Operations

How To Stay Relevant In A Changing Industry

Lexi Tucker
Posted on October 31, 2018
Al Mielcarek, owner of Safe and Reliable Transportation, seen here at Roverfest.
Al Mielcarek, owner of Safe and Reliable Transportation, seen here at Roverfest.

Who: Al Mielcarek, owner, Safe and Reliable Transportation, Amherst, Ohio

Two Steps Ahead: Fortunately, Al Mielcarek saw the need to keep up with technology soon after starting his business. Much of his marketing efforts have shifted online. “Since the age of the Internet began, the industry has changed. While clients used to want to come in and shake your hand and touch, see, and smell your vehicles, now all they want to do is see photos online. He’s long since scaled away from local media and the phone book, and has focused more on social media. In fact, he first started online advertising back on MySpace when it was big in the early 2000s. “I refuse to be the next Blockbuster video.”

Sustaining relationships with others has also led to keeping clients. For example, the company has formed an alliance with a popular radio talk show called Rover’s Morning Glory that’s syndicated nationwide. It’s the host of a huge music festival in Ohio called Roverfest, and Mielcarek has provided transportation for the talent for 10 years — and this all started with a handshake in a bar. Unique vehicles are also a plus. Over the years, he’s owned a convertible Hummer limo, a Chrysler 300 with Lamborghini doors, and a fluorescent green Dodge Challenger.

Fast Facts

Location: Amherst, Ohio

Owner: Al Mielcarek

Founded: 1998

Vehicle Type: Limo buses, SUVs, stretches, and vans

Fleet Size: 15

Employees: 20

Website: www.safeandreliablelimos.com

Phone: (440) 288-5466 (LIMO)

Success Story: Being able to limit the number of bad experiences to one hand out of thousands of calls. That results from employing people who enjoy working there. He believes those factors have built a solid reputation. “Being able to give my friends and family a luxury experience and making people feel special has been a great joy as well.” He also donates service to A Special Wish, a foundation that grants the wish of a child diagnosed with a life-threatening disorder.

Lessons Learned: He soon realized he can’t do everything. It’s better to trust the abilities of others instead of cutting corners with temporary fixes. “You have to hire the right people for the long term; that supersedes any short fixes,” he says. Also, understand the demographics of the business in your local market. New York and Las Vegas will differ from a smaller town. If you’re just starting, it’s best to begin small; don’t try to grow too fast. If you don’t take the time to learn the industry, you can put yourself out of business very quickly.

Satisfying Customers: Consider that many of your runs will be the only time the client has or will ever be in a limo. “For many, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Treat them with this in mind and you’ll have satisfied customers. A wedding, prom, or other major event is special and needs to be treated as such from the time the vehicle picks the passengers up to the end of the evening.”

Getting Started: On the last day of a vacation in Galway, Ireland in 1997, he sat in a pub with his brother where they wrote out on a napkin what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives. His brother, a police officer at the time, wrote down he’d start a bar. Mielcarek decided he wanted to get people where they needed to go in style and comfort.

He sought to understand the business and industry before diving in. Baby steps led him in the right direction and he didn’t make rash decisions or purchase vehicles he didn’t know he could use to turn a profit. He took his paycheck from coaching college basketball and bough a six passenger maroon Oldsmobile Delta 88 from George “The Animal” Steele, a wrestler, for $3,000. In the beginning, he was a man of many hats and took care of everything himself, from winning accounts to cleaning and driving the vehicles. He went to schools and local businesses passing out flyers and cold calling.

Staying Tech Savvy: As the Internet has become a central hub of commerce, he plans to harness its power to buy and sell vehicles, land new clients, and maintain existing ones. “That’s really a cornerstone to being successful in this industry now.”

Downtime: A father above all, he enjoys spending time with his son, Liam. A former college basketball coach, he loves leading sports teams. He is also a super fan of the Irish-American punk band Flogging Molly who he’s seen 30 times in 15 states and three countries.

Related Topics: customer service, Ohio operators, small business, small-fleet operators

Lexi Tucker Associate Editor
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