CHICAGO — 2012 has been a great year for Chicago-based Windy City Limousine because it’s the first year the company has generated $2 million or more in a month. May, June, September and October all saw revenue over $2 million, with September coming in at about $2.6 million, said Windy City President George Jacobs.
The big boost in September revenue came mostly from the 2012 Ryder Cup golf tournament, of which Windy City was the official transportation provider. The Ryder Cup is the biggest golf tournament in North America and took place Sept. 28-30 at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill., a suburb of Chicago.
Windy City deployed full size motorcoaches to transport groups traveling to and from the Medinah Country Club for the 2012 Ryder Cup. It also used party buses, minicoaches and vans.
The event gave Windy City its highest earning day in company history and generated nearly $1 million in one week. It was the third major event handled by Windy City this year.
“Having done the Super Bowl in Indianapolis and the NATO Summit here in Chicago, we know what it’s like to handle a monster event, and it’s just overwhelming,” Jacobs said. “And we figured out the secret to handling this kind of event: prepare, prepare, prepare, and work very hard to anticipate what will go wrong. Because things will go wrong, and when they do, you’ll be better prepared to handle it.”
Preparation for the Ryder Cup began almost two years prior, when Jacobs learned it was coming to Chicago. He met with event officials to set up a deal. He took care of the staff’s transportation needs in advance of the event out of his own pocket. He set up farm-out orders for buses a year in advance to keep his buses free for the Ryder Cup.
As the event neared, he bought all the limousine parking lot passes for the event to make sure that, in addition to the group movements in vans, party buses and motorcoaches, Windy City could take clients in its sedans, limousines and SUVs. Jacobs held weekly meetings with his staff, had them test drive the routes and try to anticipate any glitches that could happen. The company also met with Ryder Cup staff who handled transportation on-site to coordinate logistics.
When the Ryder Cup finally arrived in Chicago, Windy City Limousine was humming on eight turbo-charged cylinders. Dispatch and reservations were staffed with more people to make sure that all client needs would be met in a smooth and timely manner.
Windy City Limousine's bus chauffeurs at the 2012 Ryder Cup.
Windy City was the only company allowed to drop off and pick up at the gate. People not riding with them had to take shuttle buses from a depot to the event.“We knew we’d get a lot of calls from people who were rookies at [booking chauffeured ground transportation] and didn’t know what was going on, and they thought it was okay to call last minute for a car to the Ryder Cup, so we had to make sure to really educate them about how everything worked,” Jacobs said.
To ensure a seamless and efficient transportation experience, Windy City kept in touch with Ryder Cup staff by providing two-way radios to allow instant communication between the two organizations. Windy City put greeters on-site and even volunteered some of its staff to work on the golf course.
“The goal is to make sure everything goes smoothly, and once things get going, the priority is on damage control,” Jacobs said. “If you really work hard at it and prepare in advance, you’ll have no problems. We had virtually zero customer complaints. There were some billing issues later on, but nothing unsolvable.”
A total of about 240 vehicles served the event, including vehicles Windy City brought in to help with the overflow. “It was pretty exciting watching it happen,” Jacobs said. “We had our largest month in history, by far. And it all begins with preparation.”
— Michael Campos, LCT associate editor