It was no easy task selecting the Operators of the Year featured in this issue. The stiffness of the competition in each of the three size categories this year indicates to me how the limousine industry continues to become more professional each year.
Take personnel training, for example. Written training manuals were the exception rather than the rule in this business five years ago. Most companies, today, not only have an extensive training program with a written manual and documentation of each employee’s training... it is also common for employees to be cross-trained in nearly every job function within the company in order to maximize efficiency and improve accuracy.
Customer service also continues to be refined. The service provided for livery passengers today takes inspiration from the highest service levels of the hotel and airline industries. Finalist Greg Casteel of Prestige Limousines in Portland, OR, for example, provides a complimentary concierge service “that will arrange anything.” Casteel makes a special effort to assist corporate clients, particularly those from out of town, with travel and business arrangements. He has even provided valet service for customers on occasion.
Finalist Chuck Bradway plans to write a book describing the way he specially trains chauffeurs to deal with different types of clients. Bradway recently broadened his services by training chauffeurs to meet the transportation needs of the elderly and handicapped. In Hawaii, Denny Walker of Exclusive Limousine provides everything for wedding services from ministers to musicians. Walker’s service has become so well known, particularly in Japan, that he handles some 4,000 weddings each year.
Metropolitan Limousine of Chicago, a finalist in the category of companies with more than twenty vehicles, believes that “by consistently pursuing the goal of first class service, and strongly emphasizing the social graces expected by our clientele, we have enhanced the credibility of an industry long better known for hustlers and bandits, than for its standards of service.”
Operating efficiency, another criteria in selecting our Operators of the Year, has also improved dramatically. Employees and vehicles continue to be more carefully managed. Finalist Joe Cirruzzo of Elegant Limousine in Tampa, for example, has reduced errors in his reservations department by switching his staff to six-hour shifts.
This year, all but one of our nine finalists is automated when, five years ago, roughly one out of 10 companies had a computer. The UNIX computer system at Metropolitan Limousine handles nine workstations and includes an electronic mail function allowing the company to communicate internally.
Greg Casteel uses a bonus program to maximize performance in the office and garage. Jay Allen of Carey Limousine in Dallas increases efficiency by standardizing his fleet, while Gene Pierpoint of Arizona Limousine Service extends the life of his vehicles by assigning each driver their own vehicle.
This year’s Operator of the Year nominees also reflect an increasing degree of involvement in the National Limousine Association and in regional limousine associations. Each finalist this year is an NLA member and all but one support their local association.
Each finalist is also deeply involved in community and charity organizations. Finalist Janet Smith of Allegany Limousine Service, for example, is active in Business & Professional Women, the American Cancer Society, the Soroptimist Club, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Rotary Club.
Our congratulations to all of these finalists, and to the many other professionals who have helped limousines evolve into a respected segment of the transportation market.