Presenters Ken Carter, Derek Maxwell, and Rick Versace Jr. will explain how technology can streamline operations.
PLANET LIMO — B2B revolves around ideas you can use to get more business and make more money. In this regard, everyone has a story, or at least a few insights, so LCT decided this year to round-up some first annual picks among the ranks of operators, vendors and all-around industry types worldwide.
While the tectonic-level changes to the industry in this decade alone can be unsettling, the responses from these movers and shakers should underscore the potential to adapt and compete. Herewith an incomplete list, in no particular order:
Bedford Wynne, vice president
Wynne Transportation, Dallas
We can declare Bedford Wynne a prime innovator for using an aerial drone to film his fleet of motorcoaches and promote the images to potential customers. While boating with a friend over the summer who had a drone, Wynne thought it would be a great way to market the services of the company’s 30 motorcoaches and 52 chauffeured vehicles. He spent $2,000 to buy a drone to shoot fleet movements that can be posted on social media, the company website, YouTube and used in advertising.
“We do things with buses and sedans for unique events, so people think of us as a limo or bus company but not always a ground transportation logistics company,” says Wynne, who runs the 20-year-old company with his mother, Joan. “But why go to a DMC when we can assist you at a lower cost? The drone provides a big picture view of the logistics.” — Martin Romjue
Bill Wheeler Jr., vice president,
Black Tie Transportation, Pleasanton, Calif.
As the second-generation, second-in-command behind his father Bill Sr., Bill Jr. looks for ways to simplify and streamline the 92-vehicle operation in the San Francisco Bay Area. “I like to automate redundant tasks and free up brainpower,” Bill Jr. says. “When employees can focus on tasks that can’t be done by technology, then they perform better and feel like they’re doing valuable work. That’s where all my ideas and innovations are rooted.” Those would include automated service reminders, a fleet tracking system that communicates mileage to maintenance programs, and automatic service schedules for each vehicle that the fleet manager can use to schedule the mechanics. “Nobody has to go into logs and find out when a vehicle had its last oil change,” he says.
For customers, that means communicating with text messages instead of e-mails and phone calls. “The world prefers text messaging,” Wheeler says. “Instead of emails or phone calls, we keep clients informed with a text message. Auto confirmations send out pick-up times, dates, locations. They can do a satisfaction survey at the end of the ride.” Black Tie gets a 50% return rate on its numerical-score surveys sent via text. — Martin Romjue
Reza Choudhury, CEO
Reliance Worldwide Chauffeur Services, London, U.K.
Operator Reza Choudhury resembles many of his peers when trying to be cool: He focuses on logistics. Choudhury, who attended logistics seminars, has started a parcel delivery service to complement his chauffeured one. He notices that moving parcels resembles moving vehicles. “Since I’m heavily involved in the logistics business, it prompted me to look at my efficiencies for technology. With logistics, there’s more involvement in technology. It’s very uniform in structure. What are the efficiencies that make the parcel go from A to B?”
By studying such operations like DHL, Choudhury can find applicable efficiencies for his company. “I’m learning every day in both industries,” Choudhury says. “There’s something new always coming out, such as new payment tools, and I apply ideas from an international basis instead of a local one.” Since early 2014, he has seen strong growth in his parcel delivery service, which is 95% international and uses outside contractors. “With the chauffeured business, I’ve been able to go back into corporate procurement departments and say we offer parcel delivery. It’s helped double our revenue stream.”
Other cool ideas from Choudhury: SMS texting for all client communication, and a live international currency exchange rate calculator on his website for chauffeured rates. — Martin Romjue
Traveling To Network
Jeff Brodsly, CEO
Chosen Payments, Moorpark, Calif.
Since first entering the limo industry in 2012, Jeff Brodsly has thrived on networking and cool promotional ideas. He advocates for the chauffeured ground transportation industry, and is an active member of many trade groups nationwide, regularly attending their meetings. He travels frequently to visit with operators and joins them at all industry trade shows.
Chosen Payments does a credit card processing audit for every client on their existing merchant service plan. Brodsly gives each new customer a side-by-side comparison of what they pay for, and he shows them how they can save by using the Chosen Payments program. “Merchant services will play a major role as the economy turns around. Luxury spending is increasing, and with operators having at least 80% of their income coming from credit cards, I think the future is very bright for the industry and for operators open to evolution. It’s becoming a cashless society and operators are beginning to accept that.” — Tim Crowley
Premium Services & Spaces
Evan Blanchette, CEO
VIP Global, Miami, Fla.
South Florida operator Evan Blanchette applies the concept of cool across his operations in a city considered one of the hottest global destinations worldwide. With its infusion of international wealth and investment, Miami and nearby Miami Beach attract a jet-setting global elite and VIPs. Blanchette has adjusted his fleet accordingly, buying six Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedans, three Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedans, two Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Vans, and four Cadillac Escalades. VIP Global’s clients include the W Hotel, St. Regis Hotel and the Fontainebleu.
“There’s a market for premium on demand,” he says. “Our vision is to bring high standards to on demand.” Blanchette manages his fleet with lean high-tech in a 16th floor office in the 74-story Brickell World Plaza in downtown Miami, Florida’s first LEED Platinum certified building in 2015. The building has the highest ISO 27001 information security certification and is the region’s first Cisco Connected Office Building.
All employees have access to the fully equipped gym, high-end break room and VIP Global clients meet at the 2,000 sq. ft. conference and tele-presence center. Employees certainly find that the new building creates a dynamic, inviting and yet secure sense of place that reflects the quality of the brand. The VIP Global offices stand within walking distance of Blanchette’s home in a residential tower along Miami’s famed Brickell Avenue. As if Blanchette needed any more “cool cred,” he just won the 2015 LCT People’s Choice Entrepreneur Of The Year Award Nov. 9. — Martin Romjue
Bold Tech Player
Nick Kokas, vice president
Brentwood Limousine, Detroit
Kokas, who has worked the industry for 17 years, was one of the first operators to go on the record about his company working with Uber Black to take rides in between pre-scheduled runs while the vehicles are in the field. He has a forward-thinking approach to technology and views TNC on-demand technology as a source for operators to learn from.
“Near term as white label apps become more prevalent in the market, we will see TNCs struggling to find high-quality supply as these drivers go to higher compensated trips with white label apps to receive consistent chauffeured black car style trips rather than glorified taxi trips at lower fares,” Kokas says. “The key term is ‘high quality’ as these drivers feel undercompensated with TNCs for the work they are doing. We also will see our industry becoming more commoditized as it loads its inventory to a cloud-based supply chain to compete globally for on-demand trips. While these are major changes, they are going to pale in comparison to the disruptions that will happen when autonomous cars becomes more prevalent.” — Tim Crowley
Nadav Ullman, CEO and founder
Dashride, New York City
Nadav Ullman’s Dashride software is one of the most highly regarded in the industry. With an emphasis on mobile reservations and on-demand timeframes, Ullman has partnered with many operators nationwide to help make their reservation software more competitive with TNC-driven times. As a college student, he founded Sobrio, an on-demand software that dispatched university shuttle vans to take students home when they had too much to drink. Now he’s moved on to commercial chauffeured transportation.
“I definitely believe this is just the start of the consumer demand for on-demand services,” Ullman says. “We’re all being trained not to have to think about ordering rides, hotels, food and many of our other needs in advance. Even doctors are becoming on-demand. Corporate accounts will continue to book pre-scheduled work for the foreseeable future, but not exclusively anymore, and it is important to adapt to their changing needs. In regards to e-commence, this too has still not come close to reaching the capacity in which it will affect our lives. Sweden has been making massive strides to eventually become a completely cashless society, and there’s no doubt many other countries are following suit.” — Tim Crowley
Pushing New Normals
Mark Gentry, President
Limo Anywhere, Dallas
Mark Gentry is the young president of the industry’s most popular software provider, Limo Anywhere. The namesake, Limo Anywhere, cloud-based reservation management system gives operators a powerful, yet easy-to-use solution for managing their business, while Limo Anywhere also offers passenger and driver mobile apps and mobile online booking tools to enable operators to stay connected to their customers in the mobile age. Gentry comes from a diverse background with experience in the operating and investing arenas, and has been leading Limo Anywhere for two years.
“The landscape has fundamentally changed due to competition from TNCs,” Gentry says. “More than anything, TNCs have illuminated the importance of a customer-focused, constantly evolving service offering, the impact of which is affecting both the top and bottom lines of limousine companies more so now than in years past. The industry had to double down its focus on the customer’s needs — and the end-to-end customer experience — more aggressively. There is a ‘new normal,’ and both the hurdles and opportunities are presenting themselves much more quickly than in the past.” — Tim Crowley
Social Media Maestro
Michael Campos, Marketing/Sales
Michael Campos started out covering the industry as an editor at LCT Magazine from 2011-2013. He was an early adaptor of social media marketing, and when he moved to Grech Motors, he brought with him a bag of social media skill sets. Campos keeps abreast of all industry events through Twitter and Facebook, and he’s always looking for new ways to connect on business.
“Operators are always coming up with cool ways to diversify revenue streams and make more money. Grech customers tend to attract higher-end clientele and bigger corporate accounts and something really creative I saw recently was Ben Zaharie of AZ Sedans. He had a Grech Sprinter limo serve a big tech event in Anaheim, Calif., and he wrapped it in graphics promoting the conference, earning additional revenue.” — Tim Crowley
Dan Sutich, Founder
The limousine industry has tons of data. Data that can give operators the ability to handle changes without errors, predict where and when ASAPs will be, have drivers in vehicles ready to go, and respond to ASAPs instantly. Purchasing decisions of new vehicles should not be made on a whim, but based on a data driven analysis of demand. Retiring a vehicle too soon is a waste of money as is keeping a vehicle too long.
Good data can identify when to replace a vehicle to maximize profits. Data can yield accurate information about whether a marketing campaign is effective or wasting money. Dan Sutich, founder of Augmatics, has identified three problems facing the limousine industry that prevent it from answering these questions using data: 1) Not enough data is being collected; 2) The data is not centralized; 3) Data analysis is difficult.
Sutich is developing big data technology to help operators run more efficient companies. By harnessing cloud technology, Augmatics’ Limomatics platform easily scales so it can collect an unparalleled amount of data and centralize it for analysis. Says Sutich, “Augmatics is building a better industry by making it a smarter industry.” — Tom Halligan
Cory Zucker, sales/marketing
New York City
Cory Zucker’s company, VR Worldwide, is affiliated with one of the largest fleets of wheelchair-accessible luxury vehicles in Manhattan. Zucker is an expert in farm-in work in the greater New York City region, where he worked in the industry for most of his life. Contrary to workforce trends, Zucker believes businesses should “pay a premium for better employees to increase productivity and add to your bottom line.”
Zucker started learning his principles early in life. His grandmother, Leona Friedkin, worked for Gains Service Leasing, which insured and financed many limousine companies throughout the Northeast during the late-1970s to mid-90s. To master the affiliate business, Zucker advises, “It starts with the chauffeurs being dressed properly and being early to each trip. Then it’s having constant communication with the chauffeurs on each trip and having them give status updates as quickly as possible. If there is a problem, the chauffeur must know to notify managers immediately as to what is going on, or what went wrong, so that actions can be taken to resolve the situation with the client in a prompt and professional manner.” — Tim Crowley
YOU TOO CAN BE COOL: Next Year
Related Topics: Bedford Wynne, British limousine companies, Chosen Payments, Cory Zucker, credit card processing, Dallas operators, Dan Sutich, Evan Blanchette, Florida operators, Grech Motors, industry vendors, Jeff Brodsly, Joan Wynne, limousine software, Mark Gentry, Michael Campos, Michigan operators, mobile technology, Nadav Ullman, New York operators, Nick Kokas, Reza Choudhury, social media, social media marketing, software, Texas operators, United Kingdom, vehicle apps, Wynne Transportation
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