Keeping It Real While Doing It Right

Lexi Tucker
Posted on February 14, 2018

Industry members often point out how transportation network companies (TNCs) do not follow the rules. However, any operator speaking out against TNCs needs to be sure to be running as a role model: Legally, safely, and ethically.

That can get tough when following an endless array of regulations while pleasing a public that doesn’t understand the challenges of providing luxury ground transportation. Nobody’s perfect, but the businesses that will succeed are the ones trying hardest to do what’s right. Here, experienced operators give their take on why ethics are important and discuss some of the most common shortfalls and situations they’ve encountered among peers.

Lead By Example

Operating ethically has to be the essence of your brand, says Anuj Patel, director of strategic development at Pontarelli Worldwide Ground Transportation in Chicago, Ill. “Ethics have to act as a pillar — something you do everything around.”

This may be easier in a family business setting because the company is often founded on a family’s morals. “It gets a little more difficult the bigger the corporation gets, because they have to figure what’s best for their brand along the way. Ethics have a direct correlation with ownership and leadership, so you have to guide everything you do with diversity and mission statements.”

Julie Dotan, president of J&B Transportation in Troy, Mich., says always quoting the actual rate appearing on the final billing is one way she takes the lead in running her business ethically. “There should be no surprises when a client receives their bill. I hate it when I get a bill from somewhere and it’s different from what I was first quoted,” she says.

Dotan also only sells the vehicles she owns. “I don’t say I have 50 when I only have 10. I say I have 12 vehicles and I do; you can come to my garage to see them,” she explains. If she receives an affiliate request and they allow her to farm a job out, she’ll gladly do so.

Now that social media exists, it’s much easier to detect which companies are running an ethical operation and which are not.

“You have to use resources like that to your advantage. Think about how you’ll feel doing business with a company whose owner has been called out for bad behavior; would you trust them with your client?” says Jess Sandhu, co-owner and vice president of A&A Limousine & Bus Service in Kenmore, Wash.

Brandon Tiet, president of Duke’s Limousine in Honolulu, Hawaii, says he makes sure whatever vehicle a client orders from his company is what they get. He explains all charges and assigns chauffeurs who are thoroughly background checked and vetted to ensure his clients get the highest quality of service possible.

“Whenever we do affiliate work, we make sure we represent the company that gave us the work,” he says. “We’ve had multiple times where the client will approach us and ask to book with us instead, but we always refer them back to the affiliate. We don’t steal clients from people who feed us.”

Why It Matters

In the eyes of employees, ethical leadership and management directly determine morale and loyalty throughout the company.

“If you pay them the proper wage and don’t nickel and dime them all the time, you will have loyal employees who look forward to coming to work every day,” Sandhu says.

The way you conduct yourself in business sets the ground rules for your reputation, Tiet says. “Doing the right thing helps you become a reputable operator. The best form of advertisement is word of mouth; if people don’t have good things coming out of their mouths about you, you’re going to suffer for it.”

Being honest and building trust with clients is the best way to keep them, Dotan says.

“If you lie, they’ll eventually catch you. Sometimes you won’t get the job by being honest. As heartbreaking as it is, even if you have to say no, you cannot lie; you may lose the job, but you’ll keep your reputation.”

Because of the Internet, you technically don’t have a choice but to operate ethically. “Your reputation is visible everywhere in the form of online reviews and social media posts. If you want to succeed and don’t want other people airing out your dirty laundry, you have to become ethical if you weren’t before,” Patel says.

Take The High Road

If operating ethically has such a large effect on the success of a business, why do some operators opt for what’s easy instead of what’s right? The first answer that comes to mind is money.

“If someone can steal a big client who gives you $4,000 to $5,000 a month, that’s a big temptation if you’re a small operator,” Tiet says. “It can be traced back to different things: Background checking and drug testing takes money. Some operators will even put unlicensed CDL chauffeurs on the road because it’s expensive to get them the proper training.”

Dotan believes greed can be a factor, but if a company is large, miscommunication can also occur. “There can be situations where one person in the office says one thing and the person doing the billing says another. Sometimes it’s not intentional, but rather a disorganization issue; because I’m smaller, I can ensure things like misquoting don’t happen.”

Being too focused on sales can dilute ethics as well, Patel says. “Sales is just one part of business. Some think it’s the most important, and to survive it probably is, but if you don’t have an operation backed by moral good, a company can get huge and things will come out to ruin them later…just look at the scandals going on in Hollywood right now. It doesn’t matter how much good you did in the past — it matters what you hid.”

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Related Topics: business ethics, business management, customer service, industry trends, management

Lexi Tucker Senior Editor
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