Tim Rose brings his expertise to next year’s highly anticipated event.
Most operators have been in the industry long enough to know the basics — how to keep a customer happy, how to get affiliate work, proper safety precautions, etc. — you know the drill. But what about the things that no one ever really tells you? Do you know how to break employees’ bad habits? How do you calm your nerves when its time to network with people you don’t know? And how does an overwhelmingly busy limo operator squeeze in some self-care time, like going to the gym?
Finding the Latest Nightspots
What happens when you need to show out-of-town visitors a good time or set up an evening’s itinerary for an action-packed bachelorette party?
·For starters, the Internet is a goldmine of information. Submit a search on all your city has to offer. You can find reviews for nearly every restaurant, bar, and club in your city in a matter of seconds.
·Ask a concierge.
·Ask bartenders in the area. “Bartenders know who their competition is and who caters to which crowd,” says Jim Luff of the Limousine Scene in Bakersfield, Calif.
·Keep a Rolodex of entertainment contacts (restaurant managers, bartenders, friends, and hotel staff).
·Keep a log of where you have taken past clients, complete with their age group, style, and sophistication.
·Go out and experience the city for yourself. Firsthand experience is better than word-of mouth-information.
Getting Business From a Hotel Concierge
·Offer the concierge a commission or flat amount per trip.
·Give incentives. Offer your concierge comps for Christmas light tours, anniversaries, etc. in exchange for business, says Luff.
·Establish a relationship with your concierge. Take him or her out to lunch several times a year.
·Give them small gifts, such as concert or sports tickets, or Starbucks gift certificates, says Diane Forgy of Overland Limousine in Kansas City.
·Market yourself. Drop off useful promotional items with your company’s logo on them.
·Providing excellent service to their clients is the first priority, according to Scott Woodruff of Majestic Limousine and Coach in Grimes, Iowa, who always thanks them for their business.
Freshen a Vehicle in 10 Minutes
Simply getting out of the car separates your service from the rest. Woodruff says, “Chauffeurs that spend most of their time sitting in the front seat are drivers, not chauffeurs.”
·Dust off the outside of the vehicle with a damp, non-scratch, lint-free towel and use another to touch-up windows and all interior surfaces with some glass cleaner.
·Forgy suggests giving tires a once over with Armor All.
·Roll seatbelts up but leave them exposed, says Luff.
·Use a small whiskbroom or handheld vacuum to clean carpets or shake them off outside.
·Remove dirty glasses and napkins and replace them with new ones.
·Smell is everything. Use an odor neutralizing spray like Ozium or Febreze or even dryer sheets on the inside.
Wow Your Spouse on Your Anniversary
·“Just spend time with them and do what they want to do,” says Roger Hamelin of Prospect Limousine in Prospect, Conn. “They are on our schedule all-year-round, make it their day.”
·Luff recommends sending a limousine to your spouse’s workplace to whisk him or her off to dinner at a secret location.
·A limousine, champagne, and a leisurely drive are what Forgy suggests.
·Get creative! Sometimes spending less money and more time has a bigger impact. For example, make a picture book of the years you have spent together.
·Relive your first date.
Finding a Lawyer or Accountant
·Consult other professionals, friends, and family.
·“Find professionals with experience in YOUR industry,” says Luff. He says if they don’t know the business thoroughly, they can’t provide adequate attention or advice.
·Hamelin suggests conducting a thorough interview with the person before you make a decision.
·Utilize your state bar association to research complaint histories or inquiries.
·Don’t hire a lawyer who comes knocking on your door looking for business.
·Understand all of the legal costs involved before you sign the dotted line.
·Think carefully about what legal or financial services your company requires.
Get Exercise on a Busy Day
·“When you are at the airport or waiting for a client, you are usually in a parking lot,” says Hamelin. “You can do a couple of laps of walking.”
·Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
·Walk over to coworkers’ desks instead of emailing or calling them.
·Plan for it. Have your gym bag packed and ready to go in your car.
·Hop on a machine for a 10-minute power workout. Just 10 minutes a day can make a big difference.
·“Park as far away as possible,” says Forgy.
·Actively sitting on an exercise ball instead of a chair in the office will strengthen your abs and back.
·Take a break and move around. It will benefit your mind and body.
Get a Table at the Hottest Restaurant in Town Without a Rez
·Become a regular. The key to getting in is to establish a rapport with the managers and staff at the restaurant by dining there frequently. You will get preferential treatment, says Hamelin.
·A little bit of old school bribery will get you in. Slipping a $20 bill to a hostess can still get you seated in some places. Remember — bribery works on a sliding scale — tip accordingly.
·Network with concierges in your area. “They can sometimes call in a favor,” says Forgy.
·Confidently tell the hostess that you have a reservation you made over a month ago. “This requires the face of a poker player,” says Luff. Using this method depends on how bad you need to get in.
From coffeehouse baristas and valets, to hotel attendants and the pizza delivery guy, it seems like everyone gets a tip these days. It can be hard to tell when, who, and how much to tip. Here’s a current breakdown of today’s standards of gratuity according to www.tipguide.org.
·Food server — 15% to 20% on the total bill, with tax, depending on quality of service, not food
·Chauffeur — 15% to 25%, depending on the quality of service
·Porter or skycap — $2 per bag
·Valet — $1 to $3
·Concierge — $5 to $10
·Room Service — 15% to 20% on the total bill
·Bartender/cocktail server — 15% to 20% on the total bill or $1 to $2 per drink
·Takeout — $1 to$2 or 10% of the total bill
·Food delivery — 15% but no less than $2
·Coffeehouse barista — $1 per drink
·Hairstylist — 10% to 20% (tip extra for last-minute service)
·Barber — $2 to $3
·Car wash — $2 to $3 for a car and $3 to $5 for an SUV or other large vehicle
The Always Late Employee
In this business, being on time is everything. You may understand the value of being prompt, but getting your employees to do so is another story. “Many good, hardworking people have a tendency to be habitually late,” says a source at BusinessTown.com, but where do you draw the line?
·Don’t bring up a tardiness issue with an employee who is occasionally late.
·Talk to your employee in a friendly manner and ask if he or she can improve their attendance record.
·Expect immediate results.
·Be consistent. If other employees arrive late, give them the same consequences. Otherwise, your request will lose its worth.
·Post schedules in highly visible areas.
·If the employee is still late, document his or her behavior. Several offenses may lead to termination if you think it necessary.
·It’s your call. Tardiness should especially be addressed if the employee is an overall poor performer.
·If an employee is constantly late, change their schedule to something less desirable or cut back their hours, says Forgy. She also ties raises into on-time attendance.
·Send them home, says George Jacobs of Windy City Limousine in Chicago.
·Most importantly, set a good example.
We all hate to do it. Meeting strangers can be awkward and frightening, however in this industry, networking is your greatest asset. You know meeting the right person can change your business forever. Here are some tips from the MIT Sloan School of Management and other sources on how to really work a room.
·Do some research. If you are going to a tradeshow, know what is current with the industry.
·Be prepared. Formulate a list of topics to discuss if the conversation clams up. You will be glad you did when the crickets start to chirp.
·Having questions to ask people is critical and a great icebreaker. Once they start talking, just listen.
·Arrive early and study nametags. From there, make a short list of people you would like to target.
·Talk to speakers. These are usually the most interesting and helpful people at a conference. However, getting to them after they speak can be challenging so try to get a few minutes with them beforehand. They are more likely to remember you.
·Smile at people. Make it easy for others to approach you.
·Present your business card at the end of the conversation.
·Remember, the people you meet are there to meet you, too.
·Follow up. Great schmoozers follow up within 24 hours.
·Do not use all CAPS in an email. THIS IS CONSIDERED SHOUTING.
·Use spell-check and proofread your emails. Make sure the message you are sending is clearly understood the way you intend it.
·Never email when angry. If you receive what you perceive as an angry email, consider calling the person to clarify instead of responding by email. Also, there is no substitute for face-to-face communication.
·Always make sure that the subject line of your email clearly relates to its content. This makes everybody’s life easier, including yours. You may even get a faster response.
·Business emails are not the place to get cutesy. Although “emoticons” like :) and :( add emotion to an email, using them can be viewed as unprofessional and amateurish.
·Do not forward chain letters, inappropriate jokes, and pornography, political, or religious material to business associates.
·Remember other people’s privacy. Always use the BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) in a group email so addresses are not visible to other recipients.
·Double-check the “To” line. A rushed email may result in sending sensitive information to the wrong person.
A Grab Bag of Tips
LCT also gained some additional information that interviewed operators would like to share with their peers.
·“Vehicle maintenance is simple — you spend $150 today or you can spend $2,000 next week. In other words, don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today.” – Roger Hamelin, Prospect Limo, Prospect, Conn.
·“Keep your clients’ information confidential even if you believe a duplicate reservation is being made. Simply take the information and do not divulge any information that does not directly pertain to the reservation being scheduled.” – Deena Papagni, A Touch of Class Limousine, Madera, Calif. She discovered that she accidentally ruined a surprise for a couple giving each other limousine rides for their birthdays.
·“In order to effectively plan your daily schedule, it is important to stay organized. At the beginning of the day, write down what you hope to accomplish. Keep your daily scheduled goals realistic.” – Jon Epstein, Royal Coachman Worldwide, Denville, N.J.
·“Always have a back-up route for every trip and always carry bills to break $20s, $50s, and $100s.” – Scott Woodruff, Majestic Limo & Coach, Grimes, Iowa.
Tim Rose brings his expertise to next year’s highly anticipated event.
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