Tuesday, March 21, 2023

The most recent quarterly meeting of the New England Livery Association (NELA) was held virtually on October 8, drawing participation from all over the country and arming attendees with plenty of plug-and-play information for their business. It was a follow-up to the association’s popular COVID and Cabernet, a casual online get-together that featured 11 speakers swapping inspirational, humorous, and touching stories about running a business during a pandemic. The last quarterly meeting was held in June.


Meeting host and NELA Executive Director Rick Szilagyi offered a brief update on association business before introducing the speakers lined up for the late-afternoon meeting. Szilagyi thanked the National Limousine Association (NLA) and President Robert Alexander for the recent grant of $8,500, the largest amount the association has received from the national organization. Szilagyi says that the money will be used for legislative efforts, including retaining a lobbyist to assist with local issues.

The first speaker of the meeting was Levi Towell of social media firm Curtis Gabriel, who was pulling a little late-night duty from across the pond. The U.K.-based firm, which works with dozens of the transportation companies across the country, sees a bright spot with retail work as corporate travel remains mostly stagnant. As such, Towell challenged participants to get outside their comfort zone with social media and try several platforms—Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter—to keep up brand awareness with current customers (many of whom are itching to resume travel) and attract different types of customers. He said that the worst thing a company can do is disappear from social media.

NELA meeting speakers

Towell suggested that operators try different campaigns that would give prospective clients a reason to use their service. He used the anecdote of coach versus business class: While both get you from point A to point B in the same vessel, customers get hooked on the level of service that they receive with the upgrade and rarely want to go back—and are willing to pay extra because they can justify the added value. He believes the same is true for luxury chauffeured transportation.

Next to speak was life and business coach Billy Sheehan, known professionally as Billy the Coach, who offered his plain-spoken advice for pandemic-weary operators to “keep your head on while working your ass off.” He encouraged attendees to shift their mindset and to instead focus on the things that they can control, because “what you do tomorrow is completely in your power.” He tells his clients that if they want more, then they have to become more, and not just wait for opportunities to come to them. He also offered his tips for stress management, a critical component of being an effective leader as it can infect the entire team.

Finally, Drew and Arthur Messina of Create-A-Card kept the positive momentum going by echoing Towell’s advice about branding and maintaining a healthy and robust digital presence. Drew, who also serves as a NELA vendor director, offered his tips for “staying relevant by keeping your company relevant” not only via social media, but by participating in virtual calls with clients and joining the various industry webinars, including associations, with fellow operators.

Arthur added to Drew’s comments by emphasizing the differences—and challenges—between digital and face-to-face networking. Our industry is very collaborative and thrives on it, and luckily the technology is available to help all of us bridge that divide until we can safely resume events. Arthur admitted that he lost touch with some industry friends because of the pandemic and the limited in-person interactions, but even virtual face time (preferably with branded backgrounds, with a little setup help from Create-A-Card if you’re unsure how to take advantage of this tool) during these meetings helps to keep your name top of mind and everyone connected.

Szilagyi concluded the meeting by introducing his newest right-hand person, Carly McDonough, who assisted in putting together the Zoom meeting and keeping it on the rails.

The full recording of the meeting is available here (access code: vhu5V^u8).

Visit nelivery.org for more information.