Friday, September 18, 2020

trending 01This month, you are holding and reading a brand-new publication for the chauffeured ground transportation industry. While it is shepherded by familiar faces, it is unencumbered by past limitations and free to pursue a fresh direction for an industry that is historically averse to change. I’m happy to be part of the premiere issue.

This is just one change of many that our industry has seen in recent times, as many of the traditional lynchpins have fallen by the wayside—or are facing considerable upheaval. Few would recognize the chauffeured transportation industry of even five years ago, let alone 10, 15, or 20. For many, the most important asset to present-day success is a willingness to embrace the changing landscape, and reposition their businesses to succeed in the modern marketplace.

article-cover-story-cd-0213-1 Texas-based Frank Kent Cadillac is a one-stop shop that includes an on-site vehicle customization shop called Custom Koncepts. Cadillac is having a pretty amazing year. At the recent Detroit Auto Show—one of the largest in the nation—the ATS was named 2013 Car of the Year and the carmaker debuted the well-received ELR, a luxury electric vehicle based on the Volt.

In the professional vehicle arena, the long-anticipated XTS splashed onto the scene in mid-2012, and immediately people were buzzing about the sedan’s bolder yet softer styling and state-of-the-art technology. Like other vehicles in the Cadillac lineup, media haven’t been shy about their praise of the new large luxury sedan. Forbes listed it as one of the “Hottest Cars of 2013.” Motor Trend wrote that “livery drivers might not mind shuttling rowdy high school kids to the prom anymore.” In The New York Times, the reviewer called it “the Cadillac your livery driver has been dreaming of” and said “[the XTS] would soon colonize the curbside check-in areas of airports throughout the United States, supplanting the discontinued Lincoln Town Car as the country’s livery workhorse.”

article-johnny-greene-cd-0213-issue-1aAs someone who has played for over 30 years in the chauffeured ground transportation arena, it’s hard not to fully understand the impact that corporate travel managers have on our industry, or how the battle to stay on their radar has changed—even as their own world has changed.

Just so we are on the same page about who the players are, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) is the world’s premier business travel and meetings organization. Collectively, GBTA’s 5,000-plus members manage over $340 billion of global business travel and meetings expenditures annually. GBTA boasts a network of 17,000 business and government travel and meetings managers.

The economic downturn has allowed travel managers to take a front-and-center role within their companies and has made travel management, as a profession, an important part of every top executive’s strategic planning. In many cases, corporate travel managers (CTM) have been asked to lead companywide efforts to cut travel costs, track those savings, and report them back to senior management.

CTMs still works under two basic itineraries: getting their traveler from point A to point B with maximum cost control while collecting as much helpful data along the way, and making sure the actual travel experience—e.g., ease of booking and expense reporting—is handled seamlessly.

article-lenore-danzieri-rfp-cd-0213-2aOver the past 12 years, the way companies buy products and services has transformed into a complex and expensive process. As a result of the economic decline, corporate abuse (e.g., Enron and Tyco), and world events that had a direct effect on the global economy, rules and regulations were instituted to control the way the government and corporations spend money. No longer are products and services purchased on a handshake. No longer can a dinner out with a client determine the outcome of making the sale. No longer can we go baring gifts to our clients in the hopes of winning their business. Enter the world of the request for proposal, or RFP.

The RFP process has in and of itself transformed over the years, as it has moved from the responsibility of individual departments doing the buying, such as a managed travel department, into a procurement or strategic sourcing department. As a result of this migration, all products have been purchased using the same criteria, even though buying a service is completely different than buying bulk pencils. In other words, services like travel and ground transportation are now looked at and purchased as commodities, and the RFPs have become more tedious as they include information, some of which may be completely irrelevant to the services provided. Consequently, responding to RFPs has become an expensive exercise and one not to be taken lightly.