Austin Black Car Service
CEO Joe Cisneros stands with a segment of his nine-vehicle fleet in front of company headquarters.
Reasons for success: For Cisneros, his experience serving the country as a Marine has become one of the pillars of his company’s mission statement. “I believe my training has really made a difference in my success,” he says. “To give a product that someone is asking for, and not just make it sound great, but be total and complete with excellent customer service. We don’t just tell clients over the phone what we do, we show them. And they have been totally amazed at the kind of customer service we give. My company and chauffeurs, we’re a part of a brotherhood and we’re like a family and in this together.” All the vehicles at Austin Black Car Service have the Marine insignia on the license plate, and Cisneros says he frequently hears from customers that once they see the logo, they understand why the caliber of service is so exceptional.
Networking tip: Cisneros likes to attend trade shows. “You get excellent networking out of them. You get to finally meet affiliates you’ve only talked to over the phone, and that’s especially great for affiliates we’ve done good work for. Some won’t even know who we are, so it’s great to put a face to the voice or the contact. It’s also definitely been interesting to see there are hardly any sedan stretch limos anymore at the shows. The trend is looking toward bigger vehicles. I think we are going to start moving to 25-passenger mini-buses.”
What he likes about the industry: “I love making people happy,” says Cisneros of his greatest reward from the job. “When we have an executive travel assistant saying they have all these things going on, and when we say no problem we’ll take care of it, and the thanks we get from them for making their job easier, I really get satisfaction from that.”
Why he got into the industry: Cisneros’ primary role in the military was a vehicle driver at bases around the world. He worked briefly between deployments as a chauffeur for a friend’s small company, (his first introduction to the industry), and then gained sales experience later working for a beer distributor. Cisneros’ wife, Rose, suggested with his experience driving in the military and brief stint as chauffeur, along with his sales knowledge he had what it took to make a successful limousine company.
Start-up costs and methods: When Cisneros got out of the U.S. Marine Corps in 2007, he was interested in starting up a transportation company but had no capital to purchase or lease his own cars. So he invested in a website designer to help him make www.austinblackcarservice.com. The website became very popular, especially with search-engine key wording, and Cisneros began simply farming out all the work to local companies. “I would start booking everyone else’s cars and they would give me a good rate,” says Cisneros, of his entry into the industry, “I didn’t have to worry about any overhead, and [the affiliates] were happy to get the business — it was a win-win for everybody.”
Growing the fleet: After saving up capital, Cisneros first bought an SUV. Working as a chauffeur and owner, he then purchased a Town Car, stretch limousine, and now has nine chauffeured vehicles total. Cisneros says by paying careful attention to all profit-and-loss numbers and comparing them to previous years, he was able to come up with a consistent plan to grow his fleet slowly.
Advice for other operators: Cisneros advises new operators to try and establish healthy relationships with other companies early on and to not get discouraged. “Even though you’ll run into some companies that will slam the door in your face, don’t let that get you down; go to the next company. Do your homework, and make sure they represent you correctly. You eventually will get work back.”
Austin Black Car Service
Location: Austin, Texas
Year founded: 2008
Main service region: Central Texas
Vehicle types: Sedans, SUVs, stretches, vans, and limo buses.
Fleet size: 9
Annual Revenues: $866,000
Owner: Joe Cisneros
Information: (512) 590-1986; (877) 745-2227