OCT. LCT: Financial success in this industry depends on how much information you gather and what you do with it.
In the B2B world, we hear of countless ways to improve and run better companies. There is no shortage of seminars and education on any aspect of business, all with the eventual goal of gaining clients and achieving higher profits.
What gets short shrift in all the teaching and techniques, though, are the timeless principles that can’t be taught. They can only be acquired and earned. In recent months, I’ve visited with operators from three limousine services who all follow certain practices that may not get high ratings by bottom line standards, but certainly pay off in ways not always readily measured.
Looking Out For Employees
In an April visit to Mona Lisa Limousine in Los Angeles, the brother-sister executives running the business extend a family standard. “As owners, we back up the employees,” says Mona Marandy, the COO. Her brother and CFO, Amir Marandy, adds, “We provide positive reinforcement so we can learn and train together.” The management team sets employees up with consistent training based on clearly stated policies, making sure practices are taught in a layered fashion. For a 15-vehicle chauffeured service with VIP and celebrity clients, instilling such confidence and loyalty is vital to a smooth operation. Investing in employees doubles as an investment in customer service, Mona says. “We make decisions not based on money, but the desire to grow. You don’t just cut to save money and then charge more when you’re developing the business. You have to give more.”
Result: The company has grown by triple digit percentages in the last two years.
Getting Right With Regulators
The regulators who license and inspect chauffeured vehicles and issue permits are more likely to trigger stress in limousine operators than feelings of friendship. One operator I visited near Los Angeles actually calls the regulators himself, just to make sure he’s doing things right. There is no enemy talk here.
Art Rivas, owner of Limo4Me.com Limousine & Party Bus in Carson, Calif., actually calls his contact in the Los Angeles office of the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates chauffeured transportation companies in the state. “I have a regular relationship with the PUC. He keeps me straight,” he says. Rivas figures it’s a good use of time and effort to know and follow every rule and keep the right records and forms. Rivas runs a fleet of 50 vehicles, with 30 of them party buses of all shapes, sizes, ages, makes and models. The risks are higher than for a corporate-only fleet, so obeying the rules doesn’t just promote maximum safety, it reduces liability too. “I’ve never been found negligent, never been in the courthouse and had no litigations. I invest a lot of time and money in getting it right.”
Result: Rivas saves money in compliance and litigation costs, and is ready to franchise his limo business concept nationwide.
Giving, Not Getting
I must admit, I’m a latecomer to the ways of Honolulu operator Bucky Yee. I met Yee for the first time this year at the International LCT Show in Las Vegas, not realizing how many operators throughout the 48 states rely on Bucky. He runs the 26-vehicle Elite Limousine Service Inc., profiled in this issue. Bucky, 75, also is a retired firefighter and captain. The trust and honesty he accumulated in a lifetime of service in his hometown laid the foundation for a limousine business, based on word-of-mouth, reliability and integrity. Top operators in the U.S. all praise his practices. Yee credits his native state’s “Aloha Spirit” with guiding his business. You give freely in service, expecting nothing in return. “It’s not about luck — it’s you,” he told me. “I cannot advise on honesty and integrity.” That’s something you either have or you don’t.
Result: Good will = good behavior = good reputation = more business.
In sum: 1) Take care of your employees and they will lookout for your customers; 2) Follow the rules and work with regulators to avoid hassles that free up time to build your business; 3) Infuse your service with the spirit of giving and the returns will come in when you don’t expect.
That’s a 1-2-3 plan for profits, growth and good will. No MBA or certification needed.
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