Mike Basso, VP of operations; Jeff Nyikos, COO; and Chris Nyikos, executive vice president
A little league baseball game almost 30 years ago was the starting point for Leros Point to Point
. After a meeting with another parent on the team who was in the industry, John Nyikos opened up a five-car fleet chauffeur service in Westchester, N.Y. He got his young sons, Jeff and Chris, acquainted with the business right away. “We kind of grew up in the business,” says Jeff Nyikos, COO of Leros Point to Point. “We started out at a real young age washing cars, and then eventually through high school we worked in reservations and dispatch during the summers.”
Jeff joined the company in 1993, not long after graduating from college, and his brother Chris — executive vice president of Leros — came to the company in 2000. “We had always been focused on corporate accounts,” says Jeff of when he first started, “and in 1998 we started to create the nationwide network, which began our affiliate system and growth in other markets.”
In the late 90s, Leros Point to Point grew with the help of the dot.com boom and the prosperous economic climate, acquiring companies and earning new business through sales. “And then 9/11 happens,” Jeff says.
“It was a very dramatic downturn in business; the first couple of weeks or months, we operated down 75%. And one of the things that helped us through is basically our infrastructure. And we still live by it today.”
Weathering The Storm
Leros made some changes and cut down on the percentage of independent owner/operators. It consolidated its fleet and chauffeurs to closer match the amount of owned vehicles. “Some of the chauffeurs that had been with us for a while,” Jeff recalls. “We offered to take their car[s] off the road and come into our vehicle[s].”
“Ford was a big help at the time too,” Jeff says. “They gave us a three-to-five month hiatus on payments, where we only had to pay interest.”
But like any business, cash flow is king, and what really helped Leros survive was a contract from a large corporation in one of the towers. All of their employees were displaced to emergency work locations in the Tri-State area. So for six to eight months, Leros would pick up the employees at various locations around Manhattan and Queens, and shuttle them to their satellite offices in Long Island and New Jersey.
The work was all done in Ford 14-passenger vans, with some subcontracted work out for mini-buses. Fortunately, by the Spring of 2002, business started to come back and Leros had made it through.
Consolidation During The Lean Times
The model of cutting down on independent operator/owners when things get tight also went into play during the recession of 2008, which Jeff says was an even worse time business-wise for his company than 9/11. But by having gone through a downturn before, Leros was quicker to make the needed cuts in costs to endure, and they also adjusted their fleet financing to always maintain a balance of 30%-40% of the fleet completely paid off.
As Leros again came through a time of challenge, and coinciding with the incredible tech leaps of the past five years, they started focusing heavily on using new technologies to help increase efficiencies.
The team at Leros Point to Point: Lauren Sciortino, Bettina Otto, Daniel Aucar, Maria Davila, and Kelcy Peterson.
“At the end of the day,” Jeff says, “Our motto is we focus on the VIP, and the VIP to us is Value, Infrastructure, and People. So we’re always investing in our technology and our infrastructure. Behind the scenes we have our disaster recovery operations — our server, our hardware — and then there’s the technology that everyone sees, we’ve had a mobile app for the last couple years, but we’re revamping and re-launching it in a couple weeks.”
Leros soon will premiere a new Web reservation software and mobile app that will allow clients to track drivers through a mobile device and see their information and location as they come to pick them up. Chauffeurs are getting iPads with all of the trips, signs, and operations running through them. Each will also have GPS and vehicle trip tracking.
“We’re always out there looking for new things the drivers can use as a tool to make their jobs easier,” Jeff says. “It’s like I always say, in business you can never be just status quo. You’re either moving backwards or you’re moving forward, so you have to always be investing in your infrastructure and your people.”
As for Leros’ fleet, they are staying with Lincoln. “We have a lot of Lincoln Ls we got before they stopped manufacturing,” Jeff says. “But as far as new vehicles, we are running the MKTs. And personally I like the MKT and we haven’t had many complaints. I know people in the industry have complained, but I haven’t seen that from our client base. We’ve had some mechanical issues with the MKT, but they will work them out. What I would like to see from Lincoln is the MKS in an L version. I think that would be a home run for our industry.”
For the future, the only certainty is Leros will continue to strive to stay on the cutting edge of technology and business practices to adapt to shifting industry trends. “It’s the thing I like most about this business,” Jeff says. “It’s always changing and every day is different. There [are] always new challenges and new things that are coming up — different types of vehicles, technology, or the way people are running their business overall. And then there’s the different markets. The transportation industry has so many niches that you first have to focus on a handful of them and do them well. There’s limos for proms and weddings, there’s corporate, celebrity markets, and private plane clientele, there’s so many and it makes it exciting to go after different markets you currently aren’t serving.”
One of the biggest changes Jeff and Chris foresee for the industry is the move toward mobile phone and smart device use for bookings. Leros’ growth will stem from its ability to make sure all functions of its chauffeured service can be accessed by users on the go.
Jeff also foresees that dynamic pricing will be improved through software and used more prominently throughout the industry. He says affiliate communication also will involve new products to improve efficiency and recordkeeping.
“The things coming out in the future are tools that enhance the way everyone communicates while also streamlining the process, and they will mark another big phase in the industry,” Jeff says.
Leros Point to Point
Location: Hawthorne, N.Y., satellites in New Jersey, New York City and Connecticut
Owners: John Nyikos, CEO; Jeff Nyikos, COO; and Chris Nyikos, executive vice president
Serving: Westchester County, New York Tri-State region; affiliates worldwide
Fleet Size: 250 vehicles
Annual Revenues: $20 million
Employees: 175 (incl. 100 owner-operators)
Contact: 1800 82-leros