Industry Research

EmpireCLS Chief Dishes Industry Info

Posted on November 11, 2011
EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services CEO David Seelinger leads one of the largest chauffeured transportation providers in the world.

EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services CEO David Seelinger leads one of the largest chauffeured transportation providers in the world.

EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services CEO David Seelinger leads one of the largest chauffeured transportation providers in the world.
EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services CEO David Seelinger leads one of the largest chauffeured transportation providers in the world.

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — One of the leading limousine executives in the U.S. outlined the top trends and toughest topics related to the chauffeured transportation industry before hundreds of operators gathered at a trade show this week.

In a State of the Industry speech, EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services CEO David Seelinger told operators attending the annual Limousine Digest Show to: Avoid cutting rates; tap the growing business travel market; and accept that the employee-based business model is moving forward. He also called the Lincoln MKT a “camel.”  

Seelinger, also the founder and CEO of online start-up BeTransported.com, leads a New Jersey-based global chauffeured transportation company that generates about $165 million in annual revenues. It is the largest privately held transportation company in the world. EmpireCLS operates about 725 company-owned vehicles in the U.S., according to the 2011 LCT 100 Largest Fleets List. Seelinger also has received numerous ground transportation and travel industry related awards.

But before addressing the substantive issues facing the industry, Seelinger started his talk on an unusual comedic note addressing personal rumors about him circulating in the industry.

The rumors have been swirling even faster since Seelinger appeared during the opening night of the LCT Leadership Summit in Miami Beach on Sept. 12 while wearing jogging shorts and a T-shirt and escorting a leashed German Shepherd through a Ritz-Carlton reception room. The happy-hour-timed cameo sparked all kinds of questions and speculation among bewildered attendees who were sipping diverse beverages. He later told LCT that evening that the dog is a pet and she accompanies him on most of his travels.

Seelinger sought to dispel rumors about him, both pre- and post-Summit: “This industry is full of rumors and there are a lot of ‘Yentas’ out there,” he quipped to audience laughter.

  • No, his dog is not an attack dog. Her name is “Rayka,” and she travels with him. “I dig my companion. I’m just an animal lover.”
  • No, he does not have any bodyguards. His “entourage” that accompanies him are employees who work with him.
  • No, he and is company are not bankrupt.
  • No, he did not get bought by Commonwealth Worldwide CEO Dawson Rutter, or Flyte Tyme Limousine CEO Tim Rose.
  • No, he is not buying another company.
  • No, he is not leaving his wife to marry a man. “There is nothing wrong with that,” he added, and then called out and praised his wife sitting in the audience.

With scuttlebutt diffused for now, Seelinger drew upon his 26-year executive-level perspective to remind operators that while the economy is in a slow growth mode, they must never lose their entrepreneurial drive and touch.

“Don’t forget who we are,” he said. “We are all entrepreneurs. It doesn’t matter what the economy does, we take risks. We are dice-rollers. You don’t stop being who you are. Things will work out.”

While he couldn’t make predictions about the economy, he did point to available opportunities and good practices. . . .  

Business travel: This sector, which feeds the chauffeured transportation industry, is growing and can provide consistent clients for operators, Seelinger said. It likely will generate $244 million in annual revenues. While that is still below 2007 levels, hotel demand and room rates are rising, he said.

Pricing: There is no reason to drop rates, and it is acceptable to occasionally drop a client that is not profitable, he said. “The only reason you drop rates is if you can’t perform and not do your [service] well”. . .  Get the rates you deserve, that make you profitable, and enable you to provide for your family, he added. It is also better to derive more revenues from a wider base of smaller clients as opposed to depending on a handful of big ones, he said.  

Value sells: “What can you do to give more to customers?” Seelinger asked. As in the case of hotels, operators should offer additional services that enhance the overall value of the chauffeured experience.

Fleet transitions
: Seelinger joked that the Lincoln Town Car is gone, and that it is “being replaced with a camel.” He admitted he would catch some flak for that remark about the Lincoln MKT. At this point, EmpireCLS prefers the Mercedes-Benz R-Class vehicles, Seelinger said, which ironically are cross-over styled vehicles just like the MKT. The company also has seen success with the Hyundai Equus. “The Town Car is gone and it is what it is. There will be nothing like it. Maybe Cadillac will have a good option. There will be different cars for different markets.”

Employees vs. independent contractors: Increased audits and regulations mean operators run great risks of running afoul of rules if they use independent contractor employees, he said. EmpireCLS converted all of its chauffeurs to employee status in recent years to avoid legal hassles and after some painful payouts of back wages. There is no way to get around overtime and gratuities, he said. “When you have a big bill over your head, you accept a lot of things don’t you?” He added, “And financially it has all worked out fine.”

Technology: Seelinger strongly emphasized the benefits of cloud computing to boost technological access and efficiency and search-engine strategies to boost marketing and online attention. Cloud computing allows for simultaneous updating of information across multiple gadgets and platforms. It provides a secure, redundant environment that has proven suitable to large companies.

[NOTE: A State of the Industry and Market Trend Report will be presented on Feb. 13, 2012 at the opening of the 2012 International LCT Show in Las Vegas. Presenters TBA.]

-- Martin Romjue, LCT editor

Related Topics: business trends, David Seelinger, Empire Coach, limo tradeshows

Comments ( 1 )
  •  | about 3 years ago

    Is it possible for CEO David Seelinger to write me personally?I am so impressed with his Undercover Boss show,you are so great the way you care for your family&employees.

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