When you know how to gather data on each client, you’ll be able to provide genuine unique custom experiences.
Unable to transmit the tone of how something is said, messages often can be confused or taken the wrong way. As technology eases doing business, it’s also slowly removing the personal touch so many operators use as their claim to fame.
Meryl Kelso, owner of Dash Limousine and Sedan Service, tries to be original, transparent, and humorous when connecting with clients. Her honesty and fun keep them coming back every time.
Kelso operates sedans and SUVs with a focus on Board of Director meetings and Executive Retreats. Through her partner network she is able to accommodate groups." If an affiliate requests a vehicle she doesn’t have, she will refer them to a local company that does. “I believe this is a more transparent way to handle the situation with integrity,” she says.
Over the years, she’s surrounded herself with people who know the industry. “Don’t try to do everything yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask for help,” she says. Go to networking events and find a mentor or two or three who can assist you in areas you may not know about. “Also be sure you understand the legal requirements in your state.”
“No one should be dismissed by another operator solely based on their gender, ethnicity, or size of their fleet. At the end of the day, we all work hard to provide the best service possible for our clients.”
Kelso has wanted to drive since the age of 5. She discovered this during a family trip to the Children's Fairyland amusement park when her 11-year-old sister got to “drive” one of the attraction’s cars instead of her. “I could identify every car on the road by the time I was eight, and learned to drive a stick shift when I got my license,” she says.
At 18, she decided to move from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco, and drove cross-country by herself. She started a career as a Teamster delivery truck driver in her early 20s.
Bored with the Teamster life, she then moved to Paris, because she thought living there and learning the language would be a great challenge. After a year and half, she came back to the U.S. fluent in French, but with no money, home, car, or job, and decided she’d become a taxi driver. She ended up marrying one of her fares, and raised a family for several years.
After she and her husband divorced, she went to work as a chauffeur. She discovered this was the role that fit her like a glove, and three months later, she started Dash. “At the time, I didn’t know anything about building a client base or running a business. It was terrifying and thrilling at the same time.”
Thirteen years later, Kelso and her company have made it through the economic downturn of 2008 and operating in the “belly of the beast” — San Francisco is the home of Uber and Lyft, after all. “We took an enormous hit, but we’re still here. I’ve landed most of my big accounts through word of mouth, and value my relationships with my clients.”
She now focuses on developing her network of international affiliates, and enjoys working with people around the globe. Being a world traveler, she lives vicariously through her dealings with international partners.
If she could impart one piece of knowledge to readers, it would be, “It’s often true smaller companies offer a more personalized service — don’t write them off.”
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