When Grant Fashbaugh heard Michael Gerber speak at the 2005 LCT Show, it confirmed that he was on the right track. Fashbaugh, president/COO of Clearwater, Fla.-based Allstar Limousine & Transportation Services, completely agreed with Gerber’s approach, taken from his mega-bestseller, The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What To Do About It.
Gerber preaches that most entrepreneurs get swamped every day putting out one fire after another, and never create a solid operating system that allows them to step away from day-to-day details and work on strategically growing their companies. For Fashbaugh, the speech came at a good time. He and an investor group had purchased Allstar in 2004 and were in the midst of implementing their new business plan, and were just starting to see positive results. Today, the company is on track to produce $4 million in revenue for the year with its 30 vehicle fleet.
Not the Cheapest Guy on the Block Fashbaugh is a relative newcomer to the chauffeured transportation industry. At 54 years old, he has owned and/or operated eight companies before Allstar in a variety of industries, including restaurants, real estate and manufacturing. When he and his investor group discovered Allstar and analyzed the market, they liked what they saw — a 22 year-old company with a good brand name in a relatively young and fragmented industry. The investor management group believed they could apply principles used successfully in previous business ventures to the luxury ground transportation business.
While analyzing the industry, Fashbaugh saw that many operators in the Tampa, Fla., market were beating up each other over price. He monitored many phone calls during his due diligence where customers would call in and the person handling the inquiry would quote a price and hang up. “Companies that grow on price lose customers on price,” he says. “It’s a train wreck waiting to happen.” Fashbaugh and his team focused on creating a business plan based on selling value rather than price. The company saw that corporate and group business represented a sizable market growth area and reorganized Allstar around pursuing this business.
Today, Allstar’s clients include meeting and convention planners, local companies, corporations with local satellite offices, hotels and private academies. To handle this type of business, the company needed the right fleet (motor coaches and minibuses were essential) and a major technology upgrade for processing group accounts and offering reliable online reservations. Today, clients receive immediate e-mail confirmations, which are followed up quickly by phone confirmations.
Implementing Three Principles Fashbaugh focused on building a strong employee team and developing a day-to-day operating system that could get the company to its next level of growth.
All of these business-building activities were guided by three ideas:
1. The organization must be principle driven — motivated by values and strong business ethics.
2. Everyone must be accountable for his or her actions.
3. Everyone must be treated with respect.
Being a good listener is the fundamental behavior for carrying out these three principles, Fashbaugh says. “You generate a tremendous amount of respect from people by listening to them, and this then leads into accountability.” This behavior has to be modeled with employees to teach them how to do it, and for managers to practice what they preach. “If you give employees training, a good operating system and treat them with respect, they’ll usually be successful,” Fashbaugh says.