Chuck and Eva Marie Bartman took the $700 left after their wedding and started a carpet cleaning business in the Detroit area. An ambitious couple, the Bartmans soon had their business thriving. Even though things were running smoothly, Chuck wasn’t content so they sold the business, and their house, and opened a security business which they operated day and night from a building which served as both an apartment and a security systems monitoring center. After seven years, the business was booming but, again, Chuck wanted new challenges so they sold the company for a very nice profit and Chuck told Eva Marie that she could choose the next venture. She told him she wanted a limousine service and V.I.P. Limousine was born.
To get the limousine business going, with very little experience, was a tall order but the Bartmans jumped in with both feet by purchasing a black Cadillac limousine with all of the trimmings. Building up the clientele was the next, and most important, step. That’s where the security systems business came in handy because Chuck had made a lot of contacts with very affluent and successful people. They were the very same people that Chuck and Eva Marie felt would be their limousine customers.
In the early days, Chuck and Eva Marie would set up appointments with their former customers as often as they could. The Bartmans would drive up to meet prospective clients in their shiny new limousine and Eva Marie, dressed in uniform, would show the car and sell the service. Soon, corporations, celebrities, and sports stars were calling the Bartmans. Now, V.I.P. Limousine owns three limousines, each of which is washed every day and waxed at least once a month. Oil and filters are changed every three thousand miles, and a complete maintenance inspection is made every thirty-thousand miles. The cars are vacuumed and cleaned after every run.
In addition to all of that, Eva Marie or Chuck will call the client before each run to find out what beverages are desired in the car for the evening. These beverages are always on ice when Eva Marie arrives to pick up a client, and the Bartmans frequently add shrimp cocktail or hors d’oeuvres as an extra touch.
In short, the service is V.I.P. quality, and the Bartmans make every effort to improve it with small touches that make a big impression. For example, a white limousine is available for wedding parties, with a personalized sign for the newly married couple. In addition, champagne is served in crystal glasses and flowers are arranged outside the car. Chauffeurs also wear bow ties that fit in with the color scheme of the wedding party.
Chuck is currently working on a computerized filing system designed to keep track of the specific likes and dislikes of clients in order to provide better service. With this information, they will be able to provide clients with particular brands of cigarettes and liquor as well as send courtesy cards on birthdays and anniversaries.
While that constant work at upgrading their services has brought recognition throughout the Detroit area, getting the word out to the public was still a major challenge for Chuck and Eva Marie. They started with small marketing ideas such as cocktail napkins with the company logo and phone number, and matching plastic glasses for clients wanting to leave the limousine with their drink. There is also a stack of business cards and monogrammed matchbooks so that passengers take the company name and phone number with them.
Wanting to get the word out on a larger scale, the Bartmans ordered a professionally produced press packet which included glossy color photographs and letters of recommendation along with their business cards and standard promotional materials. With a sales folder in hand, Chuck and Eva Marie called the news department of every radio and television station in the metropolitan Detroit area selling themselves and their business as a possible feature story. If that didn’t work, the Bartmans sought out the personalities on the air at local stations to see if they were interested in the V.I.P. story. On one occasion, Eva Marie drove her limousine into a radio station parking lot for a morning appointment and was interviewed by a disc jockey that same day.
The newspapers were another outlet that the Bartmans approached. They mailed out their promotional packet and followed up with a phone call to every editor and feature writer they could find. Not every one called them back, but some did. So far, Eva Marie and the V.I.P. story have appeared in three suburban papers. The two major Detroit papers have not yet done articles but Chuck and Eva Marie are still working on them. The placing of newspaper stories was helped by the fact that V.I.P. is Eva Marie’s business which gave the media an unusual angle to work with. As far as the Bartmans are concerned, any angle that gets the word out on V.I.P. Limousine is all right with them.
While the business is a tremendous success, the Bartmans are not resting on their laurels. One day a week, they still go out and make calls on prospective clients, trying to squeeze in three or four appointments a day. In addition to that, Chuck spends considerable time on public relations: having brochures printed, arranging for promotional photography, calling his contacts all over the country, and contacting newspapers, magazines, and television and radio stations. Chuck and Eva Marie have appeared many times in the Detroit media, promoting V.I.P. Limousine, and they are always trying to do more. First class service, hard work, and a flair for marketing have all contributed to the growth of this small business so far, and the future prospects for the Bartmans seem very bright.