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15th Anniversary Spotlight: Don Dailey

Posted on April 1, 1998 by LCT Staff

In 1967, Don Dailey’s National Executive Services (NES) began providing limousine service in the San Francisco Bay area that was unlike any service available in the region at that time. Uniformed chauffeurs operated new General Motors vehicles. The company quickly grew from six to 24 vehicles.

Dailey, who had worked for United Airlines in 1956 at San Francisco International Airport passenger services and sales, had recognized a need for quality executive transportation. Armed with only recommendations from the local Chamber of Commerce and his own personal contacts, Dailey expanded NES to Seattle, Detroit, Chicago, and Boston.

Dailey was successful at implementing the extra services and amenities of the fledging industry into the world of chauffeured transportation Well-dressed college students were hired as greeters at the airport. Radios were used in all of the company vehicles. NES chauffeurs monitored the arrival and departure times of their clients’ flights.

In 1970, NES merged with Carey, a company that was already in five cities. This resulted in the forming of the Carey System which, at die time, consisted of operations in 10 cities. Dailey and Vince Wolfington, current Carey chairman, made a critical determination.

“We made a decision not to compete locally for customers,” says Dailey. “All of the marketing in the industry at the time was strictly to the local customer. Everything was centered around the price of service. We targeted the multi-city traveler, emphasized service, not price, and dedicated ourselves to becoming a national company.”

Carey already had been in business for 50 years at this time, so the Carey name recognition was crucial. By the end of the 1970s, Carey International was already in 125 cities with a major push under way for the European market.

“Our research revealed that 40 percent of the travelers going to Europe and the Far East went through London, says Dailey. “We met in London with About 45 limousine companies and signed close to 30 of them at that meeting. We were able to quickly develop a great European operation.”

Dailey, now president and director of Carey International, based in Washington, DC, has overseen the growth of Carey International to 420 cities and 65 countries. He was named the National Business Travel Association’s Allied Member of the Year in 1996. Dailey has helped make the Carey name one of the most recognizable monikers in the ground transportation industry. The company went public in 1997 with an initial public offering of 2.9 million shares of common stock.

Dailey’s experiences in the livery industry span its inception as a natural outgrowth of both the funeral and taxi industry into a $3 9 billion industry.

“I think the biggest surprise about the evolution of the industry is that our customers have embraced the variety of services and related fleet mix we are able to offer,” he says.

Dailey remembers when the livery industry catered to an almost exclusive market. “This industry has evolved from the fat cat in the backseat to a business tool where the size of the vehicle and the amenities it contains are hired by the customer based on the number of people going to be transported and the specific business need.”

Dailey is very clear on the industry’s future. “Integrated reservations, dispatching, accounting, GPS, and management information systems are the key to a successful operation,” he says. “I believe that without the latest technology and a continuing program to update it, companies will be left behind.”

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