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Creative Los Angeles Limo Service Thinks Outside The Box

Michael Campos
Posted on February 21, 2012
Alex Darbahani’s avant-garde marketing concepts and involvement in his local community appeal to clients from all ends of the spectrum.

Alex Darbahani’s avant-garde marketing concepts and involvement in his local community appeal to clients from all ends of the spectrum.

Alex Darbahani’s avant-garde marketing concepts and involvement in his local community appeal to clients from all ends of the spectrum.
Alex Darbahani’s avant-garde marketing concepts and involvement in his local community appeal to clients from all ends of the spectrum.

Alex Darbahani would rather lose money than risk ruining his reputation for providing stellar service. “I do whatever I can to make clients happy,” the owner and founder of Los Angeles-based KLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services says. He understands that reputation is a significant factor to finding success and knows how to build and maintain one, whether by providing complimentary premium amenities or compensating a ride if a client experiences subpar service.

Darbahani’s philosophy has earned him the loyalty of high-profile clients such as Jennifer Lopez, Lamar Odom, Shaquille O’Neal, and Christina Aguilera. His roster also included the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson.

Darbahani saw potential for the limousine industry while working for a music producer. He entered the industry in 1992 as a chauffeur for Carmel Limousine in Woodland Hills, Calif. He established his business in 1998 with two Lincoln Navigator SUVs. His first major event was Jennifer Lopez’s 2001 wedding in Calabasas, Calif. He farmed out work for 164 vehicles, including 10 Bentley Arnage luxury sedans.

On top of technology
KLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services operates 29 vehicles, employs 21 full-time staff members, and serves high-end corporate accounts, music studios and production companies. Every vehicle comes equipped with water, magazines, and Wi-Fi. Chauffeurs have their own iPads, the cost of which is split between the company and chauffeurs, who use them as airport greetings and to log on to Limo Anywhere.

KLS uses a Voice-Over-Internet-Protocol [VoIP] phone system so employees can work from home if they are sick or live far from the office, such as the graveyard shift dispatcher. Darbahani converted to VoIP because he wanted KLS to answer calls 24/7 but had a bad experience with a call center. “VoIP lets me use my own dispatchers and maintain the quality of service we provide,” he says.

It is crucial for operators to keep vehicles clean and properly maintained, Darbahani says. He has an in-house mechanical and detail staff who not only save him money but also provide quick turnaround on vehicle preparation.
It is crucial for operators to keep vehicles clean and properly maintained, Darbahani says. He has an in-house mechanical and detail staff who not only save him money but also provide quick turnaround on vehicle preparation.

People are paramount
The most important pieces of the limo business puzzle are your people, Darbahani says. The office staff and chauffeurs need to be treated well so they know their talents are valuable to the company. KLS has monthly breakfast meetings to keep chauffeurs and office staff on the same page. At the end of each year, Darbahani gives his employees a form to write their own reviews and give specific examples of what they did that might earn them a raise.

Interestingly, he also gives yearly evaluations to each of his clients. “I take a look at my accounts and decide if I need to raise the price on some of them, or if I keep it the same, or if I change the kind of vehicle they get,” he says. “If I gave a client a corporate rate but they haven’t used me that often, then I’ll tell them they can keep that price but they’ll be getting a Prius instead of a Mercedes.

Tattooing the KLS name
Darbahani is a creative thinker who finds ideas by reading publications such as the Los Angeles Business Journal to learn what the best minds in business are doing, and then adapts those strategies to his operation. He deploys aggressive guerilla marketing tactics such as writing press releases, creating social media campaigns, and promoting his retail business through the incredibly ingenious use of QR codes. “I want to offer clients something different and unique; I want to tattoo the KLS name in their heads.”

He avoids traditional TV and radio advertising and chooses instead to advertise on Google and in specific magazines whose audiences match KLS’ target clientele. “I may not have the contract for a hotel, but if I advertise in their exclusive magazine, then I have the potential to reach all of their guests,” Darbahani says. He also pays commission to concierges and travel agents who refer his company.

Split Personality
When the stretch limousine business began to fade, Darbahani bought KK38 party buses from Krystal Enterprises Inc., giving each a different name and interior “personality.” His buses are black, white, pink, purple, and blue. Because the buses cater to different clients than his other vehicles, Darbahani brands them under a separate name — My Party Ride — to keep the party image distinct from KLS’ corporate image.

Priceless opportunities
Darbahani finds clients through involvement with the Greater California Livery Association, NLA, Better Business Bureau, Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce, Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, Los Angeles Concierge Association, and local lawyer associations. KLS is also listed in the official Diplomatic Directory and gets exposed to dignitaries from around the world.

Darbahani travels to conventions such as the International LCT Show, the Diplomatic Expo, and the Luxury Travel Expo. These connections open doors to new business, he says, and he believes all costs associated with travel or membership fees are negligible because they offer priceless opportunities.

Chew what you bite off
Sometimes people have the tendency to go for large accounts because of the potential revenue they bring in, but Darbahani warns operators to make sure they can handle the load. “If you stretch yourself thin you will be more prone to errors and your service may suffer,” he says. “Even if an account looks lucrative, make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew. Overhead for vehicles and maintenance and extra staff might cost so much that even if your revenue is millions of dollars more than before, your profit might be less. Increase your margins by being more efficient and cutting overhead costs.”

Jennifer Lopez and Dolly Parton are among KLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services' celebrity clientele.
Jennifer Lopez and Dolly Parton are among KLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services' celebrity clientele.

But if you do want more business, don’t be afraid to ask for it, Darbahani says. He tells his chauffeurs the same thing and provides them with their own business cards. “Teach your chauffeurs to ask for more business in a professional way and they become an additional sales force.” When a chauffeur brings in a new client, he or she gets a bonus and 10% commission. Operators should survey every new client after their first run in order to get immediate feedback and make adjustments, he says.

Giving back
Darbahani donates funds to charitable causes such as the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital and Smile Train, an organization that provides free corrective surgery to children with cleft lip and palate. “It’s amazing how a little bit of money can make a huge difference in kids’ lives,” Darbahani says.

In addition to fundraisers, KLS provides free transportation to take teenage moms and kids from impoverished parts of town to attend college meetings and other life-improvement events. Military veterans get 25% discounts. “Giving back is important, not because of the publicity your company gets, but because of the positive impact it makes on people’s lives.”


Fast Facts about KLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services

Location: Beverly Hills, Calif. I Founded: 1998 I Owner: Alex Darbahani I Main service region: Los Angeles I Types of vehicles: Luxury sedans, limousines, hybrids, SUVs, party buses, motorcoaches I Fleet size: 29 vehicles I Annual revenues: $2.2 million I Employees: 21, full-time I Websites: www.klsla.com; www.mypartyride.com I Information: (310) 247-0804

Related Topics: Alex Darbahani, California operators, innovative marketing, KLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services, party buses, technology

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