The Greater Orlando Limousine Association held a festive meeting to close out the year.
On a clear, sunny day in Victoria, the scenic capital of the Canadian province of British Columbia, a phone call landed in the office of Regent Limousine. On the line was an affiliate that needed a car for an airport pickup A.S.A.P. Their reservation system hiccupped and their client had just called asking where his car is. The affiliate didn’t have any available.
Several sedans were parked in Regent’s lot, but all of the chauffeurs were out on runs. The reservationist relayed this information to Regent founder and CEO, Kal Sanghera. The airport sits 15 minutes away from his 19-vehicle operation. “Can you help us?” the dispatcher asked.
“Okay,” Sanghera said without hesitation, “tell them a car is on its way.” He changed into the chauffeur suit he keeps in his office, got behind the wheel of a Lincoln Town Car and headed out to Victoria International to save the day.
Clients always have been Sanghera’s first priority. Such dedication to the customer propels Regent Limousine past the quarter-century mark this year.
Time for a change
Before entering the limousine business, Sanghera spent 25 years honing his customer service skills in the world of high-end hotels. An entrepreneurial itch eventually led him to the transportation industry in 1985, where he operated a fleet of upscale taxis whose drivers adhered to a unique dress code Sanghera had put in place.
In 1986, Sanghera was approached by a friend who was manager of the Victoria Regent Hotel. He’d been running a courtesy van service for guests but felt it was time for a change. A connection forged in Sanghera’s head.
“I decided to get a limousine,” he says. He bought an old 1973 Cadillac limousine, into which he dropped $10,000 of refurbishments, and chauffeured the Regent’s guests. “It was successful, so I thought, ‘Why not start my own limousine business?’ In those days there were only two limo companies in Victoria.”
He founded his company in 1987, naming it Regent Limousine after the hotel that opened the industry door for him. “It’s been 25 years, but it feels like it was just yesterday.”
Success is in the service
As the years rolled on, so did Regent’s vehicles, which grew in number as the company earned more accounts. Today, the company’s business is split 50/50 between corporate and retail clients.
Summer tour groups visit Vancouver Island, with more than 280 cruise ships making stops there. On the corporate side, Regent handles many road shows that visit from Los Angeles, New York, Boston and London.
Sanghera owes his success to several factors, especially a focus on treating clients as individuals.
“My strongest point is customer service,” says Sanghera, whose background in hotel management shaped his high standards. “I pay attention to every detail about our clients. I know their names, the names of the kids and spouses. I congratulate them on their anniversaries and kids’ birthdays. I personally meet first-time clients. I make sure my staff and chauffeurs also keep in mind these details.”
This personal approach helps develop strong bonds between company and client. It is a philosophy that permeates the company, from office staff to chauffeurs.
“I consider myself lucky,” Sanghera says. “The other limo companies in Victoria, the oldest ones, don’t exist anymore, and it’s because their customer service suffered.”
Clients as mentors
Sanghera has no problem chauffeuring clients. “I love driving,” he says. “Some of my VIP clients still ask for me to pick them up, and I love it. I’ve learned so much from them. When they’re in the car, their minds go 100 mph and I’ll get so many ideas from them. When I started, I did not realize what kind of movers and shakers of the world we would be meeting and driving.”
One of those clients was the Prince of Brunei, who was in Victoria for the 1994 Commonwealth Games. One of Sanghera’s hotel contacts referred Regent to someone looking for a limo company. After spending a day with Regent’s senior chauffeur in a stretch, the man booked 16 cars for three weeks. Only later did Sanghera discover it was for the Prince.
“My first invoice to that client was $150,000, and that was the biggest I’d ever invoiced someone like that,” Sanghera says. “That really put us on top. That was the highlight of my career.”
Treating people like family
Regent hires employees according to guidelines found in NLA-certified hiring practices and other industry training manuals. There is a probation period for new hires. Regent’s senior chauffeurs watch them to see how they handle customers. Sanghera personally trains new chauffeurs and takes them on dry runs.
“Having the right employees plays a huge part in our success,” Sanghera says. “We are lucky to have loyal and knowledgeable employees, some of whom have been with me for about 20 years. After summer, we do a family barbecue and invite the whole staff, my hotel friends, people in my circle, and all their spouses and kids. I personally stand at the grill and cook. We also do a Christmas dinner. I appreciate my staff.”
He always supports his employees when they are right and never blames things on them. “I’m the one who should take the blame, because it’s my job and my company.
Sanghera’s wife, Sunil, left her job managing two retail clothing stores in Victoria and joined the company on a full-time basis 16 years ago. “Sunil is very detail oriented,” Sanghera says. “Ever since she moved into the office, she’s upped our sales by 10-15% every year.”
Vancouver Island, of which Victoria is a part, is a smaller market, but Sanghera keeps tabs on the “bigger picture” and attends trade shows to stay aware of industry trends. He believes it’s necessary for businesses to change with the times if they want to survive.
“Some companies are dinosaurs and don’t look to the future to see what their clients will need next,” Sanghera says.
At one point, Regent ran between 15-16 stretch limousines. About 15 years ago, Sanghera saw the industry trending toward more sedan work, so he added Town Cars. Other companies also began adding Town Cars, but Regent was the first operation in the city of Victoria to add the Executive L model, which became the industry standard.
Regent also was the first company in the region to buy a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van, 2013 Lincoln MKT Town Cars and, most recently, Lincoln MKZ Hybrid L sedans.
“We don’t want the industry to remain stale,” he says. “We want it to remain fresh and exciting. We are always exploring new markets and new challenges and new opportunities.”
Leading The Way With The MKT
This past year, Regent added two 2013 Lincoln MKT Town Cars. Corporate clients really like the vehicle so far, and few have complained. “It’s a great vehicle with awesome interior technology that clients love,” Sanghera says. “The trunk is easier to load than the old Town Car model, and we believe it’s the best option for an industry vehicle. We are sending it to all our clients to get them used to it and see their feedback.” Kal and Sunil Sanghera received Regent’s first MKT Town Car from Brian Libin (center) of Brow Brothers Lincoln on June 25.
Words of wisdom
Sanghera advises operators to be consistent, follow core values, strive to be the best and never forget that customers are the focal point. “Without customers, [operators] wouldn’t be around.”
He also says operators should avoid complacency because it can lead to their downfall.
“I would like to thank all of my affiliates, who have helped us become successful, and all my local contacts, like the DMCs and the City of Victoria,” Sanghera says. “They have been very helpful and made us what we are today.”
Fast Facts about Regent Limousine
Location: Victoria, B.C., Canada
Main service region: Vancouver Island, B.C.
Types of vehicles: sedans, limousines, SUVs, MKT Town Car, MKZ Hybrid L, Mercedes-Sprinter, minibuses
Fleet size: 19 vehicles
Annual revenues: $1.1 million
Owners: Kal and Sunil Sanghera
Information: (877) 778-4777
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