Operations

Attention To Detail Sets California Operator Apart

Lexi Tucker
Posted on October 21, 2016

Aaron Schiff, president of Ascot Limousine
Aaron Schiff, president of Ascot Limousine
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — It’s been said it takes 20 years to build a reputation, but only five minutes to ruin it. When a luxury ground transportation company has been around for 35 years, it’s no small feat. To have survived the 2008 recession, the advent of TNCs, and maintain a healthy number of clients, a business has to be truly remarkable.

When word of mouth is your most powerful marketing tool, there’s no room for error. After the unexpected death of John Havenner, founder of Ascot Limousine, in 2013, his godson Aaron Schiff, president, has made it his mission to maintain the company’s spotless reputation and exceed client’s expectations.

Happy Employees = Happy Clients

You’ve heard it a million times: Chauffeurs are the face of a limousine company. Since that’s the case, shouldn’t they be treated as such? After all, unhappy employees will produce unhappy clients. One quarter of the chauffer staff has been working at Ascot 15 years or longer, Schiff said. He offers his employees 401k plans, pays for half their health care, and has a profit sharing incentive.

“Also, I always try to see it from their perspective. Incentivize those who work late shifts; start them a few dollars higher than you normally would,” he said. “I want them to want to be here.” He also gives his staff bonuses at the end of the year and holds work parties, although it’s a bit difficult to get everyone in the same room at one time! This is a 24/7 operation, after all.

A newer benefit he’s implemented is letting chauffeurs take vehicles home with them. For example, if they are off Saturday and Sunday, they get to keep the car on weekdays. All chauffeurs must sign an agreement saying they understand they can drive within five miles of their home, but must be given permission to go any further when it comes to personal use. Because they don’t have to return to the garage to drop off the vehicle every single night, it makes on-demand rides slightly more realistic.

“We have rules, they’re just not over the top,” Schiff said. “You can use the car, just be reachable if we end up needing it.”

Different Is Good

The Ascot Limousine fleet consists of 19 vehicles. Although this is the lowest number they’ve had in a few years, just two years ago they had 25 with the same amount of business coming in.

“In my mind, if I farm out a few more jobs in LA, I have a lot less overhead. I’m still making a nice percentage with affiliates I trust, and I don’t have as much insurance and vehicle cost as far as maintenance,” Schiff explained. He plans to add one Lincoln Navigator and two new Continentals going into awards season — a particularly busy time for the City of Angels.

The current fleet is an eclectic one: Three Navigators, three Chevrolet Surburbans, one Cadillac Escalade, five Hyundai Equus’, one Cadillac XTS, one BMW 740Li, one Lexus 450H crossover, one Lincoln MKT, one Nissan van, one Lincoln L series stretch, and one nine-passenger Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van.

“I like being a little different,” Schiff said. “When I decided to buy the Hyundai’s, everyone was like ‘You’re crazy!’. They were a bit of a hard sell in the beginning, but I told people if they didn’t like them or thought they were embarrassing, I’d comp their trip. They turned out to be a big hit!”

Learning To Run Before You Can Walk

When he figured out college just wasn’t for him, Schiff decided he would ask his godfather if he needed some help running the business. “John was hesitant,” he said. “He always told me not everyone worked out even with college degrees, and even people who were really smart somehow couldn’t master how to take a reservation or how to talk to high-end, demanding clients.”

As it turned out, Schiff was a natural.

In the beginning, he started out event coordinating at award shows. His first event was the 2009 Golden Globes, where he had an epiphany. He vividly remembers standing in the pouring rain while he held an umbrella over celebrities getting out of the vehicles.

Schiff keeps photos of his godfather in his office to motivate and remind him of how everything started.
Schiff keeps photos of his godfather in his office to motivate and remind him of how everything started.
“A part of me was like, ‘why am I even doing this?' But then the other part of me understood this was what true service is. I was taking care of our clientele.”

After that, he transitioned into working in the office and learned how to do reservations. Eventually he became a dispatcher, and then helped with accounting. Experiencing all of those roles helped prepare him to jump into the vice president position. “It was a little overwhelming at first, but it made the transition from vice president to president a little bit easier.”

One of the most refreshing things about Schiff is his passion for what he does and his humility. When asked what he thinks has really helped him succeed, he says his attention to detail has been extremely beneficial.

“It’s something I really strive for and something that probably drives the office staff crazy,” he joked. “I’m so particular about how everything gets done. Sometimes it’s probably overboard, but I really want to strive for perfection. I’m glad we are small enough to be like that.”

As for his hopes for the future of the company, Schiff really wants to keep his staff happy and honor the memory of his godfather. “I’m trying to get the company to its 50 year anniversary. I think he’d like that.”

Related Topics: Academy Awards, customer service, employee benefits, employee management, employee perks, employee retention, Fleet Vehicles, LCTFast40, Los Angeles, Los Angeles operators, managing chauffeurs, Millennials, operator profiles, special events, WebXclusive

Lexi Tucker Associate Editor
Comments ( 1 )
  • Anthony

     | about 2 years ago

    I am very happy to read an article about Ascot limousine service. The founder was an outstanding business owner and operator that eveyone should duplicate his standards. If we had a farm out offer from empire, xpress, or ascot, we always took the ascot farm ins. Even if they were shorter runs. I am very happy to see his family take over and continue to keep his company #1 in los angeles. Congratulations

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