The founder of Pontarelli Companies leaves a legacy of quality transportation and brave service to his country.
The NLA International Meet & Greet, to be held Monday, March 13 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., gives foreign attendees a central place to find U.S. affiliates and vice-versa. This is a must-dance for any operator who wants to maximize the value of the Show. A great deal of the reciprocal farm business between U.S. and foreign operators comes about at this event.
On A Mission
International operators coming to the Show seem to put just a little more thought into their daily activities and plans. The time zone changes alone can wreak havoc with their internal circadian body clock with some attendees being awake when they would normally be sleeping. The financial investment to attend, including airfare, hotel, meals, and conference tuition can be a big expense for them.
Instead, you will find them in high-end networking sessions such as the NLA’s wine tasting annual fundraiser for the Harold Berkman Memorial Fund, Sunday, 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. While this is one of the few events with a separate fee, this is where you will find leading international operators, NLA board directors, and owners of many of the largest chauffeured transportation companies in the U.S. There’s nothing like quality face time for a good charity cause on a night when everyone is in a good mood. What better place to discover and be discovered?
“The show itself is invaluable as it caters to everyone looking to grow their businesses,” said Choudhury, who spends about $5,000 to travel the 15 hours door-to-door from his home to Las Vegas and for his entire stay there. “I come here to meet existing clients and partners, and create new ones. The networking events and meeting with friends and peers on the Show floor are the activities I enjoy most.”
The NLA event and the International Meet & Greet are the ideal places as well for medium- to small-fleet operators to get noticed or at least learn from industry leaders.
Any enterprising U.S.-based affiliate manager and owner knows if they want to provide service anywhere in the world, they must have the contacts to do it. Most affiliate managers want to look a partner in the eye and have a face-to-face conversation that ends with a firm handshake and good feelings with both partners. The ILCT Show facilitates this.
In addition to the networking opportunities, many of the international operators attend the educational sessions. Many of these companies are devoid of state associations or any other organized group that provides educational information such as how to market their companies. Connecting your company with passengers is the same in every country.
While an educational session on DOT laws or U.S. labor laws may not be relevant to them, the concept of safe travels and the stringent labor laws of our nation are important for them to know as it defines the way service is delivered here in the states.
The Foreign Approach
You may be intimidated in how to approach an international operator for fear of a language barrier or differences in culture. However, remember most of these operators are at the Show because they want to meet you. They may have heavy accents from their homeland, but most of the operators who travel from overseas speak fluent English.
Flood says another part of the show he really enjoys is “meeting fellow industry colleagues.” Having a Show really helps operators connect for the purpose of receiving work and developing a network to provide service in any city worldwide.
Shireen Murray-Hunter, general manager/director of UK Chauffeur Network, is another operator who has attended the Show in the past, traveling from London. When asked about her attendance and possible connections made, Murray-Hunter said, “I believe it was a good experience for me” and expressed enthusiasm about her discussions with BostonCoach and Commonwealth Worldwide. She was seeking to gain more business through network orders and thought this was a perfect opportunity to meet with so many networks at one time.
“I never want to work with someone without looking into their eyes,” Mannsbart says. The Show offered her the opportunity for eye-to-eye contact and to let the affiliate network managers know she speaks German, English, Italian, Spanish, and French so she can communicate with foreign travelers with ease no matter where they hail from. Flood says he added three affiliate network companies to his book of business at the 2016 International LCT Show and all three have sent him work consistently throughout the past year.
Navigating Cultural Protocols
The best topics for U.S. operators networking with international ones involve learning about cultural differences and operational approaches.
Rules Will Vary
There are a few things you must check on before sending your client into the hands of a foreign operator. In some countries, after a certain amount of hours, the chauffeur must take a mandatory meal break, and surprisingly, this fee is added to your bill. Make sure you know exactly what type of vehicle you chartered as Lincoln, Chrysler, and Mercedes-Benz might not be an option.
In some countries, such as Japan, tipping is frowned upon, so you won’t see the usual 20% gratuity U.S operators routinely assess to clients. An attempt to tip can be considered offensive. This is the same in South Korea. Make sure you do at least a small amount of research about cultural differences in a specific country before making arrangements.
Times & Dates
Just because you are up and ready to do business, the rest of the world might not be. If you don’t get an immediate response to your email, don’t worry. Smaller companies may not check emails or staff their offices 24/7 like most small U.S. operators.
When it is 9:15 p.m. in California on Monday, it is 12:15 p.m. on Tuesday in Singapore. Visit www.timeanddate.com to see what time it is before you call. Confirm with your passenger the date and day of the week their plane will arrive in a foreign country. Just because your client leaves LAX early Monday morning does not mean it will be Monday when they land in Singapore, as they cross over the International Dateline.
While the U.S. dollar is recognized in nearly every country, you must be sure when you receive a quote it is expressed in U.S. dollars instead of the foreign currency of the country you are calling. For instance, if a company quotes you a price of $500 euros, that equals $684 U.S. If you repeat the price to your client of $500 or perhaps even $550 thinking you are making $50, you actually would end up losing $134! Check the foreign exchange rate with your bank or an exchange conversion website such as www.GoCurrency.com. Next, you must pay for your services using a credit card. Your credit card company will assess a foreign transaction fee. The fee can range from 2% to 7% for a currency-conversion charge to U.S dollars. You should call the issuer of the card you plan to use and ask what fees might be imposed and factor this in when providing your client the final quote.
Finding An Operator
One of the best and most reliable methods of locating a vendor in another country is by using the NLA Directory. The NLA has members in 56 countries worldwide. These companies desire to do business with U.S. transportation providers and invest in membership dues to make that connection and agree to uphold the standards of the NLA. Many also attend the Show. If you plan to do international business, be sure to collect business cards and categorize by country.
If you do this, you are not starting from scratch when a call for service in another country comes up. If you are an affiliate member of a global network such as Carey, BostonCoach or EmpireCLS, you might just want to farm it into their network pipeline since they deal with these types of orders every day.
Sources to Connect With International Providers
Making The Connection
Once you have decided who you would like to contact, you must call them by phone or email them your request. International phone calls can be costly and complicated to dial. If you can communicate by email or have a VoIP phone service such as Vonage, you can save money. Written correspondence is a better way to communicate for clarity and a written record. Foreign accents can complicate transactions.
Either way, don’t use lingo or abbreviations such as “W & R” or “A/D.” Write it out as “wait & return to original pickup location” or “as directed by passenger” so nothing gets lost in translation. Another country might not know AW means Authorized Wait.
Placing an International Call
Calling abroad involves a series of numbers including a U.S. “exit code” which is 011. Next you would dial a country code, such as 359, for Bulgaria. Next, you will dial the area code. This can be one to three digits and then the phone number that can be seven to nine digits.
* www.howtocallabroad.com uses a simple pull down menu system
Need A Translator?
If you call your party and you cannot communicate because of a language barrier, many translation interpreters are available to do a three-way call with your party and translate in almost any language. You can become a subscriber for about $30 a month or pay about 85 cents per minute on a one-time basis. You can find these services by doing a web search of “24/7 language interpreters” to find one that fits your needs.
The founder of Pontarelli Companies leaves a legacy of quality transportation and brave service to his country.
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