Lessons Learned: Coming into it, operator Jeremy Bellinger, owner of Platinum Limousine in Avon, N.Y., knew a lot about the industry. However, he quickly learned that things were different on the owner side of the business. “There are a lot of hidden things that you don’t anticipate,” Bellinger says. One of the biggest lessons he’s learned is the importance of taking care of your employees. “Nobody in this company works for me. Everybody works with me.” Operating as a family rather than as coworkers is something that he thinks has been the key to his success.
Biggest Success: Maintaining a five-star rating. “Our clients have been great in expressing their satisfaction in the service we have provided since we have opened,” Bellinger says. “We love a client who goes online to read reviews and ends up calling us back.” He also cites his company’s strong safety record.
Client Types: The company specializes in weddings, for which all chauffeurs undergo special training. Wine tours also make up a large percentage of their business. They have been building corporate accounts as well. Also, many organizations, such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, look to the company for either sponsorship or donations. “I found that to make a substantial difference, we elect to put more into a few different organizations rather than putting a little bit into many,” Bellinger says.
Customer Service Strategies: Always give the customer an upfront price. If clients ever seem dubious about costs, he encourages them to come in and see what the company offers. All vehicles are kept indoors, so clients can come in any time of the year and check out the vehicles and their amenities. He ensures that all vehicles are clean and comfortable at all times. “It’s their special occasion and we want them to feel like the king or queen of the day,” he says. Bellinger provides every customer with his personal cell phone number, so help is available 24/7.
Origins: Bellinger started the company in 2014, and built up a substantial amount of clientele from those he knew during his 14 years as a chauffeur. He has created a team that includes several other chauffeurs he has worked with over the years. Platinum Limousine started out with three Lincoln stretch limousines, 16-, 22-, and 27-passenger limo buses, and eventually grew into an eight-vehicle fleet that also includes a 43-passenger shuttle coach and 2015 Cadillac Escalade SUV.
Marketing Strategies: Social media is the main tool the company uses to get its name out to potential clients. It started out on the third page of Google, and went through a few different companies before they found one that was helpful with SEO and ranking their website. To keep clients informed on any potential deals or local events, they use Facebook and Twitter to make contact and drive business. The company encourages clients to check out their reviews.
Technology: In April 2015, the company installed GPS units on its vehicles. Bellinger discovered that his drivers were performing well, but they had a small idle time issue. After working on it as a team, they saved about $1,000 a month on fuel. Eventually it became a friendly competition. “They realize that it’s not a tool that’s being used like Big Brother,” Bellinger says.
Advice: Do your research. Bellinger researched heavily for several years before starting Platinum Limousine. “Read profiles on other owners and businesses out there, research your specific area, and find out what the [needs are] in yours. Don’t be afraid to try something new.”
Future Plans: Bellinger is pursuing more corporate avenues and using his fleet more for weekday business.