Operations

Arizona Operator Goes From Gig To Good

Lexi Tucker
Posted on August 8, 2018

Johnny McBride, owner of Lux Rides
Johnny McBride, owner of Lux Rides
PHOENIX, Ariz. — Johnny McBride, owner of Lux Rides, got his start in the industry in an interesting way that proves the grass isn’t all that green on the TNC side.  He went from driving part-time to understanding the importance of legit, luxury service to set himself apart from your average gig economy worker.

Understanding The Difference

It’s becoming more common to hear stories of former Uber drivers who are fed up with the way the company handles things transitioning over to the light side of luxury transportation. When Uber came to Phoenix about five years ago, McBride was working as a sales and marketing rep with Net Transcripts, a company that provided transcription services for law enforcement and criminal justice agencies. He wanted to make some extra cash on the weekends, so he decided to give the TNC a try.

“Back then, they actually paid decent money, but were still in a very grey area in regards to regulation. I decided if I was going to be giving up my weekends, I should make the most of it and do it right,” he says. He had the opportunity to purchase an Escalade and do UberBlack instead. For this subsection of Uber, he had to carry his own commercial insurance and jump through several other hoops to be in compliance. “Essentially, I became a legitimate ground transportation company.”

The company's Tesla Model X has been very popular with clients.
The company's Tesla Model X has been very popular with clients.
He quickly hired someone to drive his vehicle during the week while he was at work, and another to drive at night. Shortly after, he bought a second SUV and hired a couple more drivers. “People we had driven on UberBlack started calling me directly for rides, and we started to grow our client base rapidly from there. Within a year, I had three SUVs, nine drivers, and a website with an online booking tool and a smartphone app.”

He ended up quitting his day job to focus 100% on Lux Rides almost three years ago, and has since grown his fleet to include five SUVs (including an all-electric Tesla Model X), a shuttle bus, and a party bus.

Staying Involved

McBride has been in the service industry almost all his life. His parents owned a bagel and espresso bar in northern California (before there was a Starbucks on every corner), and eventually sold it and moved to a tourist town in northern Mexico called Puerto Penasco, where they opened another restaurant.

He spent many years waiting tables, and eventually became a bartender. Later, he and his wife opened another restaurant, only to see the economy crash and heavily affect tourism in their area. When they moved to Phoenix, his perseverance led him to success—a skill that comes in handy in this industry.

“I feel these experiences have helped me tremendously in this industry. When you’re dealing face-to-face with customers, those skills transfer to when you’re on the phone taking reservations. You understand the clients have needs that must be met if you hope to have them come back.”

This Tesla is ready for take off.
This Tesla is ready for take off.
As the owner of the company, he tries his best to stay as involved as he can with the day-to-day operations, while still making time to spend with his family. Some form of work-life balance is essential to keep yourself grounded. “I try to answer the phone personally as much as possible, because clients love knowing they are talking to the owner and that we are a small, local operation.”

His advice to other operators who are just getting their start is to get out and meet your competition, either through your local luxury transportation association or at large national events like the International LCT Show.

“Having a local affiliate you can trust can not only be a source of revenue and insight, but can save you when you are in a pinch or overbooked. Steven and Sandi Dial at Your Personal Driver and Myron Mosley at Xavier Limo have been a great help to me.”

What The Future Holds

McBride’s most recent success was being secret shopped by a large operator that markets exclusively to the top 1%. “Needless to say, they are extremely selective in who they allow to represent them and out of five local companies, they picked us.”

In the future, he hopes to continue to expand the electric vehicle portion of his fleet. “Clients love our Tesla Model X and I love not having to fill it with gas.” The Tesla Supercharger network has been a tremendous selling point for him, and he’s excited to see the tech improve and other manufacturers up their game in the coming years.  

Related Topics: Arizona operators, customer service, green vehicles, LCTFast40, Millennials, small-fleet operators, Tesla, Tesla Model X, Uber

Lexi Tucker Associate Editor
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