Lorenzo Armani, CEO of Absolute Styling Limousine
in Vancouver, B.C., will still get behind the wheel and chauffeur some VIP clients and special guests. “I drive a lot, maybe more than I should,” he says. “I have affiliates in New York and they’ll call me and ask if I can drive a special job at 2 a.m., saying this actress is coming in or they just got a new contract and need an SUV or Sprinter, and they want me to drive. But I’m happy to do it.”
BIGGEST SUCCESS: Armani’s most recent accomplishment has been working for the 2015 FIFA women’s World Cup held in Vancouver and all over Canada. “We’ve been pretty busy and it’s a big logistical challenge, but it’s been go, go, go,” he says of the work.
BUSINESS LIKES: “It’s never boring. It’s always different and you’re always talking to new people. You encounter all kinds of people from celebrity singers to princes and princesses from foreign places.”
TRIED TECHNOLOGIES: Absolute Styling uses the Limo Anywhere reservation software. Armani says he was one of the first to implement an app-based booking system. “We service a few hotels in downtown Vancouver, and we came out with the Vancouver Limousine App in 2013 for them. I got the idea after the first show I saw Uber introduced. When I came back, I made the app. It’s not as fancy as Uber, but it lets [the hotels] preschedule and people can book within a few hours.”
TRADE SHOW TIPS: “I started attending LCT shows in 2012, which is when I also first heard about the National Limousine Association. At the beginning, you have two or three cars and you’re working your ass off to keep them busy, and you look at these big companies and think how can they sustain it? But then I learned about contracts and affiliate work. If you don’t have them, you can’t sustain business. You can’t rely just on retail.”
Armani keeps his fleet within three years of new model years, with the Sprinter (far left) his most recent addition.
BUSINESS ORIGINS: Armani owned an upholstery and custom vehicle upfit shop for many years, and had contracts with many car dealers and retail clients in the area. “We would take apart the vehicle and install the leather, heated seats, and navigation systems. We were installing VHS players in the passenger side headrests way back when that was a big deal. We were a true custom upfit company.”
START-UP STRATEGIES: Armani bought a used limo with a dilapidated interior, knowing he could fix it up. “Then I marketed the limo service to my local business network I had from detailing. I knew a few people that had been coming to our shops, and they knew about my cars and my new service.”
CLIENT TYPES: Armani reports most of his clients are corporate business travelers coming into Vancouver for conventions.
OPERATOR ADVICE: “Gain as much knowledge as you can. If you don’t have enough knowledge, then you won’t know the ropes on legislation and it can lead to problems like buying a car and thinking it will do well, but then having it take a year to get the proper license.”
LESSONS LEARNED: Armani says his biggest mistake was buying an extra stretch limo early for which he had no business. “You should have the business first, and then get the car. That is one mistake a lot of rookies make. Everybody thinks I’ll buy a brand new vehicle and do well, but no. Just having a car does not mean you’ll immediately get new business.”
FUTURE PLANS: Armani is looking to expand into more affiliate work. “We just got the worldwide business a year ago and we’ve started farming out. We have a few clients that are using us wherever they go, wherever they fly. We’ve been getting a lot of steady [farm in] business coming in, so now it’s time we send it back out.”
Location: Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Owner: Lorenzo Armani
Main service region: Greater Vancouver area, Whistler, Canada, and Seattle.
Vehicle types: Sprinter, SUVs, sedans (XTS and Town Cars), an S Class Mercedes, and stretch limousines
Fleet size: 6
Annual revenues: $500,000