Monday, November 11, 2013

Global Limousine's Legacy of Experience

Philadelphia is a city with a rich history. Founded in 1682 by William Penn, this former capital of the U.S. was the country’s largest and most important city for decades, the meeting place of the Founding Fathers and, of course, the location where they signed the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. The City of Brotherly was Benjamin Franklin’s home, the birthplace of the American zoo, and the site of America’s first World’s Fair—1876’s Centennial Exposition.


Anthony Viscusi, president of Global Limousine, stands with
two of his vehicles at the top of the legendary steps to the
Philadelphia Museum of Art, famous from the film Rocky.
Viscusi once drove Sylvester Stallone exclusively
for three weeks straight.

 Philadelphia native Anthony Viscusi, president of the city’s Global Limousine, is a man with a rich history as well. Anchored in the luxury ground transportation industry for over 40 years, Viscusi is a member of a very small circle of individuals who have decades of experience in this business.

That experience started for Viscusi in the early 1970s, when he was the accountant for “The Mike Douglas Show,” a nationally syndicated talk show produced in Philadelphia. In 1972, shortly after coming on board with the show, he established Esquire Limousine Service to serve the celebrities and guests on the program. He drove these stars for years, gaining an abundance of valuable knowledge in handling VIPs, and learning what they expect in service. 

The show wrapped up its operations in Philadelphia and moved to L.A. a few years later, as entertainment enterprises tend to do. Viscusi went with them, and in 1978—now with seven limousines but without the business needed to keep them running—entered into a contract with New York’s famed Fugazy Continental (now Fugazy International) to open Fugazy of California. But this seemingly prosperous venture fizzled out within a few years, and Viscusi started searching for something new to sink his teeth into.

He found it in 1980, through a newspaper clipping carrying the announcement that industry veteran David Klein of the legendary Dav El organization was looking to open a branch of his transportation operation in Philadelphia. Already longing to return to his hometown, Viscusi met with Bill Fugazy in New York and informed Fugazy that he was leaving the California operation. Two hours later, Viscusi was in Klein’s office entering into an agreement to own and operate the new franchise of Dav El in Philadelphia.

Viscusi operated his company under the Dav El name for the next 24 years, and achieved some important milestones along the way. His franchise landed a contract as the exclusive limousine service for the Four Seasons Hotel of Philadelphia; he opened a branch office of Dav El in Atlantic City, NJ, and provided in-house limousine service for Resorts International Hotel and Casino; and he purchased Frederick’s Limousine Service and expanded his operations into the Bally’s and Golden Nugget casinos.

Viscusi also founded the Delaware Valley Limousine Operators Association (DVLOA) in 1984—which became the PRLA in 1998—and served as president of the DVLOA for nine years and president of the PRLA for four. He remains active with the PRLA today as a board member, and was elected for another term in September (see story, page 59).

In 2004, after 24 years running his operation under the Dav El name, Viscusi decided it was finally time to establish his own identity. He ended his business relations with Dav El and founded Global Limousine, moving into a location he had bought a few years earlier in preparation for this decision—the 40,000-square-foot historic brick building (originally the home of Coca-Cola Bottling of Philadelphia) where Global and its 48-vehicle fleet are headquartered today.

All of Viscusi’s decades of experience, and the wealth of wisdom he gained from them, are infused into everything Global Limousine does today—and it shows. Working with all those celebrities on “The Mike Douglas Show” in his early years, Viscusi got a great education on how a VIP wants to be handled, and he instills that in every Global driver for their treatment of every client today. “Not much of that changes,” he says. “A lot of other stuff does, but how you treat the customer and how they want to be treated stays the same.”

Viscusi and the Global team accomplish this with intensive driver training and constant interaction with the drivers, as well as monthly meetings. “We just try to focus on service, service, service,” says Viscusi. This mindset is apparent in the appearance of the drivers as well, who wear custom Global Limousine ties—silver with a black logo. “As our passengers are coming down that escalator at the airport, they’re looking for the silver tie,” Viscusi comments. And, as part of Global’s enhanced service, the company has bilingual chauffeurs, among whom all European languages are represented, along with Japanese, Vietnamese, Mandarin and Cantonese.

But Global takes driver education far beyond basic service training. The company is one of the few providers anywhere with an in-house defensive driving program. The program is run by Josh Hansford, Global’s operations manager, who teaches these National Safety Council courses every six weeks. Aside from a six-hour class and subsequent test, the courses include road testing and evaluated drives to airports, hotels and other pick-up points frequented by Global’s clients. When they pass the course, the drivers receive a certificate, not to mention enhanced skills and morale. “I love working with the chauffeurs and training them, especially the ones who maybe haven’t done this before,” says Hansford. “Teaching them how to be chauffeurs and seeing their confidence level build is just great.” 

“It’s wonderful to start them there, because then when we have the chauffeur meetings we’re basically repeating safety and service issues they’ve been trained on,” says Viscusi. “They can relate back to what they were taught in the classroom.”

Investments into areas like their driver training program have paid off for Global. The company is revered for its service and safety records, and most of its 48 vehicles are out on jobs at all times. Global has grown more over the past ten years than all of Viscusi’s companies, combined, had grown over his 30 previous years in the industry. This is even more astounding when one considers that the majority of Global’s business is obtained through word-of-mouth. “We do very little advertising for a service business,” Viscusi says. And, of course, when a company can succeed the way Global has, while relying primarily on referrals, it is testament to the quality of that company’s service. 

Another way Global assures its success is through long-standing contracts. Viscusi says Global is currently “going heavy in the minibus business,” using the vehicles for contracts with apartment buildings, airlines, and parking lots for shuttle services. “That’s certainly a nice piece of the business,” he says, “because once we’ve made the deal, all we have to do is make sure the guy is in the vehicle every day, and it just runs and runs.” He adds that written contracts are rare in this industry, and he’s quite happy to have several of them—some of which have been running for decades. “For me, client retention is what really counts. We still have corporate clients that I’ve had since 1980, and that means we’re doing something right.”

Viscusi also likes the added bonus of these shuttling contracts, which is that they put Global’s attractive black vehicles, emblazoned with the company’s logo and information, in front of the public every day. They become rolling billboards, he says, and lead to people calling Global to do business. So these contracts, in turn, continually perpetuate more business.

But Global is careful to avoid relying on single, large contracts for revenue. Viscusi has learned to be wary of these large contracts—single sources that account for 25 percent or more of his company’s total revenue, the loss of which any company may not be able to withstand. “I’ve been down that road, where you’ve got one major client and they either close shop or move,” he says. Two of the companies he’s purchased and merged into Global were in similar situations and saw no way out but to sell. “When I look at a dispatch screen for the day and I see 100 jobs and 50 different clients, I’m happy,” he adds.

Most people take technology such as that dispatch screen for granted these days, but for someone like Viscusi who’s been in this game since the early ’70s, the advantages of technology are something he appreciates on a daily basis. Technology has made transportation businesses a lot easier to run successfully than they were 30 or 40 years ago when, Viscusi says, “We used to give a chauffeur a set of keys, made sure he had a couple of quarters to hit the payphone, said a Hail Mary, and that was it.” Today, Viscusi can keep an eye on Global’s operations from anywhere, by watching feeds from the company’s security cameras, logging into the reservations system, and tracking the cars’ GPS systems in the rare instances when he needs to.

Global uses Voyager reservations software (which Viscusi says is “just amazing”), Nextel communications with their drivers, and a host of other technology products, and is also in the process of creating a reservations app. The company is active on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, and receives a fair amount of new business through those channels. “Within the last ten years, social media is something that’s certainly become a larger part of this business,” says Hansford. Viscusi, with his broader view of our industry over the past four decades, sees the benefits of technology on a much larger scale. “Everywhere there was a weakness has now been compensated by technology, on the communications and reservations side, and certainly on the accounting end of it,” he says.

Technology will obviously continue to play an increasing role in Global’s (and every business’s) operations into the future. “It’s so easy to run the business now, with technology, that I could see myself running it for at least another ten years,” says Viscusi. And although he is not currently acting on expanding the company, he does have some visions and loose plans. He’s interested in expanding the company’s strong corporate base, as well as possibly moving into other cities. Growth through acquisitions is also something he considers—something that was beneficial to the expansion of Global early on, but that the company hasn’t done in around eight years. And the purchase of Global’s 40,000-square-foot building 11 years ago was a move that strategically allowed for the accommodation of a much larger fleet—up to 80 vehicles. But although these are obvious considerations for a company enjoying success and stability the way Global is, Viscusi says one of the reasons his business is a standout is that he never wanted it to be a huge company. “I just want it to be a quality operation,” he says. “I’ve always really focused on the quality.” The company will only grow, he says, if he can assure that the quality of its service remains at least as high as it is today.

That, and the longevity of Viscusi’s experience in operating the business, is what makes Global Limousine exceptional. Again, he points to his roots in the Dav El organization, and the opportunity he had to serve the celebrities of the ’70s, as the backbone of his legacy and his abilities. “That’s where I learned the skills that we still use today for servicing the public,” he says. “That was the foundation, because I was behind the wheel and dealing directly with these clients—from Sinatra and Sammy to Stallone and Schwarzenegger—on a day-to-day basis.” What he learned then, he has sharpened and refined over 40 years in this industry. And that acumen is clearly evident in everything—every reservation call, every business move and every trip—Global Limousine does today. “We have a history of service in a city of history,” he says. With this tradition of excellence, Global Limousine is a standout in the world of luxury ground transportation, and continues to glimmer as a shining example of what a limousine company can be. //LD

For more information about Global Limousine visit www.gogloballimo.com.



Written by Evan McCauley
Senior Editor
evan@limodigest.com

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