While the numbers are hard to pin down, the reality is drivers don't make much when factoring out overhead costs.
Biggest success: My Cloud Limo started with owner and president Justin Farquhar and his father driving. He’s very proud of how far they’ve come since then. “We worked many mornings, days, and nights on weekends getting home at two or three in the morning, and now we have nine part-time chauffeurs that work for us.” The fact he’s gone from one Lincoln Town Car, to newer stretch Hummers and a party bus is something he’s never dreamed of. “I was expecting to have one limousine just to make a little bit of extra money, and the next thing I know I have a full blown business.”
Clientele: My Cloud Limo provides transportation services for weddings and quinceañeras, but they also have a contract with the local casino. “When their VIP members come in, we take them to other casino locations, concerts, or sporting events,” Farquhar says. In addition, local bars bring bands into town every weekend, and the company picks them up, and takes them to their hotels or to get food.
Location: Fort Smith, Ark.
Owner: Justin Farquhar
Vehicle types: Stretch Hummers, Dodge Charger, and Party Bus
Fleet size: 4
Annual revenue: $150,000
Phone: (479) 582-5466
Start-up costs and methods: When launching his business, Farquhar figured it would be best to consult someone who knew what they were talking about. Federal Coach used to have a location where it built limousines in his city, and he knew many of its workers, including his father. After connecting with them, Farquhar took his first limo to his friend’s shop and learned how to build on to and repair it. His first vehicle was an eight passenger 2001 stretch Lincoln Town Car he bought for $4,500, which after repairs, cost $7,000.
Marketing strategies: Farquhar only recently started advertising. Word of mouth kept him busy for the first two and a half years. “My wife and I sat down and decided it was time to take things to the next level. We want to grow the business more, so we hired a friend of ours who works in online advertising. He ensured we pop up as the first company in our area when we are Googled.” He’s also bartered deals with local radio stations where he provides rides for contest winners in exchange for advertising on their show.
Customer Service: “My wife handles all of our reservations, and she’s always happy and has an outgoing personality.” Farquhar says. “I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from customers who say whenever they call and talk to her, it’s one of the main reasons they book.” If any issues arise during runs, he tries to improve the experience. “We haven’t had many. I can probably count them on one hand, but we always want that customer to come back.” For example, if the client is unhpapy with their experience, Farquhar will offer to comp them the ride and provide another for free. “That’s worked quite well for us. We do our best to make sure the client is satisfied before we drop them off.”
Lessons learned: Know what to look for and expect when buying a used vehicle. “There’s more to a limo than just the outside. Take a look at the electrical work that’s been done, and make sure nothing’s been tampered with. A lot depends on where it has been as well. Vehicles [in the northern part of Arkansas] get road salt, and can start to rust.” He also has a better understanding of what it means to provide excellent customer service. “The client wants the best experience, so we try to go above and beyond the call of duty,” he says.
Origins: Farquhar used to buy and sell cars as a part-time job, and he came across a limo as he was looking at cars online. He first considered buying it to make a little extra money each month. “Of course, my wife thought I was crazy, but she said it would be OK if I could find one for under $5,000.” Sure enough, he found one for $8,000, drove three hours, looked it over, and was able to talk the seller down to $4,500.
Advice: “Always start small. Take baby steps and don’t run out and get yourself into hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Each year we’ve progressed, made more money, and bought newer limos.”
Future plans: Farquhar went to the 2016 International LCT Show and saw some newer vehicles on exhibit that really interested him. “In the near future, we’d like to purchase a Sprinter.” As far as growth goes, he’s comfortable with the rate at which My Cloud Limo has progressed. “We want to stay at this level,” he says.
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