Here are some sights and scenes from one wicked cool tradeshow.
Each party was given a 60-second window to share information about the area their company served, fleet size, length of time in business or any other details. At the end of the timed discussion, I sounded a cow bell and shouted out, “ROTATE,” and one person would follow an arrow on the table and move on to the next person.
I liked the comparisons to the dating website and how it resembles connecting operators in the room together. I explained the goal of the one-and-a-half-hour session was to build solid new relationships based on honesty and that were free from exaggeration. I quipped that people posting photos on match.com are prone to using glamour shot photos “taken in 1994, when in reality, they look nothing like that photo today.”
“When they say they have a super fun personality, it usually means they are 400 pounds of fun personality,” I joked, comparing this to operators exaggerating their fleet sizes or stating they operate 24/7 when they really send incoming phones calls to voicemail at 3:30 am. “You simply cannot build a solid relationship with anyone based on lies.”
Size Doesn’t Matter
In a comical analogy, I told the rotating networkers that “size really doesn’t matter as long as you are truthful about your size up front.” National statistics show the average fleet size of all legitimate limousine services in the U.S. is about 10 vehicles.
“Small operators have an average fleet size of five vehicles, while large operators average about 87 vehicles,” I told the participants sitting at a sea of round tables for two. This helped put operators at ease who may feel like a very small fish in a large tank. In reality, only a handful of companies operate major fleets with hundreds of vehicles. Even more uncommon are companies that maintain offices in multiple cities. Even rarer are companies with operations and offices in multiple countries. In most cases, the “backbone of the networks” consists of small operators serving the big networks in their small corners of the world.
Why Relationships Matter
About 17% of all corporate orders are funneled through big networks, and without all the small operators in small- to medium-sized cities, the networks couldn’t effectively deliver service to their corporate clients. By the same token, because the large networks control such a large percentage of corporate orders, they don’t want to risk an affiliation with just any operator. One big mistake by a small operator could easily be a deal-breaker for the client and the network sending you the work.
As a result of these relationships, networks are obligated to vet their affiliates out and make sure they get the best operator in each city or region to protect their own name. Billy Placier, affiliate manager for Music Express, said when selecting affiliates, he wants to meet operators in person and have a personal relationship with them. Operators who attend trade shows and belong to their state associations and/or the NLA obviously show a commitment and dedication to the industry that he looks for, Placier said.
The session had 10 rotations where participants moved from one table to another or saw a new person take a seat opposite them at the table. The session was limited to the first 100 operators in the door. It was so wildly popular that it likely will be repeated at the International LCT Show at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on Feb. 29-March 2. As always, we learn from our inaugural runs, so we’ll make some minor tweaks to include more discussion time.
The session also included a mingle area where participants were encouraged to move if they would like to take their new “relationship” to the next level, something I continually referred to as “the second date.”
A third connection opportunity was made possible by LCT staffers taking photos of operators in the room, collecting a business card to attach to the photo, and then posting it on a large bulletin board at the LCT booth for the rest of the show. This is another example of the networking opportunities provided at LCT shows to help grow your business. “The idea for this networking event was brilliant. I had fun and made new connections. It was really well planned,” said Umut Aslan, MIB Transportation in San Diego, Ca.
Here are some sights and scenes from one wicked cool tradeshow.
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