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Kane’s limousine service lies only two miles and nine minutes from the East entrance to the U.S. Capitol, and is fully licensed for point-to-point runs within Washington, D.C.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — When CEO Richard Kane was 12 years old, his CEO father already had him working around the house. Except, this employer would make sure young Richard learned a lesson or two. After Richard and his siblings finished their household chores and lined up to collect their pay each week, Kane Sr. “charged every one of us room and board. I remember asking, ‘What is room and board?’,” Kane recalls. “His response: ‘Well, the room portion is your bedroom where you hang your Joe Theismann poster. The board portion is the food your mother prepares.’ It was that moment I realized the art of selling is not what you say, but how confident you say it to make the other party feel comfortable enough to go along with the craziness of paying room and board.”
As a result, 10% of his earnings went to “room and board,” his father allowed him to keep another 10%, and the rest had to go into a passbook savings account. That was just the start for Kane, as he worked part time in high school driving and detailing the vehicles of his father’s International Limousine Service. After college, when second generations typically move into the family business, Kane’s father required him to work for transportation companies in other cities, where he cut his teeth and learned from his mistakes.
When he returned to International Limousine in 1998, Kane spent five more years learning the company before owning it. Since then, he has carried it all forward, growing it into the largest privatley owned limousine fleet in the District of Columbia. Foremost, Kane learned to earn his way and prove the value of sound stewardship as a path to success. He recently emailed the below answers to questions sent by LCT:
Q: What are the origins of International Limousine Service and what have been key growth periods in its history?
A: Our family has been in transportation in Washington, D.C. since 1918 with my uncle founding The Kane Transfer Co., a trucking company. They were primarily a trucking service operator between Baltimore/Washington, D.C. My father worked for his uncle from 1957-1969, before eventually starting his own trucking firm, The E.I. Kane Company. Over the next 30 years, several businesses were added to my father’s business including Office Movers, Inc., now owned by my brother John, and Kane Construction, Inc., owned by my brother, Dennis. International Limousine was founded in 1971. I acquired the business in 2003 as part of a series of complicated transactions involving several assets in my father’s estate. As Chairman and CEO, I retain 100% ownership today.
In my high school years, I had always worked my summer and winter breaks at International Limo mostly in the detail bay or occasionally driving. When I joined the company full time in 1998, our fleet consisted of 60 vehicles and 75 drivers. Our growth model was centered on increasing our rates to clients and that was about it. A fuller understanding would be to tell you that from 1990 to 2000 our revenues at International went from $3.8 million to $4 million with our largest client demographic make-up being DMCs, association meeting planners and special event planners. In summary, I felt all we were doing was ringing the bell on the same clients every year. We made money and my father was generally pleased because he spent most of his winters residing in Palm Beach.
Raising rates to clients as a growth model never seemed to me to be the avenue to provide healthy income opportunities and advancement at any firm. So, I concentrated on broadening our client base to include more than just our core DMC and meeting planner base. We attracted corporate travel departments and facility shuttle service buyers by simply showing what they were not getting from their existing relationships. This approach brought new clients, grew the business, and now we’re headed to break $20 million in sales. Today, we are the largest privately owned limousine service in D.C. with 140 vehicles and 200 employees.