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The annual LCT Leadership Issue takes a broader approach each year, recognizing that paths to success and the lessons of leadership are as unique as the individuals who experience them.
That was apparent at the 12th annual LCT Leadership Summit, where new faces and a sizable group of first-time attendees brought new perspectives and experiences to the limousine industry.
For this year’s issue, we asked operators and suppliers from around the industry about business challenges, choices and/or failures that have helped them lead. There is no one, true correct path to leadership and running a business — just lots of ideas and triumphs along the way that can apply to anyone running a chauffeured operation.
Amondo Sapiro: Security In Referrals
M&L International Logistics,
Transportation & Personal
Florida operator Amondo Sapiro knows how to do his own thing and command a lot of respect, not to mention business. Since 1995, his way has worked well. With extensive law enforcement and VIP-security experience, the founder of M&L in Orlando runs a business without a website. It’s hard to believe, but for Sapiro, the power of relationships and referrals pay off. Clients can reach him by cell anytime. Over the years, he has netted contracts for chauffeured transportation and armed/unarmed security service at six out of eight FBOs in the Orlando area. His 30-vehicle fleet company is headquartered on Orlando International Airport property, just a stone’s throw from a runway.
The Brooklyn, N.Y., native builds his body as much as his company. The combination gives Sapiro the clout and the cachet to run a company that protects the rich and famous while serving a long list of big name limousine companies that farm out business to M&L. Sapiro handles more runs from out of state than he does locally. As a former police officer, a chauffeur, security detailer and consultant, limousine company owner and health-and-fitness buff, Sapiro favors one time-tested leadership principle: “You always take control of a situation and de-escalate a problem civilly. You always have to be impartial and make executive decisions that you can answer to if needed.”
Jeff Canady: Big On Basics
CLT Express Livery
SC Express Livery
Jeff Canady faced a problem common to many newer, smaller limousine operators: How do you grow your business if you can’t get through the affiliate and corporate front doors? Three years ago, Canady found a solution: Buy another company. He and his wife, Laura, co-owners of CLT Express Livery in Charlotte, N.C., bought a company in South Carolina and rebranded it South Carolina Express Livery. “The only way to get their attention was through the back door, in my case the purchase of Aiken Limousine three years ago. That brought other clients into my office immediately, where we had a relationship with them,” Canady says. “It led to business here in Charlotte.” The Canadys paid off their 10-year financing on the company seven years early. They now run 45-vehicles among the two companies.
Canady also learned the value of actually owning commercial and business property. The Canadays own the land and buildings of both of their companies. They have a 2,200-square-foot office on four acres seven minutes from the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport and a 4,200-square-foot facility in Aiken, S.C. “I believe in appreciation instead of depreciation,” Canady says. “Appreciation means buying a piece of land or building and putting an office there, and not wasting money on a landlord. Everything you own or run in this business depreciates. I’m baffled why someone spends $130,000 on a limo bus or limousine when they can spend it on something that would acquire financial stability for them 20 years down the road.”
Anthony Mazzarella: Family Model
American Limousine Service
Anthony Mazzarella Jr. belongs to an 82-vehicle chauffeured business that has served Ohio for 70 years. He learned his biggest leadership lesson when his father became ill with cancer. “Because my father was the company’s only decision maker, and now no longer in that position, myself and many other family members working for the company had to wear numerous hats, caregiver being one of them,” Mazzarella recalls. “I in particular shifted much of my time and attention to the care of my father, and in doing so began to neglect current clients. Unfortunately, as you can guess, this resulted in losing one of our major corporate accounts.”
Mazzarella resolved the problem by treating his client relationships like those of a family. When friction develops, you move past differences and rely on unconditional love, he says. “As my father would often say, ‘Get up, brush off your pant legs, and move on.’ So I did. I took the time to reconnect with my contact at this corporation. By re-establishing a quiet presence, listening to concerns they were having with the firm they hired when we lost the contract there, I was able to find out information from my former client which became helpful in rebuilding our relationship. Within nine months, we became their transportation provider once again, not only locally but on a national level. In mirroring the positives of family relationships as a model for business relationships, I was able to find success. Just like the nurturing of our children is critical to their growth, so is it true with our professional relationships.”
Jim Connelly: React With Facts
Commerical & Professional
As the new manager of the Cadillac Professional Vehicles program, Jim Connelly was introduced to the limousine industry, appropriately enough, at the LCT Leadership Summit in June. As a veteran of various managerial positions at General Motors, Connelly believes that success relies on keeping customer expectations at the center of the “lenses” that you wear. In putting together vehicle incentive programs and meeting the needs of a highly developed customer base, Connelly relies on constant calculations on the economy and gas prices along with flexibility: “When you get into those situations you need to stay positive and react quickly to circumstances. Fact find, but don’t wait too long to adjust your game plan as you may miss your opportunity. Don’t let yourself get caught in the trap of wanting one more piece of data before you decide. Leverage your experience and trust your gut.”
Connelly lives by four basic rules when meeting challenges professional and personal: 1) Stay true to your integrity; never waver on your principles; 2) Be open to criticism, it may be true; 3) Lead by doing and take ownership of your actions; 4) Charge ahead but don’t forget to encourage your team to bring up the rear.
— Martin Romjue, LCT editor