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 email@example.com for next issue’s question.
TOPIC: During this unplanned work stoppage, have you pursued any personal or professional development (especially beyond COVID-19 news), whether it’s through webinars, podcasts, reading, etc.? Recommendations?
We did an audit of the company to limit unnecessary spending, control the costs, and enhance some processes. We are updating our website and are launching Kingdom Côte d’Azur, a concierge service dedicated to the ultra-high net worth in the French Riviera. We have been supplying yacht charter and jet and villa rentals to our customers for more than 10 years, so it is time to market these services.
We have kept a few chauffeurs to take care of two to three jobs a week, but also to help group that helps the most destitute by delivering foodstuffs. Hopefully, 2021 will be a good restart.
Jean-Noel Aimasso, Co-founder and CEO
Kingdom Limousines in Côte d’Azur, France
We are using the downtime to have all of our customer service representatives take the Limo University Sales Training online course. In addition to taking the course, we are using it as a framework for creating our CSR training manual and standard operating procedures documentation.
Randy Allen, Partner/CTO
James Limousine in Richmond, Va.
I have been able to spend quiet time in nature to help rebuild some creative ideas for the business. It has also allowed me more family time, something I haven't done in a while, and to re-prioritize my time as a business owner and a member of my family. While spending time at home, I was also able to find items in my house that I had forgotten I had and sell them online to help replenish lost income. On the professional side of things, I have read articles about new safety training and protocol for staff and drivers to implement for the future of our industry.
Abdou Brahim, Owner
VA Executive Sedan & Limousine Service in Virginia Beach, Va.
Basically, we are focused on checking our current processes while identifying areas of opportunity in order to improve them. The goal is to have a new business model once we return to our daily routine. In particular, we want one that is more efficient and fully adapted to a new global market demand. For us, it is really important to meet and surpass our clients' expectations.
Ylse Escamilla, International Market & Roadshow Manager
Alquimavi Transportation in Mexico City, Mexico
We moved our headquarters right at the beginning of the COVID-19 work stoppage. We had no choice and could not delay because our existing lease ran out and our brand-new building was ready for occupancy. Fortunately, we were able to use the downturn time very productively. We were able to get all of our new systems—from data, voice, intranet, security, etc.—in perfect sync. It took every vendor team imaginable to get it all done. Looking back on it, I honestly have no idea how we could possibly have done all of that with a regular business schedule.
We took inventory of all of the “work in progress” projects, prioritized them, and completed nearly every one. This resulted in a brand-new polished chauffeur training program for all levels. We now have perfected a program for new hires, advanced training, tourism training, and a few other modules. We also now have an updated and complete program for staff.
We have digitized everything noted above so that everyone has access to the tools they need wherever they are. Also, we have released our brand-new website with multiple domains and are in the process of adding online direct booking through our Livery Coach software. Again, we would not have had the people-power to get all of this accomplished if we were in full-swing, especially during the Kentucky Derby. We have been operating with strict sanitary guidelines during this entire period. We are already starting to see an uptick in business, in spite of the tight restrictions in place here in Kentucky. The state began the re-opening process on May 11, and I expect that we will see a surge in retail business right away.
Carey Fieldhouse, President & CEO
Pegasus in Louisville, Ky.
After the initial shock and the realization that the situation was going to last longer than anyone expected, I decided to improve my content creating skills. I searched out some resources on- and offline and found Everybody Writes by Anne Handley to be a great book. As someone who is not used to creative writing, it breaks the process down into stages from initial thoughts and ideas to finished article.
As a family business, we wanted to do something together that we could look back on, create memories, and actually achieve something, so we took on the project of painting our building. Lorraine, my wife and business partner, as well as our boys Sam (10) and Zach (7) started in mid-March and we are nearly finished. It was fun to achieve something together as well as saving money on a painting contractor.
Myles Flood, Co-owner
LfL Chauffeur Services in Dublin, Ireland
During this downturn, we have been working on a new online training platform for our chauffeurs with courses such as fatigue management, hygiene awareness (COVID-19), anti-discrimination & sexual harassment, disability awareness, and customer service support. Both our new and current drivers will need to complete 100 percent of the courses to get in one of our vehicles. This is being done for the safety of our drivers and clients.
Juan Gonzalo Parra, Owner
Luxury Rentals in Medellin, Colombia
Bill Faeth [of Limo University] has been trying really hard to be helpful to the industry by sharing information whenever he gets it and keeping a positive attitude even as he deals with his own business challenges. Also, the Driving Results team has really kept the support dialogue going for their groups by holding weekly meeting calls to keep everyone connected and supported during this time. The LMC Group has been popping in on meetings and sharing wisdom and encouragement, being a bright spot for many.
Athena Grimm, COO
BAC Transportation in Anchorage, Alaska
All of our chauffeurs and staff have taken part in development with webinars, podcasts, and through reading articles. They are instructed to join in four webinars per day, with the majority in the tourism area. Our team can log into podcasts and webinars through DEEM, GBTA, Go Travel, IBTA, TSIA, and ASEM, on topics such as corporate travel, leadership, health, and COVID 19 recommendations.
Agustin Hernandez, Owner
Blackcar Offers Limo Services, Mexico City
I have been focusing on getting all my business finances in order, such as 2019 taxes, 2020 P&L, plus preparing for PPP and EIDL loans.
I have built a new wine tour website with the help of a third-party booking service called Fareharbor, and the new website just launched May 1. Business is still nonexistent, but I plan on rehiring my drivers and reservationists using the PPP loan that I just received to help with marketing and social media relations. I encourage operators to stay active and try to keep as much of the same routine as possible. I still go into my office for six to eight hours per day—just so I don't get complacent and depressed.
James Hooshman, Owner
Rock Star Trolley & Limousine in Santa Barbara, Calif.
As the chauffeur manager, working from home and operating on a skeleton crew of chauffeurs and office staff has been a somber pace change from the usual on-your-feet, fast-paced nature of our industry. However, being home more has allowed me to further develop my passion for fruit and vegetable gardening. The circumstances of our current world have made it more important than ever to be able to grow your own food in your backyard to cut back on grocery store visits. I started my plants indoors in Chicago in March and because of that early start have food to eat ready from my plants by June. I grow so much that I do weekly farmers market giveaways for my coworkers and chauffeurs in the office. You can follow my gardening videocast on Facebook and Instagram @TheCrocodilePlanter.
Michael Jedrzejewski, JKS Chauffeur Manager
Windy City Limousine & Bus in Broadview, Ill.
[My wife and business partner] Kathy and I have been keeping in touch with our group members with weekly Zoom Meetings. Over the past few weeks, our groups have discussed almost everything related to COVID 19; shared information about SBA, EDIL, and PPP programs; and now we’re discussing restarting their operations. We brought on guest speakers such as CD Publisher Chris Weiss, Kristen Carroll and Christina Davis from the LMC Group, as well as Matt Daus from Windels Marx to name a few. It is our goal to keep our members informed and also support them during these uneasy times. We are just waiting for the opportunity to see everyone in person once again.
As for personal time, I'm happy to say I have played eight rounds of golf where we have been hunkering down during the quarantine period. I wish I can tell you my game has gotten better but...
Arthur Messina, Managing Director
Driving Results in Charlotte, N.C.
We’ve loved hearing your answers to our benchmarking questions—but we always welcome suggestions for future topics, too!
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