Industry Research

Recession No Barrier To ETS International

LCT Staff
Posted on November 11, 2009

QUINCY, MA — For most businesspeople, once they sell a company at the pinnacle of its success, they walk away from the daily grind and relax to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

This would have been the easiest path for John M. Greene to take when he sold his successful limousine company, CTS Worldwide, to industry leader Carey International in 1998, and some would say the wise one.

But after spending 10 years as a consultant to other people’s livery businesses, or perhaps as a result of it, Greene felt the itch to get back in the industry.

Content to start again on the ground floor, Greene sold his Chevy Suburban for a Cadillac, climbed into the driver’s seat, and along with his brother, Peter, launched ETS International in January 2007 on Grossman Street in Quincy, MA. John serves as President/CEO, with Peter as Executive Vice President of Operations.

Two acquisitions later — the company bought Home Safe Coach in Quincy, MA in 2007, and All-Star Limo in Kingston, MA in 2008 — ETS International has flourished beyond expectations. In an industry slammed with a 20-30% drop in business, ETS International has added 22 new drivers and 10 vehicles to a fleet of luxury sedans, stretch limousines, 15-passenger vans, SUVs and buses, all while experiencing 68% annual growth.

Greene says the major factor in his company’s growth, and one that accounts for 50% of the business, is its global network. He has an affiliate network in more than 400 cities both nationally and internationally. And by doing so, Greene says this has strengthened the company’s reputation twofold.

“When we take care of a company’s arrival in Boston, we have two customers,” Greene says. “The first is the person getting into the car, and the second is the limo company that sent them to us.”

More than a few folks would think it foolhardy to launch a company in a sluggish economy, but Greene says in some way it was almost an advantage.

“We started out in January 2007, when the economy was just starting to slip,” recalls Greene. “Unlike other companies that had been established when times were good, and perhaps expanded too quickly, we knew from the start what we were getting into. We found that we could grow aggressively and pursue sales while other companies were shrinking.”

The limousine business has changed during the past 20 years, Greene says. Back then it seemed like every company was looking to put its clients and employees into shiny black symbols of success and power, or a stretch limo the length of a small city block.

“However, about five years ago, the corporate culture began shifting in the way businesses dealt with limousine companies,” Greene says. “Prior to then, corporate travel arrangements were handled by administrative assistants. Then it moved to the HR department, where the expenses were looked at more closely and companies began looking for better value for their money. Today, decisions are being made on reliability and rates more than ever.”

In July 2008, ETS International received a significant boost to its operation when it took on two important investors, Jay Levitts, founder of Fresh Pond Travel, and Mark Ain, founder and executive chairman of Kronos, Inc. Greene says the decision was an easy one. “I would rather work with people than with banks,” he says. Both men were familiar with what Greene had accomplished in the past.

“We had used CTS Worldwide for our company travel needs,” Ain says. “So we stayed in touch after John sold CTS. I liked what he had accomplished and I liked his entrepreneurial spirit. John was always willing to do what it takes to be successful. And I knew with my own experience that I could help him be even more successful.”

As customer’s tastes have changed over two decades, so has technology. No longer does a driver keep his schedule with a pad of paper, a pencil and an eraser. Everything now is done online, with booking reservations and flight information sent electronically to the driver, who can then relay it to the customer. Greene says drivers have to be far more proactive today. Just sitting in the car and reading a newspaper while waiting for the passenger is a thing of the past.

This is why ETS International has launched its new website to better serve its customers throughout the United States. THE NEW WEB SITE enables customers to request and receive an online quote, book a trip, set up a personal account, and track when a party has been picked up and dropped off, among other user-friendly features.

“The nature of our business is that our customers are extremely busy and always on a need-to-know basis when it comes to being able to get up-to-the minute updates on ground transportation services,” Greene says. “We have designed the new website with that as our top priority, and in doing so have created essentially an online concierge service.”

In the past 2-1/2 years, ETS International has moved more than 2,000 passengers, and they all had one thing in common — an ETS International driver took them from point A to point B. The importance of this interaction is not lost on Greene.

“My brother Pete and I train every driver,” he says. “After the background checks are completed, all the training videos have been viewed, and they’ve been certified by the National Limousine Association, we get in the car as passengers and see first-hand how the driver interacts with the passengers. Do they say ‘sir’ a minimum of three times per trip, and is there water and a daily newspaper handy?”

ETS International has recently been named the preferred limousine company of the Boston Bruins Foundation, The Premium Seating Club, and the TD Garden in Boston. But Greene has no desire to rest on his laurels.

As the economy starts to dig itself out, Greene intends for his company to keep up the pace. “We’re growing at a rapid rate each month,” he states. “And we are always looking for new acquisition candidates.”

Source: Steven White, public relations manager, Graham Communications

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