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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Carey Fieldhouse, president and owner of R&R Limousine, recently became the new owner of a 3.5-acre plot for her company’s new headquarters that will be finished this year.
She endured a lengthy process, but gained some lessons that could help other operators who look for the best possible company locations.
R&R’s previous headquarters was located east of Louisville International Airport for the last 12 years. Fieldhouse knew her lease would expire, and started looking for a new space to either build or buy a building to retrofit four years in advance. Unbeknownst to her, the commercial real estate market in Louisville when she looked around was proving more difficult than expected.
She had contracts in four different places, but they all fell through for one reason or another, due to structural issues or problems with the soil. In some instances, properties she eyed that had been on the market with no movement ended up in sudden bidding wars. When her lease finally expired, the other tenants in the office park wanted the 10,000 sq. ft. garage she was using for her vehicles, so she searched for a short-term lease space.
They settled into a two-story building on Crittenden Drive in Louisville, which was close to the original headquarters and bought them some time while they decided what they wanted to do. The temporary space they moved into actually resembled the building she had designed for the new headquarters — which turned into a blessing.
“After working in this building that was close to what we had originally planned, we learned it wasn’t actually ideal at all. We had way too much space devoted to certain things and not enough for others. It turned into a learning experience, and now we are in the process of creating the perfect building in the perfect spot.”
Instead of two stories, she opted for one with different sections divided by type of employee group. Those who take reservations and dispatch will have one large space with nice cubicles, which she believes will promote better communication.
“We’re very tech forward and use instant messaging and Microsoft Teams, but there is no substitute for being able to walk three feet over to a physical desk and ask for someone’s opinion on something.” She also believes this will help attract and retain talent.
A modern lobby will impress the numerous existing and potential clients who stop by to visit. “Believe it or not, a lot of our corporate accounts want to come out and see who we are and how we function. It’ll be much more inviting and functional for those kinds of events in the future,” she says.
The company’s old location had a large chauffeur lounge connected to the main building. It fostered many strong friendships and collegial bonding.
“Everyone had a lot of interaction, and when we moved to the temporary space, some of these relationships had weakened; we all noticed it,” Fieldhouse says. This will be rectified with the new building, which will include a lounge area, gym, full kitchen, flat screen TV, and ping pong table. “We think it’ll be a great way to get people up and out of their desks. It’ll add to morale and come through to our clients in the way our staff interacts with them.”
The new office will be visible from a highly traveled road, which is also great for marketing.
If you plan to move into new building or retrofit an older one, be sure to find space that resembles what you’re envisioning and try to run your operation from there.
Or go visit another operator who uses a structure similar to the one you seek. “I never would have dreamed our original concept was so off the mark,” she says. The building she’s having constructed closely resembles the innovative headquarters of RMA Worldwide near Washington, D.C.
Also, never set your loan closing to the end of a quarter or year. “It’s too frantic and makes you feel like you are up against a wall. You have to find the best agent you can to work with. We used one recommended to us by our bank. He guided us through all the hoops, and we couldn’t have done it without him.”
To determine the best location for the new headquarters, Fieldhouse used data mined from her Livery Coach reservation software to identify their most frequent pick-up and drop-off locations. She knew this would help her continue to serve her clients while also providing room to grow in the triangular-shaped region she had mapped out.
With a fleet of 40 vehicles, she has to keep them moving and making money. The company runs sedans, SUVs, Ford Transits, Mercedes-Benz Sprinters, a luxury motorcoach, and a few minibuses and limo buses. The region is famous for its bourbon tourism, and, oddly enough, many of those clients still want to be driven around in a stretch limousine. “We only have four, but I thought we would have zero by now,” she says.
When asked whether or not she plans to create satellite locations, she says other large markets aren’t all that far away, so there’s no need. “We’re fairly close to Nashville, right on top of Cincinnati, close to Indianapolis, and not too awfully far from St. Louis. Louisville is so central, so we want to focus on the business to be had where we are at.”
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