While it?s true that many customers never know the physical location of their limousine company of choice, location can be an important factor in a limousine company?s long-term success. Home-based operators are everywhere and when looking at ?what came first,? the home purchase normally comes before the idea to start a limousine service. Home-based operators do the best that they can to respect their neighbors and local laws while still earning a living. Whether their home is convenient to the airport or downtown is often the luck of the draw.
Many limousine companies that have fleets of 15 or more vehicles are located near the local airport in an industrial area where garage and warehouse space is fairly inexpensive. On-site maintenance and car washing often produce cost savings. Major east coast cities such as Newark, N.J., Baltimore and Philadelphia have designated ?enterprise zones? where real estate subsidies are available to encourage businesses to locate in economically distressed parts of a city.
Other limousine operators find that a hotel or downtown office building is a better fit for their company. They believe exposure and quick access to the corporate community is more important than any potential savings from being away from the main drag. Much of the decision of where to locate depends on a company?s business model. A company that does a large volume of wedding and retail business does not need to be in a downtown location. Also, a company with a large Yellow Pages ad often does not need additional exposure.
Alan Fisher has been in the limousine business for 22 years in New Orleans (and nine years in Atlanta). His company, London Livery, has been headquartered in a variety of locations in the New Orleans metro area. Fisher believes the number one rule is simple, ?Your business should be located as close to the center of your customers as possible.?
London Livery, with its 50-vehicle fleet, moved to its current location in December 1996. It is one block off of I-10 about a mile from the center of the Crescent City. ?We are very close to any of the downtown exits so we are minutes away from the majority of our customers,? Fisher explains. ?There are at least three different routes to get to downtown from our location so it gives our chauffeurs some flexibility.?
Fisher?s company is about 13 miles from the airport. ?We used to be much closer to the airport, but 13 miles is very manageable,? he says. ?We have an incredible facility with great office space and enough garage space to accommodate our vehicles. We also have a large billboard that is seen by thousands of people every day. The billboard alone has definitely helped us tremendously.?
London Livery?s billboard gives the company exposure, but many limousine companies sacrifice exposure for garage space in an industrial area close to downtown. Fisher believes garaging the vehicles is more important than a visible location.
?I believe that, especially in the parts of the country with bad weather, you make out better in the long run by garaging the vehicles,? he says.
Fisher cites a number of factors, including wear and tear on the vehicles, but the biggest item is cleanliness. ?It is very important to have clean cars transport your customers every day,? he says. ?When you clean a car then leave it exposed in a parking lot, you never know how clean the exterior will be when the customer gets in the car. Keeping them clean when they are not garaged is very difficult.?
London Livery of Atlanta has had nine years of steady growth. Led by Executive Vice President Marvin Fisher (Alan?s brother), the company is one of the city?s big players. And Fisher cites location as a key factor in the company?s growth.
?We are located in the Atlanta Financial Center in the middle of the corporate community,? Marvin Fisher explains. ?Our address (3353 Peachtree Rd.) is one of the most prestigious you can have in Atlanta. We do a great deal of business with corporate customers in our own building and within a two-minute ride of our office.?
A location in the center of the company?s target market (corporations) allows London Livery the ability to do ?ASAP? work. ?About 20 percent of our trips are fast-response, same-day bookings,? Marvin Fisher explains. ?I think we would lose a great many of these if we were 15 miles away. And I think, by knowing where we are located, the client is comfortable calling us for a last-minute trip.?
Although London Livery of Atlanta has garage space, it is not possible to do car washing and detailing or maintenance on-site.
?It is a situation that you have to work with,? Marvin Fisher says. ?We have a great set of maintenance and repair vendors, including our dealer. We also have an outside vendor who does a great job with cleaning and detailing our fleet. It is definitely a trade-off. We probably spend more money on cleaning and detailing than a company that could do it in-house. But I think it?s a good trade-off for our company. The downtown business we do justifies the increased costs.?
Another factor that favors a downtown location is ... for more information on this topic, check out the February issue of LCT magazine.