NOV./DEC. LCT: These industry members don’t just stay ahead of the curve — they set it.
The term “roadshow” is a common industry term. These highly demanding jobs are associated with the banking and investment world. They require professionalism, knowledge, and precision.
A roadshow typically involves travel within major financial hubs such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston. During a roadshow, bankers, analysts, and private business owners visit financial brokers such as Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs in an attempt to take their company public through an IPO. The schedules are very tight, and one late or missed appointment could spell disaster for the travelers and cause them to lose potential buyers worth millions. There can be no mistakes.
IPO stands for Initial Public Offering. Companies such as Microsoft, Dell, and Pizza Hut were all companies started by an individual and operated as privately held corporations with one owner or a handful of investors. In simple terms, taking a company public means the company will be sold to investors in “shares” of the company. Companies such as DocuSign and Dropbox went public over this past summer. Yext went public in April 2017. In the case of Yext, founded by Howard Lerman, his public offering brought in $116 million on the day it hit the New York Stock Exchange. The IPO was led by J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley. The initial 10.5 million shares were sold for $11 each. By the next morning, the shares were valued at $13.42 each.
To get to this point, Lerman and representatives from his investment bankers visited the offices of many regional investment firms to share information about what they were selling. These presentations can determine whether an IPO will succeed or flop, as the regional offices each have regional investors who may commit to purchase during the IPO. Most companies consider going public once revenues top $100 million annually. IPOs are big business with big consequences.
Securing a contract to handle roadshow work is tough, says Tami Saccoccio, the director of operations and global affiliate relations for Commonwealth Worldwide Chauffeured Transportation of Boston and New York, an aggregator in the roadshow market. To get on the list requires an in-person presentation that may need to be done in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago so “roadshow desk” managers have an opportunity to see what you have to offer.
Eric Devlin, CEO of Premier Transportation in Dallas, was fortunate enough to have a family member running a financial management firm who basically told anyone requesting a meeting to use Premier for transportation in Dallas. However, Devlin no longer tries to market to investment bankers such as Merrill Lynch. Most of the big players in the financial industry use East Coast-based companies such as Boston Coach and Commonwealth, Devlin says.
Roadshows account for more than half of Commonwealth’s annual revenue, Saccoccio says. She and Devlin say roadshows require a transportation provider with a genuine global footprint. In the case of Yext, presentations were made in Europe in addition to U.S. locations.
Transportation managers who work for investment bankers place orders from the roadshow desk. They prefer to work with companies that have their own roadshow desks as well. A dedicated department understands the importance of roadshow trips as well as the lingo and procedures, Saccoccio says.
Direct relationships with investment bankers are declining as the bankers want to make one call no matter what city, state, or country they are traveling to, Devlin adds. He advises small- to mid-size operators to connect with large worldwide networks and perform work for them. “We value our relationship with aggregators such as Commonwealth who farm their Dallas work to us,” he says.
Although the chances of forming a direct relationship with investment bankers has diminished, that doesn’t stop Dennis Jansen from marketing to companies like Merrill Lynch and aggregators such as Boston Coach and Commonwealth. Jansen, the managing director of Dutch Business Limousine in Amsterdam, recommends setting up a LinkedIn account and using IT to connect with the bookers. “LinkedIn is a very valuable tool in the search of corporate clients,” Jansen says.
Whether you have landed your own roadshow job or you are providing service for a network aggregator like Commonwealth, the rules of engagement are the same. The most important part of service delivery is knowing the destinations, Devlin says. Being able to navigate to the location without using GPS is a must. To deliver flawless service, you must know all drop off and parking locations, and how to avoid getting stuck in traffic. “There are hundreds of millions of dollars at stake and getting lost is not acceptable,” Devlin says.
Until about 2010, roadshows relied on the flash and glitz of the stretch limousine. Once the Great Recession hit in September 2008, they fell out of vogue and are now considered taboo. The requirement today is you must have either a Sprinter or an SUV. The vehicles must have forward facing seats, no flashy lights, swiveling chairs, or anything else that implies “party vehicle,” Saccoccio says. Many Asian banks will not accept a Ford van and will only ride in Mercedes-Benz vehicles, she adds. Vehicles must offer strong Wi-Fi, Jansen says.
Most investment banking firms offer three-year contracts, Saccoccio says. But she points out no one in the industry has an exclusive contract. Most firms use multiple providers. Delivering excellent service will determine how often a booker uses a particular company. Obviously the relationship with the booking agents at roadshow desks can help influence the decision. Operators must be able to deliver service in Asia, Germany, and Europe as well as the U.S. Presentations are a competitive bidding process in addition to sharing information about your company, history, stability, and services offered. Jansen says, “Never badmouth a competitor during this process, as you will lose your own credibility.”
Actively communicate with the person ordering. You must provide the chauffeur’s name, vehicle type, and license plate/tag number, the chauffeur’s phone number, and anything pertinent from your local area such as where to meet at the FBO. Will it be a tarmac or a terminal greeting? Let the booker know of any potential conflicts such as road closures, construction, or parking concerns. Once the plan is made, no changes are allowed. “The only way a change can occur is if someone dies or they are in the emergency room,” Saccoccio says. Jansen adds it’s important to check the latest traffic reports to the next destination and adjust routes as needed.
You can never upgrade or downgrade a vehicle, Saccoccio says. Don’t even bother asking. Once you have provided the vehicle and chauffeur information and phone numbers, do not make any changes. This can get you kicked off the list of local providers. You should never attempt to steal the account you are working by handing out your business cards or using your brand name during the service. Make sure chauffeurs never talk about any client they are driving, the company they represent, or if the deal is about to become a public offering. Chauffeurs should never talk with clients except to confirm the next destination. Never leave the vehicle unattended. Don’t overpromise what you can deliver.
NOV./DEC. LCT: These industry members don’t just stay ahead of the curve — they set it.
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