Operations

You Can’t Go Solo When Leading A Business

Lexi Tucker
Posted on November 18, 2016

Adam and Jay Erlich, COO and CEO of Europe Limousine Service
Adam and Jay Erlich, COO and CEO of Europe Limousine Service
PARAMUS, N.J. — Brothers Jay and Adam Erlich understand how you need to distinguish your operations to stay ahead of the Ubers and Lyfts of the world. Jay, CEO of Europe Limousine Service, and COO Adam, grew up working for their parents’ company and carried on the old school values that set apart luxury transportation services. However, they’ve also applied a lot of what they’ve learned as they’ve grown, and listened to what clients crave.

Independent M.O.

Europe Limousine Service runs on a different model than what many companies are allowed to do in other states; they use independent contractors as chauffeurs.

“It’s a highly regulated, popular model in New York City, and it’s one of the last markets that are really booming with it,” Adam says. It’s becoming increasingly popular because operators don’t want the overhead of owning the vehicles, say peers they’ve spoken to.”

But it’s certainly not as easy as one would think. “To make it successful, you have to be on top of the details,” Adam says. Their chauffeur manager, Sam Drobachesky, has been in the industry for 30 years and helps them ensure everyone is on task. Jay says Drobachesky and his team are on the road three days a week conducting random spot checks, and in the office for two.

“This puts the drivers into the mindset of, ‘They are going to see me, so I better be dressed well, and my car better be clean and contain magazines, candy, and water,’” Jay says. If someone is running low on supplies, they want to be there to assist them.

“We are a very chauffeur friendly company,” Adam says. “Our father was a chauffeur, so he understands their plight — the long hours, sitting in traffic, etc.”

While this may seem like an unfamiliar way of running a luxury fleet business, there are some similarities. “A lot of our peers in the industry who own vehicles, their chauffeurs keep the cars, and take them home, so they don’t see them on an everyday basis either,” Adam says.

Their chauffeurs are licensed by the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC), which has strict rules and regulations. They must pass multiple tests just to obtain their TLC diamond sticker, and then come into the office and take a written test and drug test. The TLC inspects them every four months. “It’s kind of like an employee model, but a lot of the work gets done by the city,” Jay says.

Eli and Dorlee Cook, Jay and Adam’s mother and stepfather
Eli and Dorlee Cook, Jay and Adam’s mother and stepfather
Parental Guidance

The company opened in 1992, when Dorlee and Eli Cook, Jay and Adam’s mother and stepfather, decided it was time to branch out on their own. Eli emigrated to America from Israel, worked as a chauffeur for quite a few years, and was eventually told by clients they wanted to have him drive them privately. He started the business out of his house with one phone; he drove while Dorlee, Jay, and Adam served as the reservations and dispatch team. “We grew through customer service and my dad being the face of the company for a long time,” Jay says.

Jay started answering phones and doing billing at age 9, learned the proper procedures of the business, and worked at the company through high school. The family moved into an office building about eight years ago, and when Jay graduated college he decided he wanted to stay in the industry. He started from the bottom, and about a year into working as a reservation and billing agent, he took over as general manager for the company.

Never one to let “good enough” be good enough, Jay spoke with clients often and learned they had to start adapting to a more modern way of doing business. He remembers his stepfather saying, “In the first year, we’ll find out if you’re going to sink or swim.” Within eight months of being promoted to manager, Jay called on Adam to come help him out.

“Although the titles may seem different, we are on the same level in the business and we run it together. It’s amazing how we are versatile in different ways; we are very yin and yang. We never fight, and everything we do is very hand in hand,” Jay says. Adam is the more tech-minded of the two. Together, they’ve grown the business into five times the size it was when they first started.

Not Knowing It All

Something that helped Jay and Adam grow the business is attending trade shows. In the beginning, they didn’t have many industry connections, but as they went to more of them, they began to apply a lot of what they learned to their company.

“They are so important to us and the industry; not just because of the education sessions, but having the opportunity to learn from your peers,” Jay says. “I took a lot of what I’ve learned from the tradeshows and intertwined different aspects from different operators into our business.”

Through trial and error, they found the niche that worked for them. For example, Jay says when he learns something about dispatch operations from four or five other providers, he’ll adopt their methods and then his dispatchers will give him feedback. “We have an open forum here. If someone feels like we should do something better, I’m not going to ask them to keep it to themselves. I want to hear about it. It’s a lot about adopting strategies from other companies; that’s how you should build your business. No one knows everything.”

Another thing Jay’s learned is how much faith you must place in your staff. “You can’t do everything and micromanage, because you won’t succeed in this business,” he says. “You’ll drive yourself crazy, and you won’t have any time to grow your business. You’ll be stuck dispatching and taking reservations for the rest of your life.”

He believes listening to those around you will be much more beneficial.

Service & Sharing

When it comes to customer service, you can’t have an “I’ll get to it later” mentality; if you have an issue, you need to handle it on the spot. “If you are informed of an incident, you should be calling within three minutes to the client reaching out to ask multiple times how you can fix it,” Jay says.

No one is 100% perfect. Communication with your clients will save you from receiving complaints after the fact. This is especially important if you decide to change the way you run a part of your operation. “If you have new technology or something new you are introducing, call your clients and let them know the capabilities you now have. You don’t want to stay stagnant; you should be ever-changing.”

One thing’s for sure — Jay and Adam love the industry and want to help others become just as successful as they have been. “We care very much about the industry and where it’s going,” Jay says. “There are some really great leaders in our industry who have mentored and taught us a lot. They helped us whenever we had questions, and we want to do the same for smaller operators.”

If you ever see them on the trade show floor, they urge you to come up to them and ask questions.

Related Topics: employee vs independent contractor, family businesses, LCTFast40, limo tradeshows, managing chauffeurs, Millennials, New Jersey operators, New York operators, New York Taxi & Limousine Commission, WebXclusive

Lexi Tucker Associate Editor
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