Operations

Company Aims To Reach Peak Operating Performance

Lexi Tucker
Posted on June 14, 2017

The company's chauffeur team
The company's chauffeur team
TUCSON, Ariz. — Abdou and Hillary Louarti, co-owners of Diamond Transportation, have set out to provide chauffeured transportation service unlike any other in their area. They’ve grown a lot since they first took over the company, and it’s all thanks to becoming more involved in industry groups, associations, and trade shows.

Show Leads To Success

Originally an offshoot of Arizona Shuttle, Diamond Transportation broke away in 1996 to provide pre-scheduled sedan and SUV service for high-end local resorts. Abdou started working for the company in 2005 as a chauffeur, and was constantly suggesting new ideas to the owners to help improve service levels.

They liked how he was involved with the business, and eventually asked him to help manage the company. Hillary was brought on to help answer the phones from home since she was pregnant with their daughter. Abdou managed Diamond from 2008 to 2010, and then decided they had invested so much in the business it was time to buy it.

They continued to run vehicles as pre-scheduled, but didn’t like the business model they inherited. “We started to do a lot of research to figure out what we wanted and where we needed to be going in the industry,” Hillary says.

Abdou went to his first International LCT Show about five years ago and discovered the industry had more to offer than what they saw in Tucson. “My mind exploded with ideas, and I didn’t want to sit around and be complacent,” he says.

Hillary Louarti, affiliate manager of Diamond Transportation
Hillary Louarti, affiliate manager of Diamond Transportation

Hillary agrees the first Show was a huge eye opener for him; for a week after he came back, all he could say was, “Oh my gosh, you won’t believe this!” Their first move was purchasing a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, which they didn’t have a market for at the time.

But after Abdou researched it, he noticed there was only one bus company in town that had silver, factory built Sprinters — but no one had a luxury offering. “I was a little nervous about it, but he knew what he was doing. That vehicle was booked all the time because it was the only one in town,” Hillary says.

Making A Difference

The couple wanted to be more involved on the local level, and Abdou recently received an offer to be a board member of the Arizona Limousine Association (ALA). “Tucson is a small town, and there’s work here, but people fight over it,” Hillary says. “As Maurice Brewster, one of our mentors, told us, it’s like crabs in a barrel: Everyone is trying to claw their way out instead of working together.” They want to help advocate for a different mentality that will enable operators to help each other succeed in a disrupted industry.

Abdou Louarti, general manager of Diamond Transportation
Abdou Louarti, general manager of Diamond Transportation
They are also members of the Minority Limousine Operators of America (MLOA), and the only transportation company that’s a platinum sponsor. They’ve also been learning how other operators problem solve and address issues in Arthur Messina’s Wheels in Motion group, thanks in part to retired operator and LCT contributor Jim Luff. “He has been such a good mentor and friend to us,” Hillary says.

“We want to learn more about how to exceed in customer service and infuse that with our company culture,” Abdou says. At Diamond Transportation, they encourage a positive outlook and feature a word of the month to help staff realize the importance of being team players. May’s was respect, for example, and other months’ words included communication, attitude, and involvement.

Taking Care of Business

The couple believes they provide service to a niche market. They work with a lot of DMCs and handle the logistics of many group events. “We have clients who come in from big cities and say, ‘Wow, you have amazing vehicles. I live in Chicago and I haven’t seen anything as nice as what you have here,’” Hillary says.

“In Tucson, you’ll have drivers who show up to pick you up in an old Town Car wearing a polo shirt and cowboy boots. It’s a very Western-casual mentality, but we don’t believe in that; we believe in corporate business standards.”

A photo from a safety meeting recently hosted by Diamond Transportation
A photo from a safety meeting recently hosted by Diamond Transportation

To stay competitive, Hillary suggests establishing expectations: If your clients know what to expect and receive consistent quality service for a set price, it’s unlikely you’ll have issues. “If your service is inconsistent, it’ll destroy those expectations,” she says.

This goes for your staff as well. They have to know what you expect of them and what they can expect of you. “We expect them to clean vehicles, prep them, and provide great service, and they expect us to provide a great place to work and an interesting occupation,” Abdou says. The couple believes engaging your staff is the key to employee retention.

In the future, the couple is planning to provide service nationwide through its affiliate network, and hope to set up a satellite office in Phoenix — but they aren’t in any rush to do so. “One of our affiliates once said this isn’t a career; it’s a lifestyle. It’s important to do your best to fit the other parts of your life in and make sure you have as best a work life balance as possible,” Hillary says.

Related Topics: Arizona Limousine Association, Arizona operators, business management, company culture, customer service, employee management, employee retention, limo associations, managing chauffeurs, Minority Limousine Operators of America, minority-owned businesses, staff management, WebXclusive

Lexi Tucker Assistant Editor
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