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Operator: David Seelinger Company: Empire International Ltd. Location: Norwood, N.J. Fleet Size: 341 Staff: 450+
David Seelinger has been active in the limousine industry for years. With a fleet of 441 cars, the president and CEO of Empire International finds time to work outside the company.
He was a founding member of the formation of the Limousine Industry Coalition to Preserve Interstate Commerce Rights. He has been an active voice in state and federal legislative campaigns to eliminate interstate impediments to legitimate limousine service. He runs both Empire International and Paragon Software Corp. He has been a board member of the National Limousine Association and remains active in other state and local associations.
Seelinger, and Empire’s, philosophy is to “help those who can’t help themselves.” With this mindset, Empire has donated some of its profits to many charities and non-profit organizations dedicated to humanistic causes. Among those charities are Muscular Dystrophy Association, March of Dimes, Covenant House, Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Because of the relationship between Empire and Paragon software, it is not surprising that Empire prides itself on its use of technology. Empire uses advanced online reservation services, a paperless-dispatch system, an e-commerce and magnetic-billing system and the Iliad Limousine Management Software System. Seelinger also is in the process of providing his chauffeurs with wireless CE devices to replace the two-way pagers they currently use. To ensure safety, Seelinger mandates that his drivers are trained in the NLA Education Program and the Smith System of Driver Instruction. In addition, he implements a quality-control program for his drivers.
In order to maintain a pleasant working environment, Seelinger implemented a liaison manager at Empire. The manager, a former chauffeur, addresses the day-to-day concerns of the chauffeurs. Seelinger also maintains an open-door policy with his employees. Operator: Barbara Pastelak Company: Gem Limousine Service, Inc. Location: Edison, N.J. Fleet Size: 60 Staff: 100
Barbara Pastelak continues to demonstrate a high level of professionalism in her company’s industry involvement, business innovations, and people skills. That is why she, and Gem Limousine, is in the running again this year. She received the award in 1993. Pastelak’s industry involvement is well known. She actively participates in numerous associations, such as the New Jersey Limousine Association. She also has been involved in helping to pass key legislation, such as a bill designed to raise operator safety standards in New Jersey. Pastelak has been a member of the National Limousine Association since 1985, and was voted to the Board of Directors in February 1999. As a speaker for the 1999 NLA show, she addressed the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace.
As for innovations, Gem’s Web site is more than just a source of information. Customers can make online reservations and receive confirmation numbers via e-mail. In addition, the company uses the Genysis computerized system that transmits a reservation from a travel agent directly into Gem’s Limoware back-office system.
In the area of people skills, Gem personnel meet regularly with representatives for corporate accounts, and a full-time customer relations liaison stands ready to take immediate action in addressing clients’ questions, concerns and problems. In order to evaluate service quality, Gem employs “mystery riders” who provide management with complete performance reports. All of Gem’s chauffeurs must meet company standards and pass regular testing.
Operator: Richard Ford Company: Regal Limousine Service Location: North Hampton, N.H. Fleet Size: 40 Staff: 93
A lot can be said for family-run business. New England natives, and brothers, Richard and Paul Ford founded Regal Limousine Service in 1983, while still teenagers. Their first vehicle was a ’69 Cadillac Fleetwood, and they worked out of their parents’ home. Since those modest beginnings, the company has grown in size and diversity. In addition to providing airport service, Regal caters to private clients and corporations. It currently operates a fleet of 40 vehicles that includes sedans, stretch limousines, passenger and conversion vans, and three Rolls Royces. The company continues to innovate with new technology, operating a Web site (www.regallimo.com) that takes online reservations, and also using a satellite dish and RLM Software’s FlightView to provide customers with real-time FAA flight data. Along this path to success, the Ford brothers have consistently given back to their community by contributing to a wide variety of organizations such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, SPCA, Special Olympics, Salvation Army, Big Brother/Big Sister Association, Project DARE, among a dozen or so other charities. Regal’s activism extends to the New England Livery Association as well. The firm has been a member since 1983, and Richard Ford was elected to the board of directors and is chairman of the membership committee. Chauffeur turnover is a relatively common problem in the industry that Regal has effectively addressed. They have instituted a system of team leaders that provides mentoring and also serves as a communication link to management.
Operator: Dennis Adams Company: Celebrity Limousine & Transportation Service Location: Malvern, Pa. Fleet Size: 43 Staff: 63
Founded in 1990, Celebrity Limousine has grown to more that 40 vehicles. Dennis Adams has been the guide behind that growth. He started Celebrity Limousine while he was working for 15 years as a sales/ marketing representative at Dunn & Bradstreet. He purchased Livery Coach Software, and has worked on revising the 4.0 version. He will be releasing the New Generation of Livery Coach Software at the LCT show this month in Las Vegas. Adams maintains Celebrity Limousine’s philosophy of “attention to detail.” He has encouraged the hiring and retention of chauffeurs by creating a $2,000 hiring bonus program. In addition to recruiting chauffeurs, Adams has implemented a training program to educate their chauffeurs. Adams contracted with Transportation Training Associates, Inc. in 1997 in order to establish procedures in selection, training and safety for their chauffeurs. He produces a quarterly newsletter to keep both his employees and customers informed of the business and key safety issues. In an attempt to reduce accidents, and to determine preventable accidents, he created an Accident Review Committee that meets quarterly to review all accidents in the previous three months. Operator: Jeff Maxwell Company: Palos Verdes Limousine Location: Rolling Hills Estates, Calif. Fleet Size: 19 Staff: 25
New to the industry, Jeff Maxwell became owner of Palos Veredes Limousine in 1984. Since then there has been a great deal of change in the company. Maxwell has helped guide the company to be one of the first companies nationwide to be certified by Pinnacle Performance Systems’ Chauffeured Transportation Certification Program.
Being true to the medium-size category, Maxwell has established working alliances with larger companies in the area such as Music Express, Carey and CLS Transportation. Also, he has helped establish a mentoring program for smaller limousine companies in the area. Palos Veredes Limousine helps educate the smaller companies on how to more effectively grow their business.
Maxwell insists on personal attention to the customers. One way he goes about ensuring this is Palos Verdes Limousine does not utilize any answering machines either during or after business hours. This way the client is guaranteed that they will always get a hold of a living, breathing staff member. Maxwell employs a multifaceted safety process. He has a full-time staff to clean, maintain and execute daily safety checks on all his vehicles. Chauffeurs are required to complete a safety form after every trip, and report any problems with the vehicle. Also, every vehicle is equipped with a back-up alarm system, which electronically notifies the chauffeur of any obstacles within six feet of the vehicle. Since chauffeurs play a significant role in the safety process, Maxwell makes sure that every chauffeur is drug tested and carefully screened before being hired. Then, in order to retain good chauffeurs, Maxwell offers flexible time off and a competitive compensation and benefits package. Operator: Jim Luff Company: Limousine Scene Location: Bakersfield, Calif. Fleet Size: 14 Staff: 29
Jim Luff has a simple philosophy. His philosophy is to make every single client feel that they are his most favorite client, and that the trip is the most important trip his company will make all day. It’s his dedication which has made him a finalist this year. Luff has been active in his community as well. He has sponsored the Bakersfield Boys and Girls Club’s Hockey Night Outings, where his limousines deliver underprivileged children to local professional hockey games. He also has created a program to take children from a local shelter for abused children out for ice cream, all at his expense.
Luff has been committed to the betterment of the limousine industry. He has encouraged his competitor companies to meet socially one night a week to discuss issues affecting the local market. In an effort to help preserve the industry’s image in the area, he “loaned” a limousine to a competitor who had recently had his fleet repossessed, so that he would be able to service his clients before finally going out of business.
He personally teaches each new chauffeur how he wants and expects things to be done. He preaches consistency so that every time a client uses his service, they receive the same level of treatment as their last trip. Luff reminds his chauffeurs regularly that “their cargo is more precious than that of the largest big rig on the road today.”
Operator: Donald Kensey Company: Au Premiere Limousine Service, Inc. Location: Williamstown, N.J. Fleet Size: 12 Staff: 25
Most people could consider Donald Kensey an activist for the limousine industry. Kensey was one of the initial forces in starting the wheels moving forward for HR 1689. He helped create the Limousine Industry Coalition to Preserve Interstate Commerce Rights. He has lobbied at both the state and federal level. Also, he has helped state associations with organizing their own lobbying campaign.
However, besides his activism in the industry, he also runs Au Premiere Limousine Service. As you might have guessed, Kensey and Au Premiere are active in many charity organizations. For several years they have donated an average of two days of limousine service every month to the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The company also sponsors a variety of local youth sports teams in Williamstown N.J.
Kensey stresses customer service as a priority. One incident that reflects this happened when one of his clients’ employees was visiting the United States from Israel. During the trip she was informed that her father had passed away. Since it is customary in Israel for the deceased to be buried within twenty-four hours, she needed to return in a hurry. She was able to book a flight out of New York’s JFK airport that departed in three and-a-half hours. Unfortunately, it took three hours to get to the airport from Au Premiere’s offices. Kensey was able to find a driver in the area, and dispatch him in time for her to catch her flight home. The problem was solved. Operator: Belaire Limousine, Inc. Company: Carolyn J. Nelson Location: Bel Air, Md. Fleet Size: Seven Staff: 12
Members of the National Limousine Association are quite familiar with Carolyn Nelson and her dedicated involvement with the industry. Since 1995, she has been on the NLA board of directors and the association’s liaison as well, traveling across the U.S to visit associations in 22 states. In addition to holding positions in several other industry organizations, she has also been instrumental in passing legislation on limousine licensing. One of Nelson’s more unusual crisis situations involved actor Will Smith’s wedding. Two days before the ceremony, the booking was upped from 13 to 53 stretch limousines, and Belaire, along with the help of NLA operators in three additional states, pulled it off without a hitch. Nelson also has been known to lend cars, at no charge, to single-vehicle operators when their cars have been totaled, and she has helped out-of-state operators obtain repair parts after hours in order to continue their jobs.
In the area of staffing, the company has very low turnover, and some of Belaire’s chauffeurs have been with Nelson since she founded the firm in 1990. All of them are Gold Certified Drivers through Pinnacle Performance. Belaire is a Pinnacle’s Safety Certified Provider program. In addition, any new driver must ride along with three additional drivers in the field before being considered for a position at Belaire.
Operator: Mark Wright Company: Right Limousine Location: Trumansburg, N.Y. Fleet Size: Six Staff: 24 Mark Wright started Right Limousine in a roundabout way, after purchasing an old limousine at auction in the mid-‘90s. When he discovered that his neighbors were willing to pay for rides in it, he decided to buy a quality limousine and become a full-time operator. Despite the company’s small-town location, it has served a number of celebrity clients such as Eva Gabor, Merv Griffin and the late Carl Sagan. Even Billy Joel has gone uptown riding in a Right Limousine.
Right was the first company in New York State to be safety-certified by the Chauffeured Transportation Certification Program, which requires drug testing and meticulous fleet maintenance. All of the company’s chauffeurs have risen to Pinnacle’s Gold level of continued education. Wright has also founded a chauffeur school where students can learn the difference between being just a driver and a personal valet. His company manual, required reading for all chauffeurs, covers a wide range of subjects from rules on appearance and etiquette to office procedures and limousine supplies. He realizes that a quality chauffeur is the heart of the service, and that how well you train your personnel determines how well your company does.
As evidence of his dedication to the industry, Wright has given seminars at national trade shows and written for limousine publications on business development. He also has helped establish a chauffeur course at a local community college. In the area of community involvement, he pays for ads soliciting charities to call for service, and also participates in a career mentor program at local schools and in various parades honoring war veterans and fire departments. His company has contributed to more than a dozen different charities as well.
Operator: William Goerl Company: Clique Limousine Service, Inc. Location: Bay Shore, N.Y. Fleet Size: Seven Staff: 15 Duty to country almost caused William Goerl of Clique Limousine Service to go out of business. In 1990, Goerl, a member of the Marine Corps Reserves, was ordered to ship out in five days to take part in Operation Desert Shield/Storm. At the time he had just purchased his first two limousines and was starting his fledging company. Going off to war would place him in financial ruin. Not willing to give in, he delegated the responsibility of running the business to his then girlfriend, now wife, Erika. The war ended, Goerl returned and the business kept going.
Goerl is involved with his local association, the Nassau Suffolk Limousine Association, by serving on the association’s board of directors and assisting them in designing their Web site. He is a member of the National Limousine Association. He also has been working with the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
He has incorporated an auto-detail center and a cellular and paging dealership with Clique, in order to streamline the needs of his chauffeurs. He offers health benefits to his employees. To better train his chauffeurs, he is a member of the Chauffeur Certification Program.
He maintains an “On time or free guarantee” policy. He keeps in touch with his clients by sending out a monthly newsletter. And to maintain a personal touch, he sends greeting cards for his clients’ birthdays and anniversaries, and sends them gift baskets at the holidays. He is proud that he runs a “small yet profitable, personalized service,” and he believes that there is truth to the adage: “80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your customers.”
The Illinois Limousine Association With a state that’s home to one of the world’s busiest airports, it is not surprising that the Illinois Limousine Association was named as one of this year’s finalists for Association of the Year honors.
The 73-member ILA was organized in 1985, by limousine operators that felt that it was time get together and address issues that affected them all. As you may have guessed, one of the issues that concerned the association then, is still one of their major concerns – O’Hare and Midway airports. The latest successful development has been the association’s ability to provide input on the redesigning of the new Midway Airport Roadways. In the past they have worked with local cab companies, non-member limousine companies and their member to help the airport write the Rules and Regulations. Besides dealing with airport issues, the association has worked to lower the city of Chicago’s airport tax from $4.50 to $3.50 a day. They also have worked with, then secretary of state, Governor George Ryan on the issues of self-regulation and vehicle safety. Though the only regulation required by the state of Illinois is vehicle safety inspections, the association strongly promotes and encourages members to use Motor Vehicle Reports and individual background checks when hiring chauffeurs. The ILA also has established a drug-testing program with the city of Chicago. They have an appointed a government liaison that attends meetings of all airport authorities and the city of Chicago. The liaison then updates the ILA monthly. The association also has a committee that works specifically with the Department of Consumer Services.
As an association, they have contributed to a charity fund for the Misercordia Home for Children. The Mesericordia Home helps to serve children and adults with mental disabilities. The fund was established to honor, founding member and former president, Carol Whelihan who passed away last year. They have also contributed to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. ILA’s board of directors is comprised of both large and small companies, in an effort to maintain a balanced view of the industry. A dental and health insurance policy is available to the members. Members also have access to pre-paid legal services. The association publishes a monthly newsletter, the I.L. Advisor; both printed and posted on their Web site.
The Arizona Livery Association Created with a simple plan in 1988, the Arizona Livery Association has been very active in its attempts to further the limousine industry in both Arizona and the nation.
Nationally, ALA members have been a part of the Coalition Legislative Committee in helping with national strategies for seeking legislative and regulatory solutions to HR 1689, Gas Guzzler Tax, Hour of Service Rule, overtime wages and TEA-21. The ALA has helped make a presence for the limousine industry in Washington D.C. ALA’s Vice President, Jason Kaplan attended, at his own expense, a political fundraiser last year hosted by Sen. John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
In the Arizona government, the ALA was first thrust onto the scene in 1995. A bill was proposed which would have required operators to declare gross weights that were higher than the actual gross vehicle weight. The ALA demonstrated enough opposition support that the two senators that proposed the bill reconsidered their legislation.
The ALA’s mission is: To promote the ground transportation industry by increasing the awareness of and confidence in the Arizona Livery Association and its members. To provide impeccable and safe service for the benefit of their clients and to strengthen the consistency of quality service that should be expected from any member company and the ALA. To support fellow members in order to reach these goals and continue to strive for excellence in both the association and the industry.
The 60-member association has two primary committees (membership and education) in which quarterly meetings are held. Public relations are high on the association’s agenda, along with coordination and cooperation with allied organizations in the transportation and hospitality industries in Arizona.
Membership in the ALA includes a discounted membership in the NLA, discounts on some vehicle purchases, special rates for payroll-workers comp. Benefits, special rates with Air Touch Cellular, discounted rates for glass replacement and specially designed insurance programs.
The association also helps local charities. An annual Christmas toy drive is conducted, with the toys going to many local outreach programs. Pre-cleaned blankets were donated to Warmth of Humanity. A program that provides blankets to the homeless. Also, in the summer, items are collected at a pool party to be delivered to the Thunderbird Haven House in Phoenix, a YWCA safe house for battered women and children.
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