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In one of the closest competitions in the history of the Limousine & Chauffeur Operator of the Year Award, David Seelinger, president/CEO of Empire International in Norwood, NJ; Jim Moseley, owner of James Limousine Service (JLS) in Cherry Hill, NJ; and Hatem Elnahas, president of Limo Express in Alexandria, VA, were named winners in the large (over 20 vehicles), medium (11-20 vehicles), and small (1-10 vehicles) categories respectively.
SEELINGER CARRIES ON A FOUNDER'S DREAM
Empire Transport Service was founded in 1983 by Alan Lehrer. David Seelinger began his career in the limousine industry in 1985 working as a part-time chauffeur. “I found Alan to be a hard working, aggressive individual with an intense determination to build the strongest organization possible.”
In 1986, Seelinger secured a position as a dispatcher on the graveyard shift. Additionally, he assisted Lehrer with the development of policies and procedures to further enhance the growth of Empire Transport Service.
In 1987 he was promoted to director of human resources. One year later Seelinger was given the additional responsibility of fleet manager. “Mr. Lehrer treated his employees like family and I became like a son to him," says Seelinger. “He helped me discover assets I didn’t even know I had. His confidence in my abilities allowed me to shed many personal insecurities and fears.” In 1989 Seelinger became vice president, director of sales and a partner.
In 1990 Alan Lehrer was tragically killed in an automobile accident. “It was one of the most difficult moments of my life,” says Seelinger. “I was not sure if the organization would be able to overcome the loss. However, the company grew even closer. We found the strength to not only carry on Alan’s dream but to adopt his as our own.”
Lehrer had a profound effect on Seelinger. “I was drawn to the Limousine & Chauffeur Operator of the Year Award for the honor of my hard working and dedicated staff of employees and chauffeurs,” says Seelinger.
In December of 1995, the company began to service over 100 markets throughout the country and Europe. Due to this success, Empire Transport Service changed its name to Empire International.
“I believe pride exists because together we have far surpassed Alan Lehrer’s dreams and goals,” says Seelinger. “The Empire family could not have become what it is today if it was not for Alan Lehrer. We are just overjoyed and very honored to have won the Operator of the Year. Like hockey’s Stanley Cup, we are passing it from department to department. It is just a clear reminder of how hard everyone has worked through the year.
“Winning the award is just the talk of the town here,” continues Seelinger. “We have received several calls from operators congratulating us. Some of our customers somehow found out and have called us as well. We have received lots of flowers. In this business you work so hard, sometimes 20 hours a day to make sure everything is right. It’s just so nice to glance at the plaque in the office. It makes all the hard work worth it. This award acknowledges my staff and their years of dedication. I have complete confidence in their decisions, abilities, and intentions. My staff is my strength and my strength is my staff.”
MANAGEMENT EXPERTISE A KEY FOR MOSELEY
To know Jim Moseley is to understand why he has achieved such a lofty status in the limousine industry. Moseley goes out of his way to treat everyone with courtesy and respect. His articulate manner draws both industry veterans and newcomers to him.
“Being recognized in front of your peers is very important,” says Moseley. “It’s something I’ve wanted to bring back to my staff. I want to acknowledge their significant contribution to this award. My staff is what’s made ours the best limousine company. Training them and seeing the results is very gratifying.”
Moseley was recently elected to a fourth term as president of the South Jersey Limousine Association, winner of the Limousine & Chauffeur 1997 Association Award of Excellence. He has been on the association’s Board of Directors for the past nine years, which included two terms as vice president.
Prior to operating his limousine service, Moseley worked 20 years in private industry and government agencies in various management capacities. His corporate background has provided him with the skills to succeed in the competitive limousine industry, even during the difficult times of the recession.
Moseley’s customers display a keen sense of loyalty to his company. A core customer base of 100 clients contributes to 80 percent of the company’s revenues. Moseley knows that his employees are his greatest asset. He goes out of his way to provide the necessary tools to ensure the success of the people that work for him.
James Limousine Service keeps pace with the times and embraces technological change. Moseley and his son James, an IBM computer software analyst, have developed Trip Tracker, a limousine management software package. This software program has been very useful to the reservations and accounting functions performed by Moseley’s office staff.
While limousine service is often used by the wealthy, Moseley donates considerable limousine time to the needy. By supporting the Make-A-Wish and Sunshine Foundations, JLS has donated transportation to more than 300 children during the past 11 years.
Moseley is the heart of JLS. He truly cares about his employees and his customers and illustrates this by treating them like his extended family. He devotes his personal attention to every aspect of the business. A true entrepreneur, he built JLS 15 years ago from the ground up and has thrived in this often hectic business.
In addition to his business acumen, his success is also due in part to his charm and wit. In direct contrast to many nameless, faceless business entities, JLS is unmistakably linked to its owner and founder. He is the “James” behind James Limousine.
ELNAHAS’ COMPANY THRIVES IN MAJOR METROPOLITAN AREA
Hatem Elnahas, with no financial backing, opened for business with only one sedan. Since then he has developed a successful limousine business in a relatively short time.
He accomplished this despite the fact that Limo Express is headquartered in a major metropolitan area with intense competition from bigger, more established limousine companies.
According to Elnahas, Harold Berkman, president of Music Express in Los Angeles and New York, has played an integral role in Elnahas’ rise to the top. “The person who has played a big part in the success of my company is Harold Berkman who started using us as an affiliate when we only had one car,” says Elnahas. “Harold is my mentor. I have learned so much from him.”
“Limousine & Chauffeur Magazine has also been a key contributor to my success,” says Elnahas. “When I first started I made a comment to a friend about how it would be helpful to learn from an industry publication. My friend showed me Limousine & Chauffeur. I immediately became a subscriber and have attended all the shows. I have learned so much from the magazine and the shows.”
Elnahas is well respected by clients, chauffeurs, and other limousine operators. In the past, in order to comply with his strict code of business ethics, he has turned away business that he felt violated the rigid code of professionalism that he initiated as the foundation for Limo Express.
Elnahas continually strives to provide clients with innovations, such as an interactive website and email, to make bookings easier. The website includes information on service and rates as well as links to sites containing information on tourist attractions.
Further, Limo Express accepts bookings and inquiries via email. This provides clients with additional flexibility to make and/or change reservations in seconds.
A company newsletter is sent to each employee monthly. Each newsletter solicits employee feedback to ensure constant improvement at Limo Express. The newsletter covers four main areas:
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