Sunday, May 26, 2019

 CD Executive Retreat Austin, Texas—From May 5-8, 175 of the biggest stars in our industry ventured deep in the heart of Texas for Chauffeur Driven’s fifth annual Executive Retreat at the Omni Downtown Hotel. The laid-back and wonderfully weird atmosphere of Texas’ capital won over our attendees, whether they were first-timers or veterans of our retreats. We are so grateful to all of our generous sponsors—especially Platinum Sponsors Grech Motors and Ford-Lincoln Limousine and Livery Vehicles—for making this another unforgettable retreat in the Live Music Capital of the World.

“I just wanted to say what a lovely time I had in Austin. For my first ever show, and first time ever being in the industry, you guys certainly surpassed my expectations by a long shot! I had such a great time at all the scheduled events, learned so much at the informative meetings, and made so many fabulous connections and new friends as well,” said Meredith Pless of American Executive Transportation

We kicked off our first official night in town with a Cinco De Mayo bash at Maggie Mae’s on Austin’s legendary Sixth Street. The open-air balcony and cool vibe of the Gibson room offered our attendees a perfect environment for networking and fun at this legendary venue. While a band provided a swinging soundtrack to the night, our guests noshed on tacos (an Austin dietary staple) and sipped on cold margaritas and cervezas. We can’t think of a better way to get the Retreat rocking’-and-rollin’.

Education is a cornerstone of our events, and we once again brought a range of timely, relevant information to the schedule—thanks to the CD Education Committee spearheaded by Chair Jason Sharenow of Broadway Elite Worldwide. Matt Assolin of Nikko's Worldwide Chauffeured Services, Alan Candeub of Park Avenue Limousine, Kim J. Dolniak of Best Transportation, Colin Devine of Devine’s Worldwide, Sami Elotmani of Destination MCO, Robyn Goldenberg of Strategy Leaders, Tony Simon of Reston Limousine, and Scott Woodruff of Majestic Limo & Coach round out the hardworking committee.

CD Executive Retreat - Austin Before our first session on Monday, we offered an exclusive Q&A between CD Publisher Chris Weiss, NLA President Gary Buffo of Pure Luxury Transportation, and Moderator Jason Sharenow, which provided insight into the new partnership between the two industry bodies. The conversation provided a detailed analysis of the new alliance, including what led up to it, how it came to be, and what it means for the industry at large in the future.

Following the Q&A, our education began with Lead Smarter By Letting Go, a session from presenters Dean and Jolynda that offered ways to help owner/operators work in a more deliberate manner about where they spend your time and energy. Through their fast-paced and entertaining banter, the Deans opened the eyes of the operators in attendance that letting go of some day-to-day tasks is not only beneficial but also possible.

Thank you again to our generous sponsors!

Platinum
Grech Motors
Ford-Lincoln Limousine and Livery Vehicles

Gold
ABC Companies
Alternative Claims Management
Book.limo
Chosen Payments
Complete Fleet Livery Sales
Create-A-Card
Dedicated Funding
First Class Customs
Lancer Insurance
Livery Coach
MCI
Samsara

Affiliate
Black Tie Transportation Worldwide
EcoStyle Chauffeured Transportation
Exclusive Sedan Service
Gateway Global
LaCosta Limousine
Icona Global
North Point Transportation Group
Overland Chauffeured Services
Premier Transportation Worldwide
Prestige Worldwide Transportation
Signature Livery New Orleans
VIP Global

After lunch on Monday afternoon, we welcomed Dr. Jennifer Beer of the University of Texas, whose seminar, Reading the Signs to Be a Better Negotiator, revealed the verbal and nonverbal cues to read (and ignore) when trying to close a deal. What people say and what people actually mean are two vastly different things. To differentiate these concepts, Dr. Beer gave our industry professionals tips based in psychology that will allow them to better understand exactly what is going on in the head of your sales prospects, employees, or peers.

After our Monday education came to a close, our attendees headed to Austin’s Rainey Street—a neighborhood whose small homes have all be converted into bars and eateries—for an evening that can only be described as UnBARlievable. In fact, the circus-themed UnBARlievable was our host property for our nighttime networking event, which also offered mountains of brisket, ribs, chicken, sausage, and sides from the legendary Stubb’s BBQ. Special thanks to CTA Worldwide, Nikko’s Worldwide, and AJL International for providing Grech buses to the venue. “I make it a point to attend every CD Executive Retreat for the networking and great events planned in each city. The event is always well planned and an absolute joy,” says Tamekius Breland of Certified Chauffeured Transportation.

 CD Executive Retreat Our second day of education was devoted to the hot-button topic of Mergers and Acquisitions. An all-star panel of experts with recent experience in M&A shared their expertise in a pair of panels spearheaded by business consultant Andi Gray of Strategy Leaders and moderated by Jason Sharenow. In Part #1: Getting Prepared for the Deal, George Jacobs of Windy City Limousine & Bus and Michael Basso of Leros/Royal Coachman shared their personal experiences with M&A, which gave operators real-world examples of the complete process. And frankly, some of their stories had to be heard to be believed.

In Part #2: The Nuts & Bolts of Making It Happen, we welcomed legal experts Drew Morris of Nachmias Morris & Alt and Marlene Bartolo of the Bartolo Law Group for a deep dive into valuating your business and the most common obstacles many face during a buy-out. To put it mildly, the buyout process can be plagued by any number of legal hurdles, so this sharp-as-a-tack discuss gave attendees useful insight to avoid getting stuck in a bad deal.

Then on Tuesday afternoon, we offered up our first Bonus Roundtable Session—Making Your Expenses Work for You—in which operators shared a wide array of tips and resources that they use to make their existing rewards and perks save them cash. The packed house featured lively and loose conversation among fellow operators from markets all over the world.

“The Executive Retreat is always a great time. It’s a smaller, more relaxed event than the big shows, which provides you with a lot more quality time with other operators,” says John Oulton of Richmond Limousine.

 CD Executive Retreat Despite the imposing storm clouds that covered much of Texas, on Wednesday morning, our attendees took part in a tour of Austin that gave our attendees a firsthand look of the city’s famed weirdness. Thanks to transportation providers CTA Worldwide and AJL International, as well as Elegant Limousine & Charter who provided breakfast tacos and beverages, guests got to see incredible landmarks like the State Capitol building, the Governor’s Mansion, and Texas State History Museum, as well as ATX hotspots like Rainey Street, Willie Nelson Blvd., and the iconic music venue Austin City Limits. Our tour concluded at The Picnic, a nationally recognized food truck bonanza that offers everything from basic tacos to imaginative takes on international cuisine.

We’ll have a full retreat recap—including tons of photos!—in our June issue of the magazine, so stay tuned. In the meantime, start planning ahead for next year when the CD Executive Retreat returns to Music City, U.S.A—Nashville, Tenn.—from June 14-16, 2020. In the meantime, videos of the sessions and an extensive photo gallery will soon be posted on Cdmediavault.com

Next up: The 2019 Chauffeur Driven Show will head to the fabulous Westin Boston Waterfront this October 13-16—which will be here before you know it. Head on over to chauffeurdrivenshow.com for all the details as they’re finalized.

“Thanks again to the Chauffeur Driven team—they always know how to put on a great event with the perfect mix of business and pleasure,” says Gold Sponsor Jaffet Juan of Dedicated Funding. “I always look forward to their events and I can't wait for next year. Nashville here we come.”

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OLOA Convenes for Annual BrunchMuch like last year’s Annual Woodbine Brunch, this year’s event brought together OLOA members for an afternoon of camaraderie and conversation Ontario—For the 12th consecutive year, the Ontario Limousine Owners Association (OLOA) celebrated and thanked its members with an annual brunch at Toronto’s Woodbine Racetrack. Fifty attendees made the May 5 outing another successful one.

The yearly event allows the OLOA membership to spend a day eschewing business and simply enjoying each other’s company—as well as digging into some great food and playing the odds in the hopes of bringing home some extra winnings.

“A great brunch was provided for our members as a thank-you for their support,” explains OLOA Treasurer Phil Bozzelli of Corporate Livery Toronto. “Betting on the horses and catching up with other members at this social event is a common scene.”

The OLOA will be holding its general membership later this year.

Visit oloa.ca for more information.

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Gary Buffo NLA President Gary Buffo Washington, D.C.—When the National Limousine Association (NLA) heads to the capital this June 5-6, the industry will come together for the association’s annual lobbying event, Day on the Hill.

The annual show of unity among operators and vendors alike is gives the industry a chance to speak to elected officials and combat the far-flung saturation and aggressive reach that TNCs’ deeper pockets have afforded them. Cornerstone Government Affairs, NLA’s longtime lobbying firm, organizes meetings for each participant with legislators or legislative staff from their state and prepares advocates to deliver a consistent, professional message that cuts through the talking points TNC’s like Uber and Lyft are pitching.

“TNCs spend 10 to 20 times more annually on lobbying than we do,” said NLA President Gary Buffo of Pure Luxury Transportation, who is beginning his seventh term. “We have one lobbying firm; they could have 10 lobbying firms in D.C. on a daily basis knocking on doors and delivering a message that’s maybe not 100-percent accurate to lawmakers, to the same people we’re delivering our message to, who are often the staff members of our elected officials—and they’re the customers of the company that’s lobbying against us. Those staffers don’t want to give up their $6 TNC rides.”

Changing TNC customers’ minds is just one challenge this industry faces when walking the halls of Congress — but Buffo emphasized that the bumps in the road are reasons for the industry to dig in and refuse to back down in the fight for passenger safety, regulatory reform, a level playing field, and the drivers who are taken advantage of by TNCs’ lofty promises and shady employment practices.

“It’s been a very difficult and treacherous ride, but it doesn’t mean that we stop now: It means that we come back with even a bigger punch, and that’s why Day on the Hill is THE most important day every single year for our industry,” Buffo said.

Day on the Hill has long been a platform for NLA members to be at the decision-making ground level. The past few years’ focus and various messages, however, have seen the industry square off against a far-reaching powerhouse that Buffo said might have money and power on its side, but this industry has one asset that its operators understand the strength of all too well: relationships.

“I think people in our industry need to continuously educate themselves on how important it is for their voice to be heard by their congressmen, by their senators, either through their staff or with them personally, because when you build those relationships, they never, ever want to see an industry go away,” he explained. “We have to combat the comparatively little amount that we spend every year by being more involved as individual business owners because the constituents are who they listen to.”

And it’s Buffo’s hope that each of the 50 states will have a company represented at this year’s Day on the Hill, as meetings can only be organized for the legislative official representing a company’s state.

“One of our biggest goals is to have a voice for each state,” said Buffo. “So if we don’t have a member show up from North Dakota, then we won’t have a voice in North Dakota because they will only listen to their constituents—our lobbyist can go and talk to those people but when it’s followed up by an actual constituent, it makes our message mean that much more.”

NLA While the lobbying event’s boots-on-the-ground legislator meetings ultimately account for one business day’s worth of time investment, the first day of the event prepares the industry’s representatives with a host of educational sessions. In the past, presentations help attendees contextualize their message with legislative snapshots of the current political landscape while also giving them tips on how to position their speaking points in ways that most resonate with government decision-makers. In previous years, guest speakers like elected officials, sympathetic journalists, and panelists have shed light on the NLA’s message with their own research and firsthand experiences—a format that Buffo hopes to bring back to this year’s preparatory seminars.

The event’s first day also includes one of the most important assets in the industry’s fight for parity and safety: its Political Action Committee (PAC) fundraiser, which is how the battle is financed.

“We have to have a PAC fund to financially support the people we know will support our industry, support our message, support us as individual business owners, and support the industry as a whole—we cannot get anything done without supporting the people who are really going to support us,” said Buffo. “That’s really going to be one of our main focuses in 2019 and ’20, growing that PAC fund so we can continuously support our lobbying firm and getting the right people elected.”

But Buffo emphasizes that showing up remains one of the most important decisions an operator or vendor can make—because even though he’s been on the NLA board for more than a decade, he keenly recalls how his very first Day on the Hill opened his eyes to how critical the event is.

“A long, long time ago, I was just like, ‘I can’t afford to go, I can’t afford to be away from my business, I can’t spend that extra money’,” he said. “Finally, I decided to go check it out. And the first thing that popped into my head when I was getting on the plane coming back home was ‘I can’t afford NOT to go.” If every single operator had that same mentality and we came to Washington with 4,000 people—oh my gosh, what an impact we would have.”

Visit limo.org for more information and to register for Day on the Hill.

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