Here are some sights and scenes from one wicked cool tradeshow.
The kid from Kentucky looks like a business pro with style: Smart, slick threads, diamonds in his ears, a smile only he knows how to wear. He dresses well because he needs to look sharp when he shakes up the world, which he plans on doing, by the way, with the help of an advantage unique to his time: Technological tools unheard of even 20 years ago.
At just 30 years old, William Rondo of Superior Global Travel & Concierge looks out at the Boston skyline and sees the greater universe beyond. But don’t let his youth fool you; the industry young gun matured at an early age to became the man of the house and help his mother raise his three siblings in Louisville, Ky. Among them, his younger brother Rajon, who is the reason he ever came to Beantown in the first place.
Pro sports connection
Rajon was just 20 years old when he was drafted to play professional basketball in the NBA for the legendary Boston Celtics. The Rondo brothers moved to Boston in 2006; Rajon to fulfill his destiny and Will as his legal guardian and mentor to help him see it through. “It was a new atmosphere, a new big city, and I wanted to make sure he adapted well,” Rondo says.
Rondo got his first taste of the limousine industry during Rajon’s rookie season. The two were often picked up from the airport and driven around by chauffeured cars, and Rondo admired the knowledge the chauffeurs had about the region. He saw them as ambassadors for Boston, and learned all about the city from them. “They knew where to go for anything; they taught me about rush hour, traffic times, alternate routes,” Rondo says.
During the second part of Rajon’s rookie season, more family members started coming up to Boston. Sometimes their flights were at 6 a.m.; sometimes at 11 p.m. Because of Rajon’s busy basketball schedule, Rondo used chauffeured car services to transport his family. “Multitasking and getting them taken care of was like playing Tetris,” Rondo recalls with a laugh. Soon enough, other Celtics players noticed and started asking him if he could arrange cars to pick up their families.
To learn more about the business, Rondo got a job as a reservationist for Harrison Global, working as a liaison between the Celtics and the service. He worked his way up, spending time as a dispatcher and office manager learning the different levels of the business. “I love a challenge, and it was definitely a challenge multitasking and dealing with 70-80 trips a day,” Rondo says. “Every day in this business is different and I love that about the limo industry.”
Destined to stay
Unfortunately, the economy ground to a halt that year and Rondo had trouble finding a job that would match the salary he made in Boston. When he moved back north, the job he had at Harrison had been filled but he found a new job at Weldon Coach under operator Jerry Robbins. After two weeks as a reservationist, Rondo was given the affiliate manager position, where he learned how to acquire partnerships with companies in different areas.
Rondo credits Robbins with inspiring him and teaching him how to run a company. But their age gap inevitably led to differences of opinion on certain operational matters, so Rondo wanted to start his own company and make his mark in the industry.
“I wanted to be a global one-stop-shop for all aspects of travel,” Rondo says. “A global traveling concierge service.” In 2009, he started Superior Global Travel & Concierge with the goal of providing a “superior experience.” He saw people as individuals instead of just accounts and wanted to make them feel like VIPs the whole time by providing a level of service beyond their expectations.
His own experience with quality VIP treatment came from traveling around the nation with his brother. Places such as the Four Seasons hotels showed him what top-notch hospitality looked and felt like. One thing he picked up was a simple introduction. “When chauffeurs first meet passengers, they say, ‘Hello Mr. X, is this your first time visiting Boston?’ And if it is, they say, ‘Welcome.’ If it’s not, they say, ‘Welcome back.’”
Rondo’s attention to detail and customer service skills were sharpened by his experience working with an extremely tricky niche of clients: professional athletes and celebrities. He’d developed many friendships in the sports-celebrity world and received clients through word of mouth.
“Ball players and celebrities require a lot more attention than the average corporate traveler,” Rondo says. “And it’s not just them you have to think about; you also have to deal with all of their people — financial advisors, agents, lawyers, moms, baby mamas, fianceés, families, friends — and you have to have a personal relationship with them. Their circles always change. You have to keep tabs on the people around them; you have to know who’s in charge of payments. It’s a complex web and you can only deal with them by building strong relationships.”
Rondo pays attention to all his clients’ likes and dislikes. He learns their favorite candy, water, radio station; the names of their children and family members and spouses; and anniversary dates and birthdays. He wants to be able to recommended restaurants for special occasions or gifts for their loved ones. He even researches poems that might fit in a card for certain occasions.
In order to keep up with his clients, Rondo relies on a variety of software and technology. He uses Limo Anywhere because it allows him to run his business from anywhere at any time on any device, which helps because he travels a lot. Rondo also uses other cloud services, and has a program that turns emails into faxes and vice versa. His clients have his personal number so it’s easier for them to reach him and book with him. He even takes reservations via text message. Although this constant communication with clients requires most of his attention during the day, he understands it’s necessary. “I want to come off as a friend and a resource, not just a service.”
“The most successful people are those who evolved to clients’ needs,” he says. “Always evolve, always go the extra mile, because if you don’t, somebody else will. That’s how I get high-end clientele. I never have to argue about price or question if someone’s credit card is working or not.”
The interesting thing about Rondo is that he only actually owns one vehicle — a Cadillac Escalade. Everything else is farmed out to his affiliates. It proves to be a win-win because they are happy for the work and he doesn’t have to worry about vehicle overhead. He’s considering adding more of his own vehicles but never wants to be a huge 50-car company because he says, “If your metal’s not moving, you’re losing money. When the recession hit in ’08, people were stuck in their ways of doing things and many fell by the wayside, and I wanted to innovate and be more flexible.”
In order to expand his service to a wider audience, Rondo launched a reservation app to allow clients to book trips from their smartphones. The app is based off Create-A-Card Inc.’s “Limousine App” and is customized and branded to Superior Global Travel & Concierge.
“This is something that can change the industry,” Rondo says. “The average person doesn’t want to get on the phone anymore. They want to text, email, use Facebook. Communication has changed and this is one way to evolve with it.”
Rondo started a sweepstakes contest in which any client who uses the app to book transportation will be automatically entered to win tickets to a professional sporting event, the opera, a play, a fancy dinner, or a vacation package. He also will tap his resource of celebrity friends to blast out a message announcing his app.
“[My brother] has about 300,000 Twitter followers. Lebron James, Paul Pierce, Shaquille O’Neal all have tons of followers. If they all blast out a Tweet about my app, it’ll reach over two million people,” he says.
Pride trumps competition
When asked about local competitors, such as industry titans Dav El and Boston Coach, Rondo says he doesn’t feel his company competes with anyone. His main focus isn’t volume; it’s to deliver the right experience each time. If you take yourself out of the rat race, he says, you don’t have to compete.
“It’s not about how much you’re getting paid,” he says. “It’s about doing a great job and taking pride in it. I am and always will be a client and passenger of other companies, so I know how it feels. So many companies are worried about the bottom line number that they lose sight of what they’re intended to do in this industry.”
Rondo feels blessed to have had the mentorship of industry veterans such as Virginia operators Dan Goff and Barry Gross, Chicago’s George Jacobs, and industry marketing expert Arthur Messina. “They embody how I want to be,” he says. “I would especially like to thank Tom Mazza. He’s given me a lot of resources to help me out, and he motivates people and reaches people at all different levels.
“I’m not in this business for any accolades or awards, because awards and trophies collect dust. But memories will always be there,” he adds. “That’s what I want to give my clients. They may not remember the chauffeur’s name or even my name; they may not remember the ride, but they’ll never forget how it made them feel.”
Company: Superior Global Travel & Concierge. I Location: Boston I Founded: 2009 I Owner: William Rondo I Main service region: Boston I Vehicle types: Cadillac Escalade; all available via affiliates I Fleet size: 1 I Employees: 2 I Annual Revenues: N/A I Website: www.sgtvip.com I Information: (888) 757-3728
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