Narcissistic. Lazy. Coddled. These are terms often used to describe Millennials, now ages 18 to 34. They’re politically correct, entitled, and want a medal just for showing up…right? If this is the picture you’ve painted in your head, then it’s time for a reality check.
Vanessa Karamitros, 29, is co-owner of Prestige Transportation, LLC and defies every one of these labels. With a bachelor’s degree in marketing and human resources from Park University, she is a young woman who’s using her talents to excel in the world of ground transportation.
Originally, her idea to start a transportation company came about after observing her business partner work in the industry. Offering personalized experiences and building genuine relationships with their clients became the main focus of Prestige Transportation. The company already has implemented the latest technology available in the industry to best serve their clients wants and needs.
Think Smarter, Not Harder
Prestige Transportation was started eight months ago with a single vehicle: a Ford Expedition EL. Karamitros believes the Ford-Lincoln brand works best for their clients because the Expedition has the most third row seat legroom of any SUV on the market.
“We want to make sure we’re really catering to all our clients, including male business travelers who can be pretty tall. One of the main selling points for us when purchasing the Expedition EL as opposed to the Cadillac Escalade ESV and the Chevrolet Suburban was those vehicles have less third row legroom,” she said. “Having sat in both the Escalade ESV and Suburban myself, being 5’2”, it was uncomfortable even for me in the back row.”
They are acquiring a Lincoln MKT and Mercedes S-Class as well. Karamitros said they like the MKT because they are looking for a low-maintenance sedan, and they found a good deal on an S-class that will cater to their more affluent clients.
Because they operate in Kansas City and often deal with pretty harsh winters, they will only ever put four-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicles in their fleet. They’ve been fortunate enough to have more mild weather the past few years, but she says they want to ensure their fleet is up and running and can get around in the snow.
“You want to make sure your clients are being taken care of, no matter what,” she says. “Flights may still land even though the road conditions aren’t optimal. You have to be prepared for anything.”
Don’t Act Your Age
The thing about respect is you have to give it to get it. While many Millennials don’t seem to grasp this concept, Karamitros knows the importance of this philosophy.
“I think the reason my business partner and chauffeurs have a lot of respect for me is because I bring a different dynamic to the table. I’m a go-getter, but not a micromanager. I have a lot of faith and trust in my chauffeurs, and I believe that goes a long way,” she says. “By empowering and encouraging my drivers to do what is in the best interest of our clients and the business, this allows us to not waste time or resources.”
While some operators may find it necessary to constantly check up on their employees to make sure they are exactly where they need to be at any given time, Karamitros makes use of the technology that’s available to give herself peace of mind. Their Expedition has GPS tracking capabilities that make it easy for her to see her chauffeurs are on task.
“I take care of them. I have a vested interested in their work-life balance — that resonates and goes a long way with people who are used to working in an industry that can require long hours. It’s not about how much money I can make. I firmly believe if you take care of your employees first, they will take care of your clients and the business will come.”
One of the difficulties of being a Millennial operator is getting your clients to look past your perceived inexperience. But Karamitros carries herself in a way that doesn’t give away her age.
“I’m able to be articulate with my clients, and with the knowledge of the industry that I and my business partner have, I believe they see us on equal playing fields. At the end of the day, they want a courteous driver and a worry, stress-free ride. That’s what we deliver,” she says.
Strengths and Weaknesses
So what distinct advantage do Millennials bring to the table? “This might be contrary to what people believe, but I think we are hungry,” Karamitros says. While Millennials are often characterized as being lazy or lacking motivation, it’s actually quite the opposite.
“We are hungry to be successful, to be entrepreneurs. Ground transportation offers an opportunity to get out there and run your own business the way you see fit. You don’t have to fit a very specific mold. I think the edge we bring is just being hungry for that kind of opportunity and going after it,” she says.
Karamitros certainly knows a thing or two about hard work. She graduated college Summa Cum Laude during the recession when there few opportunities available in the job market. While it was difficult for her, she says she wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. “It taught me I have to put in the work and whatever I set my sights on is attainable if I’m willing to hustle.”
This does, however, bring up a distinct disadvantage Millennials have when it comes to joining the workforce. Because they are younger and less experienced, it becomes difficult for potential employers to take a chance on them. This is why Karamitros suggests finding a mentor.
“My business partner has 10 more years of experience in the workforce, so he is a tremendous asset to our company because he knows how certain things work and has been able to educate me in areas where I have yet to develop the expertise,” she explains. The two work in tandem and balance out each other’s different personalities and skills: She’s energetic and willing to take more risks, while he can be more reserved and risk-averse.
“I believe his years of experience combined with my hunger create the right balance for this company to be successful,” she says.
Ye Of Little Faith
Karamitros has a bit of advice for those who doubt the professional capabilities of Millennials: “Not to sound cliché, but don’t judge a book by its cover. You could be dismissing extreme talent if you just write us off.”
Often, the reason why mentors agree to mentor is not only because they get to provide their expertise and guidance, they also get a chance to learn something from the people they are mentoring. She believes if more employers looked at it as an opportunity rather than a liability, both parties would gain more from the experience.
In no particular order, she provided some guiding words for Millennials aspiring to work in the ground transportation industry: “You have to have a thick skin. You have to be willing to take on risk while being smart with your finances. Also, define your target market. Decide out of the gate what kind of business you want to attract. Read a lot. Go and look at established companies who are doing it right. Finally, try to connect with successful operators who are willing to take you under their wing.”