It stands to reason serving both the red and blue political contingents should add up to green. If only it were that easy.
There are many different layers to the sales process, which means you have to carve out time to do things the right way. “This industry is overwhelming; so many operators wear the hat of detailer, mechanic, and chauffeur all wrapped into one. But you have to get out there and get your name in front of people,” she says.
When Parson first started at A Touch of Class, they didn’t have a brand new fleet; it was the service they provided that set them apart from their competitors. In order to tout that to prospective clients, she had to get people to recognize her and the brand.
“New vehicles are not the make or break—it’s making connections, even if you just spend one part of your day looking at LinkedIn to discover three people you want to work with and finding common connections who can do warm introductions,” she explains.
Parson originally came from the hotel industry and has a degree in hospitality and tourism. She was working as the regional director of sales for Hilton, but eventually got burned out from long hours and travel. After applying to some other positions, she got a call from Frank Pistone, owner of A Touch of Class.
“He said, ‘you don’t know me and didn’t apply here, but someone told me you were looking,’ and offered me a job,” says Parson. She’s now been with the company for four years and has contributed greatly to the growth of the business.
While she still works long hours, she finds herself enjoying the luxury transportation business more. She’s since brought on other staff members from the hotel industry as well.
“In that world, you’re either working for an independent owner or the corporate brand itself. Here you have more growth opportunities and can put a little more of yourself into what you do. There’s more face-to-face interaction and you have an input in the direction of the company; they trust me to help build and expand.”
A Touch of Class was founded in 1982…but it didn’t start the traditional way. When Pistone’s brother wrecked the family car, they went to a car lot to get a new one. He decided on a Cadillac limo. When they were out to eat one day, a woman from a bridal show came up to them and asked if they wanted to participate; everything fell into place after that.
Since Parson has joined the team, the company has experienced a growth of three times their annual revenue in the past three years. The business runs everything from sedans to motorcoaches, and is constantly purchasing new vehicles and hiring chauffeurs to keep up with demand.
Their motorcoaches are all Van Hools and their minicoaches and shuttles are custom built by LGE. “[Pistone] customized everything we had before he passed away. We are one of, if not the only, company in our area that has a 38 passenger coach with corporate style leather seats.”
A Touch of Class caters to corporate and retail clients alike, and also specializes in weddings and transportation to Cleveland Indians and Cavalier games.
Parson says none of the growth could have happened without Pistone, who passed away in July 2017. “I never realized how much work he did until he left us. We need seven people to replace what he did.” The company is now owned by his wife, Joyce.
The biggest impact he had on the team was his ability to believe in and empower his employees. “He didn’t know me from Adam, so to take the leap of faith he did is huge.”
Pistone wasn’t a micromanager, and for a good reason. Parson says you lose quality salespeople when you’re constantly breathing down their necks. “When I was working for the hotel, I had to send a daily email to management telling them what I did that day. I was spending 15 minutes writing that letter when I could have spent that time selling one more thing.”
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