Earn More Meeting and Event Business
BY PAT CHARLA AND JENNIFER WONG
Meetings and events, on the surface, seem simple from a transportation perspective. You have to get a group of people from point A to point B and back, right?
Not really. The absolute most demanding client that a chauffeured transportation company will deal with is the meeting or event planner. Providing services to this business sector is much like juggling; there are so many aspects to this type of transportation that are tricky and often difficult to manage. A single event generally requires many different types of services, usually delivered simultaneously. Point-to-point transfers, airport meet and greets, shuttle services between multiple hotels and meeting venues, etc. ... it’s not a secret that the demands on ground transportation professionals are many and that there is little room for mistakes.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that event transportation can be a very profitable niche if approached strategically. Handling this type of transportation requires much more than putting passengers in cars. To execute it properly, it requires experience, expertise, and a measured approach to managing each aspect of the program.
Q&A Paget Kirkland of Kirkland Event & Destination
BY SUSAN ROSE
Paget Kirkland is the president/owner of Kirkland Event & Destination Services, one of the busiest destination management companies in South Florida. She founded the company in 2006 in West Palm Beach, and the team specializes in events of all sizes, tours, and corporate team-building activities. Kirkland is also married to John Critchett, owner of Palm Beach Tours & Transportation, which is one of many transportation companies she works with. She is a member of Meeting Professionals International and is a Certified Woman Owned Business.
CD:How long have you been involved in the meeting planning industry?
PK:I started in St. Louis with The Ritz-Carlton in 1994. When I moved to Florida, I worked with a DMC until 2006 when I started my own company.
CD:How do you acquire new transportation provider partners and what is the process for vetting?
PK:We meet with them, and they tell us what is in their fleet and about their chauffeurs and [other staff]. We observe the way they are dressed, their meet and greet process, etc. In Miami it’s tough, so we have to make sure the chauffeurs can speak English well.
A Look Back—And Ahead—In a Tough Industry
BY JOHN GREENE
A chauffeur can sit in his car today and pretty much have at his fingertips everything he needs to know to assist him in getting the job done. The souped-up software on his smartphone tells where his next job is, and a high-tech dashboard GPS that looks like it was lifted from the bridge of the Starship Enterprise tells him how to get there. Even better, it tells him how to avoid all the detours, potholes, and obstructions that might prevent him from successfully completing his mission.
Twenty-five years ago I wished I possessed the tools to help me find the perfect route to success. When I launched my first company, CTS Limousine, in 1988, I had two cars, no chauffeurs, and a part-time job selling plumbing fixtures. My cell phone was the size of a loaf of bread and not very smart, and the idea of GPS in my car wasn’t even a blip on the technological radar. At that time, the only female voice emanating from my dashboard was Cyndi Lauper telling me that girls just wanna have fun. If a Rand McNally road map couldn’t get me to my next pickup or around construction, I was out of luck. And so was the client.
Acton & SoCal Penske Showcase Variety of Vehicles
SINCE THE EARLY ’90s, ACTON FLEET SALES (AFS) has been known as the largest provider of Lincoln Town Car chassis for coachbuilders as well as for always carrying an extensive inventory of livery vehicles. Bill Cunningham, general manager of Acton Fleet Sales, and Coleman Hoyt, owner of the former Acton Lincoln Mercury, built a solid reputation over two decades through honesty, integrity, and overall industry support.
In 2011, Cunningham and Hoyt were presented with a series of unique challenges: The legacy Lincoln Town Car was entering its final months of production, the Mercury brand had been discontinued, and Ford was considering terminating the Acton (Mass.) Lincoln dealership to consolidate its national sales footprint (despite the fact that Acton had sold more Town Cars to fleet buyers than any other dealer in the country, according to Hoyt.)
Hoyt decided to surrender his Lincoln franchise and revise his retail dealership to carry Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and RAM. This was a game-changing moment for operators who had relied on Acton Lincoln Mercury and AFS for a consistent supply of commercial fleet vehicles. The field for the Town Car replacement was wide open, and this gave AFS the opportunity to expand its offerings beyond Lincoln. In 2012 with approval from Ford Motor Company, AFS formed a relationship with Sentry Auto Group of Boston to continue to offering Lincoln products, according to Hoyt. Chrysler’s commercial fleet department took notice of Acton’s national presence soon thereafter and sought Acton’s advice in developing a Chrysler 300 livery sedan. That same year, the AFS brand expansion included a new partnership with SoCal Penske Professional Vehicles (SCP) in Cerritos, California, a subsidiary of the SoCal Penkse Auto Group that is owned and managed by Philip Hartz, president. Hartz is a veteran employee of both Ford and GM, and a longtime friend and business colleague of Hoyt.