Overheard at the LCT Leadership Summit

LCT Staff
Posted on April 25, 2007

MIAMI — LCT’s Leadership Summit wrapped up yesterday at the Mandarin Oriental in Miami on a high note. Attendees soaked up the Florida sun and the final moments of networking around the swimming pool over drinks, sharing funny moments from the weekend, gossip, and a few ideas to take home to build their businesses.

LCT editors were there for the three-day event to take in the experience and to pick up some interesting quotes and ideas:

“A negative person is a cancer in your company,” said Computer Car’s David Eckstein. “Get rid of them!”

“Revenue is vanity. Profit is sanity.” Richard Kane, International Limousine Service

“Hire attitude, hire nice people,” said Diane Forgy of Overland Limousine Service. “This is how you hire right.”

“Why can’t chauffeurs smile when they greet clients?” LCT’s Sara Eastwood. (Perhaps some chauffeurs think of themselves almost like military honor guards?)

Bob Bellagamba of Concorde Limousine cautions operators to be very careful when making employees into partners to reward hard work and increase their loyalty – such as a talented general manager. It can work, but can be fraught with problems. “Make sure your agreement clearly spells out how the partnership comes together and how it would dissolve,” he said – sort of like a prenuptial agreement.

Summit attendees were absolutely wowed by the level of service at the Mandarin Oriental. So when Romy Saunders, director of learning and development for the Miami branch spoke, the audience was all ears. Not surprisingly, she said one of the keys to success was ongoing and constant training. Employees are coached on handling every possible customer situation, but to do it in a way that draws from their own personality. An interesting point for dealing with an unhappy client: “We don’t ever say to a guest, `This is our policy.’ Instead, we say, `Here are some alternatives we can offer you.’”

A financially healthy limousine company should retain three to six months of operating costs for a rainy day, according to Alex Pope of Limousine Service Associates.

“Always run one vehicle short,” said Mike Renehan of Allaire Limousines, offering advice on how not to over-fleet.

Operators are having good luck finding qualified job applicants through Internet sites Craig’s List, Career Link, and Monster.com. Another good recruiting tool: hire a fire fighter or law enforcement officer as part-time chauffeurs, and give them incentives to recruit their colleagues. They know the city and its streets, have a lot of days off, and are generally higher caliber, more dependable people.

Corporate sales trainer Tim Schroeder recommends changing the sales conversation away from, “We are the latest and greatest,” to “How can we partner with you Mr. Client to achieve your company’s goals?”

During a lively discussion on Quality Control in Farm-Outs, Carey International’s Doug Werdebaugh said, “You can’t throw something at an affiliate just to get it off your back. You need to set them up for success, not failure. You can’t just scream at them when they fail.”

Tim Rose of Flyte Tyme surveys clients on their experiences with affiliate companies on a regular basis, for quality control.

“All organizational change starts with the personal transformation of the leader,” said Gary Heil, author and founder of the Center for Innovative Leadership. Heil also explained how the environment that people work in greatly influences their performance, citing the clean-up of the New York City subway system and attendant drop in crime as an example. “If people are working in an environment where they don’t feel valued and trusted, you’ll get negative results.” He also recommends sharing information on the company and its operations with employees. “Why would someone get excited when they’re asked to do something they don’t understand?”

Heil believes that people need good pay and benefits, but even more importantly, they need a higher cause to serve, such as being the best company in the industry or delivering the best service to clients. Heil ended with another provocative statement: “If the quality of supervision in your company is bad, you’ll have a lot of employee turnover.”

Rick Brown of La Costa Limousine said it another way: chauffeurs will do a great job when they’re proud to work at your company.

Source: LCT Magazine

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