Dean De Beer, chief executive of U.K.- and U.S.- based Tristar Worldwide Chauffeur Services, like all operators, is taking the U.S. economic meltdown seriously.
His company, which has been in business for nearly four decades, has seen its share of changes in the global transportation market, good and bad.
“Every country in the world has been affected by the financial crisis and the U.K. is feeling the pain like everyone else,” De Beer says. “When a country the size of the U.S. is having economic difficulties, it is bound to have some sort of impact on the other economies and international business.”
But instead of resting on its laurels while waiting for things to blow over, Tristar is taking the economic slowdown head on by continuing to pursue its impressive growth goals.
“I don’t believe any business can be immune to what has happened recently,” says De Beer, “but I am glad to say that while certain areas of the business are trading below expectations, overall we are still achieving our aggressive growth targets.”
For a company that’s been successful as long as Tristar, the ability to stare into the face of a challenge presumably isn’t a new trait.
The Sky’s No Limit
In the mid-1970s, Tristar’s business expanded with the need for chauffeured services to first and business class passengers of a select number of U.K. airlines. As the trend caught on and more airlines began to offer complimentary chauffeur service, Tristar was positioned to handle the influx of airline-sourced transportation in the U.K.
Infused with the business it received from its airline partnerships, the company in 1997 began to aggressively expand into the corporate market by targeting blue chip financial services and industrial companies in the U.K.
“The global network became a priority in the late 1990s as business travel boomed,” De Beer says. In response to demands from its corporate clientele, by 1998 Tristar began its international service on the east coast of the U.S.
“Our customers started to want the ability to make one call to book ground transport anywhere in the world and to be billed in a single currency,” he adds.
Over the course of many years and challenges, Tristar continued to expand its international network. Today the company regularly provides service in more than 50 countries worldwide, including the U.S., Italy, Russia, France, and Dubai.
“Rather than establish operations in all of these countries,” says De Beer, “we prefer to form strong, mutually beneficial relationships with service partners who have local knowledge and expertise.” Tristar did, however, launch its own U.S operation in 2006 and with much success.
Following the success of its global networking, Tristar diversified its service offerings by forging into the road show market. De Beer sees this as one of the most influential segments of the company’s growth.
“The diversification has helped immensely,” he says. “We are able to offer all our customers a wide range of services, which increases the revenue potential.”
Five Star Expectations
In addition to Tristar’s global accessibility, the company takes its clients’ needs seriously. Customer service has been the one constant that has made it such a profitable and constantly evolving enterprise.
“Our customers, whether airline, corporate or individual, are all extremely demanding with very high expectations of service,” De Beer says. And you can’t really blame them for expecting the standards of first class service on which Tristar was built.
“The majority of people use our service for business purposes,” De Beer says. “They want to be confident that we will be punctual, reliable and safe,” a reputation Tristar has been known for since the airline days.
Although De Beer thinks business and pleasure travel won’t ever cease, he believes people will be traveling less in 2009 and carefully watching costs when they do travel.
“However, at the same time we see some opportunities as people still want a value for money — consistently reliable service — and that’s what we offer,” he says. Despite these current difficult times, the need for global transportation will remain a constant, De Beer says.
Weathering the Storm: De Beer’s Advice to Operators
De Beer urges operators to tap the industry knowledge and experience of their peers when it comes to honing service standards and business ethos. Here’s what he had to say about what he’s learned over the years.
The state of the global economy will require strong, pre-emptive attention to service, and giving customers true value for the every dollar they spend. In other words, cutting rates isn’t the quick fix operators should rely on, De Beer says.
“If you do need to cut your rates,” he says, “ensure your clients that the discount is temporary until market conditions improve.” Rather than submitting to knee-jerk rate slashing, De Beer suggests improving your service levels before you undercut the market even further.
De Beer also stresses the importance of implementing global sustainability initiatives into your company’s everyday operations. It can be easy, he says, to make incremental changes that help companies operate as efficiently as possible.
“We have to accept that our industry is one of those in the environmental spotlight,” adds De Beer. “And we have to do as much as we can to reduce our emissions.”
De Beer notes it is a good idea to discuss issues with service partners even if they are in different cities or countries because they may face similar issues. Seeing challenges from many different perspectives can help come to a less than obvious solution.
Dean De Beer’s Top Four Concerns
One look at the U.S. economy proves even the largest and most successful companies run the risk of losing everything in the blink of an eye. And the pressure to reduce emissions in the face of high fuel prices and government mandates worldwide mars the positive outlook of the next couple of years for the transportation industry. De Beer is especially concerned about the following:
- Uncertainty of the business outlook for the next 12-to-24 months
- Environment and sustainability
- Price of oil
- Safety and service of Tristar clients
3 BIG Lessons Learned Over Three Decades of Success:
BE PROACTIVE: "In our industry it is inevitable that problems will arise, but you can often turn this to your advantage if, for example, you can give the passenger early warning and provide a solution."
YOU ARE ONLY AS GOOD AS THE LAST RIDE: "The key to success is consistency and reliability of service. Invest in your people, processes, and technology to achieve this."
FLEXIBILITY: "We have won a lot of business by listening to our customers’ needs and proposing solutions to meet these requirements, even if that means significant changes within our operation."
Name of Company: Tristar Worldwide Chauffeur Services
Location: London and Manchester, England; Boston and New York
Years in business: 36
Number of vehicles: 650
Number of employees: 800
Major countries in its global network: U.K., U.S., France, Germany, Italy, Dubai, and Russia