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Keeping the Tradition: A Son Takes Over the Family Business After His Father's Death

LCT Staff
Posted on October 7, 2010
Michael Campbell, whose father, the company founder, died two years ago, says the best advice his father gave him was that "this industry requires many hours and a lot  of work — but this industry rewards hard work like few others.”

Michael Campbell, whose father, the company founder, died two years ago, says the best advice his father gave him was that "this industry requires many hours and a lot of work — but this industry rewards hard work like few others.”

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Due to multiple reporting errors and inaccuracies in the print version of this article in the October issue, LCT has created a corrected web version below].

MANCHESTER, N.H. — After his father died in March 2009, operator Michael Campbell found himself with a tough act to follow. Since then, he has developed a determination that makes it possible.

Having been in the industry for five years before his father died, Campbell still takes pride in being involved with every aspect of Grace Limousine, and remains dedicated to the legacy of his father, Ian, who founded the company in 1990. Michael occasionally chauffeurs, dispatches at least two days a week, as Ian did, and continues to manage this growing company.

FAMILY LEGACY

Ian Campbell died after a long battle with liver disease, including a transplant in 2002. He left behind a wife of 35 years and seven children, ages 12 to 33.

“My Dad was a hard worker and taught me that a strong work ethic was required to survive in this industry,” said Michael Campbell, who is the general manager of Grace Limousine. “The best advice he gave is that this industry requires many hours and a lot of work — but this industry rewards hard work like few others.”

Thankful to have inherited many of his father’s positive traits, Campbell works to support and further the growth of Grace Limousine.

“We lost a lot of ground in 2008 and early 2009, with the downturn of the economy, but we are up 20% so far through 2010,” Campbell said. With future plans to expand along the coastal areas of New Hampshire, Campbell is steadily building Grace Limousine’s affiliate network.

“The biggest thing for our future is to expand our affiliate network, because we are physically bound by geography,” Campbell said. “Developing that nationwide network allows us to offer something new to our market, and will generate significant increases that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.”

Campbell says that while competition has always been stiff in his region, it has been refreshing to see an increase in even local affiliations. “There is no point in working against each other,” he said. “I think there is obviously more for all of us to gain if we team up and work together.”

Campbell has recently worked to develop strong farm-in and farm-out relationships with high-end operators in the area, including Black Tie and Regal Limousine, and with larger operators in the Boston market.

MOVING AHEAD

As the recession slammed the industry, Grace Limousine made it a priority to hold onto both its image of luxury and its high customer service standards that the company started with two decades ago. “The economy opened the door for new and low-budget operators to enter the market. But we didn’t set out to be the low-price limousine company; we set out to be the best,” Campbell said.

“By maintaining our vehicles and services, we were positioned for when the economy began to pick up and customers began looking for a quality service again.”

For Campbell, leading the company is all about teamwork, both within his company and without. “Following after someone like my dad was a daunting task, especially in early 2009, because the company was slipping, and I had to cut back in a few areas. It was daunting, but it seems like we’ve turned a corner now, and I’m proud that we did not have to cut a single employee for economic reasons during that rough patch.”

VALUABLE LESSONS

By providing employees with full benefits and managing a staff that includes several family members — including his 83 year old grandfather — Campbell, like his father, looks out for the best interests of his work family.

The biggest lesson Campbell has taken away from watching his father build this company through the years is never to rest on his laurels. “Our office is open 24 hours to meet the needs of our customers,” he said. Dispatching in the early hours of the morning, working in the office, and even driving from time to time, Michael Campbell is continuing to build on a solid legacy.

FAST FACTS:

Company: Grace Limousine, LLC

Location: Manchester, N.H.

Founded: 1990

Owners: Campbell family members

General manager: Michael Campbell

Main service region: Boston region and southern New Hampshire

Fleet size: 32

Vehicle types: 2010 Lincoln Town Car Sedans, SUVs, vans, stretch limousines, 1956 Rolls Royce S-1 Bentley

Employees: 48

Revenues: $2.4 million, 2009; $2.85 million, 2010

Web site: www.gracelimo.com

Phone: (800) 328-4544

Related Topics: family businesses, operator profiles

LCT Staff LCT Staff
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