The fight not only pits new ways against old, it also reveals modern-day ruptures in the labor market.
LCT’s Operator of the Year Award is one that has changed businesses forever. The award has been used as a marketing tool and a virtual seal of approval within the industry for scores of operators who have achieved this top distinction during the past 16 years.
Past operators who have been honored with this achievement have said that life is different after receiving it and this year’s winners are no different.
Bayview Limousine Service, Seattle Rob Hansen, 51+ Vehicle Category For running such a great company, it is amazing that Rob Hansen was surprised at winning the Operator of the Year award in the large fleet category earlier this year (Bayview’s second time winning the award). “I really didn’t think we would win this year, so when they called our name I was blown away,” says Hansen.
Immediately after returning home from the show, Hansen and his wife Kathy alerted all of their staff of Bayview’s victory and told them they were the reason they came home with the award. “It really increased the level of morale among our employees,” he says. “I think it gave them a sense of pride knowing that each one of them was responsible for us winning and that all of the hard work was noticed.” He adds that every new hire is made aware of the award during training, and he thinks that increases their desire to work for Bayview. “It also lets them know that we have a very high level of expectation for them, which motivates everyone to work together as a team,” says Hansen.
Since winning the award, Hansen says that the recognition has increased Bayview’s sales. “Immediately after winning the award, we were approached by one of the larger networks looking for help in the Seattle area and we began doing work with them right away,” he says. He adds that the award has brought his company exposure on a national level. “It has brought us new business.”
The company is not resting on its laurels, however, and Hansen believes it has raised the bar on the level of service Bayview provides. The company will keep striving for perfection well into the future. “Most of the time, we are so focused on our mistakes in one area or another,” says Hansen. “It is refreshing to realize that for all of our imperfections, together we achieve something worth regard.”
For Bayview, the award was more than just a plaque on the wall; it was a moment they will never forget and will carry that into the future of their business. “It is certainly one of those moments in life to savor,” says Hansen.
Overland Limousine Service, Shawnee Mission, Kans. Diane Forgy, 31-50 Vehicle Category Keeping constant attention on backing up the Operator of the Year award is something that Diane Forgy says has been Overland’s mission since accepting the recognition earlier this year. “It’s a great honor,” says Forgy, “but we have to be conscious about living up to the award.” As soon as Forgy returned from Las Vegas after the LCT International show, she began to use the award as a marketing tool. The company sent out a press release to its clients, added the award to email signatures, and to its website. “We’re still getting feedback,” says Forgy. “In fact, one of our clients commented about the award this morning.” The company’s postcards, direct mail pieces, and airport signs are all branded with “2007 Limousine & Chauffeured Transportation Magazine ‘Operator of the Year!’” as well.
Although Forgy says that the award hasn’t drastically changed the way Overland does business, she does admit that it has affected her and her employees’ sense of pride in what they do. “I have a staff that buys into what we’re all about,” says Forgy. “It’s not only my award, it’s our award, and I want people to feel included in that.”
For operators who are considering nominating their companies for the 2008 award, Forgy suggests that they be thorough and to the point during the entry process. “It’s really about a professional-looking presentation and looking for specific things that are unique and creative about your company.”
Forgy adds that the whole process takes a lot of thought about your company’s training program, your philosophy about customer service, and your safety record. “It’s more than a popularity contest,” says Forgy. She adds that the award has made Overland’s existing clients more confident in the service they have chosen, and that it is also a credibility tool when attracting new accounts. “Winning motivates me to take our service to the next level,” she says.
Park Place Corporate Transportation Services, Rochester, N.Y. Scott Pizzo, 11-30 Vehicle Category Park Place Corporate Transportation is seeing real results since winning the Operator of the Year award. “Affiliate interest in our company has gone up 35% due to the instant recognition generated from our company’s appearance on stage at the awards ceremony,” says Scott Pizzo.
He adds the recognition Park Place received in winning the award has allowed it to bridge the gap between it and other companies, and has helped develop new business that continues to grow by the day.
Consistent among all of the winners is the benefit to the sense of pride felt by employees of companies that have won the award. “Reaching our industry’s standard of excellence has also re-instilled in our employees a new sense of pride that comes with being viewed as a cutting edge entity.” Pizzo says that Park Place chauffeurs are proud to reveal who they work for, and are eager to tell clients about winning the award. “They have moved from passive salesmen to enthusiastic members of our sales team, sharing with our customers our use of the latest technology and equipment, which has ultimately led to many new business leads.”
After winning the Operator of the Year award, Pizzo was surprised to see that his company’s insurance premium was lowered as well. “For the first time since our inception, it was reduced by double digits!” says Pizzo. That, he says, was the most unexpected thing to happen since Park Place was honored.
Pizzo says the information he has received from LCT events and the magazine has helped Park Place excel. He believes attending shows and utilizing the tools he has learned is the smartest move his organization has made thus far.
“Being selected as Operator of the Year is one of the greatest professional achievements of my life,” says Pizzo.
Exclusive Sedan Service, North Hollywood, Calif. Ron and Brandan Stein, 1-10 Vehicle Category Ron Stein remembers vividly the days of leaving his wife at the dinner table and heading out to a run. That’s why accepting the Operator of the Year award made him so proud of his company. “I am overwhelmed with my own company,” says Stein. “These people are so dedicated.”
Stein rewarded all of Exclusive’s employees with sushi and massages to show them how much they are appreciated. “They were all proud to be a part of it and we did our best to make them feel they were honored, too.” Stein says that it instilled a larger sense of professionalism in them. “Now they want to be a bigger company!” he says.
Behind years of hard work stands a first-class operation with a new generation getting ready to take the reins. Brandan Stein, Ron’s son, has been instrumental in pointing Exclusive Sedan toward the road to success. “I could not be prouder of my son’s business acumen,” says Stein.
Since receiving the award, Exclusive Sedan has used it on every advertisement and other sales materials. The company also sent out a press release to the local media, and added the award to its website, stationery, invoices, and thank you cards.
As far as affiliate work is concerned, since the company’s recognition, Stein says it has increased. “All of the ‘big boys’ welcomed us,” he says. Goals that have been on the company’s long-term agenda have also been surpassed since the show in January. Stein plans to go after more affiliate work and give his employees what they are asking for — growth. With this award behind him, Stein is confident that Exclusive Sedan will continue to expand.
“This award has definitely validated our work ethic and I just don’t think it gets any better than this,” says Stein.
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