New Generation of Limo Operators Influence Industry Course

Tim Crowley
Posted on August 16, 2013

MIAMI BEACH, Fla.  — LCT Fast 40, the first group dedicated to the next generation of limousine leaders, officially kicked off at the LCT Leadership Summit in early June confronting six key topics about the future of the chauffeured transportation sector.

Three panels set the stage for an ongoing industry conversation about vehicle procurement, management approaches, changing habits of business travelers, the effects of app-based business models such as Uber, adopting new technologies, and the growing use of social media.

Kyara Kahakauwila

L.A. Limousines & Transportation Services
Victoria, B.C., Canada

How did you first get started in the limousine industry?
I married into it. [Owner Ed Kahakauwila].

What has been some of your biggest challenges as an operator?
Basically keeping a good workforce. This includes chauffeurs and managing their personalities as well as hiring and keeping a competent office staff. And then for me, personally keeping a balance between work and family.

What do you enjoy most about the business?
I really like being a positive part of our clients’ lives and experiences. I also enjoy the traveling and the connections and friendships I have cultivated over the past 13 years. We work so hard when we are at home so it is nice to connect with other operators who have become friends and who experience similar situations as us.

What have been some recent changes you have made to your business?
The biggest change has been migrating our software and communications into the cloud. We also have started using GPS tracking, and on top of that, we moved into a new office. Vehicle-wise, adding the Lexus Hybrid, Mercedes Sprinter, and Lincoln MKT to the fleet has been a new and welcome change for us too.

Johan DeLeeuw

Olympus Worldwide Chauffeured Services
Atlanta, Ga.

How did you get started in the limo industry?
I came to Georgia in 1998 as a chef from Amsterdam, Holland. I started working part time as a chauffeur for Olympus Worldwide on my days off. I then moved on to sales and became a general manager. In 2002, the owner passed away and his family inherited the company. Then in 2005 I bought the company and became the owner.

How is business this year?
Very well actually. In 2010 and 2011 we were listed in Inc. Magazine’s top 5000 as one of the fastest growing chauffeured transportation companies in the country. And we’re doing a lot of out-of-state business.

How have you used technology to help with the company?
We got Odyssey in 2007, and we’re actually just about to move over to the new and improved Santa Cruz system. We also use a lot of corporate booking tools like Deem Ride, Click Book and Concur. We also have been using Konosocial for our social media marketing, which has been great.

Mona Marandy

Mona Lisa Limousine
Los Angeles, Calif.

How did you first get started in the limousine industry?
My father started as a shuttle driver and his ambition was to always have his own limousine company. During his early stages of transitioning to that, I was just finishing all my pre-requisites to enter nursing school. I saw my father in need of a trusted COO to run the operations and help him run the company. I thought about it for two months, and chose the family business as opposed to nursing. I have not regretted it for one day because I made this my passion and that is why I have excelled at it.

What has been some of your biggest challenges as an operator?
My biggest challenge at first was to deal with “old school” mentalities. It was obviously very difficult at first because I had to learn the business so I had to pay my dues and be quiet. It took me about three months to be comfortable to make decisions and I didn’t waste any time. I made drastic ones. Although my father was skeptical at first, he trusted my fearless attitude to let me change everything he had ever set up.

What do you enjoy most about the business?
The most enjoyable time of my business is when I receive emails I get in response to our thank you emails. We send thank you emails to every single customer and the responses we get are priceless. We get genuine thanks for the effort my entire staff makes on a daily basis.

What have been some changes you have made to your business in the past two to three years?
We added WiFi to all our corporate sedans and luxury SUVs, and we are installing Rosco cameras in our corporate Town Cars to maintain driver training and be sure they are driving safely on the road. Each of our limousines is now equipped with fire extinguishers in the trunk and front of the vehicles, and glass breakers and seatbelt cutters have been bolted to the inside of the cabin as well as placed in the glove compartments for driver access.

Leandro Pires

Royal American Limousine
Sao Paulo, Brazil

What are some of the biggest challenges in running your operation in Sao Paulo?
The biggest issue is there is little enforcement here of unregulated companies and cars. And the political environment right now is turbulent. But this will pass and we will come back stronger than we were.

How did you get started in the business?
My father had a small limousine company that used to do group transportation here in Sao Paulo. I grew up riding on the bus with him on trips and that’s what sparked my interest in the hospitality industry. I majored in it at a university in Brazil, and after graduation I was hired at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Fla. While there, I bought a Town Car and started driving just to learn the business and saw how different the service level was in America. I came back to Brazil and grew the family business with the things I learned.

Are you making preparations for the World Cup next year?
Oh yeah, we are traveling to all the major cities and establishing little bases to handle the business — I know It’s going to be busy.
What kind of vehicles do you use?
We have many of the standard transportation models and we also offer a large collection of armored vehicles. That is actually a big business for us, supplying armored transportation as well as security support. We have modified Ford Fusions, Hyundai Aziras, Range Rovers, and BMW X5s that have been reinforced with armor and bullet proof windows.

To what do you credit your success?
Technology and customer service. When I came back to Brazil from Florida, I saw how American companies use technology like GPS to help improve efficiency. In Brazil that wasn’t really being used, so that made a huge difference; also, for my affiliate relationships. I have companies from all over the world that farm out to us here so I make sure to really educate our chauffeurs so we can keep a loyal relationship with our affiliates.

Evan Blanchette

VIP Global
Miami Beach, Fla.

What kind of technologies are you using that have had big effects on your business?
I use Google iDrive and it’s amazing. Everything is shared on the cloud and it’s free. You can pretty much drag any file you want on there and share it. I design my website, sales materials, operational materials, and everything else I put on there so it’s accessible to everyone at any time. I also use Limo Anywhere software which is cloud-based. I literally could run my whole business from my cell phone.

What types of vehicles do you run?
We have 12 cars in Miami-Dade, made up of sedans and SUVs — Mercedes S Class and Cadillac XTS, and Lincoln Navigators and Cadillac Escalades.
What do you think sets your company apart from competitors?
Attention to detail. We pride ourselves in delivering a very high-end service and we want you to notice when you use our service over everyone else’s. There’s no request we won’t fulfill.
What have been some of your recent challenges?
I would say transitioning from driving to running the operation. I found out real quick that I couldn’t drive and answer the phones at the same time so I had to hire staff.

What are your plans for the future?
The sky is the limit for us right now. The technology allows me to run the company super lean and I’d like to really concentrate on our global reservations this year.

Ed Stapleton Jr.

Limo Profits
West Nyack, N.Y.

How did you get the idea to start your marketing company, Limo Profits?
Well I’ve always been a fan of marketing, specifically direct response marketing, and I saw the small operators in the industry as underserved.

How does Limo Profits help small operators market their business?
I base my service on three metrics to grow: the number of leads coming in the door, the number of lead closes, and client lifetime value. I use direct response marketing, where a limo company brands itself in the traditional sense and then makes offers of some sort that customers either respond to or don’t. In that way it’s testable and trackable. Instead of just getting your name out there, you’re putting offers out there and either getting a response or not. The offers can be any number of things, like offering an educational piece on an executive guide to travel, or the seven mistakes to avoid when hiring a wedding limousine business. These tools can generate leads online that can turn into sales.

What do you think of the new crop of mobile apps such as Uber and what they mean to the industry?
I think Uber is a threat to the big operators, and it’s great for the small guys who can supplement some revenue. But I think at the end of the day, if you want to be successful in this business, you should be generating your own leads.

What is your radio podcast show?
I interview successful operators to get marketing tips, tricks, and strategies for the small- to mid-size operator. It’s part biographical, part inspiration, and I try to interview guys who have really killed it in this industry and did well. I enjoy doing it, and I’m on my 13th episode right now. You can tune in at  

[email protected]

Related Topics: Canadian Operators, Eastern U.S. Operators, LCTFast40, leadership, operator profiles, Southern U.S. Operators, West Coast operators

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