Operations

Los Angeles Operator Invests In Chauffeurs, Staff

Lexi Tucker
Posted on May 1, 2019

(L to R) Reza Ghassemi, COO; Brian Monselle, accounting-billing; Tiffany Robinson, production coordinator and admin to GM; Morgen Crosby, VIP desk coordinator; Bob Crosby, KLS mascot; Samira Ghaffari, CFO; Terry Schwab, VP of sales and marketing; Rodger Tamashiro, affiliate director; Noune Bagdasarian, GM and logistics director; and Alex Darbahani, CEO/founder (All photos: Lexi Tucker, LCT senior editor)

(L to R) Reza Ghassemi, COO; Brian Monselle, accounting-billing; Tiffany Robinson, production coordinator and admin to GM; Morgen Crosby, VIP desk coordinator; Bob Crosby, KLS mascot; Samira Ghaffari, CFO; Terry Schwab, VP of sales and marketing; Rodger Tamashiro, affiliate director; Noune Bagdasarian, GM and logistics director; and Alex Darbahani, CEO/founder (All photos: Lexi Tucker, LCT senior editor)

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — While all luxury transportation operators strive to satisfy their clients, they can find long-term success by taking care of their staffs first.

Alex Darbahani, owner of KLS Worldwide Chauffeurs Services in Los Angeles, has created an environment where he can trust his employees with running the business, enabling him to pursue new avenues of revenue.

A trip to his Los Angeles headquarters shows how a calm, collected work area allows his crew to focus on providing the best service.

All About Teamwork

Investing in your staff is how you grow as a company, Darbahani says. “They shouldn’t be afraid to walk over to you and say, ‘Hey I need help.’ Don’t put everything on one person; it doesn’t matter how good they are, they’ll eventually get burned out.” This includes his chauffeurs. To help ease their burden and help them follow KLS standards such as an impeccable dress code, he pays for their dry cleaning and keeps a shoe shiner machine in the office for their use.

“I train people and put tools in their hands,” he says. “I don’t butt into their business or step on them when they are working. Don’t think because you’re the owner you know everything. Give them a chance to make their own mistakes. Word things like ‘I think if we do things this way, it will go smoother. What do you think?’”

The KLS office, located in sunny so-cal.

The KLS office, located in sunny so-cal.

Everyone has black cars and people who can drive. Times have changed. “People want more than that. They want good service, consistency, and convenience.” To help chauffeurs grow, the company has implemented a rating system. If a chauffeur gets a low rating, the goal isn’t to punish them. Darbahani says the team will follow up with the client, find out what went wrong, and help guide the chauffeur to improve. It should be noted this occurrence is rare.

KLS actually wins accounts solely based on the image those chauffeurs present while they are out working. “None of my cars have my company name on them. I don’t need to use my name to sell my service. If people are interested, they will find you.” He won an account transporting the crew of the Showtime TV series Shameless because one of the people working on the show followed a KLS Sprinter and asked for a card from the chauffeur.

“When I asked the reason why, he said the chauffeur was sharply dressed and helped the passenger use a step to get into a clean vehicle.” To those in Hollywood, image is everything. 

Following with clients is vital, and a practice most TNCs don’t do very well. The company has an incident resolution department that caters to situations where a client is unhappy. In a time where clients want demands done yesterday, fast turnaround is necessary. Darbahani will often send an email to the client or affiliate apologizing for any mistake. “Many are surprised the owner of the company cares enough to make amends themselves.”

Branching Out

Darbahani started KLS in 1996 after working for a company in West Hollywood owned by producer Benny Medina. He began his journey with two cars and his first job was working Jennifer Lopez’ first wedding. At the time, he didn’t have corporate clients, but had connections to many of the studios in the area. 80% of his clients were celebrities like Christina Aguilera, Will Smith, and Tyra Banks.

The company is truly worldwide, and coordinates events through their DMC company Seamless Logistics.

The company is truly worldwide, and coordinates events through their DMC company Seamless Logistics.

However, he soon realized the entertainment crowd alone wouldn’t pay the bills. He wanted to stand out among other business owners in the same sector, so he took classes and went to seminars that weren’t just focused on car service.

“I wanted to learn how big banks and Fortune 500 companies ran their businesses, so I went to night school to learn how to grow. It was in these classes I learned every company should have a business plan, an exit plan, and proper budgeting practices.”

Since those days, KLS has grown by wide margins, and even added a DMC department to the company called Seamless Logistics. Led by general manager and event logistics Director Noune Bagdasarian, they aim to help clients save money and eliminate the worry that comes with coordinating group travel. Chauffeurs are trained to handle scenarios like lost luggage or passports which helps the company stand out among other DMCs.

Advice For Growth

As many operators have experienced, Darbahani has employed a few chauffeurs who decided to try and make it on their own. He never harbors any ill will, and often uses their services as affiliates.

“The problem is they don’t plan their exit properly. They may have one or two clients and then go out and buy the most expensive Suburban. Is the client going to pay you more for heated and cooled seats? Good ideas don’t mean anything if you don’t have a strong grasp on your financials.”

Darbahani has also won an LCT Operator of the Year award, seen here below recognition from the mayor of Los Angeles.

Darbahani has also won an LCT Operator of the Year award, seen here below recognition from the mayor of Los Angeles.

He also warns not to promise people service you can’t handle when you are small. “It’s not just about winning accounts; it’s about having the manpower to handle them properly. If a company calls you 60 times a day or emails you 100 times a day, how fast will you be able to respond? Only take what you can eat, because if you take too big a bite, you’re going to choke yourself.”

Chauffeurs hoping to make bank need to remember there are many aspects of the business they don’t see while they are driving. If you’ve never been a business owner, you don’t know the costs of running one.

“Some will come back to me and say ‘When I worked for you, I was making more money.’ Well, that’s because you weren’t the one making the car payments, paying taxes, and taking care of maintenance costs.”

Seek The Untapped

Darbahani believes strongly in using the latest tech to keep vehicles and chauffeurs safe. This key box is one way he knows what chauffeur has what vehicle out for the day.

Darbahani believes strongly in using the latest tech to keep vehicles and chauffeurs safe. This key box is one way he knows what chauffeur has what vehicle out for the day.

If you have one client that’s over 45% of your business, you’re working on thin ice. If the person you have a relationship with leaves or passes away, you’ll be left in a tought spot. That’s why you should build your own accounts. It’s vital for owners to take the time to go out and sell themselves by being involved with their clients, community, and even their kids’ school.

After 9/11, business stalled for Darbahani. Instead of sitting around waiting for clients to find him, he started analyzing underserved areas of the market. He talked to senior homes and took residents to haircuts and doctor appointments. He spoke to churches and synagogues, and even ophthalmologists who did lasik eye surgeries. Patients are not allowed to drive to and from their own appointment, so people needed a way to get there.

“This is why I’m never in the office; I’m out looking for new avenues of business.”

Keeping vehicles clean and well maintained is how Darbahani has grown such a prestigious company.

Keeping vehicles clean and well maintained is how Darbahani has grown such a prestigious company.

He’s also found educating people gets you more business. “I have a journalist who creates a newsletter every month that gets sent to our clients. It’s not about KLS — it’s about travel, hot destinations, and the hottest luggage of the season. It comes from us, so it helps establish us as a reliable source of information. They see a bigger picture, not just a car service.”

Darbahani advises no matter what the challenges, always stay humble and don’t trash your competitors. “Don’t tell prospective clients ‘I’m the best.’ Try to sell yourself as a service provider. Don’t talk bad about other companies, because clients don’t like it. Say, ‘They have good service and are a great company, but we run differently.’”

Related Topics: Alex Darbahani, business management, California operators, celebrities, corporate travel, customer service, employee management, fleet management, KLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services, logistics, Los Angeles, Los Angeles operators, meetings and conventions, staff management

Lexi Tucker Senior Editor
Comments ( 1 )
  • Anthony

     | about 20 days ago

    Great article.... being out of los angeles i can say KLS is a true corporate transportation company

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