People

Virginia Operator Knows Financial Health Means Everything

Lexi Tucker
Posted on May 6, 2019
(L to R) Brahim’s daughter Laila, his wife Kathleen, and Abdou.

(L to R) Brahim’s daughter Laila, his wife Kathleen, and Abdou.

Who

Abdou Brahim, VA Executive Sedan & Limousine Service, Norfolk, Va.

Best Practices

Brahim started with one vehicle and now has nine. All are three years old or younger. Eight are paid off, so he’s not struggling to pay his bills. He is almost debt-free and maintains one of the newest fleets in the Hampton Roads region. He suggests operators look for the best possible deals, specifically 0% interest purchases on their vehicles. “Having a good credit history will benefit you in the short term as well as the long term,” he says. Brahim is an elected board member of the Virginia Limousine Association (VLA). His company also was recognized as the second ranked limousine service in Virginia by Top Rated Local in 2018.

Wise Words

Start with what you have. Don’t get hung up on buying many vehicles. Research your market and determine your fleet size based on what you can afford. “Don’t try to be something you’re not. You’ll end up hurting yourself and your bottom line. Avoid high interest rates. The best way to start is with one car bought outright, and don’t be afraid to buy lightly used,” he says. Network often and go to industry trade shows to educate yourself. “There’s a lot of work out there; you just have to know how to get it.”

Clients Come First

Professionalism at all times is vital, and reliability is his top reason for getting repeat business. You show clients you care by always answering the phone and giving them information. His clients are kept in the loop with tracking updates through automatic text messages. “Our customers love this feature and are always surprised. They appreciate being well informed. We keep ourselves reliable by placing tracking devices in all vehicles, which are monitored by our dispatch staff. That’s how I’ve built relationships with my clients. They feel confident when choosing to ride with us. They stay because they know what it feels like to use a company with reliability issues, and they don’t experience that with us. New cars are great, but if you can’t follow through, it’s not as important as actually being there for them. This business is not about having a lot of cars; it’s about providing excellent customer service.”

Fast Facts

Location: Norfolk / Virginia Beach, Va.

Owner: Abdou Brahim

Founded: 2013

Vehicle Type: Sedan, SUV, Sprinter, stretch limousines

Fleet Size: 9

Employees: 14

Website: www.vaexecutivesedan.com

Phone: (757) 716-1060

Marketing Smart

Brahim started with Google AdWords, and is active on social media. He’s found word of mouth works the best and costs the least. He goes to various offices in his area to introduce himself and his company, and passes out business cards frequently. The past three years, he’s gotten a lot of business by attending LCT events, which he says has helped his bottom line. Retargeting and remarketing with reservation databases also costs very little and has helped him save money promoting his company.

Getting Started

Brahim started out in the restaurant business. After six years, he discovered it was difficult to have time with his family in the U.S. and Mauritania, his home country. When he would try to take time off, he’d see a large drop in sales, so he knew he had to find something different that would allow time for both. “As a previous business owner, it helped make it easier to start a new business with experience in customer service, problem solving, advertising, and making the right financial decisions.”

He came upon the luxury transportation industry, bought a used 2008 Lincoln Town Car in 2013 for $14,000, and started doing airport runs to and from Norfolk International Airport (ORF). Every day, he’d talk to a supervisor there, let him know he started a limo company, and give him some of his business cards. Business grew through word of mouth and Facebook. In 2014, he started getting requests for buses, so he applied for a broker’s license to take care of those clients.

Future Plans

Brahim expects to grow his fleet as demand increases, and plans to eventually get into bus service. “I’m waiting for the right time to move forward,” he says. He also would like to grow his affiliate base to receive service opportunities from around the world, and is working on national accounts to expand the business.

Just For Fun

Brahim likes spending time with friends and family, drinking Moroccan tea, and playing and watching soccer. He’d also like to thank his wife, Kathleen Brahim for helping his business succeed.

Related Topics: customer service, finance, financial planning, money, small business, small-fleet operators, Virginia Limousine Association, Virginia operators

Lexi Tucker Senior Editor
Comments ( 1 )
  • Shawn

     | about 6 days ago

    Great article!

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