People

The Power Of Being Well-Rounded

Lexi Tucker
Posted on April 9, 2019

Jess Sandhu, co-owner and vice president of A&A Limousine & Bus Service.(Photo: Laura Ascanio, Ascanio Photography)

Jess Sandhu, co-owner and vice president of A&A Limousine & Bus Service.(Photo: Laura Ascanio, Ascanio Photography)

SEATTLE, Wash. — Even with Uber and Lyft everywhere, operators can find tons of business — you just have to know where to look. Of course corporate clients will need the standard shuttle to and from important meetings, the airport, and team lunches. That doesn’t mean you should just sit around and be happy with the basics.

Jess Sandhu, co-owner and vice president of A&A Limousine & Bus Service of Seattle, wants to make sure his vehicles are used to their fullest potential.

Think Deeper Than The Usual

Here’s a brief listing of the types of retail work Sandhu pursues: Concerts, weddings, bachelor and bachelorette parties, proms, and homecoming, to name a few. One that has often taken a backseat for many companies is funeral work, and he hopes to change that.

“We are trying to pursue it more and want to explain to funeral homes the differences between Sprinter vans and stretches,” Sandhu says. “They don’t want something flashy because the vehicle must match the mood of such a somber occasion.” To aid in this education, Sandhu will often send a vehicle to a funeral home for them to see it. “It only takes a few minutes, and it helps them understand the quality of service we provide.”

Fast Facts

Location: Seattle, WA

Owner: Jess Sandhu

Founded: 1994

Vehicle types: Sedans, SUVs, vans, buses, stretch limos, and party buses

Fleet size: 45

Employees: 61

Website: A-Alimo.com

Phone: (206) 365-1008

Another less-trodden path he’s walking is senior center business. Many of them hold activities for their residents that often entail leaving the premises. “Typically, senior homes don’t have dedicated vehicles and drivers. They’ll usually have a nurse or custodian driving a vehicle here and there, but that can lead to accidents if they aren’t properly trained,” he says.

Sandhu likes such work because it keeps his fleet moving on weekdays. He’s also reached out to private schools to provide activity transportation.

eSports tournaments, where thousands of people gather to watch professional video gamers play, can also provide revenue opportunities. A large tournament used to be held in Seattle, but has since been moved to locations such as China and Canada due to difficulties in foreign players obtaining U.S. visas. This is mostly summer work, but could be an untapped revenue stream for your company.

Clean, shiny vehicles make all the difference to a client’s perception of you and your company, and allow them to see what makes your service special. (Photo: Laura Ascanio, Ascanio Photography)

Clean, shiny vehicles make all the difference to a client’s perception of you and your company, and allow them to see what makes your service special. (Photo: Laura Ascanio, Ascanio Photography)

Winery tours help Sandhu make good use of his Sprinters, since they are better for turning, don’t get stuck during the trip, and are easier to drive up to the smaller wineries. However, he avoids cannabis dispensary tours, as clients often stink up the vehicles even if they smoke outside and then come in. “These are still too new and create more problems than they are worth,” he says.

Matching Vehicles To Clientele

For retail and corporate work, Sandhu is seeing higher demand for luxury vans such as the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Ford Transit. “It’s such a versatile vehicle, and good for smaller groups. Many of our clients choose to use us because they don’t want to have to worry about the stress of finding parking. They don’t want to have to split up the group.”

Sandhu also recommends using these vehicles in areas with many lawyers because they can get work done while in transit. “You have to think about what their time is worth to them.” The best part about the vehicles is they can have “that limo feel” for retail work, but all you need to do is tone down the lights to blue or white and voila! You have a corporate-friendly vehicle.

“The trend has always been for everyone to go out and buy an expensive vehicle, but whether they have enough business to support it is a different story,” he says. He suggests regularly analyzing your specific market. He recently got rid of his SUV limos because of low demand.

In more rural areas, stretch limos are still moving enough to turn a profit. Sandhu has gone from nine down to four and is moving more toward vans and minibuses.

Sandhu sits behind a clean desk, which reflects the organized way he runs his business. (Photo: Laura Ascanio, Ascanio Photography)

Sandhu sits behind a clean desk, which reflects the organized way he runs his business. (Photo: Laura Ascanio, Ascanio Photography)

“I’ve noticed more people are showing signs of worry about getting in a stretch ever since the large accident in New York in October 2018,” he says. “But it’s all in how you sell it. The Sprinters are not altered by cutting and body stretching. We’ve also been telling our clients they can stand and walk around in these vehicles, so they aren’t confined, which helps those with claustrophobia.”

Don’t buy a vehicle if you’re unsure if you have the customer demand to support it. Instead, ask your regular clients if they have an interest for a particular vehicle you are considering.

Mix Of Marketing

Although most of his business comes from word of mouth, Sandhu has implemented SEO and Google AdWords campaigns. Notably, he hasn’t targeted ads toward prom clients.

“People just come looking because there’s always a high demand. There’s plenty of work to go around, and my company is recommended by a lot of PTAs. It’s amazing how that works, and it saves a lot of money. I like to use my marketing budget for other things.”

Staying Trendy

Wedding planners have become easier to deal with than the actual bride and groom, Sandhu says. Brides themselves don’t call as much; planners will bring brides the options they’ve looked up. He’s been trying to promote getaway vehicles for the end of the night, which couples don’t tend to think about.

Sandhu with some of his big, beautiful buses. (Photo: Laura Ascanio, Ascanio Photography)

Sandhu with some of his big, beautiful buses. (Photo: Laura Ascanio, Ascanio Photography)

“We give them a package deal. We’ve heard a couple used an Uber car, and that’s not good for wedding photos or safety. Sadly, transportation is the last thing people thing about, and we are trying to change that.”

Your chauffeurs can help spur more retail business, so choose stand-out employees to work such events.

“We try to pick which chauffeur is best based on the type of group it is. As their boss, you should know everyone by name and personality. For instance, our senior drivers ages 60 and up do not want to drive for a bachelor party,” he says. “We ask them what makes them comfortable. Some of the bus drivers prefer shuttles versus party/limo buses (mainly because of the loud music).”

He prefers his chauffeurs to stand outside of the vehicle when helping to work a wedding, as they can become walking billboards for your company. “We want them to be communicating, not just sitting. We’d rather be helping the clients or the wedding planner — that way, they’ll remember us. Simply being a decent person can help you win business.”   

[email protected]

For more background on Sandhu’s business, read “How To Be The “Go-To” Company”.

Related Topics: buses, executive vans, luxury vans, retail markets, Seattle operators, shuttle vans, Sprinter, Washington operators

Lexi Tucker Senior Editor
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