Deano Herrera, DLS Transportation Inc. Salt Lake City, Utah
Staff: 10 full-time and 20 part-time chauffeurs, five-person office staff
Fleet: 27 vehicles
Fleet Description: three stretches, 10 SUV's, eight sedans, six 15-passenger vans
Computer Software: Limo Magic
Business Breakdown: 70 percent hotel/resort business and 30 percent network business
Getting Started: Deano Herrera worked as a chauffeur for a two-car husband and wife local operator. He went to Krystal Koach in 1994 and, according to Herrera, purchased the first black stretch limousine in the state. "Everyone in the business thought I was nuts but I knew that it would catch on. I hit the streets, knocked on every door I could and very quickly our business took off."
An angry casino mogul fuels company growth: It was Deano Herrera's first year in business and he was hired to transport legendary casino owner Steve Wynn. He arrived in his brand new black 120-inch limousine and Wynn proceeded to tell him (loudly) that he did not ride in stretch limousines. Realizing that no one had specified vehicle type to Herrera, Wynn apologized. From that awkward first encounter, he developed a true friendship and had many sedan and SUV rentals from Wynn. It was Wynn who recommended DFS Transportation to its current largest client, The Stein Frickson Lodge, a luxury resort hotel. It also planted a seed in Herrera's mind. "I started thinking of alternatives to stretch limousines because I realized that there were potentially large groups of wealthy people who were looking for luxury chauffeured transportation without renting a stretch."
Happy chauffeurs are the key to success: "It’s all about putting happy chauffeurs on the street every day. We classify our chauffeurs as employees. We pay them a good hourly wage, plus overtime pay. We also have them covered under workers' compensation. About half of our chauffeurs have been with us for more than three years. The other key to keeping our chauffeurs is that we send them out in top vehicles. We don't do proms or bachelor parties. We cater to top-of-the-line consumers, giving them the same care and alien lion that guests receive at a luxury hotel."
Gearing up for the 2002 Winter Olympics: "We have been having regular staff meetings for the last six months. We are bringing in outside companies and we have a number of big contracts signed already with major corporate clients. We can't wait to show off the most beautiful place on earth."
Advice to new operators: "Never badmouth your competition. I used to get riled up when anyone criticized my business. Now, it rolls off my back. Take care of your employees and your customers, and good things will happen for you."