Operations

Your Clients Are Your Greatest Teachers

Lexi Tucker
Posted on December 18, 2019

(L to R) Zulfi Abbasi and Afzal Iqbal, owners of American Executive Transportation

(L to R) Zulfi Abbasi and Afzal Iqbal, owners of American Executive Transportation

STERLING, Va. — Like most operators, Zulfi Abbasi and Afzal Iqbal, owners of American Executive Transportation, started their business with one thing in mind: To provide excellent service. Both had a background in hospitality and enjoyed taking care of the little details that made clients happy and comfortable. They started the company in September 1999 and have been delivering customers to their destinations safely for 20 years.

Let Clients Inspire You

The two first started driving on the evenings and weekends as independent operators, and soon discovered they enjoyed getting to meet new people. “We learned a lot from business professionals we’d give rides to. They helped us grow,” Abbasi says.

“It really just started as a side gig, but the executives we drove inspired us. We were both very young at the time, and our clients motivated us to become better,” Iqbal says.

“It’s like in our industry how your peers help each other. We received guidance from congressmen, cabinet members, and other professionals we chauffeured. It’s what made us decide to do this full time.”

Abbasi and Iqbal became good friends with their passengers, which helped them grow dramatically due to word-of-mouth recommendations to their client’s colleagues.

Adaptive Fleet

The two business partners at an LCT East Show in Atlantic City.

The two business partners at an LCT East Show in Atlantic City.

The company runs 26 vehicles, including a diverse mix of sedans, SUVs, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans, and minibuses that range from 26 to 42 passengers. They say they’ve seen a hefty increase in demand for luxury vans, but there are still a lot of business travelers who travel alone and prefer sedans.

“They are more economical, and the ride is still comfortable. We still have clients that say, ‘Do not upgrade me to an SUV.’ I think this stresses the importance of finding one standard sedan for the industry,” Abbasi says.

“DC is a town where everyone is cautious in what they are using,” Iqbal adds. “People are visiting Capitol Hill and the White House; they don’t want to be seen in a stretch limo, because it draws too much attention.”

The company’s book of business is 95% corporate, including government officials, law firms, and pharmaceutical companies. However, they also plan to get more involved with wineries in Virginia as well.

20 Years Of Lessons

There’s no denying the luxury ground transportation industry is a hard business. You work around the clock, but at some point, you must find a balance between business and family life. “We were single when we started, and now we have wives and kids. Over time, you get used to it and can manage both. But if you’re just starting out, you need to have a lot of energy and be willing to work 24/7. It’s a great, rewarding business if you do it right,” Abbasi says.

“A lot of people were very helpful when we started. We read industry publications and attend trade shows. It’s great when you meet people who, even if they have 100 cars, are willing to help guide you. We are always available to pay it forward because without those who helped us, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” Iqbal says.

The two had their limits tested during the economic crisis of 2008 when they realized they depended far too much on a single account that made up 40% of their business. The situation taught them the need to diversify, and it has kept them much more stable since.

“You must find any industry with a need for the service you deliver. It will help keep you secure. In addition, be sure to do your due diligence and research the services you use for your company. There are plenty of people who will take you for a ride if you don’t,” Iqbal warns.

Building Affiliate Bonds

Abbasi and Iqbal work hard and play hard for a well balanced business.

Abbasi and Iqbal work hard and play hard for a well balanced business.

Abbasi says building the company’s affiliate network and growing from a local company in Washington, D.C. to a business that can provide transportation nationwide are their biggest successes. “I believe no matter how big the company is, people trust us. When they think of DC, they know we are a major player and that we’ll do as good a job as they would,” Iqbal says.

In the future, Abbasi says they plan on growing to accommodate more groups and meeting planners, as well as adding larger vehicles like motorcoaches along with an and office that would allow for more parking space.

“We love our industry and limo family and want to build strength among us. United, we can fight so many other issues and stand against odds we are all facing.”

Related Topics: customer service, eNews Exclusive, industry education, Virginia operators, Washington DC, Washington DC operators

Lexi Tucker Senior Editor
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