LCT rounded up a tricks-of-the-trade sampler of ideas, strategies and tips from 10 operators nationwide that have helped them run better businesses.
Best ideas abound in the chauffeured transportation industry, and this theme obviously will have to be revisited in future issues of LCT Magazine. For now, are two sets of good ideas provided by veteran operators who have been there and done that.
PEOPLE ARE PARAMOUNT
From: Valera Global, New York City
Cultivating a strong staff and management team is the most important resource in competing with other companies, says New York operator David Eckstein, president of Valera Global. Operators should “do anything and everything possible to develop and support your staff and management-team members’ morale through positive communication, cooperation and understanding,” Eckstein says. He offers the following six principles to good personnel:
1) Find the right individuals for the right positions to develop your most qualified loyal staff and management-team members for as long as possible. Select applicants based on attitude more than their knowledge and connections. Individuals with the right attitude learn better, care more, and work better toward the interests of the company than someone who is only looking at their paycheck. Learn to read an individual’s body language to get a better idea if what you’re being told is true, an exaggeration, or fiction. We might speak lies, but our bodies’ reactions more often reveal the reality individuals seek to hide.
2) Encourage constructive criticism to find the best possible solutions for your problem issues. Make your staff feel important and breed a sense of their accomplishment. Respect them and their opinions. Most people leave their jobs not because of money but because they don’t feel appreciated as an important part of the team. Individuals only interested in their paychecks go about the day without the caring and feeling of belonging to the corporate culture. At the next opportunity, they’ll leave for the next highest bidder. Any individual who doesn’t leave and continues to feel unappreciated, left out and/or dejected will create an ever increasing anti-company atmosphere of negativity throughout the entire company, becoming like a cancer metastasizing across the staff that brings down morale and compromises service.
3) “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” Listen every time a staff member expresses an opinion with an open, appreciative mind. Being correct is only a percentage. Straight honest recommendations and comments only come when it’s known that management values constructive criticism. Never totally reject those who you might not agree with. Always thank staff and management for their foresight and opinion because everyone wants to know they are recognized and appreciated for their service.
4) Never assume anything as being the truth. Always question and read between the lines for what might not have been said. Why and who is saying what for what possible reasons not being stated. Always remember the ulterior motives behind an individual’s goals and reasoning.
5) Identify staff members that don’t fit into your corporate culture by first changing their job responsibilities and or the team mates they work with. This way you can confirm if you’re dealing with a personality clash with someone who could be turned around positively instead of starting over with an unknown replacement. It’s much more expensive and problematic to bring in new hires than working with known entities. Only as a last resort should a problematic individual be let go. The key is to do it as soon as possible before they are allowed to create any problems or spread negative attitudes.
6) Delegate and allow management and staff to make and learn from their mistakes. Hurt egos and destroyed self-confidence generate animosity that is almost never forgotten or forgiven.
MAKING MONEY And Holding On To It
From: Philip Wockner International, Los Angeles
Debt will kill your business, says Philip Wockner, a two-decade-plus executive chauffeur and operator in Los Angeles. And overhead is not a euphemism for debt, he adds. Wockner’s money-saver and keeper tips:
1) Put most of your employees on a performance-based evaluation system. Know all aspects of your business. Train all employees to transition from dispatch to chauffeur to meeter/greeter as needed. It will make their working lives more interesting and help them appreciate the business more overall.
2) Use a web-based limousine software system, such as Limo Anywhere of Dallas. Be able to operate your business from any computer anywhere in the world.
3) Hire a computer marketing guru. The Web is not going away, and the present and future is all about electronic marketing, such as e-mail blasts, Facebook, Blogger, Linked In, Twitter, YouTube, eBay, etc. Direct mail marketing is still a very effective way to market, but you must consider the costs and logistics: Labor, purchase of lists from Info USA, stamps, secretarial services, stationery, envelope stuffing. Also, retain a PR firm to enhance the branding of your company through media exposure.
4) Use dealers to take care of vehicles, but also use a qualified mechanic previously employed by a dealer who does not have the overhead and can do a quality job. You can save many thousands of dollars by using your “little guy” to complement occasional dealer servicing.
5) Do not use credit cards to help finance your business costs. The lure of “frequent flyer points” doesn’t stand up. Instead, use a debit card for when you rent vehicles, for example. Debit cards allow you to exercise total control and discipline over finances. The American Express charge card is also acceptable, since balances must be paid in full each month. Do your billing and invoicing immediately to control cash flow.
6) Do not downsize dramatically or cut your rates during tough economic times. Those are regressive postures. To succeed in business or in life you must adopt an aggressive posture on both a micro and macro level. Please remember that “you own the business,” not the other way around, “the business owns you.” Make sure you delegate.
SEE MORE BEST IDEAS IN THE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2011 print issue of LCT MAGAZINE.