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Reston Limousine CEO Kristina Bouweiri, director of business relations Barry Gross, and COO Tony Simon with a Van Hool motorcoach at the company’s Sterling, Va., headquarters and main fleet facility.
STERLING, Va. — Reston Limousine
knows how to pack things in — in a building, on a fleet lot, and with customer service. It’s all led by a CEO who juggles a schedule fit for a U.S. President.
On a humid, overcast weekday morning in July, the lot was ringed with cutaway buses, Lincoln MKT Town Cars, vans and stretch limousines. They created the impression of a slow business day. As if. The vehicles on this tight lot were actually only a fraction of the Reston fleet, now numbering about 220 vehicles, most of which were out on runs across the Washington, D.C. metropolis.
The company is looking for a new facility in its service region to centralize its fleet management and save on fuel costs, while adding space for staff and vehicles. Crammed two-story quarters and busy fleet lots, however, aren’t deterring entrepreneurial ideas for the quarter-century company. Reston Limousine, based in the mushroom field of high-tech innovation that surrounds the Dulles International Airport, proves that a chauffeured transportation company can master challenges and find new ways to make money.
In recent years, Reston has been transforming in-house functions into profitable business units, while expanding the roles of a limousine company. Its approach serves as an industry model of how an operation can adapt, survive and succeed in a ground transportation world gone mad over Uber:
Idea No. 1: Motorcoaches Plus
On that same weekday, Barry Gross, director of business relations, and COO Tony Simon were negotiating a deal for three new motorcoaches, adding to the three Reston bought in the mid-2000s. The phone calls and e-mails finally resulted in the purchase of three Van Hool CX-45 56-passenger buses to be delivered by December.
“We are making a strong push on our motorcoach division after farming out nearly $1.2 million in local coach business over the prior 12 months,” Gross says. “We are seeing more and more large bus movements. Our motorcoach revenue for June 2015 was $303,000 and just under $2 million for the last 12 months. That means our three current full-sized coaches generated about $800,000 combined in the past 12 months.”
Gross estimates Reston will eventually need nine to 12 motorcoaches to match client demand. “The numbers clearly support our expansion. We believe motorcoaches are the single greatest way to increase topline revenue in our industry.” To grow Reston’s network of charter and tour industry contracts, Gross joined motorcoach trade groups and recently was nominated for a board position at the Virginia Motorcoach Association.
Idea No. 2: BRIDJ Shuttle Service
Branded Reston vehicles run on a fare-based, fixed-but-flexible route system to fill in gaps where mass transit doesn’t go. Reston is working directly with an app company to support their efforts on the transportation side only. The BRIDJ (www.bridj.com) service, which Simon calls the “Uber of shuttles,” provides a more affordable alternative to taxicabs and TNCs, especially in areas with routine commuter patterns. Millennial professionals, attuned to on-demand ways, like the privately run, quasi-transit service with $2 to $5 fares, which is a notch above public transportation. The app-based service allows drivers to slightly vary routes to pick up riders in the vicinity as long as they keep the general direction of the route. It lets the driver know rider locations.
Idea No. 3: Wash, Repair, Dump!
When a fleet company gets big enough, the economics warrant in-house vehicle washing, vehicle repair and maintenance, and for buses, restroom waste disposal. “We need to make more money because [chauffeured transportation] overall is a low profit margin business,” Simon says. “So how can each department become a profit center?”
At Reston, those three in-house functions at the Sterling headquarters also cater to commercial customers and the general public. Relying on word of mouth from soft openings, the units are turning so much volume that Simon so far avoids promoting and advertising the services.