Operators need to continually update their plans and strategies when it comes to marketing their companies. The world is continually changing, so you need to be able to adapt your strategies to fit into the market. David Seelinger, president of Empire International, addressed this topic at the LCT Show in Las Vegas.
"We have to look for new things to do in marketing that don't cost a lot of money because we're all in a cost savings mode," Seelinger says. "Jack Welch said it best, 'change before you have to.'" Operators need to adapt their plans to whatever takes place and they need to overcome challenges and adversities that they my face in order to create a roadmap to success.
It All Begins with Imagination. Albert Einstein said, "imagination is more important than knowledge." Operators need to learn to take their imagination and dreams, put them to paper and apply them to their operation. In order to be successful, you first have to dream it. You need to have an idea of where and what you want of your business. "I had a dream back in 1990, when my partner passed away, that maybe I could take a very small limousine service and build it into something much bigger," Seelinger says. "I had no idea that it would go where it is today. But I had a dream. And it is very important to dream and have imagination." You need these dreams or ideas in order to establish goals. Then be sure to write it down. Everybody has dreams but you need to write them down so that you can apply them to your business.
Believe In It. A lot of people write stuff down and leave it on the edge of the desk not truly believing that they can get to the next step. "I read something recently about how professional golfers never imagine for a second that they won't get the ball exactly where they want it to go," Seelinger says. "That's a good thing to do when you are trying to apply this dream or this thing that you wrote down into your business."
Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help. Many people believe that they don't need any help. They don't want to ask anyone for advice. However, some of the best ideas came from some of the people who are out in the trenches, or have gone through things before.
Set Out to Achieve It. One of the problems that people have is that once they write plans down and they have this great idea, they don't make it happen. We start to realize that it will take too much on our part to get it done and we become discouraged. Thomas Edison said, "opportunity is missed by most people because it's dressed in overalls and looks like work," You have to work at this plan in order to achieve it.
Build Your Roadmap to Success. According to Bob Locket of Empire International, your roadmap to success contains three parts: set your goals, develop your plan and put your plan to work.
Establish Goals. You have to set goals. Without goals you will just move day-to-day and not go anywhere. "People with goals succeed because they know where they're going," Locket says. "If you don't know where you're going with your plan it's not going to do you any good." Goals need to be specific. For example, as limousine operators some goals that you may want to achieve are:
- Increase your revenue by 25 percent. This will involve creativity on your part and careful planing.
- Acquire 12 new customers. That may seem like a lot, but if you break it down to one new customer each month, it becomes more attainable.
- Initiate a new service in a new market. If you specialize in retail work and want to get into the corporate market or vice versa, a goal might be to initiate business in one new market segment. It could be proms, weddings, casinos, etc.
- Surprise your customers and exceed customer expectations. If you have a stretch drop off at the airport and you don't want to bring the car back empty, and you have a sedan pick up scheduled at the same airports, why not put the sedan pick up in the stretch? Have your chauffeurs give the client a card that says this is a complimentary upgrade today, we appreciate your business. It exceeds your customer's expectations.
- Improve chauffeur training and retention. The job market is perfect for this goal right now.
- Increase your profitability without expenses. For example, if you're paying by the hour and you send them 30 miles to the airport and the next pickup is not for another four hours, do you bring them back to the office or do you let them sit at the airport and pay them while they're there? Is it cheaper to let them sit at the airport or bring them back? As you know, expenses in this industry are based on how many miles you drive your cars. So if you can decrease your expenses by paying a little downtime, then do it.
- Improve flight-tracking ability. You don't want to send a chauffeur to the airport only to find out that the flight has been delayed three hours. You then have an airport run that's a big loser. A lot of operators have systems that give you wheels-down times of flights. You need to make sure that you have gate time. Wheels-down time has no value in today's world of increased security.
- Don't cut your rates. You can't afford to do it.
- Automate where possible. You have got to look for ways to make your company more efficient. This doesn't necessarily mean to invest in a lot of new software. But rather look at where you can streamline your workloads through automation.
- Improve overall success of your company. Lead by example. As an operator, be sure to dress professionally. You expect your chauffeurs to dress professionally, you need to set the example. "You are the image of your business" Seelinger says. "People will perceive who you are and what you can do by looking at you."
Plan carefully and strategically. Be sure to establish specific goals for yourself and your company and don't be afraid to dream. Nothing is impossible and you can never reach too high.