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Chicago Operator Grows With Strong Affiliate Connections

Lexi Tucker
Posted on March 18, 2020
Erik Malone, owner of Erik Malone Transport Inc.

Erik Malone, owner of Erik Malone Transport Inc.

CHICAGO — The luxury transportation industry consists mostly of operators with smaller fleets. Their attention to detail, knowledge of local areas, and ability to connect with clients personally also makes them highly qualified affiliates. A prime example can be found in Erik Malone, owner of Erik Malone Transport Inc. in Chicago, who started in the business by making a lasting impression on a chauffeur.

Flagged Down

For 20 years, he worked at a finance firm for the Chicago Board of Trade. When that company got bought out for the second time, they moved the department he worked in to New Jersey. Since he didn’t want to move, he joined the startup world helping people get theirs off the ground until he developed his own.

It was during this time he joined the ride-hail business to make some extra income. As he dropped one of his passengers off at an FBO, a chauffeur who had also taken a client there flagged him down.

“He said he liked how I dressed, interacted with the client, and how clean the car I drove was. He had been in business for 40 years and knew a good candidate for a chauffeur when he saw them. I took his card, talked to him about it, took the test a few months later, and became a chauffeur.”

As time went on, Malone decided to start his own company. He tested it out for six months with a leased vehicle to see if he could do it, and once it succeeded, he bought his own car and started Erik Malone Transport Inc.

“Back in the day, I had a large blue conversion van, and was always driving co-workers home from work, and friends to parties, restaurants, and events. Although I had never dreamed of becoming a chauffeur, it certainly came to feel like a natural fit.”

Wowing Clients

Malone runs a BMW 750i sedan and has a strong affiliate network that enables him to provide service with SUVs, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans, and buses. He mostly does corporate work, including airport transfers, but his favorite kind of runs are charters and roadshows.

“Roadshows are a hard segment to get into,” Malone said. “You must be quick on your feet and think all the time. When the client comes out of a meeting, you want to be right there for them, but in Chicago a lot of places where you drop them off there’s no parking. It takes a lot of planning and preemptive thinking.”

He advises operators wishing to pursue new revenue avenues to talk to as many mentors as possible, and don’t be afraid to ask many questions. “There are many good people in this industry who don’t mind offering advice. It’s easy when everyone is so approachable.”

Working Together

To develop relationships with clients and affiliates, it’s vital to be trustworthy, quality believes has won him business. “I think especially with affiliates from other cities, they really need to trust you before they give you their best clients. I once took care of a very demanding client of my affiliate’s, and he went back and told them ‘Erik was one of the best chauffeurs I’ve ever had.’ It’s moments like that that wow everyone involved.”

In the future, he plans to further develop a vast partner network. “Anywhere my clients are going, I want to have someone who runs a seamless operation waiting to take care of them.” Malone promises anyone who chooses his company can rest assured he will treat every client like a VIP. “It’s all about treating others how you’d want to be treated. Respect your affiliates just as you would a client.”

Related Topics: affiliate networks, Chicago operators, customer service, minority-owned businesses, road shows, small business, small-fleet operators

Lexi Tucker Senior Editor
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