What Public Service Teaches You About Running A Business

Lexi Tucker
Posted on February 2, 2020

San Thomas, owner of San Thomas Protection in the DC Metro Area

San Thomas, owner of San Thomas Protection in the DC Metro Area

The public relies on so many people who do what others aren’t willing to do. Public servants, such as law enforcement officers, EMTs, and firefighters, often put their lives on the line to ensure people survive looming threats.

What you may not know is many operators in the luxury transportation industry have gone from being a public servant to serving people in another way: Providing safe rides.

A few former, current, and in-training public servants recently explained to LCT why working in this capacity has helped them run a better business, and why other operators should consider hiring former public servants as chauffeurs and staff members.

Jeff Shanker, Chief Strategy Officer for Black Tie Transportation in Winston-Salem, N.C., has had many roles in public service as the chief EMT for Ewing Township, a police officer with the College of New Jersey, an EMS coordinator for Mercer County in New Jersey, firefighter with Cherry Hill Fire Department and East Windsor Fire Company, and as a volunteer with the East Windsor Rescue Squad where he served in multiple positions on the operations and business side, including Lieutenant, Captain, Deputy Chief, and retired as President.

San Thomas, owner of San Thomas Protection in the DC Metro Area, is still active as a Corporal for the National Institute of Health (NIH), as part of a federal police agency in Maryland. He started his law enforcement journey at a local police department in N.J.

Dave Uziel, owner of UrbanBCN in San Francisco, was a patrol officer for Daly City, which is south of San Francisco.

Jevonne Pollard, owner of CBC Luxe Chauffeured Transportation and constable of Jefferson County, Precinct One, in Beaumont, Texas.

A former operator who wishes to remain anonymous because they are still in training to become a full-fledged officer of the law.

Prepared For All

The amount of training public servants receive is unparalleled, Thomas says. “When you go to the academy for whatever agency you’re with, you go through defensive driver and CPR training, and you’re tested on each of these skill sets. It gives you an edge over the traditional limo companies, of which there are many.”

The ability to look at the entire picture is a trait public servants develop, Shanker says. “Our business is the closest thing to emergency services without emergency lights and sirens. We are constantly moving, and every piece of the puzzle is always in flux. While we have our routine days with preassigned duties, there are always times when ‘emergency’ rides pop up.”

Uziel says public servants tend to have a different perspective on stress. “Personally, as a police officer, I experienced a lot of stressful situations that involved life or death. This has had an impact on how I react to things in the business.”

Jeff Shanker, Chief Strategy Officer for Black Tie Transportation in Winston-Salem

Jeff Shanker, Chief Strategy Officer for Black Tie Transportation in Winston-Salem

Anonymous states integrity and accountability are two traits public servants bring to a transportation company that can help it maintain the high-class reputation of a “luxury” business. “Public servants are held to a much higher moral and ethical standard than the general public. On and off-duty, we must conduct ourselves professionally; for if we don’t, it can leave a lasting scar on our professional careers whether it be as a law enforcement officer or business owner.” 

Pollard says their interaction with the public makes them natural and masterful networkers, which helps them build a connection to and trustworthiness with the community.

Adapting One Profession To Another

The biggest thing Uziel took from his street experience and adapted to his business was how to manage different personalities and their personal issues. “As a police officer, 80% of the community you deal with have either hardship in their lives or are living with mental issues. This allowed me to learn how to navigate each of my employee’s personal needs.”

Operators who have been public servants benefit from a diverse knowledge base. This helps them operate efficiently and dispatch dynamically, all while maintaining customer satisfaction and the highest levels of service, Shanker says.

Public servants are hard-working and reliable, which makes them a steady addition to any company, Pollard says. “They understand how important it is to protect your public image and put your best foot forward, always.”

Public servants bring the bonus of ingrained discipline, Thomas says. “You learn to control yourself in different situations while training, including how to communicate better and work together with a vast group of different people from all different backgrounds. It gives you a wider perspective.”

In the limo business, you can be working with anyone from millionaires to people who just want to use your service for a day. “Regardless of who the customer is, you treat them with the same respect.”

Public servants hold their employees to a higher standard of professionalism. “You will recognize potential dangers and questionable business practices a lot sooner than the average operator would,” Anonymous says. “Whether it is chauffeur training and retention, being able to detect potential fraudulent transactions, or finding the quickest route from Point A to Point B, I believe the knowledge and skillset current or former law enforcement officers bring to the table are a lot different than what the general public would see or believe.”

Benefits To Your Team

(L to R) Dave Uziel, owner of UrbanBCN in San Francisco with TJ Doyle, vice president of operations for Gold Shield Transportation in Lexington, Ky.

(L to R) Dave Uziel, owner of UrbanBCN in San Francisco with TJ Doyle, vice president of operations for Gold Shield Transportation in Lexington, Ky.

If you have an opportunity to add a public servant to your team, you’d be remiss to pass it up, Pollard says. “The network and dependability that comes with such a hire are unmatched. Of course, there are exceptions, but more often than not, they tend to be great employees.”

If their agency allows it, hiring current or former public servants as employees can benefit your company, Anonymous says. “First responders are taught teamwork, pride, professionalism, courtesy, respect, accountability, and honesty. These are great traits for any employee to have, and sometimes these qualities can rub off on others working in your company who do not have public service experience.”

Because regular chauffeurs lack the extensive training public servants do, it’s a great way to market your company as a cut above the rest, Thomas says. “It makes you stand out as a company and becomes a vital part of your marketing. High-profile clients want that sense of privacy and to know their info is not going to get out to the Enquirer.”

Hiring former and current public servants bring endless advantages, Shanker says. “Public servants have a gift of being able to work with anyone. They are driven by having a leadership role, take an ownership role in what they are doing, have a sense of duty to act, and don’t look at what time is on the clock but what needs to be done.”

Uziel agrees and says public servants tend to understand customer service in a different way. “Their experience with the community gives them different perspectives. Public servants tend to be go-getters and self-driven. They need little guidance because they are their own bosses while patrolling the city streets.”

Pointers On Hiring Public Servants

(L to R) Jevonne Pollard, owner of CBC Luxe Chauffeured Transportation with a local veteran

(L to R) Jevonne Pollard, owner of CBC Luxe Chauffeured Transportation with a local veteran

Operators should make a conscious effort to look out for public servants who want to work for a luxury transportation company. Shanker says. “They are going to be the best employees you can possibly find. They might be a little rough around the edges and set in their ways, but they are very interested in doing what’s right.”

While most have some sort of pension, you need to be sure to compensate for their education and experience. From a logistics standpoint, they are second to none, especially with dispatch and operations, he says. From a sales standpoint, they won’t be afraid to walk in front of someone and talk to them.

“They will perform their due diligence and do detective work on the company before they walk in.”

Just like any section of the population, there might be some bad habits you may have to break, Anonymous says. “Some first responders tend to be a little rough with the cars and you may need to remind them they are just taking a corporate client to the airport, not rushing to a high priority incident. On the other hand, giving someone with public service experience a ‘normal job’ can be beneficial to both parties involved.  I have had quite a few former police officers who worked for me tell me they enjoy working in the limousine industry because they get to see and interact with ‘normal people’ and not just the worst society has to offer. The ones who enjoy the transportation industry are some of the best employees I have ever come across.”

You must be patient with them, as they come from a different view of the community, Uziel says. Providing them with the proper training will allow them to settle back into civilian life.

“As many know, I have PTSD from my time in law enforcement and other factors. This industry has really allowed me to work out some of the issues because it keeps my brain moving. I think it’s important that if anyone hires a retired public servant that they truly understand what is coming. We are the most loyal and protective type of people.”

Thomas says one point to remember is if the potential applicant is still active, you must be flexible as an owner. If they are still working full time, they could be working different shifts. Find the medium ground to please the client, and make sure they are getting enough rest and can drive safely.

Related Topics: better business management, customer service, hiring, hiring chauffeurs, industry leaders, Jeff Shanker, law enforcement, leadership

Lexi Tucker Senior Editor
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