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Crown Cars co-founder and vice president Matt Paul office manager Dee Zivadinovic, and affiliate manager Jamie Stolzenbach help run the 55-vehicle Chicago-based chauffeured transportation service.
Models of service
While Paul developed a full-service chauffeured transportation company, she was actively serving in the U.S. Army reserves, which entailed duties one weekend per month and then at least two contiguous weeks per calendar year. Her service time got scheduled into longer stints during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars of the 2000s, which at times involved assignments at Fort Bliss, Texas, and at Camp Atterbury, 40 miles south of Indianapolis, Ind. Paul helped on the home front, working mostly as an Army accountant and training war-bound military service people.
“I had a business, I liked working with numbers, so they put me through finance and accounting school,” Paul says. “For the last 10 years, I was training command groups deploying to Afghanistan and Iraq.” Paul also helped Army engineers prepare their personal finances before deployment through the Yellow Ribbon Program, an Army service that makes sure deployed soldiers’ finances are in order and that their spouses and children are receiving the correct pay and compensation.
The precision required for military tasks could easily adapt to the workings of her company, Paul found. She implemented a pre-maintenance check system for all of her fleet vehicles that organizes repairs and checks. “We’ve maintained our vehicles in such a way to minimize breakdowns,” Paul says. “If we do have one, it has not happened with a customer in the car.”
In the area of customer service, Paul has instituted a positive corporate culture that results in a strong attention to clients with accurate order taking and good phone manners. “We have a corporate culture here that really tries to make everyone comfortable and happy with the employees, and makes sure everyone is a good fit,” Paul says. “The Army values loyalty, selfless service, and respect, and those are big values here. We’ve got signs all over the place about respect: If you give respect, you get respect back. That’s important for chauffeurs and inside staff.”
That leads to an atmosphere of happiness, which results in smoother operations overall, Paul says.
And lest anyone think Paul plans to kick back and rest on happiness, she recently sewed up a major deal to acquire Keen Limousine. The deal allows Keen’s former owner to semi-retire and lease his vehicles to Crown while his wife chauffeurs. It also adds about 10 leased vehicles to the Crown fleet and deepens the company’s reach into the overall Chicago chauffeured market. Keen Limousine will run as a separately branded service in suburban St. Charles, Ill. The combined companies have increased Crown’s client runs by about 25% to an average of 160 per day.
That deal follows one in December 2010 in which Crown bought Quadrangle Car Service of Hyde Park, Ill., a high-end chauffeured transportation service with clients in the prestigious neighborhood whose most famous resident and favorite son is President Obama.
“I never thought in my wildest dreams I would be in the limousine industry,” says Paul, 51, reflecting on the last two decades. “It’s given me financial freedom. I went from being a broke private to a point where I can’t complain. I’ve been able to expand my horizons. Being a business owner, there are endless possibilities and I can’t do them all.”