With fuel prices dragging on an already mediocre recovery, one New Jersey operator bucks economic trends and provides a model for small operator success.
RED BANK, N.J. — Operator Bill Atkins of Red Bank Limo stands out in the chauffeured transportation industry for many reasons: He operates only six vehicles; works in the most competitive chauffeured market in the world (New York/New Jersey metro); doesn’t cut his rates; and reports consistent revenue growth despite the recession and its aftermath.
The 2010 LCT Operator Of The Year also provides an invaluable glimpse of the industry success, given that he is never shy about sharing his numbers or promoting his company. RED BANK LIMO operates Lincoln Town Car sedans and seven-passenger Chevrolet Suburbans.
Atkins most recently told LCT that his number of trips for Jan. 1 to April 11, 2011 is up 17% compared to the exact same period last year; for the same periods, revenues are up 20%. He estimates his business is 85% corporate/business travel-related and 15% leisure/retail.
This follows consistent revenue growth throughout the economically tough calendar years of 2008-2010. As a result, Atkins is now hiring and adding a reservationist, two day shift chauffeurs, and two night shift chauffeurs.
“By adding additional staff, this will allow more capacity for sales and more availability for drivers to do the extra work,” Atkins told LCT.
In a separate press release distributed by PRLog.com, Atkins further explained: “Our clients tend to be Monmouth County-based executives who take up to 50 business trips per year. People who work that hard also enjoy having a local premium service to meet their needs. With our additional staff, we can continue to serve our loyal business travelers.”
With a strong emphasis on meeting the needs of business travelers, Atkins has positioned his company to capitalize on the resurgent growth in business travel as detailed by a recent report from the Global Business Travel Association.
Atkins has been a strong proponent of not lowering rates during a recession, since such a strategy can cripple a chauffeured transportation company during a comeback. Instead, he opts for rewards programs, earned rides, and gift giveaways to repeat clients.
“I keep hearing people blaming the economy for being cheap and cutting prices and not making any profit,” Atkins told LCT this week. “You have to charge a fair price. It’s important for any company to be profitable. Discounts send the wrong message.”
With regards to rising fuel prices, Atkins said he has restored his 7% fuel surcharge since Jan. 1. Regular unleaded fuel in Atkins north New Jersey region costs about $3.60 per gallon. Atkins said he removed his fuel surcharge for most of 2010 when average local prices were $3 per gallon or less.
“I thought it would be ethical to take it off the surcharge when fuel prices came down,” Atkins said. “Many operators kept it. You should charge it only if gas prices go up.”
— Martin Romjue, LCT editor