SAN FRANCISCO — A panel of California operators offered some pointers on surviving this nasty recession during the GCLA meeting last week. The continuing series offers practical tips to operators besieged with revenue and client shortfalls. The first panel was held at the GCLA’s Los Angeles meeting in February.
The panelists at the San Francisco gathering were Brian Whitlock, vice president and general manager of Torrey Pines Transportation of San Diego; Rich Azzolino, administrator of Gateway Worldwide Transportation of Burlingame, Calif., and an NLA board member; and Christopher Quinn, president and CEO of Corporate Transportation Solutions of Sacramento, and a 2009 LCT Operator of the Year.
Whitlock, Azzolino, and Quinn — who have all handled operations in good times and bad — collectively offered the following tips:
• Analyze each vehicle, and if it makes money. Cut the fleet vehicles that don’t.
• Assess whether you still need your offices and locations, and if you can find less expensive ones.
• Diversify your client base as much as you can. No eggs all in one basket.
• Negotiate new deals with clients and suppliers.
• Where in your business and operations can you eliminate waste and redundancies?
• NEVER take your clients for granted. If you lose them in bad times, you will lose them forever. Make sure you become extra-attentive to clients and stay in their loop. Keep talking to them.
• The economy is not turning around this quarter or next. So get ready for a long, lean period.
• If you don’t do your payables, start now. Look closely at your expenses. You’ll be surprised at what you may find.
• Your payroll is your most controllable business expense. Don’t float along employees you can’t afford.
• Cut off your no-pay clients and runs. Same for affiliates.
• It’s easier to cut; more difficult to build new revenue.
• Negotiate aggressively on advertising. Media outlets are more inclined to offer deals, packages, and discounts.
• It’s cheaper to get additional business than buy another business.
• If you buy a business, just get the client list, the phone number, and the name. Don’t hassle with buying fleet vehicles and facilities. Don’t take over their problems.
• Word of mouth is the cheapest and most effective reputation builder.
• You will never lose a customer over price, but you will lose them over bad or careless service.
• Always, always be extra nice to the secretary or administrative assistant who actually orders the vehicles for a client. Take care of the person ordering the cars. They will cover for you.
• You better be a good salesman if you want to keep your job.
• Think of yourself as a team player, not an owner. Be willing to do it all.
Source: Martin Romjue, LCT Magazine