Daniel Amado, Tina Nguyen, and Jaime McLaren of Concierge Limousine are three lucky operators who, through mutual respect and pride in their client service, work in a business they are honored and pleased to call their occupation.
Building The Perfect Team
In the limo industry, days rarely go as planned. To be as efficient and prepared as possible, you need a group of people you know can handle anything, even in your absence.
“You get what you pay for, and you need help to run a business,” Amado says. “You need to have faith in them and believe they can get the job done to your liking. If you want to keep people like that around, you’ve got to compensate them.” Treating your employees well is step number one to building a reliable, happy team.
“If they're making good money, have some benefits, and are treated fairly, then they're going to be around for a while and you’ll have consistency in your management.”
Once you’ve found this unicorn of an employee, it’s important to invest your time in training and getting to know them. “Every new employee who comes through our front door spends a day or two with me, and also with Dan and Tina,” McLaren says. “That way we all get to know them, and they can also see we all do the same job, only in slightly different ways.”
Location: Huntington Bach, Calif.
Owner: Daniel Amado
Vehicle Type: Sedans, SUV, Sprinter, Limo (Sedans: MKT, Towncar & Continental – Luxury Sedan: BMW 750 series – SUV: Navigators – Sprinter: Grech Limo Style – Limo: Town Stretch 8 PAX)
Fleet Size: 32
Phone: (800) 289-5466
The trio has their own method of forming relationships with clients and booking reservations, so it gives new hires a chance to see how others do their duties and then discover what method works best for them. “It’s a great way to ensure employees have the attention to detail and level of customer service we expect,” McLaren says.
“In this industry, a lot of the time you’ll have to throw your plan out the window,” says Nguyen, the company’s affiliate manger. “Every day we have something that comes up here, but fortunately, everyone is very strategic and can figure out how to work things out.”
Working together to solve issues involves employees dealing with separate parts of the same problem at the same time. For instance, if a vehicle brakes down on the freeway on the way to pick up a client, one person will work on getting a chauffeur to the airport to take care of the client. Another ensures the car is towed to a maintenance facility or back to the office. The third person will be contacting the mechanic to make sure they have everything they need to fix the vehicle to minimize down time.
Good team members must be flexible, keep a positive attitude, and understand the hard times will pass because they always do, Amado says.
Having staff members who understand how vital technology is to running a business efficiently also helps. All of the company’s information is stored in the cloud. “We can access our information wherever we are,” Amado says. “So staying contemporary and on top of the latest technology is very beneficial. Fortunately, as it improves, it gets less expensive.”
The company uses Livery Coach, and McLaren trains all chauffeurs in how to use it. At first, some of the more mature drivers didn't want to adapt, but with a kind and patient instructor, they soon realized the ease of using tablets and other technology.
McLaren also created the company’s training manual for the chauffeurs and reservation agents, and encourages them to provide feedback on it. “When I talk to the chauffeurs or bring somebody new on board, I let them know if they notice something's missing, or if we've changed the way we do it now, they should speak to me so I can continue to keep it updated. It’s become a living document.”
The Concierge office is mostly paperless. When the company first started, they had six large filing cabinets full of highlighted Thomas Brothers map pages and paper trip sheets. “Now, with GPS and other tech, we’ve thrown all of that away,” Amado says. At first, someone had to file papers away at the end of each day and pull them out the next, so going paperless has saved them money on labor as well.
Individual Success = Company Success
The three coworkers have earned each other’s trust in their ability to keep the operation running smooth; so much so that Amado, the owner, trusts McLaren and Nguyen to keep it moving even when he’s taking a much needed break.
“When you start a business, especially a small business, you essentially become a slave to it at the beginning if you want it to work right,” he says. “I had two markers where I knew I had become successful. One, when I was able to purchase a personal car I didn't use for business, and two was being able to step away from the business a little bit and delegate a lot of the managerial responsibility to my staff. To me, that was the ultimate success. The business is good, I sleep at night, and I enjoy life.”
McLaren says the fact Amado trusts her and Nguyen to take care of the business is her biggest success. “That he feels comfortable enough in how his business is being ran and doesn’t have to be here keeping a super close eye is rewarding.” If they do happen to need him when he’s out of the office, he's still never more than a phone call, email, or text message away.
Nguyen believes the business succeeds because of the relationship she has with the rest of the team. “The difference with us here is we don't just clock in and clock out. Jaime, Dan, and I genuinely love the business, and we put our hearts into everything,” she says.
Start Humble, Stay Humble
The company was started in 1985. Amado originally worked as a bartender, so he had a lot of customer service experience. A wealthy relative wanted him to be his personal driver, so he left a different company to pursue that. After about a year, the novelty of having a personal limousine wore off, so the relative gave Amado the opportunity to buy it from him at a favorable price with good terms.
After buying the limo, Amado started his own traditional company. He began running the business from his car with the help of a cell phone. Soon after starting, he went to a dinner party at a friend's house, and one of the people there was the general manager of Beverly Hills Travel. He mentioned to Amado they needed a reliable car service that could take care of executives. They didn’t need a stretch, just a sedan to take them from point A to point B.
Amado borrowed his mother’s car, got it insured and registered with the PUC, and started to provide this additional service. With a stellar reputation and word of mouth, the business took off.
The operation now has more than 30 vehicles, comprised of a mix of BMW 7-Series, Lincoln Town Car, MKT, Continentals, and Navigators, and a Grech Motors built Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.
Next-Level Customer Service
Before hiring someone, Amado has to sense they have what he’s looking for. Every contact a customer has with Concierge, whether it's an inquiry about price, booking the service, the service itself, the follow-up, or even receipts, must be consistently professional and elegant.
“We're not the least expensive service out there, and people tend to appreciate and get what they paid for,” he says.
McLaren adds, “When you think ‘concierge,’ you think white-glove service; the guy at the hotel who, for a wink and smile, can get you anything and everything you need. We’re all very hands-on here on every step of the reservation.” The company sends out surveys and consistently checks in after rides to make sure clients had everything they wanted and more.
They often get questions about restaurant referrals, and Nguyen will make their client’s reservation for them. She also writes the company’s food blog, which can be found on the front page of their website.
The Concierge team does everything from fulfilling requests for specific chauffeurs, to purchasing flowers for a client’s wife coming home from a long business trip, or ensuring a client’s favorite drink is ice cold, ready, and waiting for them in the vehicle.
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