Spending is estimated to advance another 7.1% in 2018 and will expand to $1.7 trillion total by 2022.
Customer service: Carlos Garcia, owner of Carlos Transportation Service in Los Angeles, mostly caters to a corporate clientele. He started off driving CEOs and other big players at major companies, but this eventually trickled down to their employees. As with most chauffeured operations, he believes you must always work with a “client comes first” mentality. “It doesn’t matter who’s at fault, if something goes wrong, you have to make it right and you have to do it fast,” he says. “You have to have a letter ready explaining the problem along with a solution before they get off the plane in another city. Otherwise it will fester and they will tell others not to use your service.” Whenever a client calls, Garcia is always the one to answer the phone. With caller ID, he is able to greet them by name. “You should always make them feel like you are waiting for their call. It doesn’t matter what time it is — you have to answer with a great attitude. If you are smiling on one side of the phone, the person on the other end will know.”
Location: Los Angeles
Owner: Carlos Garcia
Vehicle type: Cadillac XTS, Chrysler 300C, Suburban, Denali, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
Fleet size: 7
Annual revenue: $310,000
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (818) 414-0724
Marketing strategies: With social media, Garcia promotes his business on Facebook and Instagram. However, his biggest source for leads has come from the numerous networking events he attends. He has an in with the real estate industry, and is working on getting his Realtor license. “There are specific business cards I hand out at networking events that give people 20% off my services,” he explains. Through this technique, he has scored accounts with executives from real estate companies. He also attends networking events held by the Los Angeles city government. “If you stick within the limo industry, you’ll have a rough time. The more industries you can associate yourself with, the better, because they all have different slow seasons.”
Lessons learned: He has numerous — don’t take yourself too seriously, do everything you can to make your clients happy, treat people with respect no matter how they treat you (both in business and personally, Garcia clarifies), and then treat your employees even better than that. “A happy chauffeur will go a long a way. If I have a chauffeur who is having some problems, I tell them to take some time off. If you don’t treat them like family, someone else will.”
Startup costs and methods: Garcia was lucky enough to have a nest egg, which depleted more rapidly than he expected due to expensive licensing and TCP fees, purchasing vehicles, LAX airport transponders, and background, drug, and alcohol testing for his chauffeurs. “It really takes so much to just get a company started. It took a lot more money than I expected,” he explains. He couldn’t do airport runs until he had the right permits, but he did have clients who used him for runs around town daily to help him stay afloat. Help also came from fellow operators; Mo Garkani of Continental Limousine, Ron and Brandan Stein of Exclusive Sedan Service, and Cheryl Berkman of Music Express all provided him with advice and support. “Without them, I probably wouldn’t be in this business. They’ve been there through thick and thin with me. I’m so happy to have people like them behind me.”
Origins: After 14 years working at Music Express in Los Angeles, Garcia decided to go into business for himself. He had experience in just about every aspect of the business, including reservations, dispatch, affiliate management, chauffeuring, and even washing and gassing up vehicles. “Even though you see what happens behind the scenes of a company, it never really prepares you for what you’ll be going through as an owner. I have so much admiration for people in this industry. It’s a tough business. There’s a lot of sweat, blood, and tears. If you’re not prepared to give 100%, I tell people don’t even try. No matter how small or big you are, it’s never easy.”
Biggest success: Winning sizeable accounts that sustain his business is something Garcia is proud of. He attributes it to treating his clients and staff well.
Advice: Stay humble and treat people the way you want to be treated.
Future: Garcia plans to purchase another Sprinter due to high customer demand.
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