When D. Smith, owner of Provident Sedan and Limousine in Dallas, bought About DFW Executive Car Services in 2009, he chose to not merge the two companies and instead, handed the reigns over to his 18-year-old son, D. “JayR” Smith.
Before Provident started in 2008, D. (Dalhaji) Smith co-owned another limousine company and routinely had JayR, then 15, in for filing and computer work. “My experience pretty much came from working with my father. He was my teacher,” JayR says.
Located in separate offices in Dallas, Provident and About DFW have different clienteles, which is the main reason Smith wanted to make sure they stayed separate companies. Provident caters to corporate clients and will handle travel dollars for large companies (managing their ground transportation budget). About DFW, meanwhile, focuses on the retail market, with business clients making their individual transportation reservations.
Learning to let go
At first, Smith found it hard to fully hand over all control. “It used to be that I was involved in it a lot until he told me if he was going to do it, then I needed to step back,” Smith says. “I had to accept that, and go with that.” He is now able to step back and trust that if he receives his loan repayment checks every month from AboutDFW, the company is doing well.
JayR was quickly able to get clients to take him seriously despite his age. Still, they had to buy another insurance policy for him to drive his own company’s vehicles. The previous policy’s age minimum was 25. In Dallas, the minimum chauffeuring age is 19 and a half.
Facing the competition
Competing businesses in the same location have advantages and disadvantages. Since Provident owns stretch limousines and About DFW doesn’t, farm-out work will go to Provident first. Both companies serviced the 2010 NBA All-Star game in February, temporarily setting up one common software platform so the two companies could communicate with each other.
However, business is competitive, sometimes with both companies vying for the same client without the other knowing. When JayR jokes about beating his father in sales, Smith responds, “He can try, but as long as I have blood running in my veins, it’s going to be a challenge.”
Father and son meet regularly for lunch, and JayR will sometimes have questions for his father. “I’m very proud of JayR,” Smith says. “I believe because he has more time than I have, he will exceed where I’m at today.”
About DFW is in the process of acquiring a larger company and will have offices both in Northern and Southern Texas.
SIDEBAR: Marketing to Separate Clients
JayR and D. Smith both agree that outbound phone sales calls don’t do the job in their area. Smith hired a small team for phone marketing and found that it hurt his business more than helped it. “People have a negative connotation of inbound calls,” he says.
Because About DFW’s focus is on the individual client, they’ve found Google advertising to be more effective, spending $15,000-$17,000 on pay-per-click ads per month. JayR adds that he handles outside sales and gets referrals as well.
For the corporate market, Provident relies on outside sales personnel that form partnerships in the community through the Chamber of Commerce, contractor meetings, and a council for minority-owned businesses.
Name: About DFW
Owner: D. “JayR” Smith (son)
Fleet size: 11
Vehicle Type: Lincoln Town Cars, SUVs
Web site: www.AboutDFW.net
Name: Provident Sedan and Limousine
Owner: D. Smith (father)
Fleet size: 12
Vehicle Type: Sedans, stretches, SUVs
Web site: www.providentsedan.com