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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 more 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.
Meryl Kelso / Owner / Dash Limousine and Sedan Service / San Francisco
Cultivate relationships: “I’m building my business based on relationships. You want an affiliate to know you by name when they pick up the phone, especially if you’re sending them work.”
Limit your driving: “Several mentors told me I should stop driving and put my focus on running and promoting the business,” Kelso says. “I will never get out of the car entirely — I think it reinforces customer loyalty — but my mentors are right. Now that I don’t drive every day, I am more able to keep my eye on the numbers and operations, and I can still connect with clients by phone.”
Don’t be a homebody: “San Francisco is a very saturated market. To break into it, you have to be pretty aggressive to take business away from others or at least get a piece of it. I don’t work much with local companies; instead, most of my affiliates are out of state or international. I meet them at shows and they’ve been very good for business.”
Julie Dotan / President / J&B Executive Transportation, Inc. / Troy, Mich.
- Be an approachable boss. Don’t give yourself a huge luxury office with big-screen TVs; show your employees that you’re fair and simple. Get to know your staffers personally; they all know my children!
- We found it helps to pay employees weekly. We also give our drivers gratuity money right away. They prefer to have cash flow more frequently.
- Invest in technology upgrades to make business more efficient. GPS is a huge timesaver, plus you can track mileage honestly.
- Expand your own farm-outs to bring in more income.
- Set up your office so chauffeurs can better handle last-minute scheduling changes. Make sure items such as laminated signs, markers and badges are organized and easily accessible so employees can grab what they need and go.
Erin Shields / Founder / Green Carpet Limo / San Francisco
As one of the few alternative luxury-transportation services in the industry, Green Carpet Limo has a clientele that consists of high-profile individuals and celebrities. The company is often viewed as an extension of its customers’ brand; immaculate service is essential.
Owner Erin Shields attributes much of Green Carpet’s operational success to the power structure she has created, as she delegates a significant amount of leadership to her employees. “When the team is empowered, they make decisions from a more entrepreneurial perspective,” Shields says.
For example, the company’s lead chauffeur has a strong role in the hiring process. He interviews candidates and narrows them down for Shields. This opportunity has helped improve his work, she says. “My team is only as strong as its weakest link. And this concept holds true in this industry.”
Shields also grants her employees the power to make crucial decisions on the spot. “This has been vital to creating long-term relationships and maintaining integrity,” she says. A few months ago, a chauffeur’s vehicle was towed while on the job. Thinking quickly, he hailed a cab and delivered his client to her next meeting. During the meeting, he retrieved the car from impound and was able to resume their tight schedule without much of a hitch. “When they know they can offer viable solutions that make a big difference, everyone wins.”
Additionally, Y Fray of EcoLimo in Los Angeles has served as a guide and resource to Green Carpet. “Fray is willing to share the ins and outs of the industry through the perspective of a niche market company,” she says.