T.J. Anderson (R) stands out in industry networking environments, such as this night club party at the MGM Grand during the 2013 International LCT Show.
It’s not every day you get to speak to a man with an affinity for chauffeured vehicles and kilts. T.J. Anderson, operations manager for Blackstone Limousine
in Seattle, Wash., is well known at International LCT Shows for wearing kilts. His unique approach to getting noticed while networking extends to his company as well, which he and Tyler Lehmann started in 1999 with fashion sense.
What’s In A Name?
Why Blackstone? The company needed a name that wasn’t corny or too bland; it had to sound good and bring in business. “Back in the day, there was this type of advertising called the ‘yellow pages’ in which companies who wanted to be seen had an advertisement PRINTED on PAPER…crazy right?,” Anderson says. Phone books are no Google, but just as you need to implement SEO to be seen on online search engines, they needed to come up with a way to distinguish themselves on the printed page. The solution? Alphabetical order.
“This is why you see so many companies that start with A, AA or AAA. We brainstormed a name that began with a ‘B’ to beat the top dog in the industry at that time. Has a nice regal sound to it though, doesn’t it?”
Blackstone Limousine’s line-up includes a mix of 15 corporate and retail vehicles. “We have purchased the new 14 pass high-top Transits, Audi A8s and BMW 740s to service more discerning clientele,” he says. In addition to spiffy new rides, the company makes use of technology that allows them to operate at the top of their game.
Fasttrak is their reservation software of choice because it is constantly being updated and improved. This is coupled with Transponet, a system that allows various platforms to communicate with each other.
“Company A sends a reservation with a point and click, and it drops right into my dispatch software ready to dispatch,” he says. “This cuts down on duplication errors, because what they put in their system is what I have in my system.”
A few years ago they also added GRiDD, an app that the company’s chauffeurs can log into and create real time status updates with GPS on every job. Anderson likes the fact that tech support is provided by those who actually developed the app and used to run limousine companies.
“While we don't operate a 60-car fleet with chauffeurs whose main training is the ability to pass a background check and fog a mirror, we DO offer boutique level personalized service with the latest cars, senior chauffeurs who have been with us for years, and advanced technology.”
Blackstone believes in participating in charitable work. “Some of our higher profile customers have charities, and we will donate service to their event, or incorporate the limousines into another event they are doing,” he says. One ongoing event they help out with involves transporting about 50 young female patients from a children’s hospital to a “princess-for-a-day” event sponsored by the Seattle Seahawks. “My chauffeurs love doing that sort of thing,” he says. In addition to events like these, they also participate in auctions and have even taken Anderson’s son’s hockey team out for a ride.
Socializing With A Smile
Take one look at the Blackstone Facebook page and you’ll see that humor and memes play a big part in how the company stands out among the crowd. “We paid way too much money to have a ‘social media professional’ put out the same old vanilla drab that people just aren’t interested in,” he says. And he makes a good point: people use social media for socializing. “I think many of the social media platforms aren’t there to just sell, sell, sell, they are there to help you engage with people. One way to engage is to be funny.”
If there is one thing that can be said about Anderson, it’s that he’s not afraid to do what it takes to be comfortable. While most people attend trade shows in a typical suit and tie, he prefers a kilt.
“It all started way back when I saw a TV show about a local guy in Seattle that had created a ‘casual’ utility kilt,” he says. If Anderson wasn’t dressed up in his chauffeur best for work, he would most likely be found wearing sweatpants.
“When I saw the kilt, I thought, ‘Boy, I bet THAT is comfortable, and it looks GOOD’ (unlike sweatpants).” After trying one on and receiving his wife’s approval, he’s never gone back. “Now, 13 or so kilts later, I just don’t wear pants; in fact, I don’t’ even own a pair of pants. I have some workout shorts, but other than that…kilts.” Although some might think it strange, you have to give it to him: no one forgets a man in a kilt.