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Connecticut operator Michael Lindsey says there are many long-term benefits of investing in facilities. Short-term benefits include increased morale and a better overall attitude among all employees. Some people think it’s better to get the cheapest you can in some back alley, but in today’s market environment you have to have a presence out there, he said.
WINDSOR, Conn. — Connecticut operator Michael Lindsey runs a fleet vehicle not commonly found in chauffeured services. He has a Zamboni-like cart called a Tennant Floor Scrubber, an ionized mobile water unit that never leaves the garage of his business, Lindsey Limousine.
The garage of his new 8,000 square-foot facility serves as the core of his operational approach: “Cleanliness equals organization, and organization breeds efficiency,” he says. His pristine garage embodies a detailed, quality, luxury image communicated as much through a building as via client service and late model chauffeured vehicles.
Lindsey’s attention to detail brings up a question on which limousine operators disagree: Do you invest in high-class facilities to match the level of a luxury service image?
Lindsey explains: “The flooring in the garage area was done by a company that builds airplane hangars. The high-traffic urethane coating resists chemicals, dirt, and rubber from the hot tires and contains glass beads that prevent slipping. An untreated concrete floor will constantly be breaking down and constantly be dirty. This coating not only seals the floor but keeps it cleaner and is easier to clean. We use [scrubber] almost every day for even short periods of time to clean up the floor.”
Lindsey invested in a Tennant Floor Scrubber and built a custom wash bay. He had an aluminum and tempered glass wall normally used for a storefront installed to surround this area. It creates an open environment for the detailing staff so they don’t feel they are working in a small garage. It also allows them to always be viewable and enhances productivity, he says.
Building An Image
One approach favors a more virtual structure for fleet management based on mobile technology, a home-based office and a fleet dispersed to various locations, or the same arrangement with a basic warehouse/garage-style office. The other approach, used by Lindsey, involves a publicly accessible, storefront facility synonymous with a luxury service image — a place to impress prospective corporate clients invited for a visit to the occasional walk-in.
“I’ve seen the industry grow into much more professionalism,” Lindsey says. “It’s time we come out of the back alleys and out of the shadows and into business parks and be a real business.”
Lindsey spent three years looking for a new company location. He wanted a newer building with plenty of outside parking close to a main interstate. He ruled out using his previous location because renovations would take too much work. So he drove up and down the highway, taking exits and looking at surrounding properties. After considering a few sites with the help of an agent, he settled on one and closed a deal in October 2012 to acquire it. Lindsey then spent the next nine months renovating and upgrading the site at a cost of $500,000. The headquarters now accommodates a growing company. Lindsey bought airportlimo.com in 2009, which he rebranded into an airport transportation service that comprises 10% of his revenues.
“I was busting out of my old place,” says Lindsey, who has 60 employees. “My criterion was I wanted to stay in a certain geographic area. Then I needed a building large enough for my facility and high enough so you can drive buses in and out.”
Only One Chance
First impressions are a one-shot prospect, as the saying goes, especially when a lucrative, multi-year layered chauffeured transportation contract for a corporation is on the line.
Premier Transportation in Dallas has resided in four different upscale “A-/B+” business buildings and office complexes in its 17 years in business, much like the places where they pick up their corporate clients. The company has 70 chauffeurs and office staff and does about $10 million in business annually.
“For us, while bringing clients here is certainly a plus, the reason I did it was for employee morale and an innate sense that we don’t operate like a traditional limo company,” owner and CEO Eric Devlin says. “We run this like a business. We dress like it; our office confines are top-notch. The desks, carpeting, computers, wall art, color schemes all create a sense of professionalism, so when employees are dealing with clients and each other, they understand this is a professional setting and they act that way.”