Operations

Florida Operator Says Staying True To Values Pays Off

Lexi Tucker
Posted on April 4, 2018

Barbara White, co-owner of VIP Transportation Group
Barbara White, co-owner of VIP Transportation Group
ORLANDO, Fla. — Barbara and Simon White, owners of VIP Transportation Group, had to think fast when they were both laid off in 2000. Before that, they had never contemplated being in the luxury ground transportation business. Barbara had a background in international sales, and her husband Simon worked for Receptive Tour Operator. One of her former clients lived in Miami and owned a transportation company.

Without any knowledge of the industry, the couple started with a borrowed car from that operator and returned it after the first year in better condition than he gave it to them after they bought their first vehicle.

“Never saying no to business was the key to our success,” White says. “We surrounded ourselves with companies with great reputations in our market and used them until we had enough business to add another vehicle and chauffeur of our own. We continue to add vehicles and chauffeurs as we grew, which brings us to today where have a fleet of 22 vehicles plus our classic cars.”

They now have Lincoln MKTs and Continentals, Cadillac XTS’, Chevrolet Suburbans, executive vans, luxury Sprinter vans, Grech mini- buses and stretch Lincolns.

From humble beginnings to becoming a well-known Florida-based company, The Whites have never forgotten the importance of running a business in a way they could be proud of.

Veteran Advice

The Whites wouldn’t be where they are today if they hadn’t worked to gain as much knowledge as they could. Barbara suggests operators join their local and national associations because they are a great source of information that can help your business grow the right way.

If you’re newer to the industry, don’t be afraid to reach out to other companies for advice. “I took a position on the local association board which allowed me the opportunity to meet with entities in our industry who are decision makers. Having a mentor would have been great, but the local companies at the time were not quick to help us out. We made costly mistakes, but survived,” she says. She has personally mentored other companies both locally and outside Orlando so they did not have to go through a tough learning curve.

She’s learned to never say no to potential business, because if you do, you may miss an important opportunity. “You never say no; you give an option. If they need an ASAP and you can get a car on location in 30 minutes, tell them the truth. If you say no once, you’ll be lucky if they ever call you back; if you give an option, they will remember.”

Her pet peeve is operators and staff who don’t announce themselves and the name of their company when they answer the phone. “It’s surprising this is so lacking in the industry. It’s so important for both clients and affiliates to know who they are talking with. If they don’t answer at all, I will move to the next call because I’m looking for immediate gratification, much like clients are when they give you a call,” she says.

She also cautions operators to never just rely on one company to give you most of your business. You have to be able to survive if they move on. “Never try to take someone else’s business because it will come back to bite you and you’ll lose. Strive to create a business whose reputation will speak for itself. Don’t give up; work smarter and harder.”

Running Right

White says she was determined by the name her and her husband chose for the company to be a leader in the industry and do everything by the book. “We have always been very involved in the business and work side by side with our team on a daily basis; we are working owners with our finger on the pulse of our company at all times,” she says.

She counts building a brand that’s known in the industry for honesty, integrity, and reliability as their biggest success. She and her husband have also stepped outside the corporate market and built a second complimenting company called VIP Wedding Transportation.

“This company is now our third largest account for VIP, servicing over 800 weddings a year. We are considered by most other companies and industry vendors as the leader in providing wedding transportation throughout Central Florida,” she says.

In the future, she hopes to increase the company’s affiliate business and meetings and events segment. She’d also like to capture non-vehicle revenue like staffing for events and bus companies and luggage handling. “We’ve also just hired a full time sales person to help us focus on growing our business in the local market, which is something we’ve never done before,” she says.

“With all the changes in our industry, I think staying on top of what is happening and having a voice in decision making is so important. Stay true to your beliefs and maintain a great reputation in the industry, because you will get referrals when you have standards of excellence in the service you provide.”

Related Topics: central florida livery association, customer service, Florida operators, mentorship, operator profiles, Orlando, weddings, women in the industry

Lexi Tucker Associate Editor
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