You asked for it and we listened. In this column, we ask operators of all sizes and from all walks of the industry a question about their business and report their answers so you can assess how your own company compares to your peers. If you would like to participate, please email Rob Smentek at firstname.lastname@example.org for next issue’s question.
TOPIC: If you have staff on board, what type of duties do you have them doing to occupy their time? If you're alone in the office, are you tackling any new projects during the downtime?
Our office is closed, but our employees are constantly learning new things. For example, some of them are in the CSR training to obtain a certification, and others will be reviewing some YouTube videos in order to improve their service skills and learn new apps to reduce our expenses, improve vehicle maintenance, and rewrite our business plan. After watching the videos, they have to write an essay. There is always something new to learn.
Agustin Hernandez, Owner
Blackcar Offers Limo Services in Mexico City, Mexico
I still have my core team. Each weekday we have a morning call to check-in and prioritize tasks. My office manager has been working closely with our vendors and banks, in addition to filling out SBA applications and following up.
My logistics team is working on getting updated rates from our partners and COIs. They are also staying in touch with drivers that have been laid off. We are helping them out with questions about unemployment claims as well.
My sales team is reaching out to our existing clients letting them know we are still operating and here for them. In addition, we are very active on social media and education training and webinars.
Mark Kini, Founder & CEO
Boston Chauffeur in Beverly, Mass.
Our staff has used the time to develop several ideas we`ve had in the past but didn`t have enough time to develop. We are developing our new website, along with our QLimo.com network for companies that would like to become local affiliates. We’ve also done a few acquisitions since a lot of competitors sadly haven’t been able to survive the crisis. We are producing a lot of APIs to get connected with certain partners who rely on software implementation.
Currently, we are searching for ways to keep our cars even safer and to give our passengers added confidence for future rides. Therefore, we have produced droplet protection shields for each car to reduce the possibility of infection. We are attempting to reduce our costs by downsizing our fleet in expectation of less demand.
Franz Kraus, CEO & Owner
QLimo in Hamburg, Germany
Because of how quickly our company has expanded, we’ve had very little time to critically look inward. Right now, we’re going through a lot of our processes and asking, “Is this truly the best way to do it, or is it just the way we’ve done it before?” Teams and people who usually don’t collaborate much are coming together (virtually) to solve old problems in new ways.
Jeffrey Lane, Senior Manager, Business Development
FlixBus in Los Angeles, Calif.
We have kept one key person on staff in accounting, affiliate reservations, and operations. We still show up the office every day, and all work in separate offices. The accounting manager is working on managing the payables that need to go out and reaching out to those that owe us money. Our affiliate manager is keeping busy by answering calls that do come in, and also taking this opportunity to better organize our farm-out processes—including gathering COIs, confirming airport meet-and-greet procedures, and general affiliate relations maintenance. Our operations manager is taking care of any driver issues and overseeing dispatching, etc. We are all focusing on general cleaning and maintenance of the office area, and reviewing and adding to our training manuals. I have always been a big believer in proper training and this is a great opportunity to organize our screening, hiring, and onboard training processes for all major positions.
Michael Lindsey, President & CEO
Lindsey Limousine in Windsor, Conn.
We have two members of our back-office team working remotely from home, and one driver on standby for last-minute requests and to take care of our fleet. The rest of the team has been placed on vacation so we can have all staff ready when the travel limitations have ended. We are taking this time to check all of the internal procedures, affiliate documentation, and watching some online training for some added knowledge. Also, I am working with our developer to improve our reservation system and updating our website.
Rogério Machado, CEO
Concierge Car in Sao Paulo, Brazil
We are taking advantage of this downtime to deeply analyze our structure and look for and implement new processes that enhance our operation, including marketing and improving our social networking.
Ramon Mateos, CEO
Alquimavi in Mexico City, Mexico
Since my office is in my house, I have tried to keep the same schedule as I did before this virus shut down travel. I set the alarm and wake up to be at my desk by 7:30 or 8:00 am as I have found that I like to get up and get going. I have a few projects like implementing a new CRM as I am currently trying out a few. I am also brainstorming with several of my friends who are small business owners with how we can build new revenue streams for our operations as we all understand each other's business. As well, I am working on a few additional revenue streams, specifically for those who will stay away from air travel and use our services from city-to-city travel once the shelter in place bans are lifted.
Kevin Mullane, Owner
Silver Oak Transportation in Hilton Head Island, S.C.
The only staff on board at the moment besides myself is our mechanic, who carries out all maintenance and spoils the fleet. We had to resort to compulsory holidays for all our staff, so this looks like a perfect time to conduct an exhaustive maintenance program on all the vehicles. We’ve also enjoyed taking take nice pictures of our entire fleet together—as this is almost impossible during regular operations.
Juan Gonzalo Parra, Owner
Luxury Rentals in Medellin, Colombia
Even though some days are more challenging than others, I have been trying to stay on top of the game and use this incredible free time wisely. At least once per week, I have touched base with my chauffeurs and office manager. I’ve also updated my rates matrix with Limo Anywhere, something I have been putting up for months (if not years). I’ve attended the webinars with Addons and started the set up in my system so when we come back, everything will be ready to go. I created an Excel spreadsheet that allows me to track all the extensions and deferments for each of my bills every month, along with my required payments so I can easily see what my new true budget is. As president of the Greater Atlanta Limousine Association (GALA), I have maintained an ongoing communication, almost daily, with information and resources for all of our members via email, in our GALA WhatsApp group, and on Facebook.
Maria Priestly, President/CEO
Empress Elite Limousine in Kennesaw, Ga.
Unfortunately, I have had to lay off my entire team. I have one clean-up guy who comes in as needed to wash a car here and there. I’m doing a lot of clean up: old emails, purging things off my computer, daily emails into the general inbox, taking changes and cancellations. When I have the time to let my mind wander, I think about how I want our company to look and feel on the other side. There are variables that we don’t know yet, but I am working on that plan. I have a white board with ideas, which I add, change, and delete often. Thankfully though, I don’t have a lot of downtime. Even though the company is pretty much at a standstill, there are still the back-office functions that need to happen, regardless of what’s going on in the front office. I’m also sending a weekly email to the entire company to keep them updated as to what’s going on here. Sometimes it’s just short and light-hearted, other times it’s hardcore nuts and bolts about making sure they’ve properly filed for unemployment, and what they can do to stay safe and healthy while they’re off. I’ve found that they are enjoying receiving the emails as much as my heart needs to send them. We are communicating so much better than we ever have, and the love and respect continues to grow in my company. Maybe we needed a little break for that to happen?
Tracy Salinger, President and CEO
Unique Limousine in Harrisburg, Pa.
We kept one office staff member, who has been busy doing updating our prices, making videos, and helping reorganize the office. We have kept three support staff: a fleet manager, mechanic, and a detailer, who are busy with the detailing and fixing any small thing on the vehicles. Although the “zoo” is mostly closed, we still need the “zookeepers” to maintain the fleet. As for me, I have been busy working on the website and also doing some marketing work. I’ve also been catching up on some reading and self-improvement, too. I want to hit the ground running when the world is open again.
Jess Sandhu, Director of Operations
A&A Limousine & Bus Service in Seattle, Wash.
I'm keeping three people on staff: myself, my controller, and our mechanic. I'm catching up on some projects that have been needing my attention for eons, such as moving (as much as possible) toward digital files. I've always wanted to have our office go paperless, which is an enormous challenge in an industry like ours. I kept my controller on to assist with getting all of our 45 employees on unemployment as well as keeping up with any problems or issues that anyone on our team might have getting the maximum amount of benefits available. So far, approximately 10 percent of our team has had or continues to have some kind of issue with the state unemployment—and we do the legwork for them. Our mechanic is catching up on all fluid changes and thoroughly inspecting all of our 26 vehicles, including brake inspections, tire inspections, road test, and MPG tests to weed out and hidden issues.
Paul Thompson, President
Santa Fe Valet/Accent New Mexico in Santa Fe, N.M.
During these hard times, we have dismissed a lot of staff from their duties. Due to government regulations, groups of more than two people together are forbidden and everyone is recommended to stay inside their house as much as possible. At this point we have switched into survival mode. We have our chauffeurs to deep clean and polish the vehicles, as well as some maintenance in our office. Our dispatchers are answering the phones and emails. We have noticed that our clients are looking for projects for next year.
Ralph van Delden, Company Director
Van Delden Limousines in Amsterdam, The Netherlands
From the day that we parked our fleet and sent our staff and chauffeurs home a few weeks ago, we have remained vigilant and optimistic. I continue my days working from my home office fighting my biggest fight of my life each day. I remain close to my clients and have stayed in communication with those prospects that we have in the pipeline. I have deployed marketing campaigns letting my clients and prospects know that we are open for business and here ready to assist them with private and safe transportation. I spend most of my days continuing to network; however, in today's world, I am doing so virtually. I remain informed of all the economic relief available and ensure I gather all the documents and information needed to submit as quickly as possible. In essence, I will not be defined by this virus and will continue to keep my head above waters by staying proactive and optimistic so that I build upon my comeback once we are safe to return to the world.
Nancy Vargas, CEO
DH2 Transportation in Jamaica, N.Y.
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