Company leaders often bear the heavy burdens of numerous tasks: Monitor cost efficiency, manage affiliate relations, keep current with technology, and supervise a team of workers, who also can be very human. What’s more, leaders are held accountable for a team’s performance and must act as a personal motivator and role model. Here are four women of the chauffeured transportation industry sharing how they call the shots, where they get their inspiration, and what effective leadership techniques they’ve developed along the way. Part 2 will feature another four women limo business leaders.
Becky Laramee / President / All Points Limousine / Leominster, Mass.
Lead by example: “I used to own a garage so I’m the lady who can change a tire, alternator and tri-rod end while creating financial reports and handling a sale,” Laramee says. “When my employees see my competency, two things occur: I earn their respect and they’re motivated to try their hardest. I also communicate to my team where we are as a company and where we’re headed. Being open with my employees allows them to be open with me. I’m always looking for the next great idea on safety, customer service or efficiency, and I urge my team to share their opinions. For every 10 ideas, one usually gets implemented.”
Stand your ground. “I am known to be a bulldog when it comes to my rules. Every employee knows All Points Limo advocates safety, courtesy to clients and courtesy to one another. That’s of the utmost importance to me, and if you cross that line, you will do it only once.”
Put a face to your name. “As a leader of a company, I meet with clients or would-be clients two to three times a week. It has been a big help in creating a strong feeling of loyalty with my current client base and showing prospective clients I’m available to take on their transportation needs. [Operator] Carrie Peele is the reason I put my picture on my business card. Few operators do this, but it’s a real asset because customers buy the personal service, not the car.”
Sheri Barnes / Owner / Avante Limousine & Transportation / W. Lebanon, N.H.
Sheri Barnes, owner of Avante Limousine & Transportation, believes in the value of mentors. “If you pay attention to what the successful people around you are saying, you’re bound to learn something,” she says. Her personal list of industry gurus includes: Dawson Rutter of Commonwealth Worldwide; Philip and Linda Jagiela of Aires Limousine; Mark Mollica of Black Tie Limousine; and Matt Harrison, a limousine industry consultant. She offers the following compilation of foundational advice:
- Network, network, network. Get to know people in your community, and attend tradeshows and association gatherings.
- Be open to learning. Try to bring one thing back from each event to implement or share with employees.
- Grow your business through social networking. Use techniques such as SEO, Twitter and Facebook, and participate in charity events.
- Think of yourselves as “professional people driving professionals.” You need to look sharp, be sharp, and pay attention to detail. Even the condition of your vehicles’ windows and floor mats represent your company’s standards.
Carla Boccio / Owner / Buffalo Limousine / Buffalo, N.Y.
The most vital lesson owner Carla Boccio learned from her parents, John and Camille Patti, the founders of Buffalo Limousine, is that happy workers equal a happy business.
Boccio and her husband/co-owner, Frank, make it a point to remind their employees that they’re doing a good job at least once a week. Usually it’s a verbal compliment. But if a customer mentions their satisfaction, Boccio will type it up and post it on a bulletin board in the employees’ lounge.
“I pride myself on the success of my business, and in order to be successful, I have to rally my troops,” Boccio says. “Success means a very low employee turnover rate. We have chauffeurs who have been here for over 20 years.”
To further motivate her team, Boccio also has created a rewards program. When an exceptional comment comes in from a customer, the named employee gets a gift card to Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks. The program also includes maintenance workers and car washers; employees can nominate each other.
“It’s a unique technique that generates a lot of accomplishment,” Boccio says. “Invest! A little gift card goes a long way, and people should be rewarded for outstanding service.”
Mary Beall / V.P. & Partners Manager / First Class Executive Global / Phoenix
Mary Beall credits operators Sue Jarvis and the late Carla Boroday as her industry champions. From them she learned the following tips:
- Offer your employees good benefits. We give our chauffeurs one week of paid vacation a year. We also host annual dinners in which employees can bring their families.
- If your operation caters to the corporate world, your staff members must be discreet. Arrive 15 minutes early — the chauffeur always should be waiting on the client; never the inverse.
- Build profiles for your clients. Track their preferences for future trips. If someone likes to stop by Starbucks on their way home, make note of it.
- Always follow up with clients to find out both what they liked and what you could be doing better.
- Surveys are key. Evaluate how your fleet and chauffeurs are performing statistically.