Operations

Single-Mom-Turned-Operator Takes City By Storm

Lexi Tucker
Posted on June 20, 2018

Pearl Palko, CEO of Paramount Limousine Services
Pearl Palko, CEO of Paramount Limousine Services
CALGARY, Canada — Raising two children as a single mom is something only people who have been through can understand. It takes a strong, ambitious person to be able to do whatever it takes to give them the best life possible.

Pearl Palko, CEO of Paramount Limousine Services, started chauffeuring limousines to supplement her income from her school bus driving day job and instantly fell in love with the atmosphere, service levels, and clients.

Rough Start, Happy Ending

After discovering she was earning much more as a chauffeur, the part-time stay-at-home mother with two small kids decided to fully transition away from school buses. It turned out chauffeuring provided a great way for her to get out of house, make good money, and be with other adults. She drove mostly retail, so it was definitely the fun side of clientele.

Unfortunately, she was let go from her original company because of an incident where the dispatcher didn’t tell her she was to collect a group going to a nightclub. Her former boss told her she would have it deducted off her next check. When she protested this illegal practice, he told her she was fired.

“I was devastated because I one of their best drivers, having driven larger equipment than most,” she says. “A lot of the time I drove stretch SUVs, which was downsizing from a 72 passenger school bus.”

After losing her only source of income, she met with a close affiliate selling an eight- passenger Lincoln Town Car and started racking up her own clients. The more people she drove, the more they spread the word about her passion and exuberance for the industry. “Good affiliates kept giving me more work, and I built everything from the ground up through word of mouth. I also taught myself how to make the most of Google AdWords.”

Lessons Learned Along The Way

Palko is a firm proponent of keeping your staff accountable for their responsibilities in a way that doesn’t feel like micromanagement. She calls her chauffeurs to check up on them, but tries to make it sound like a conversation rather than a command. She believes she gets the most out of her people when they see her driving and washing cars just like they do. “I don’t just take the easy stuff; I do early morning and late night runs, too.”

Ryan Jaworski, general manager, has been a full-time employee since 2014, but has been with Paramount Limousine Services since 2011.
Ryan Jaworski, general manager, has been a full-time employee since 2014, but has been with Paramount Limousine Services since 2011.
She has some smart advice for dealing with affiliates as well. “Ensure payment with new affiliates with a credit card on file and always pre-authorize before you do the trip. Otherwise, you’re going to waste your valuable time trying to collect. I’ve been stung too many times and have to keep phoning them. Sooner or later, guilt catches up with them. Don’t be afraid to do verbal confirmations with affiliates and call their chauffeur to ensure they have the trip and will be on time.”

When you become closer to an affiliate, be sure to reach out to them for new strategies. “The only dumb question is the one you didn’t ask,” she says. “Develop and trust your gut instinct and you’ll know what advice is the right one to take.”

Small Operator Making Big Strides

The company’s fleet consists of six vehicles, including a Cadillac DTS sedan, a GMC Yukon XL SUV, a Lincoln Town Car stretch, a Ford Expedition SUV stretch, and a Ford Transit. She first started with mainly stretches as most of her work was retail, but in 2012 she acquired one large corporate account with Global Alliance Worldwide Chauffeured Services in Toronto which discovered her at the International LCT Show.

Both companies attended the Music Express gathering of affiliates where a mic was passed around, and the rest is history. Paramount is mostly corporate based now.

Palko’s biggest success has been helping Global with 110 trips in two days in 2016 for the Juno Awards, the Canadian equivalent of the Grammys. She also attended four different Limo University Boot Camps in Nashville in 2017. Her company has driven Chris Christie (former Governor of New Jersey) and she personally chauffeured David Thomson, CEO and president of The Woodbridge Company (a major shareholder of The Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper).

“I’ve met a ton of affiliates and learned how to network over the years. You have to call people and contact them on social media. Find out who’s going to be at different industry events and schedule a time to meet up with them. When people meet you in person, they realize you’re genuine. It’s different when you talk on the phone because you can hide things.”

Related Topics: Canadian Operators, customer service, operator profiles, small business, small-fleet operators, WebXclusive, women in the industry

Lexi Tucker Associate Editor
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