Operations

Operators Of All Fleet Sizes Sit YOUnited At Roundtables

Lexi Tucker
Posted on February 22, 2017

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — There has never been anything like it at an LCT Show before. Instead of sitting and listening to a keynote speaker or panel of big industry names, small, medium, and large fleet-size operators had the opportunity to come together and discuss issues on everything from technology to customer service at “Hot Topic Roundtable” sessions.

It was clear to Steve Qua, president of Company Car and Limousine in Cleveland, Ohio, the small operators who invested their time, thought process, and themselves are either not going to be small for long, or are small on purpose and just want to learn how to run smoother, more efficient operations.

“Those at our table were bright, energetic, and realized there’s nothing I know they can’t learn. I hope they came away with a lot. There’s nothing small about the small operator other than their operation. If their goal is to get bigger, they’ll do it. If their goal is to get better, they’ll do that, too,” he said.

Mike Barreto, Philadelphia branch manager for Flyte Tyme Worldwide, believes the sessions provide a valuable opportunity to freely exchange information and hear about the personal wins and challenges operators of all sizes experience daily.

“I’ve always believed it’s good to keep your ear to the rail,” he said. “Small operators are definitely attuned to their business practices; they are the masters of working through issues with minimal expense. It’s always good to see what they might be doing to alleviate costs because they know how to be thrifty without sacrificing quality.”

Jami Crouch, director of affiliate and client relations for Aadvanced Limousines in Indianapolis, Ind., thought the sessions provided a unique opportunity to sit with a group of individuals who all do the same thing, and understand how differently they all do it.

“You never know who’s going to be sitting at the table with you, and there are people in this industry who have a lot of knowledge to share. You can never stop learning,” she said.

Being able to make new connections and discuss hot topics like technology was a highlight for Nick Lopez, director of sales and marketing for JACO Limousine & Transportation in Louisville, Kentucky. The main takeaway he got from his group was that many operators like their reservation software.

“The group I was in acknowledged no software is perfect, but we are all really excited to see where things are going,” Lopez said. “There are a lot of improvements in store and it’ll be interesting to see where the natural progression of technology takes us. What’s interesting is you do find a partner or two out of the group you haven’t ever spoken with before who you can now discuss important issues with.”

Operator Brandon Tiet, president of Duke’s Limousine in Honolulu, Hawaii, said he thinks the session reinforced the fact everyone in the industry had to start from the bottom and work their way up.

“When you’re small, you do everything. So it was interesting to learn more about different ways to manage your time. Some operators were more interested in expanding and wanted to learn more about different markets they should pursue and where they should be focusing their resources as well.”

Andre and Karen Gaughan, owners of All About You Limousines in Dumfries, Va., felt the session gave smaller operators well-deserved recognition.

“It gave us a voice. We were able to network in terms of sharing different stories we all face with other smaller operators, and we were all able to understand and comprehend because it was on our level. We were able to build each other up and give each other confidence,” the couple said. “In fact, we would like to see a seminar with small operator panelists sometime in the future.” 

Missed the session or didn’t have a chance to attend the Show? No problem. Here are some of the questions discussed at the roundtables, as well as sample answers from operators of all fleet sizes who were there.

You plan for the expected; what happens when the unexpected hits?

Andre and Karen Gaughan, owners of All About You Limousines
Andre and Karen Gaughan, owners of All About You Limousines
Andre Gaughan: Communication with your client is very important. Right now, we are on the cusp of winter. When we are setting up a contract with a client, we make sure we let them know if there’s snow or ice on the ground we may have to switch vehicles. We talk to the client and send them pictures of what the backup vehicle may be. You must have a contingency plan in place. The biggest take away from this session is it really made us think about things like this.
Brandon Tiet, president of Duke’s Limousine
Brandon Tiet, president of Duke’s Limousine

Brandon Tiet: You always have to have a backup plan. We sit down at the end of the day and brainstorm; if this scenario happens, what’s our strategy? You just have to come up with possibilities to create hypothetical solutions.

How do you set your employees up for success?

Steve Qua, president of Company Car and Limousine
Steve Qua, president of Company Car and Limousine
Steve Qua: Train them well, and then empower them to do what they think is best. I know there’s a tendency to hire slow and fire fast, but I think that’s a little trite. The reality is you need to make sure they know what you expect, and then let them do it. You are way better off even if they take action and its wrong than if they do nothing.

How have you changed the mix of your fleet to match the current needs of your clients?

Mike Barreto, Philadelphia branch manager for Flyte Tyme Worldwide
Mike Barreto, Philadelphia branch manager for Flyte Tyme Worldwide
Mike Barreto: We accommodate whatever is requested; if there’s no request for a specific vehicle accommodation, we will put as many vehicles on the road as possible. That’s going to make sense to us and our business model. We don’t buy vehicles just to buy vehicles — we buy vehicles because the client is demanding it and it’s what will make money the second it hits the road.

Jami Crouch, director of affiliate and client relations for Aadvanced Limousines
Jami Crouch, director of affiliate and client relations for Aadvanced Limousines
Jami Crouch: We want to focus on the best experience possible for our clients, so if they ask something repeatedly, then we look at making the adjustment or adding the additional vehicle to our fleet. Often, that doesn’t mean you are adding something. Sometimes you have to remove based on what the clients’ wants and desires are.

Do you do a pre-ride confirmation and/or post-ride thank you call to your clients?

Nick Lopez, director of sales and marketing for JACO Limousine & Transportation
Nick Lopez, director of sales and marketing for JACO Limousine & Transportation
Crouch: We do pre-ride confirmations for corporate and retail clients, and then we send thank you emails. We actually have different ways clients can reach back out to us about the service they received. They get sent a link via email to any of our online resources for reviews, or we can send a follow up email that provides them with an opportunity to leave any feedback they may have.

Lopez: Our phones are always answered by a live person 24/7. We do pre-ride confirmations, but not post-ride follow ups. We don’t want to burden our clients with excess phone calls. We do, however, conduct random post-ride surveys.

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Related Topics: Atlantic city, casinos, customer service, Fleet Vehicles, human resources, industry education, LCT-NLA Show East, limo tradeshows, new ideas, Sales & Marketing, technology

Lexi Tucker Associate Editor
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