Service to both customers and employees is key to four individuals who have distinguished themselves in the limousine industry.
Three people were honored with the Operator of the Year Award and the fourth for his outstanding contribution to the industry at the recent Baltimore Limousine & Chauffeur Show Awards Banquet.
George Jacobs, owner of American Limousine in Burr Ridge, IL, was commended for his outstanding contribution to the industry. Jacobs, who has been involved in the limousine industry for the past 14 years and president of the National Limousine Association (NLA) for three years, has worked diligently on behalf of operators across the nation.
The three limousine operators who were named the Operators of the Year were: Denny Walker of Exclusive Incorporated in Honolulu, HI, in the small category (one to 10 vehicles), Gene Pierpoint of Arizona Limousine Service, Inc. in Phoenix, AZ, in the medium category (11-20 vehicles), and Harold L. Berkman of Music Express Limousine in New York and Los Angeles in the large category (more than 21 vehicles).
Honorable mentions wentto Janet B, Smith of Allegany Limousine Service in Cresaptown, MD, and Joe Cirruzzo of Elegant Limousine, Inc. in Palm Harbor. FL, in the small category. In the medium category, honorable mentions went to Greg Casteel of Prestige Limousines in Portland, OR, and Chuck Bradway of Bradway’s Limousine Service in Springfield, MA, And in the large category, Jay Allen of Carey of Dallas/Ft. Worth Limousines in Dallas, TX, and Thomas Mulligan of Metropolitan Limousine in Chicago, IL, were honored.
The criteria on which the award winners were qualified included level of professionalism, efficiency and industry involvement. Recognition should be given to all the people who were nominated, not just the winners. Together they epitomize the highest standards of achievement in the industry in terms of management, customer service and operations.
Several prizes were presented to the winners including a gift certificate from Dornan Uniforms in New York City. In addition, Limousine & Chauffeur will make a cash contribution in the amount of $500 on behalf of each winner to the business school or charity of their choice.
Dedication to Service
George Jacobs, who operates one of the largest limousine fleets in the country with 184 vehicles, hasstrived to be a leader in this industry. As president of the NLA for the past three years, Jacobs has been involved in many issues that affect operators across the nation.
Some of the challenges he has taken on include uniting the coachbuilders to form the Limousine Industry Manufacturers Organization to help better maintain safety standards for limousines, helping to form the Council of Limousine Associations to help local associations in their fights against local regulations, and working hard on the issue of chauffeur classification with the Internal Revenue Service.
“While we have had other presidents in the NLA, no one has accomplished anything near what George did. He has united the industry. By putting quality people on the board and forcing them to pull their weight or be replaced, he has ensured that issues are properly dealt with. He has organized the meetings so that they flow now and issues are resolved. People now know that the NLA is an effective organization. Because of this, our membership has tripled,” says John Thompson, NLA board member.
Jacobs was also instrumental in uniting the NLA and Limousine & Chauffeur. The two groups now work together to put on a national trade show and educational program that benefits thousands of operators each year.
By putting an industry supplier and coachbuilder representative on the board, Jacobs has ensured that the NLA will have a broader view of the industry and be able to iron out differences with these important parts of the industry as they arise.
“George has given this industry what it was lacking — a good image. He has contributed a lot of himself and gotten nothing in return. That has been his intention,” adds Thompson.
Denny Walker Exclusive Incorporated Honolulu, HI
Years in business: 16
Vehicle Fleet: 8 stretches, 2 sedans, 2 baggage cars
Staff: 13 drivers, 7 office/maintenance personnel
Keys to Success: “If you can’t be honest with yourself, you can’t be honest with your customers. We keep ourselves above board, wide open in our day-to-day operations. When competitors call, we try our best to help them. We’ve even sold competitors our older cars to assist them in getting started. I think our reputation for dependability is one of the main reasons we have so many long term customers. We always try to be 10 minutes ahead of time and if we get too busy and need to sub-contract, we let our customers know ahead of time.”
Most Significant Accomplishment: “Any business is an accumulation of hundreds of thousands of bits of work that create the total picture. Our employees and customers are happy and that is all we are really trying to accomplish. The average term for our drivers is seven years, and many have been with us for over 10 years. I think that speaks for itself”
Gene Pierpoint Arizona Limousine Service, Inc. Phoenix, AZ
Years in Business: 12
Vehicle Fleet: 14 full-time, on the road vehicles (5 stretches, 3 sedans, 3 vans, 3 busses), 3 replacement vehicles (2 Lincoln Town Car sedans, 1 Van Wagoneer)
Staff: 15 full-time chauffeurs, 5 office staff (full-time), 3 part-time drivers
Keys to Success: “The essence of the luxury limousine service is being able to anticipate customer needs and being able to consistently satisfy those needs. The success of Arizona Limousine Service, Inc can be attributed to accurately assessing these needs and balancing them with the reality of the equipment selection, good personnel and effective communication. You have to constantly remind yourself that you work for the customer. Purchases must reflect what the customer wants. Our diversified fleet of sedans, vans, and buses and our wide assortment of amenities including, cellular phones, full-stocked refreshment bars and 2-way radios are our response to our clients’ and drivers’ needs.”
Most Significant Accomplishment: “I am really proud to be part of the initial force behind the creation of the Arizona Association of Limousine Operators. The association will be around for years and years, providing Arizona operators with a valuable source of education and a communication network within their industry. In addition, during my involvement with the education committee of the National Limousine Association, I have been able to demonstrate the immense value of such a group to others in the industry. Today, we are seeing the strongest emphasis ever on education, not just for owners but for support personnel.”
Harold L. Berkman Music Express Limousine
New York and Los Angeles
Years in Business: 17
Vehicle Fleet: 55-60 cars at any given time (1/3 Town Cars, 1/3 formals and 1/3 stretches)
Staff: 105 (70 percent drivers/30 percent office)
Keys to Success: “The key word is SERVICE. Our customers are the greatest. Nothing comes before them and they know that. In our commitment to them, we try to anticipate their every need, and any problem that may arise. We have a very high profile clientele and they appreciate the fact that we maintain a low profile. Once again it’s our commitment to SERVICE, SERVICE, SERVICE and a lot of devotion and dedication that has made Music Express what it is today”
Most Significant Accomplishment: “The pride I take in seeing how Music Express has grown over the last 17 years is one of the most satisfying milestones in my professional career. Along with the satisfaction that comes with success is the gratification of being able to put something back into the community in the form of assistance or charities”