It was 1987 and the call came from National Limousine Association (NLA) board member Ken Avery from Miami. Would Smith come to San Francisco and meet with the NLAs board of directors to consider a position as executive director?
The two-year-old association was $70,000 in debt and had only a few hundred members. The NLAs future was uncertain Smith’s company, The Wayne Smith Co, managed the United Motor Coach Association, as well as trade groups in other industries.
Smith ultimately agreed to become the NLA’s executive director. In 11 years, the group has grown to more than 1,400 member companies and boasts a treasury balance in excess of $250,000.
More important, Smith began representing small operators and association in a variety of important local regulatory mailers Membership increased cause operators were assisted directly by Smith and his staff. The NLA established a toll-free member and a monthly newsletter. Under Smith, the NLA has partnered with LCT to sponsor the industry’s premiere trade show and educational seminar program.
According to Smith, his most important battle has been with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) “It began in 1988 with Mike DiRivera of Town and Country Limousine in Atlanta,” he says “The government wanted more than $1 million. Mike was a board member. He warned me that other limousine companies would also be audited.”
At the time, 65 percent of the nation’s limousine companies were treating chauffeurs as independent contractors. The IRS had no uniform limousine industry guidelines. The NLA began assisting audited limousine companies nationwide. Smith’s decade-long efforts on behalf of the industry has resulted in an agreement with the IRS that provides operators with clear guidelines on how to establish an independent contractor agreement with their chauffeurs.
In 1989, Smith helped form the Limousine Industry Manufacturers Organization (LIMO). This organization then commenced a dedicated effort to produce safe stretched vehicles. Further, Smith managed to keep the NLA on track despite rapid changes within the industry
“When we started, about 70 percent of the vehicles out members owned were stretch limousines and 30% were sedans,” says Smith. “Now, we are primarily a sedan business with a major emphasis on the corporate market. Our members have gone from guys in gold chains and fur coats to professional men and women in the transportation business. The transformation has been remarkable.”
Smith cites a number of factors for the growth of the NLA. George Jacobs serving as president for five years brought stability to the organization,” he says “Charlie Wisniewski’s vision of operator certification and getting us involved in selling the NLA on-line was crucial Greg Casteel took operator certification from an idea to a solid, viable program. This helped the industry tremendously. Local limousine associations became much stronger. We spent more than a year assisting New York based operators in their negotiations with the Taxi and Limousine Commission. This made very important to the local operators.”
The Wayne Smith Co. was recently purchased by Host Communications in Lexington, KY. Smith believes the NLA membership has benefited tremendously from the change. “Host Communications has enabled us to offer our members more goods and services,” he says “We have definitely increased the value of our membership.”
Smith’s greatest personal challenge continues to be his recovery from cancer. “I was never sick a day in my life.” says Smith. “I eat right, exercise, and my weight is good.” After undergoing radiation and surgery in 1997, Smith is healthy, optimistic, andlooking forward to a great 1998. “My outlook on many things has changed,” he says. “Little things do not matter as much to me anymore. But believe me, I love to work andI have gained tremendous satisfaction from the growth of the NLA andthe industry in general.”