New York Operator Thrives In Tough Market

Lexi Tucker
Posted on June 26, 2019
Zak Zakar, president of CMS Limo Inc.

Zak Zakar, president of CMS Limo Inc.

EAST ELMHURST, N.Y. — When Zak Zakar, president of CMS Limo Inc., came to the U.S. from Morocco at the age of 18, he knew he wanted to own his own business.

At 22, he opened a Subway sandwich shop with a few friends, eventually sold it off, and then worked in the restaurant business as a bartender. From there, he started driving as an independent operator, and eventually partnered up to start his own luxury transportation company.

A Common Vision

Seven years ago, Zakar started with one car, and then met partner Sam Elalami. They teamed up and got their first contract with a hotel with just two cars. As word spread, they landed more accounts. They agreed the most important standard was to never sacrifice quality of service for more runs.

“We consider ourselves a boutique operation. By staying focused on our level of service and being involved in every aspect of the business from billing to dispatch and everything in between, we believe it’s important to never lose sight of how we were when we started,” he says.

A detail oriented business owner, Zakar believes staying focused on matters that others neglect while growing has helped them maintain their standards. In addition to marketing, an operator must keep an eye on the daily operations that will help sell your company by word of mouth. Being flexible and working with clients and affiliates every step of the way has helped, Zakar says.

“Everyone has direct access to me and Sam instead of having to call the office and go through phone trees to try and reach us. They can call or text. In this business, you can’t be hands off. It’s how many fail. You have to pay attention; you can’t put yourself on autopilot because you’ll lose quality.”

Staying Competitive

The company runs 14 vehicles, which include a mix of sedans, SUVs, and vans. Zakar hesitates taking on motocoaches because of the red tape and regulations in New York. However, he believes the market is shifting that way, so they’ll have to adjust accordingly.

“It’s part of managing a business properly. It’s not just for me and Sam to feed our families; I have a responsibility to my chauffeurs as well. Some have been with me since I started the operation. They depend on me for a paycheck, and I have to do my best to keep the business running. I make sure they are paid before I am.”

Some of the biggest issues he has faced operating in such a competitive area are operators cutting prices he can’t compete with (which only hurts those who think it will help them gain an edge), increasing operating costs like insurance, and finding qualified chauffeurs. “You can find drivers anywhere, but finding a chauffeur who can represent the value of the company is hard.”

Maintaining Momentum

The success of Zakar’s company is proof hard work pays off. “I know many colleagues who started at the same size as us, but they lost quality. You have to try to maintain and better yourself throughout the years. You can’t just coast; you have to innovate because you are only as good as your last run.”

In the future, he hopes to keep his level while adding to the many regular clients who’ve been with from the beginning. “It gives a great sense of achievement to everything we’ve built.”

He also hopes to acquire larger vehicles because of their revenue potential. “I don’t want the headache, but we have to adapt and be ahead of the curve.” He is also looking to acquire other companies as well.

Related Topics: customer service, eNews Exclusive, hiring chauffeurs, New York, New York operators, staying competitive

Lexi Tucker Senior Editor
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