Enjoy reading about LCT's Operator of the Year winners.
OPERATOR OF YEAR – SMALL
Clique Limousine Is Celebrated for Innovative Business Techniques
Clique Limousine owner and operator William “Bill” Goerl knows how to make big things happen with a small business. His award was based on his personalized business approach, innovative pricing program and his industry involvement.
The “boutique-styled” company, which operates a fleet of six out of Bohemia, N.Y., does business nationwide by subcontracting out-of-reach service requests to other companies (National Limousine Association members only). In this way, Goerl never says no to business orders and maintains his relationships with other operators.
He responds to many of his clients on a first name basis, provides courtesy calls and keeps them informed through a monthly newsletter. His best customers occasionally receive gift baskets.
Similar to the airline industry, customers can take advantage of Clique’s discounted fares for reservations made seven days in advance.
Goerl is an active member of the NLA and shares his business success by offering full and part-time employees health benefits. He also donates to charities such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Foundation and two local hospitals.
OPERATOR OF YEAR – MEDIUM
Designing Customer Value at Company Car
For Stephen Qua of Cleveland’s Company Car, limousine service is about service. Qua’s business philosophy includes retraining and cross-training all personnel. In fact, he requires all his support people to spend time chauffeuring.
Qua also encourages employees to take ownership in the company, which has 14 vehicles, by becoming an integral part of the customer service programs. With no traditional managers, Qua shares with employees what is expected of them. Chauffeurs have to fill out documents like the Chauffeur’s Major Goals, which helps them see the desired employee performance.
A member of the NLA, Qua says association involvement has helped him design the processes by which his company provides value for the customers. He is able to see how other companies conduct business, learn through education programs and seminars, share ideas and meet new people.
Each year, Qua helps raise money for and gets others involved in a program that sends children with muscular dystrophy to camp.
He credited his success to the people around him, who he said are the best, understand what needs to be accomplished and are autonomous in their ability to go out there and do it.
Being successful isn’t something that just happens. “Focus on the core values that make your company your company,” he said. “Don’t lose sight of them because those are the things that will guide you through the future.”
OPERATOR OF YEAR – MEDIUM
Smile if You Work for Greene Classic Limousine
Being a second vice president as well as show chair for the NLA has given Jeff Greene of Atlanta’s Greene Classic Limousine insight into the industry.
Greene also serves on the Georgia Limousine Association, represents the limousine industry on the Atlanta Airport Task Force and chairs the GLA Airport Committee.
With high industry involvement, Greene implements new ideas into this 44-vehicle company. He has a four-day new hire training program, which includes physical airport and hotel orientation. He also has had a representative from the Four Seasons hotel chain come and talk to his chauffeurs about their service.
“We really stress ethics, trying to anticipate what the customer wants, stress smiling all the time, making eye contact and using proper verbiage in greetings and not slang,” Greene said. “We try to make it a refined relationship.”
After implementing the training program, which also requires employees to take quizzes and earn a high score on a test at the end of the training session, Greene said he experienced a change with his staff.
“The quality of chauffeurs was just far superior than what we were used to,” he said. “And a lot of it had to do with the fact that not all chauffeurs and employees make it through the class. Our trainers can evaluate and find out through quizzes and the testing if they’re grasping the information.”
OPERATOR OF YEAR – NATIONAL NETWORK
Family-run Music Express Challenges Unionization
Cheryl and Rita Berkman, owners and operators of Music Express in Burbank, Calif., are not likely to cringe when faced with adversity. Five years ago, the two successfully fought the unionization of limousine chauffeurs on the West Coast, then repeated their success in 2002, on the East Coast.
Unionization of Music Express’ drivers would have set precedents that would have forever changed the face of the livery industry.
Active members of the NLA and supporters of many charitable organizations, including the City of Hope (Los Angeles), the Berkmans also find time to challenge other industry-related issues, such as high workmen’s compensation rates, vehicle and health insurance policies.
Paying attention to detail is easier done at family-run operations, and the Berkmans do just that. Potential chauffeurs are required to pass investigative screenings, drug tests, physical exams and a two-week road and classroom training.
This helps Music Express, with a fleet of 289 vehicles, guarantee its clients a high level of service and professionalism.
Founded by the late Harold Berkman, Music Express targets the music and entertainment industries. Music was recognized for its client and employee relations, its commitment to industry involvement and its service record.