Suburban Chicago operator Michael Stahulak says operators should stay focused on their fleets and stay within the industry pricing scale.
WHAT HE DID BEFORE: Michael Stahulak has been in the transportation business for the last 40 years. He supervised a multi-million dollar automotive warehouse for 27 years. His wife, Jen, has 20 years of customer service experience and managed a multi-million dollar retail chain. She is Royalty Limousine’s office manager, secretary and treasurer.
WHY HE GOT INTO THE BUSINESS: “Our passion for the industry was endless,” Stahulak says. “Through our experiences with other transportation companies, my automotive and transportation knowledge, and my wife’s customer service and office skills, we knew we could make a difference and create a great company.”
START-UP COSTS AND METHODS: About $20,000. Stahulak attended a Score Consulting session to learn more about small business administration. He took out auto and home refinance loans and opened a business account with a small business bank, which he successfully paid off in the first four years of his business.
BEST MARKETING STRATEGY: While Royalty enjoys success in magazine and commercial ads, the Internet is its number one source of advertising. The company is using “go mobile” smartphone apps and QR codes to communicate with potential clients faster and easier. “The days of phonebooks and paper coupons are a thing of the past,” Stahulak says. He also believes it’s important to attend industry shows and join an association or Chamber of Commerce to keep up to date on the industry.
BIGGEST MISTAKE:“Over the years, we have learned that farm-in/farm-out work is not the greatest. [Now] we only work with a small number of professionals and have the satisfaction of knowing that the job was well done, not wondering or waiting to hear how it went.”
BIGGEST SUCCESS: Paying off his fleet and being able to turn over his vehicles before they reach 100,000 miles.
UNIQUE APPROACHES TO CUSTOMER SERVICE: Customer service is a top priority. Instead of just answering questions, Stahulak talks to his clients and explains every option to help plan their transportation needs. “We make our customers comfortable from the very beginning. We are dedicated to our customers and work very hard toward their satisfaction. We receive over 100 wedding contracts a year from referrals. Royalty — it’s not just our name, it’s how we treat you.”
ADVICE TO OPERATORS: “Stay focused on your fleet and stay within the industry pricing scale. Don’t meet or beat because you’re only cheating yourself. Don’t lie about being the largest company or having triple the fleet that you actually own; it will only get you in trouble or make you look foolish. Be proud of what you own. Don’t promise what you cannot deliver. Specialize in one category, even if you can do everything. Be honest and have open communication with your chauffeurs and coworkers. The industry is big enough for all of us to be successful, so smile and be happy you are a business owner.”
FUTURE PLANS: Now that the Town Car is gone, Stahulak is looking into the new MKT but will research other options first. He is also considering a large indoor facility for his fleet.
Fact facts about Royalty Limousines Inc.
Location: Burbank, Ill.
Owner: Michael M. Stahulak
Main service region: Chicago
Vehicle types: two Lincoln Town Car stretches, two SUVs, one Lincoln Town Car sedan
Fleet size: 5
Annual revenues: N/A
Information: (708) 229-2944