Industry Research

Limo Industry Prepares To Pivot In New Directions

Martin Romjue
Posted on July 2, 2014
Scott Solombrino, Ron Sorci and Vince Wolfington on Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at the LCT Leadership Summit in Miami Beach, Fla. Listen to what these leaders have to say. They know what's coming.

Scott Solombrino, Ron Sorci and Vince Wolfington on Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at the LCT Leadership Summit in Miami Beach, Fla. Listen to what these leaders have to say. They know what's coming.

Scott Solombrino, Ron Sorci and Vince Wolfington on Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at the LCT Leadership Summit in Miami Beach, Fla. Listen to what these leaders have to say. They know what's coming.
Scott Solombrino, Ron Sorci and Vince Wolfington on Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at the LCT Leadership Summit in Miami Beach, Fla. Listen to what these leaders have to say. They know what's coming.

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — LCT’s annual Leadership Summits often spark vital conversations about the course of the chauffeured transportation industry. This year’s event, held May 18-20, went even further. Experts explored in tandem the three mega-trends transforming this industry: Social media, technology, and service delivery. How operators respond to these unstoppable trends will determine the look and function of the industry in as soon as a few years.

Social Media Backstory
Keynoter Gary Vaynerchuk explained the underlying shift in customer attitudes and culture, and how it will affect business. Vaynerchuk, the founder of winelibrary.com turned social media entrepreneur and author, urged operators to go on the offense in relating to their clients. “We are battling for people’s attention. If you want my attention, you need to be where I am. Technology is sucking us all in. Run your business the way you are using personal technology and social media.”

That means businesses must compete in a world of everyone looking at smartphones and tablets, everywhere, about all the time when not sleeping. “Social media is word-of-mouth on scale,” Vaynerchuk said. “Every business will go into the media business, applying old business practices into new platforms.” Building a distinct brand and knowing how to talk about it on social media can create what Vaynerchuk calls a “value proposition.”

“Use information from people’s calendar schedules to assess ride needs and demands,” he advised. “You have customers’ names and should do something unique for them. Everyone is revealing consumer preferences via social media.”

Social media spurs a more youthful culture, as evidenced by 42-52-year-old women who are the fastest growing “selfie” demographic, he said. That means they love to take pictures of themselves and put them on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram. “We are living in the youth-i-fication of society — how we shop, things we do, entertainment. The average 45-year-old woman is acting like a 29-year old woman. We act much younger than our parents did at our ages. Technology is dragging us [back to] youth and changing our expectations.”

Youthfulness, with its penchant for speed and instant gratification, can save time when applied to the consumer arena. And time is money. “Limo companies that create a new value proposition to capitalize on will succeed in the world of Uber,” Vaynerchuk said. “Saving time matters and is a priority. Once people understand the economic value of time, supply is easy. People want to use the service because of the value of time.”

Technology
Social media would not be possible without wireless technology, which plays into the demand for services and products. Speaker Tom DePasquale, a technology industry executive and founder of Ride Charge, told attendees the industry is at a tipping point on how it will do business amid transportation network companies (TNCs) reconfiguring ground travel. He recommends operators move quickly on building a “Star Alliance” network app that offers the connectedness and responsive pricing now seen with TNCs, airlines and hotels.

DePasquale’s points produce questions that should shake any complacency about the status quo: Do operators have the technology and brand that will make chauffeured service a global competitor? Does the technology support customers and chauffeurs in real-time? Can reservation systems handle on-demand business and talk to one another?

He offered a ray of hope and an omen: More people are now taking more rides, and becoming aware of the advantages of chauffeured black vehicles. More riders in the market mean a bigger pie of opportunities to slice. But, “there are two types of operators right now — operators who say it’s time to pivot, and operators still in denial because business is a little better right now.”

Service Delivery
Forums on social media and technology naturally lead to questions about company structures and day-to-day fleet service. Mergers and acquisition panelists Scott Solombrino of BostonCoach, former Carey International chairman and current travel consultant Vince Wolfington, and CFO Ron Sorci of Aventura Worldwide in South Florida have extensive careers that have involved fleet growth, sales and mergers, and business travel service.

The executives offered insights on buying, selling and merging limousine companies — a trend that catapulted out of the Great Recession and then accelerated with the advent of TNCs. The trio hit upon the multi-million dollar questions: Will chauffeured transportation become more of a service business or a commodity? Or can it be both? Is a commodity such a bad thing? How does an operator balance client transportation needs and desires? Will the ownership and management functions of limousine companies be separated or combined? Do fleet sizes of limo companies matter? What will become the value metrics of chauffeured transportation companies?

I won’t get into the middle of those questions, since they are suited to greater minds than mine. But I am confident of one prediction. Years from now, when operators have met the challenges, the 2014 Leadership Summit in hindsight will be viewed as a triple play. Leaders called out the trends, asked the hard questions, and ignited a search for solutions.

Related Topics: building your clientele, business trends, customer service, industry education, industry trends, keynote speakers, LCT editor, LCT Leadership Summit, Martin Romjue, mobile technology, Ron Sorci, Scott Solombrino, Social Media, TNCs, Tom DePasquale, Vince Wolfington

Martin Romjue Editor
Comments ( 1 )
  • gus chacon

     | about 4 years ago

    Ask Ron Sorci . In 2002 Aventura limousine got 24 permits from Dade County for Free ! does that means that the company was operating 24 Illegal black sedans before that ? In Miami Dade prior to 2002 total Black Sedans where "110" Public Records Request works Wonders! 305-375-4191 PTRD

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