In the inaugural issue of Limousine & Chauffeur magazine, Alan Fisher, president of London Livery Lid., in New Orleans, shared the news that his company had been named official limousine service of the 1984 World’s Fair. The article, entitled, The Big Event,” covered Fisher’s preparation for the special occasion, among other topics. “This contract is a great piece of recognition for a young company,” Fisher said at the time. “It’s the first big bit of recognition we’ve received in our three and a half years in the business.”
Recently, Fisher was interviewed to mark the occasion of the 20th anniversary of this magazine. “The main way business has changed is that 20 years ago, this was a very elitist form of transportation,” he says. “Today, it’s a very accepted form of transportation for a variety of levels of business people as well as leisure persons. It used to be that only the richest of the rich could afford to take a limousine to the opera, and now taking a limousine to a concert is commonplace.” Fisher points out that there is more reliability in the industry, more industry standardization and specialization, and the vehicles have become more specialized and more varied. “There are more alternatives and options for customers these days.” Fisher says.
Over the course of 20 years, operators have experienced their share of business challenges. But Fisher says that without a doubt, 9/11 was the most significant turning point. “The world has changed since then,” he says. “How that affected our industry is probably tenfold of what it’s done to any oilier industry. Sending the country into a recession, the stock market, and all of that has had a huge effect on our industry. And it seems like insurance companies want the limousine industry to pay for the World Trade Center’s losses in one year of premiums. And that insurance crisis is everybody’s prime concern right now, because our ultimate survival is in the hands of insurance companies.”
These days, Fisher gladly provides advice for those just starting out, just as he was offered advice by the “old-timers.” If you insist on doing it for the love of the business, because this is what you love, then that’s the only acceptable reason to do it,” he says.
“What you to do to get started is to research the marketplace, spend as much lime as you can in the offices of successful companies around the country, talk to people, see how they’re doing it, and ask questions. You’ll find the belter operators around the country are more than happy to share information and help make you successful. Bob Verdi with Bermuda Limousine in New York, and other folks whom I consider old-timers did it for me. And now I feel the obligation to do it for Olivers. There’s no school you can go to and learn this industry. You can either go to the school of hard knocks, or you can go talk to the old-timers who have been there, done that.”
Fisher advises new operators to find a niche that meets their passion and focus on that market.
“Develop a serious business plan,” he says. “Listen to, and anticipate, the customer’s needs and wants. Proper capitalization is probably the number one thing an operator can do to make his or her business successful. Most companies, including my own, started out on a shoestring, and tried to build the company through cash flow. It’s very, very difficult to do it that way. The capitalization costs in this industry are very high and without the proper capitalization it’s going to be a struggle from day one.”