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Industry power line-up: NLA President Gary Buffo (L) introduced the Affiliate Networks panel of (L to R): CEOs Gary Kessler of Carey International, Scott Solombrino of Dav El/Boston Coach Chauffeured Transportation, and David Seelinger of Empire CLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services. (Photo by LCT)
LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Combine big business opportunities with big industry names and you will get a standing room-only crowd.
One of the most popular sessions by far at the International LCT Show was titled, “Maximizing Your Value To Affiliate Networks,” presented by some of the most powerful and influential network leaders in the chauffeured transportation industry.
A packed audience turned out March 17 to hear CEOs David Seelinger of Empire CLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services, Gary Kessler of Carey International and Scott Solombrino of Dav El/Boston Coach Chauffeured Transportation speak on a topic of interest to operators who value getting the lucrative farm-out business from global networks.
Focusing on performance and standards, the CEOs offered tips on how you might get into one of the networks or keep your access.
In his opening statement, Kessler said, “Things are changing and the technology and consumer awareness is changing the face of the landscape.” The other CEOs echoed this sentiment as both clients and operators embrace and struggle to keep up with the ever-changing technology options.
Consumers demand everything faster and easier. They want last-minute ride bookings and immediate billing and closure when a ride is complete. They want access at their fingertips at all times.
“Affiliate networks are working hard to compete with the changing demands of new clients that have joined the industry since 2009,” Kessler said. “You really need to lower your operating expenses to compete.”
Why Fortune 500s Use Networks
With many Fortune 500 companies conducting operations around the nation and world, it makes sense to have one phone number to call to book ground transportation. It simplifies the process overall, especially the accounting. Most importantly, it gives the client company leverage to negotiate prices based on the mass number of rides it orders per year from a single source network.
“Fortune 500 companies don’t want 100 companies (handling their transportation),” Solombrino said. “They want one contract to handle their needs all over the world.”
To meet the demands of their clients, networks are rapidly expanding, Seelinger said. Networks have consolidated over the years to expand their reach, merge operations and deliver better services. The 2005 merger of Empire International with CLS Worldwide was just one such example. In the past year, Harrison Global acquired BostonCoach, which then merged with Dav El, combining three large Boston area transportation services and deepening its global affiliate network.
Branding Your Company
Seelinger advised that operators need to develop their own local brand by “bringing meaning to it within your community.” People in your community should know who you are before you try to join an affiliate network, he said.
When networks are looking for an affiliate, they call major hotels in your area to ask for names of local limousine services, Solombrino said. If they don’t know your name, you probably won’t get on. Other sources to connect with include your local Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitors Bureaus, and even local media. The networks are serious about getting the best of the best in each market they serve.
Seelinger told the audience that the worst way of trying to get in his door is by telling him that his current local affiliate is screwing up, not properly permitted or anything else bad. Instead, he suggested you should call him and market your company in the same way that you would if you were calling on a corporate account in your area. This would include providing references, company history and service information.