2015 Ford Transit:

An American Brand Gone Global Comes Home

Watch Your Step(s)

10 Steps to Control Workers’ Compensation Costs

Mind Your Manners

Social Media Etiquette: 4 Things You Need To Know

Grassroots:

The Basics of Lobbying for Better Regulations

Myth Busted:

GPS Tracking Software is Not Too Expensive



Tuesday, July 29, 2014

2015 Ford Transit: An American Brand Gone Global Comes Home

2015 Ford Transit

In March, Ford Motor Co. fleet executives announced their plans for a four-phase roll out of the 2015 Transit. In April, production of Ford’s biggest commercial vehicle launch began at its assembly plant in Kansas City, Missouri, which was revamped at cost of over $1 billion in a move that Governor Jay Nixon called a “historic investment in Missouri.” In June, Ford began selling the first 2015 Transit commercial vans to fleets in the United States. 

“The commercial vehicles are obviously a very important segment, to the economy and to the company,” Kumar Galhotra, Ford vice president of engineering, said at the Ford media “ride and drive” event at their Kansas City plant in early June. “It is a substantial segment in the overall global automotive industry, and about 20 percent of the total industry right now is commercially based. Within that segment not only is the absolute number big, we expect it to grow about 15 percent between now and 2017.

“We lead the industry in this segment. In every segment where we compete globally, we are the leaders, and that is something we are proud of.”

More than an historic move, this is a decidedly modern move for Ford, as the Transit’s arrival in the U.S. makes it a legitimately global vehicle. The Transit has been sold in Europe since 1965. Today it is sold in just under 120 countries, has won two International Van of the Year awards, and with over seven million sold in total across the world, it ranks as the number one best-selling commercial van just shy of 50 years running.

Perhaps the most modern twist of this story, in line with the accelerating trend toward globalization in virtually every modern market, is the vehicle this global mainstay is replacing: the domestic, all-American E-Series. The E-Series has been around since 1961, better known then as the Ford Econoline, has reigned as the number one best-selling van for more than 35 years in the United States, and has essentially become the apple pie of commercial vehicles since it became exclusive to fleet customers in 2008.

2015 Ford Transit
Transit durability test vehicles were driven more than 4.6
million miles, or far enough to circle the globe 185 times.

“We lead the industry in this segment. In every segment where we compete globally, we are the leaders, and that is something we are proud of.”


“This is quite a stunning statistic: of all the vehicles on the road, 41 percent of those vehicles are Ford vehicles.” Golhotra said. “Within that 41 percent there are a substantial number of Econolines, which have been in service for 53 years. There are more than 8 million Econolines that we have sold over those years, so it is a very important part of our portfolio.

 “But we do have another commercial van in our portfolio that has been sold in 118 other markets, that has been around for 49 years, with seven million sold around the globe.” Who knew? Everyone but us here in America.

While the symbolism and nostalgia associated with the retirement of the E-series may leave a lump in the throats of a few industry veterans, the 46 percent better EPA-estimated highway gas mileage customers will get with the 3.5 liter EcoBoost-equipped Transit should perk them back up. And if that doesn’t, the best in class engine torque rating of 400 lb.-ft., or maximum cargo capacity of 487.3 cubic feet might do it.

“We are excited to serve our fleet and commercial customers in North America with the all-new Transit,” Galhotra said in a Ford press release. “Transit is Built Ford Tough and represents One Ford at its best, building on lessons learned from our decades of leadership in the commercial vehicle markets in the United States and Europe.”

The Transit, essentially remixed for its North American debut, is available in more configurations ever offered by a Ford commercial van. Available configuration options include van, wagon, chassis cab and cutaway body styles, three body lengths and two wheelbases for van and wagon, three different roof heights and XL and XLT trim levels.

2015 Ford Transit
 Out front of the Ford Kansas City Assembly Plant, celebrating
the start of production of the all-new 2015 Ford Transit.

The Transit, essentially remixed for its North American debut, is available in more configurations ever offered by a Ford commercial van.


Particularly attractive to luxury ground transportation firms, most configurations of the Transit come with a center aisle combined with wide-opening side doors and substantial legroom to enable fast and hassle-free pickups and drop-offs. As the Transit is ideal for upfitting, Ford has accordingly had the foresight to make easy upfitting available with 11 upfit ship-throughs, eight of which are located within 20 miles of its Kansas City assembly plant where the vehicle is manufactured.

The Transit van’s gas engine maximum cargo capacity of 487.3 cubic feet is also best-in-class, with 75 percent more than the largest E-Series van. Ideal for shuttle operators, the extended-length wagon model offers 100.5 cubic feet of storage behind the last row of seats in a 15-passenger version.

Transit high-roof van models’ cargo height makes loading easier, and high-roof wagon models have passenger compartment height that will accommodate passengers standing 6 feet 4 inches. Additionally, the rear door opening height and available 270-degree swing-out rear cargo doors enable quick and easy access.

The Transit comes standard with a 3.7-liter V6 engine but is also available in 3.2-liter Power Stroke diesel or 3.5-liter EcoBoost, which gets a 14 mpg city/19 mpg highway EPA-estimated rating on low- and medium-roof, regular wheelbase wagons. Comparing that with the 10 mpg city/13 mpg highway EPA-estimated rating for the E-Series 6.8-liter V10 premium gas engine is where Ford gets their figure of a 46 percent improvement. In terms of the bottom line for your livery business, that fuel efficiency improvement can mean savings up to $1,700 per year per vehicle.

The 3.5-liter EcoBoost and 3.7-liter V6 engines have been proven in over 700,000 Ford F-150 trucks since 2011, and the 3.2-liter Power Stroke diesel engine endured 4,000 hours of testing specifically for the Transit, which included running at maximum engine power for 750 hours (the equivalent of 14 nonstop round trips from N.Y. to L.A.) simulating 10 years’ of service and 150,000 miles. In order to simulate heavy use—the sort that fleet operators put their vans through—Ford also opened and slammed the vehicle’s doors 250,000 times.

2015 Ford Transit
Available in three roof heights, two wheelbase lengths, and
regular and extended-length bodystyles.
 

The two most important needs for these customers are durability and cost of ownership.


The Transit’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost offers 310 horsepower and a gas engine torque rating of 400 lb.-ft., which is a best-in-class ranking among full-size vans, making this vehicle ideal for transporting clientele with extra luggage in tow. The new unibody structure offers long-term durability, which was tested for more than 7 million customer-equivalent miles by both Ford and real North American fleet customers.

Transit also offers its fleet customers an array of smart technology, including Crew Chief telematics, a service and mileage cost tracking system, as well as MyKey to promote driver safety. An available lane-keeping alert system detects lane markings with a forward-facing camera and vibrates the steering wheel to help alert drivers to steer back toward the center of the lane.

The Ford Transit “is designed to meet the key needs of [our fleet] customers,” Galhotra said. “The two most important needs for these customers are durability and cost of ownership. Fuel economy is very important, and we have made a tremendous improvement from the present vehicle to the new 2015 Transit.

“This is going to be built in three places around the world, one of which is right here in Missouri,” he said at the “ride and drive” event. “We invested over 1.1 billion dollars in Kansas City to both retool and expand the plant, which has had a ripple effect in the community, and has created 2,000 new jobs.” Sure, the Transit is definitely Ford’s global commercial vehicle, but the impact of the 2015 model is decidedly American.

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Written by
Associate Editor & Digital Media Manager
adam@limodigest.com

10 Steps to Control Workers’ Compensation Costs

10 Steps to Control Workers' Comp


If your limo service is typical, workers’ compensation costs—or the threat of them—can quickly become a major expense burden. Almost every business in the United States that has employees must deal with the cost of workers’ compensation, so you’re not alone in this potentially damaging liability.


Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help keep your workers’ compensation costs under control while lessening the chances of a costly and burdensome claim. But keep in mind that employers who have successfully cut their workers’ compensation costs report that this is a challenging task requiring attention and commitment on the part of management.

Perhaps most important is an understanding that policies designed to protect employees’ safety and well-being provide a solid foundation for minimizing workers’ compensation claims. Experience shows that employees who feel that workers’ safety is a major concern of management are less likely to attempt to abuse the workers’ compensation system.

Here are 10 steps you can take to help control workers’ compensation claims and insurance premiums for your business:

STEP 1
Cost control begins with the hiring process. Within the limits imposed by labor law restrictions, pre-hiring interview techniques should be designed to identify applicants who may pose a higher than average behavior or accident risk potential.

Always begin by thoroughly examining the applicant’s resume. In particular, look for gaps in their employment history. Ask for an explanation of any gaps and consider the applicant’s answers carefully.
Any unexplained gaps should be considered as red flags.

Be cautious about recommendations from former employers. There are many reasons for an employer to provide favorable recommendations for a former employee; not all of them are as sincere as they might appear. While such recommendations deserve consideration, they should be considered within the context
of all other information gathered about the applicant.

Keep the interview on track. As with any conversation, a pre-employment interview can stray far off its proper path if not carefully controlled. “Ask only those job-related questions that you need to ask to make a lawful hiring decision,” says labor attorney John C. Romeo, Philadelphia, Pa. “Pay close attention to the direction the conversation takes during the interview. It can easily turn into a conversation about family, religion or national origin,” he says. “If you see the conversation going in this direction, it’s important to stop and switch gears—get the conversation onto a proper, legal, and informative topic.”

Talk less; listen more. “Most interviewers talk more than they should,” says Emory Mulling, chairman of The Mulling Companies, Atlanta, Ga. “The interviewer’s role is to get information from the candidate. Too often, interviewers spend too much time talking about the job and not enough time asking relevant questions of the candidate.” Human resources professionals agree that talking too much during an interview is a common mistake by employers. Remember, your job during a pre-employment interview is to obtain as much meaningful information from the potential employee as possible. You can’t listen when you’re talking.

Prepare a written list of questions. You will probably be dealing with applicants of both sexes. If you do, you must not ask different questions of males and females. To do so is to risk violation of anti-discrimination laws. It’s best to create a list of questions to ask all candidates before the interview process starts. Then put those questions on a sheet of paper with space between them to take notes.

Listen carefully to the answers. Even after asking the right questions, some interviewers make the wrong choice because they didn’t listen carefully to the answers,” says Mulling. “Don’t think you can overcome potential risks and make someone fit in just because you like the way they look, or because their technical knowledge and relevant past experience are a good match for the job.

STEP 2
After first obtaining written consent from the applicants, conduct thorough background checks before hiring. Include physical fitness exams appropriate for the job if included in the written consent. Applicants who are reluctant to agree to such checks should be viewed with suspicion.

STEP 3
Have permanent programs in place to train employees on safe working behavior. Discourage unsafe working and driving habits. Instruct employees not to take risks.

Encourage the safest, least risky procedures even if they may take longer to complete the job. Make sure that new workers are aware that safety is a top priority in the operation of your service.

Too often, interviewers spend too much time talking about the job and not enough time asking relevant questions of the candidate.


STEP 4
By demonstrating your interest in safety, you establish your concern or employees’ well-being. That, in turn, will help to minimize the possibility of costly workers’ compensation claims.

STEP 5
Maintain safety awareness throughout the workplace. Remind your employees to practice safety procedures by displaying safety posters in an employee-only area not seen by customers if you have one. As for your chauffeurs, training and safety awareness should be conducted quarterly, at a minimum.

STEP 6
Within legal parameters, maintain your efforts to identify employees or applicants with drug or alcohol problems. A failure to address this issue might be considered by some as your lack of interest or concern. That, in turn could result in legal problems in the case of accident or injury.

STEP 7
Make certain that all of your vehicles are properly inspected and maintained. In particular, chauffeur concerns about problems that could involve safety must be addressed at once.

STEP 8
Be sure to classify employee job descriptions and titles correctly. Obviously, some jobs are riskier than others. The job of a chauffeur carries more risk than that of office worker or dispatcher. That’s why it’s important not to assign all of your employees to the same job classification unless you are certain that is correct. With more than 600 job classification codes in use today, improper job classification for even one employee could increase your workers compensation premiums.

Each classification code is based on the level of risk associated with that job. Job codes are subject to change, so it’s important to use the most recent edition of the classification codebook for your state.

Unfortunately, some business owners intentionally misclassify workers and manipulate payroll figures with the intent of lowering insurance costs. Even worse are situations where employers have no workers’ compensation coverage at all. Employers who engage in this type of unlawful activity not only put their own workers at risk, but also risk harsh financial penalties and even criminal prosecution.

If your operation is large enough, establish a safety committee made up of at least one employee and yourself. Even in a small operation, this step will establish your continued concern for employees’ well-being. The committee’s stated purpose will be to identify and correct safety problems and provide ideas for improving safety efforts and programs.

STEP 9
In the event of an employee injury, even one of a seemingly minor nature, be sure to provide medical attention promptly to minimize possible complications from delayed care. Complications to even a slight injury can result in increasingly costly workers’ compensation claims which in turn can result in permanently increased insurance premiums.

STEP 10
If one of your employees should go out on a disability claim, work to get him or her back to work as quickly as practical. An employee who is unable to return to work on a full-time basis may be able to work part-time or in a job of lesser demands. The longer an employee remains unable to work, the more the insurance company will be required to pay in compensation benefits; that in turn is likely to result in increased insurance premiums for your business.

Many employers look on the costs of workers compensation insurance as an unavoidable expense over which they have little or no control. However, experience shows that workers compensation costs will respond to dedicated efforts to keep them in tow. A casual attempt isn’t likely to do the job, but a
determined and continual effort can result in not only major reductions in expense, but dramatic improvements in employee morale as well.

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William J. Lynott
William J. Lynott is a veteran freelance writer who specializes in business management as well as personal and business finance. His work appears regularly in leading trade publications, newspapers and consumer magazines, including Reader’s Digest, AARP Bulletin, and Family Circle. For samples of his work and more information about Bill, log on to his website at www.blynott.com.

4 Ways GPS Vehicle Tracking Drives Your Company's Revenue

The vast majority of limousine business owners and fleet managers think of the investment in GPS vehicle tracking technology as an expense. If used as the technology is intended to be, this couldn't be further from the truth.

The mindset that it is an expense is the one thing that holds back more businesses than anything else. It is the biggest misconception out there.

If you were asked to install and utilize a GPS tracking solution that was 100% free, wouldn’t you say yes? What if you were told it would actually add money to your bottom line? No one in their right mind would say no to free money with no catch. What 99% of business owners and fleet managers don’t understand is that GPS vehicle tracking is free and will improve your bottom line. The missing piece of the equation is the proof that, yes, your GPS vehicle tracking system is essentially free!

Every GPS tracking company will say that their platform will save fuel, labor and maintenance costs, but what they are missing is “how” and “where” the money comes back to the bottom line. This is a deep subject, but for those enlightened with the proof needed, it finalizes their decision. Make the GPS providers prove the ROI they are selling you on.

GPS tracking software is one of the best dollar-for-dollar ROIs a business can receive. Depending on fleet size, thousands if not millions of dollars are returned to your bottom line. The ROI can come from many different parts of your fleet operations.

GPS vehicle tracking helps management keep drivers on task, working for you, and not themselves or someone else’s business.


Over 100% ROI can be found from making small adjustments to the way your fleet operates such as reducing a few miles driven a day per vehicle, curbing idle time, and reducing a few labor hours a week per driver. Imagine if you had an extra few thousand dollars or even as much as a million dollars a year. What could you do with that money? The answer is “a lot.”

Here is an example of the savings you can expect from a GPS vehicle tracking system:
For a business with 20 mid-sized vehicles averaging 10 MPG with each employee making $15.00 per hour, reducing each vehicle’s miles driven on a daily basis by just 2 miles (due to better routing/dispatch a GPS tracking system will provide) looks roughly like this on the bottom line:

Maintenance: Vehicle Wear and Tear
  • 40 miles per day saved  (20 vehicles x 2 miles saved)
  • 880 total miles saved per month (22 working days per month x 40 miles saved per day)
  • $748 saved (880 miles x $0.85 vehicle cost/maintenance/etc. per mile driven)
Fuel: Reduced Mileage
  • $13 or 4 gallons of fuel saved per  day (20 vehicles each saving .2
    gallons per day x $3.25 per gal)
  • $286 saved per month in reduced mileage ($13 x 22 working days)

Reduced Idle Time
  • 15 minutes per truck per day (equivalent of three, 5 minute idle stops)
  • 110 hours of reduced idling per month (15 mins x 20 vehicles x 22 working days/60)
  • 55 gal saved per month (.5 gal per hour fuel burned x 110 hours)
  • $178 saved in reduced idle time per month (55 gal per month x $3.25 per gal)
Labor:
  • 5 Minutes of labor saved per day (25 minutes per week or 1.7 hours per month)
  • $25.50 per employee per month (1.7 hours x $15 per hour)
  • $510.00 in reduced labor per month ($25.50 x 20 employees)

Total Monthly Savings: $1,722.00

GPS Tracking System Monthly Cost (subscription/rental): $800.00
ROI in 1 month: 115%

In this example, we used conservative numbers to show you that small adjustments have a huge impact on your bottom line. We did not include quite a few other benefits that vehicle tracking offers that drive even more ROI.

These include reduced accidents due to improved safety, improved customer billing accuracy, increased new/return business due to improved customer service, insurance discounts and vehicle theft recovery. 

1) How to Generate Revenue with GPS Tracking Software:
Now that you have learned what you can expect from a return on investment or dollar savings perspective, it is time to dive into how to generate revenue for your business’ bottom line with GPS tracking. This can be done in three key ways: Increasing driver productivity, improving efficiencies and refining your customer service.

2) Increasing Productivity 
Unfortunately, unapproved usage of company vehicles is more common than most would like to admit or are even aware of. GPS vehicle tracking helps management keep drivers on task, working for you, and not themselves or someone else’s business.
You can use GPS alerts and reports to know when a driver is doing side jobs or personal errands throughout a shift. This will ultimately keep your employees productive for your business each day.

Keeping your vehicles on the road is an expensive part of fleet management that needs a close eye. GPS tracking will keep vehicle downtime due to maintenance at a minimum and help to prevent costly maintenance, which will keep your drivers working, leading to more revenue for your business. 

3) Improving Efficiency 
Although your business may not need a robust dispatch system, you still need to send drivers from point A to point B throughout the day. 

Dispatching your drivers to their next pickup and to customer destinations with the most efficient route will reduce travel time, reduce mileage put on each vehicle, give you a leg up on the competition and improve your quality of service to customers.

The ability to easily see where your vehicles are at all times and keep operations running smoothly from location intelligence is invaluable for your business and will ultimately drive revenue to your bottom line.

4) Refining Customer Service 
There is no question that there is a direct correlation between customer service quality and revenue. So any 
limousine business should be focused on finding ways to improve upon it.
GPS vehicle tracking gives your business the opportunity to serve more customers on a daily basis 
with more effective dispatch, as well as monitor and coach employees about expectations regarding time with customers and driver behavior. The more customers you can serve, the more money your business 
will make.

GPS vehicle tracking software will give your company the chance to be proactive instead of reactive. When drivers are running late, your team will know and can call the customer to notify them. When a driver or technician is within a mile of the customer location, you can even set up an automated text message or email to be sent to them, letting them know you are on the way.

Timely arrivals and improved customer service will make your customers happier, and happier customers lead to loyal customers that will refer you to their friends, and that equals more revenue for your business. 

Hopefully, the information from this article has helped you understand that tracking is not an expense for your business. GPS vehicle tracking technology will not only pay for itself and more by providing savings in a variety of areas, but it will also help drive revenue for your business. Who can say no to that? Do your due diligence and test out different GPS products before purchasing to ensure you make the best choice.

GPS Tracking Saves You Money


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Ryan Driscoll, GPS Insight

Ryan Driscoll has served as Marketing Director for GPS Insight since 2009. In this position, he is responsible for all marketing and PR activities. He works diligently to be a trusted advisor that provides thoughtful leadership in the areas of GPS tracking and fleet management. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he received a BS degree in Marketing.

For more information about GPS Insight, please visit www.gpsinsight.com.

All-Electric London Chauffeur Services Takes First Delivery of Nissan LEAFs

eConnect Cars

One of London's newest chauffeured transportation services, eConnect Cars, took delivery of more than a half dozen Nissan LEAFs earlier this summer, becoming one of just a few chauffeuring companies in the city to operate a fleet of 100% electric vehicles. It plans to have a total of 14 in its all-electric fleet by year's end.

The company is still in its infancy, having launched just this past January, yet it already serves high-end corporate clients like Maclay Murray and Spens LLP. There is no doubt that eConnect Cars' is a decidedly green company, committed to having a fleet composed entirely of LEAFs, and using Energy Saving Trust data to provide customers with carbon emissions savings compared to other transportation options.
The company expectedly has its eye on growth in London and expansion into other cities, which seems promising as their pricing is reportedly competitive for short journeys, and on par with other corporate chauffeur firms for longer trips.

"The development in the technology and inherent capabilities of electric vehicles are the prime reasons for why we have an opportunity to apply a practical, intelligent approach to the London private hire scene, something I wanted to convey with eConnect Cars,” Alistair Clarke, founder of eConnect Cars, said in a press release. "There's a big window of opportunity to do things smarter when it comes to urban mobility, and the introduction of an all-electric LEAF fleet has been a way in for us."

Barry Beeston, Nissan's Corporate Sales Director, also said in the release, "More and more corporate organizations are requesting zero emissions transport when selecting their taxi or chauffeur account provider, so companies like e-Connect will have a real advantage over competitors who cannot offer this service, at the request of their customers."

For more information visit www.econnectcars.com.

New Manager of Operations, China, appointed at GBTA

Global Business Travel Association (GBTA)

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) announced the appointment of Maggie Wu as Manager of Operations, China, in June. The new hire followed after two successful events in the region, and an increasing demand for professional development in the Chinese business travel sector.

Wu will lead an Asia Pacific strategy to continue delivering GBTA events, research, membership and education in China.

GBTA China Chairman and Regional Meeting & Travel Manager IKEA Group Meeting & Travel, Victor Lim said in a GBTA press release, "On behalf of the GBTA China Advisory Board, we would like to welcome Maggie into the role and look forward to continue working with her in broadening our network of buyer, supplier and industry relevant contacts, and to deliver an even more comprehensive and exciting program with GBTA China in the coming years."

"Having Ms Wu on the ground to grow our presence in China will undoubtedly see a surge in professionalism in this sector,” Welf Ebeling, Vice President, Operations for Asia Pacific said in the release. “The China Conference this year received glowing results with 88 percent improvement on 2013's, and further 91 percent state that they will attend next year. I am therefore delighted to welcome Ms Wu who has been part of both GBTA Conferences in 2013 and 2014 and pleased she is formally joining us to leverage the progress made over the past two years."

Further regional activity and 2015 conference dates will be announced. GBTA China invites those interested in membership and sponsorship to contact mwu@gbta.org.

For more information visit gbta.org/AsiaPacific.

A Unique Ride-Sharing App is Born in France

Heetch

Heetch is a mobile ride-sharing app that sets itself apart. Rather than compete with Uber and several other ride-sharing services operating in Paris, Heetch is only available at night, and caters specifically to the party-going demographic.

Heetch recently raised half a million dollars in venture capital, and has subsequently seen nearly a year of steady growth. The app is similar to its competitors in that the interface and business model is familiar. One difference is that you donate money at the end of your ride based on a suggested price ($16 or €12 on average).

The company claims to have 200 drivers, 50 of whom are on the road on the average weeknight. The service provides just under 1,000 rides a week.

Anyone with a car and a license can become a Heetch driver; the app is largely unregulated, as is the trend. Drivers get a rating, and Heetch claims to take these ratings seriously. Heetch is entering a very competitive market, but the unique model may have some mitigating impact on the surge pricing commonly associated with its competitors during peek hours.

For more information on this mobile ride-sharing app, visit www.heetch.com.

Rajeev Singh to be Featured Speaker at 2014 GBTA Conference

Rajeev Singh


The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and German business travel buyer association VDR announced at the end of June that President and COO of Concur Rajeev Singh will be a featured speaker at during the GBTA Conference in Berlin, November 12-14,  which will incorporate VDR’s autumn symposium this year.

Singh will speak about Concur’s vision for the future of business travel, as well as the organization’s recent acquisition strategy and the challenges of integrating technology, business and culture.

“I have watched Concur’s evolution in recent years with huge interest,” GBTA regional director for EMEA, Catherine McGavock, said in a press release. “I am delighted to welcome the president of this vibrant organization and look forward to learning more from this driver of change.”

“This is an exciting and dynamic time for our industry,” Singh said in the release. “The rapid advance and adoption of technology is changing the landscape of corporate travel spend. I see exciting times ahead and I look forward to joining this prestigious event and sharing my view of our industry and how we at Concur see it developing.”

Singh co-founded Concur in 1993, became COO in 2002 and president three years later. Prior to co-founding Concur, he worked for Ford Motor GM.

The event will bring together GBTA’s annual conference in Europe with German partner association VDR’s autumn symposium to create Europe’s foremost business travel conference, expected to attract more than 700 delegates from over 20 countries.

Registration is now open. For more information visit www.gbta.org/europeconference.

The Basics of Lobbying for Better Regulations

We often spend so much time seeing what is wrong, or simply duplicitous, in the world around us that we forget something can be done to make it better. This is further compounded by our attention to national news and the belief that our local problems are somehow unique to our own area.

The perception and reality of the luxury transportation industry is a bit different.  The public views the
vehicles and our pricing strategies as an indicationof luxury and excess; weunderstand the reality of slim profit margins and regulation from multiple entities.  These opposing views sometimes lead regulators to misunderstand the concerns of our industry when enacting rules and regulations upon us. The following information may help you formulate a plan for grassroots lobbying for fairer regulations.

To ground some terms that may seem unclear, let us look at lobbying, to start. Top of mind images that
are conjured when the word lobbying is mentioned generally involve removed individuals in expensive suits making backroom deals with public officials, and, although that may be true, that is not the only type of lobbying that can be done. Grassroots lobbying, which is the opposite of the aforementioned kind, is more than just a protest. The reality of grassroots lobbying is a combination of the two, and somewhere more toward the middle; it is more than the expression of free speech. Local, grassroots lobbying is a concerted effort to organize other citizens to contact public officials to affect public policy.

Now that we have the definitions and context out of the way, we can discuss why and how you should consider grassroots lobbying to affect change. Why should you lobby for change when our industry has
lobbyists in Washington, D.C. working on our behalf? The same reason you may consider lobbying for local issues on a personal level, which is that your unique situation may get lost in the crowd, so to speak.
Let’s look at an example: your municipality has regulations in place mandating insurance and lead time requirements, but it is proposing to change these regulations to include technology-based, application-
driven transportation. Do you sit back or do you take action to keep consumer safety priority in place? Either way, you only have one chance to do something about your local issues, and if you “have skin in the game,” you also have motivation to consider grassroots lobbying.

You only have one chance to do something about your local issues, and  if you “have skin in the game,” you also have motivation to consider grassroots lobbying.


The simpler part was figuring out why you should contact public officials, but the how part is where people get lost. We have all heard people say, “I don’t vote because my one vote doesn’t matter…,” or something similar. The cause may not be indifference but more commonly, in my experience, you do not know where to begin. Where does one begin? Studies suggest that there is statistically significant evidence proving that the voting results on legislation by politicians is affected through grassroots lobbying. Telephone calls are more effective than email, and in-person meetings, if able to be arranged, are most effective,  according to research data.

Reach Out and Identify the Issues
You have your issue that needs attention. To begin your lobbying efforts it helps to have strength in numbers, so now is the time to see whether local colleagues and associations have interest in helping you. If you are not already in contact with them, this is the perfect time to overlook your ego. Get to know them, at least on a professional level. In meeting with them, formalize a strategy. By sitting down to discuss a strategy, you will be able to discuss the issues, find common ground, and see who may have local political contacts. These contacts will prove to be instrumental during the next step. After you have discussed the issues, put them into a formal letter that can serve as a baseline for your future communication with politicians. I had a professor who said, “If you want to join a conversation, you have to speak the language.” This may seem simple, but having common goals stated makes discussion of the details easier for all people involved in the grassroots effort as you move forward.

Do Your Research, Strategize and Contact
Now you have a plan, but you have not made much action. During that meeting, you need to compile a list of key players in the political arena who have a vote in your issue. Common sense would imply that personal meetings are likely easier with local politicians, and that having a regular communication channel would
facilitate the dialogue. By this I mean reach out to your politicians before you need help. If you regularly contact their office about what they are doing, it will make it easier for you to ask for their help when you need it. Common sense aside, you need to make contact, and email may be the first step. That formal letter you typed up with your issues will come in handy now. Your group of concerned citizens—or it may just be you—will need to email it to the politicians. I would recommend a personal note to them and attach the “form letter,” as it is more substantive. If your emails are going to state level legislators, take note that they require a specific number of “calls to action” from constituents on an issue in a day, so coordinate a specific day to start your campaign. Yes, it is a campaign now, and you need to keep it organized like one. Set regular email times, postal mailing times and telephone calls to the public
official’s office.

“The Ask”
At some point, you will inevitably get a response, and the next phase of your grassroots campaign will be to actually meet with the politician. Know your facts. Let me say that again, know your facts. Notice how I shared empirical evidence earlier? Anecdotal evidence is great, but it is greater to back it up with numbers.

It is not enough to go in and say, “This rule change is going to hurt my business.” You will have to do some research, so when you say that you can add, “Due to the insurance gaps afforded internet-based transportation companies and the encouragement of non-professionally trained or vetted drivers, a change in the local regulations could put less insured, less background checked individuals behind the wheel of vehicles. This breach of consumer protection will negatively impact the traditional for-hire business, as our insurance premiums increased X percent last year alone. Additionally, our required pricing standards that this municipality regulates are not followed by internet-based companies, which use surge pricing during peak times and this negatively impacts my bottom line, as traditional companies are not allowed to do this.” This is just one example of something that may be going on somewhere in our industry. Whatever the issue, back it up with statistics, if possible. Remember to discuss the issues, keep emotions out of the room, and have a handout with the pertinent information to leave behind. This way the politician can review the information you shared with them, and if there are further questions, he can reach out to you.

Follow Through
Do not expect a firm commitment to your cause from the meeting. You do not make hasty decisions without doing your research, and neither will the politician. Regroup sometime after the meeting with your grassroots campaigners and pen a letter to thank the politician, which can also be sent to the letter-to-editor of your local newspapers. Additionally, this is 2014 and social media is a powerful tool. You should also be promoting your cause on those outlets, which is a great way to get more attention to your issue. I will not go into details, but I will encourage you to keep it classy, as they say. As you move forward from the first meeting, try to have a community meeting and invite the politicians to come. Invite the media, if it is possible. Then follow up with more letters to thank them for their support, and keep those telephone calls happening as the vote draws near. This process may not go as smoothly as the last few sentences, but keep the issue out there in front of the politicians and the media. It may help to garner the assistance of supporting industries that are also affected by the issues. For example, hotels, conference centers and tourism agencies are companies that deal with the same clients you provide service. As a side note, it may be beneficial to reach out to your insurance company to see if you can get their support, if that applies to your issue, as they may have data to support your cause.

Proactive Engagement
I just explained something to you that you could have figured out on your own, so why did I do it? We all need to be reminded that we are facing the same issues as an industry. Yes, the scale may vary, but the scope is similar. We need to be more proactive about our own industry, and there is no better place than within your own community.

Furthermore, grassroots lobbying is much cheaper than a hired lobbyist for smaller issues, and it can complement larger ones. The benefits of grassroots lobbying are getting to know your colleagues, fostering relationships with politicians and affecting positive change in the industry on a local level.

GRASSROOTS CHECKLIST:
  • Reach out to your local colleagues to get their support 

  • Identify your areas of concern
  • Do your research
  • Make a formal strategy and action plan
  • Develop a formal letter to disseminate
  • Mail, email and call the public official
  • Meet with the politicians who can affect change
  • Actively engage in social media with the official/media outlets
  • Thank them
  • Follow up with them
  • Hold a public forum (if applicable) and invite media
  • Thank them again
  • Don't stop the mailing and calling
  • *********************************************************************************

    J. Nathan Higdon, MBA
    J. Nathan Higdon, MBA is the co-founder of L’Espace Motorcoach, Inc. in East Tennessee, a serial entrepreneur, and a lifelong student. He is a Ph.D. candidate at Oklahoma State University in Business where he focuses his research on the effects of diversity and productivity in the workplace. He can be reached at Nathan.Higdon@lespacemotorcoach.com or @jnathanhigdon on Twitter.

    Social Media Etiquette: 4 Things You Need To Know

    Social Media Etiquette

    Like children with a shiny new toy, adults introduced to social media jumped in and started playing: posting personal photos to Facebook, accepting requests for “friendship” from long-lost high school pals, and checking into everywhere from the coffee shop to their favorite local eatery. What fun! Suddenly we were getting an inside look into the lives of people we hadn't connected with in years! 

    But unlike a new toy, social media didn't come with any real instructions. We unwrapped it, signed up and off we went, sharing our world with … the world. As more and more people glommed onto this new way of communicating, the seeds of chaos were planted.

    Rules of Engagement
    Without guidelines on how to use social media, disaster is just a tweet away. Many people—and companies—have found this out the hard way. Embarrassing gaffs, impulsive rants, and misguided comments have ensued.

    What you post on social media sites is out there forever. The internet never forgets; a “selfie” posted after a night on the town or a tweet about a colleague can cause more damage than you think. It’s dangerous to assume privacy settings protect you. Even if you’ve locked down your Facebook page, once it’s posted to the web you can guarantee someone who is not directly connected to you will find it. All it takes is for one of your friends to share it with their friends,and what you say can and will be held against you! Your future boss, clients, partners, voters and vendors are watching.

    A good rule of thumb, whether you are engaging on social media for personal or business purposes is this: “If you wouldn't say it loudly in front of your mother (or boss), you shouldn't post it online—anywhere!”

    With so many companies supporting BYOD (bring your own device), it’s more important than ever that a clear social media policy is in place for employees. Your employees are representatives of your brand, and in business perception is everything. To protect yourself from the embarrassment of a social media faux pas, create a policy that clearly states what you expect from your employees when it comes to social media use. Set clear boundaries, especially for those who are part of your brand building process.

    A good rule of thumb, whether you are engaging on social media for personal or business purposes is this: “If you wouldn't say it loudly in front of your mother
    (or boss!), you shouldn't post it online—anywhere!”


    Do I Know You?
    In this world of connectivity, how connected are we really? Has the word “connected” lost its meaning? With our ability to connect to anyone, anytime, anywhere through social media, the term “connected” has been
    watered down. Think about how many of the generic “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” invitations to connect you receive each month. Very few of them are from people you have truly “connected” with outside of social media. It feels a little like the person with the most fans and followers wins. But do they really?

    Before there was LinkedIn, you wouldn't dream of asking a new acquaintance to buy something from you just minutes after you met and you certainly wouldn't show up at a networking event in yesterday’s outfit. Just like offline networking, building relationships online follows the same basic etiquette rules.

    Here Are a Few to Keep in Mind:

    1) Be professional.
    On Twitter, don’t be the egg; post a professional photo of yourself on your profile. This holds true on all social media sites. A business colleague should recognize you from your online picture. Include information about yourself. Your social media profiles are the equivalent of your business card, so be sure you keep it updated as your professional information changes. Always keep your basic contact information updated and link to your other professional profiles.

    2) Introduce yourself.
    Want people to get a sense of who you are? Post interesting, value-added content on your social media accounts to showcase your professional expertise. This is especially true with LinkedIn; when you update your status with useful information, you’re building trust among your network—opening doors for
    introductions to new connections.

    3) Be authentic.
    Just like in real life, no one wants to connect with “that guy.” You know the one: the guy in the sleazy suit who spends his time schmoozing. One of the biggest mistakes people make when connecting on LinkedIn or Facebook is not personalizing the message in the invitation. Swap out the default message with something like “George. I really enjoy your blog at xblog.com. The leadership content you share is so valuable. I’d like to add you to my professional network and get to know more about your business.” This will let the recipient know how you found them and why you want to connect. In turn, they will know that you aren’t connecting for the sake of just adding to their numbers.

    4) Listen.
    Building connections through social media isn’t just about pushing out content on this or that network. If you’re not taking time to listen and engage with influential people (the ones you are hoping to connect with), you’re missing an opportunity. Choose a handful of key people you want to build a business relationship with, read what they are posting, and where there is an opportunity for you to add value—jump in!

    Whether you are connecting with people in the online world, or at a dinner party, knowing how to present yourself in a positive way is the same. Think before you speak translates to “think before you tweet.”

    *********************************************************************************


    Margaret Page is a recognized etiquette expert, speaker and coach, who helps people and organizations be more professional. She is the author of
    The Power of Polite, Blueprint for Success and Cognito Cards — Wisdom for Dining & Social Etiquette. She is the founder and CEO of Etiquette Page Enterprises, a leading Western Canadian training organization. To learn more about Margaret follow her on Twitter and Facebook or sign up for her Etiquette blog or Etiquette Edge Newsletter. To contact Margaret, please visit her website at etiquettepage.com or call (604) 880-8002.

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