the industry since 1995. While working for my father’s towing business full time, I began looking to do something different and to take advantage of the infrastructure we already had in place. We decided to buy our first limousine and by the end of the first year had a fleet of five. In 1996, we purchased an established local company with several corporate accounts and began focusing our efforts on growing that side of the business.

LCT: Ever think of getting out?

Vaughan: I am 36 years and love what I do. If an opportunity to “get out” presented itself I would look at the deal, but I don’t see myself going anywhere soon.

LCT: What advice could you offer to new operators attempting to grow?

Vaughan: Join your local livery association and reach out to others for help. Try to partner with an established company in your area and create a strong alliance. Consult with an industry professional to evaluate your business and update your business plan.

LCT: What do you do for fun in your spare time?

Vaughan: Spend time with my family, ride motocross, snowboard and visit Lake Havasu, AZ with our new boat.

LCT: How do you separate the business life from the personal life in this "life style career?

Vaughan: It is extremely important to find the right balance, in the beginning I did everything myself. As the business started to grow, I found a great team of people who I trust and that share my vision. As with anything you care about, the business is always on my mind. I still find time to enjoy the things in life that are important to me and depend on our team to allow me the time to escape.

LCT: Belong to any associations or civic organizations? Which ones and why?

Vaughan: We belong to several associations to support our industry, community and for the networking opportunities. NLA, GCLA, OCTA, ASTA, OC Concierge Association, Make A Wish, YMCA, Better Business Bureau, local Chambers of Commerce and all local Visitor & Convention Bureaus.

LCT: Are you involved in any other business entities?

Vaughan: I am not involved in any other business ventures currently. I am focusing my efforts with Best and plan on growing into a more regional company.

LCT: Can you describe your local market and who you target as clients?

Vaughan: The local market in Orange County is a mix of retail, corporate and destination services. Our target clients consist of mainly corporate, destination services and affiliates.

Do you use outside sales reps?

Vaughan: We have used an outside sales rep, but do not have any currently. Finding the right person has proven to be a difficult task.

LCT: Did you find trouble turning over some of the reigns to others?

Vaughan: I have always encouraged my staff to challenge me and have enjoyed seeing our people rise to any occasion. Early on, it was difficult to turn things over because we were a small company and I was in control of every detail.

LCT: How did you deal with it?

Vaughan: If you want to grow, you must have faith in your decisions and the people you’ve chosen to help run your business.

LCT: Lease or buy your cars and why?

Vaughan: I buy all vehicles and write off the depreciation. Typically, I will pay off a vehicle and continue to use it for an additional year with no payment. When I am ready to sell, the vehicle holds some equity and gives me the down payment money needed for the replacement vehicle. This has allowed me more freedom and control over how I managed my fleet.

LCT: How often do you turn cars over?

Vaughan: Sedans, SUVs and limousines every 3 years. Vans and mini-coaches every 4-5 years.

LCT: What are the key ingredients to your success?

Vaughan: Supportive family, timing, patience, passion, empathy, pride and finding the right mix of people who share the same qualities and drive to be the best transportation in Southern California.

LCT: What are some mistakes you made early in your career?

Vaughan: Growing too fast without the infrastructure to handle the additional business and waiting too long to react to the tragedy of 9-11.

LCT: How many cars in your fleet and what is your fleet mix?

Vaughan: Currently, we have a fleet of 47 with a mix of sedans, limousines, SUVs, vans and mini-coaches.

LCT: How many employees in your company?

Vaughan: We have 88 full and part time employees.

LCT: Of those, how many are considered management level employees?

Vaughan: We have 7 Managers including myself.

LCT: Do you offer employee benefits? If so, what kind?

Vaughan: We offer health benefits, 401k, vacation and sick time.

LCT: Where do you see your company being in ten years in terms of fleet size and employee size?

Vaughan: I would like to see Best grow to a fleet of 100-150 vehicles servicing several regions of Southern California.

Located near the San Francisco Bay area, Bill Wheeler built Black Tie Transportation from a local limousine service to a huge network of independent operators serving the corporate market across America. All this success came on a whim while reading an auto trader magazine when one old Cadillac limousine was the beginning of this 65 car network.

LCT: Is there anything that you believe to be special in your market that helped you grow to the size you are today?

Wheeler: My business is located in a very affluent area with many high worth individuals and executives. Although not all of them live here, they do work here and control many of the large corporations around the Bay Area. We market directly to them and give them quality service, which in turn provides us with a high referral rate.

LCT: How long have you been in the industry and how did you get into it?

Wheeler: I began my business in 1987. I was looking through a car trader magazine and saw a 1982 Cadillac 56" stretch limousine. It looked like fun, so I bought the car!

LCT: Ever think of getting out?

Wheeler: Every day! I feel it is important to always maintain an exit strategy.

LCT: What advice could you offer to new operators attempting to grow?

Wheeler: Show up on time with a clean car and a professional driver. As simple as that sounds, very few can do all three.

LCT: What do you do for fun in your spare time?

Wheeler: Spend time with my family. I very much enjoy dirt bike and motorcycle riding in Baja. I also do quite a bit of charitable work for the Wheelchair Foundation in Central and South America.

LCT: How do you separate the business life from the personal life in this "life style" career?

Wheeler: I delegate responsibilities to people I have entrusted with my business, which in turn allows me to spend a lot of time enjoying my family and personal interests.

LCT: Belong to any associations or civic organizations? Which ones and why?

Wheeler: NLA and Rotary International. Rotary is comprised of business people who choose to give back to their communities both locally and internationally. I feel it is important that as you succeed in life, you have an obligation to share with others who are less fortunate.

LCT: Are you involved in any other business entities?

Wheeler: I previously owned other transportation companies and travel agencies and found that the best thing I could do is focus on one entity and make it the best it can be

LCT: Do you use outside sales reps?

Wheeler: No

LCT: Did you find trouble turning over some of the reigns to others?

Wheeler: Absolutely not. The best thing you can do is develop a team and give them responsibility; allow them to make mistakes and learn from them to treat people with respect and integrity.

LCT: Lease or buy your cars?

Wheeler: I lease them with a $1.00 buyout.

LCT: How often do you turn cars over?

Wheeler: Every 36 months

LCT: What are the key ingredients to your success?

Wheeler: Identifying the needs of the customer and exceeding their expectations. I never micromanage. I allow my staff the opportunity for success or failure. Terminate problematic employees early.

LCT: What are some mistakes you made early in your career?

Wheeler: Growing too big too fast. I once thought that size was more important than profit. My goal is now to make the most money with the fewest cars and overhead.

LCT: How many cars in your fleet and what is your fleet mix?

I currently have a fleet of 65 vehicles. 40% are Town cars, 25% mini-coaches, 20% executive vans and 15% limousines LCT: How many employees in your company?

Wheeler: I currently have a staff of 105

LCT: Of those, how many are considered management level employees?

Wheeler: 6

LCT: Do you offer employee benefits?

Wheeler: Yes, we offer paid vacations to both chauffeurs and office staff as well as paid medical, dental and a 401K plan.

LCT: Where do you see your company being in ten years in terms of fleet size and employee size?

We do everything we can to maintain the current level. I do not have any interest in growing the fleet or employees any more than 5% per year. I am always interested in growing profit.

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