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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hollywood Limousine Now Preferred Provider at Winnipeg Airport

Last month, the Winnipeg Airport Authority (WAA) announced Hollywood Limousine Service Inc. as the preferred provider of on-demand sedan and limousine service for customers of Winnipeg Richardson International Airport. Prompted by a growing number of customer complaints, the WAA’s decision to release a request for proposal came back in February, with the goal of attracting a single provider of on-demand services in order to standardize the customer service experience. The drastic reduction in the number of livery companies that would be contracted for on-demand limo service, however, sparked a fair amount of controversy among competitors.

Gaining the attention of local news media, many Winnipeg limousine operators protested several regulatory changes made by the WAA, saying that new regulations aimed at improving customer service would only drive up prices and put smaller limo companies out of business. About 20 of the limousine operators whose on-demand contracts were not renewed convened outside the Manitoba legislature in April to protest what they claimed was an unfair deal that would negatively impact their livelihoods. In a press release, the operators said they “are now scrambling to figure out how to save their companies that have hard working employees,” and characterized the WAA’s decision as “allowing one limousine company to come in and take over.” While new contracts were offered to all operators for pre-arranged service, which makes up about 60 percent of airport limo services, the protesters’ spokesperson maintained that without the ability to make ondemand curbside pick-ups at the airport, upon which smaller providers rely, a majority of the companies are likely to go bankrupt.

The operators were also upset about new terms added to their contracts, including a two-fold increase in dwell fees—costs charged for waiting curbside at the airport for pre-arranged clients. Raised from $2.50 after five minutes to $5, with a $15 maximum after 40 minutes, the WAA advises operators to pass these additional costs on to the consumer which, smaller operators say, essentially forces them to increase their prices, weakening their ability to compete with larger players in the market. Additionally, a $250 monthly fee for pre-arranged pick-ups was added to operators’ contracts; the smaller operators argue that they simply cannot afford to pick up their customers with these added costs.

Despite intense criticism from the competing limousine operators who would be restricted from servicing on-demand airport customers by this deal, the WAA was able to reach an agreement with them, settling the grievances of all parties. The $250 monthly fee, according to the WAA, is only a temporary measure to fund a six-month secret shopper program that will improve the standard of customer service provided by contracted limousine companies.

Major players in the Winnipeg Livery business, including Winnipeg Limousine/Winnipeg Coach Service, London Limos, and Emerald Limousine Service, supported the WAA’s decision throughout the protests, lauding their initiative to standardize the customer service experience in response to a growing number of complaints received by the Manitoba Taxicab Board about rude chauffeurs, dirty vehicles and inconsistent service. “The consistency and the customer service just wasn’t there,” said owner of Hollywood Limousine, Ricky Brar. “Hollywood Limousine is committed to exceeding customer expectations through friendly, professional service.” As part of their proposal, the company has committed to a brand new fleet of Lincoln MKTs, offsetting their carbon footprint by supporting the Manitoba Forestry Association, and requiring their chauffeurs to pass a strict customer service training program.

The WAA is confident that their decision will improve and standardize the customer service experience for on-demand clientele. “Our goal,” said WAA President and CEP Barry Rempel, “is to provide passengers at the airport with an exceptional customer experience for the duration of their trip, including their ride to and from the airport. Today’s travelers have an expectation of services provided at airports around the world, and it is our responsibility to ensure they receive the best level of service available in our community.”

Hollywood Limousine began offering on-demand service at the Winnipeg Richardson International Airport on Tuesday, April 16. Sedan and limousine customers can expect the same flat rates from the airport that they currently enjoy.


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

Rose Chauffeured Transportation's Business is in Bloom

Rose Logo


Ask anyone who spends a lot of time in Charlotte, and they'll tell you they've seen the white motorcoaches adorned with big red roses cruising down Independence Boulevard, or dropping fans off at Bank of America Stadium. The now iconic logo of Rose Chauffeured Transportation is ubiquitous throughout North Carolina’s largest metropolitan area, as familiar to native Charlotteans as the company’s famed President and Founder, H.A. Thompson.

“He’s something of a big shot locally,” hails Marketing Consultant Heather Head, who leads Rose’s digital marketing program. “You can’t go anywhere with this man without somebody saying, ‘H.A. Thompson, is that your voice?’ Everybody recognizes his voice from his radio days.” Once rated the number-one midday personality in America, Thompson is celebrated as one of the most popular radio talk show hosts of the 1970s. After an illustrious 20-year radio career at WBT, he went on to establish what would become one of the largest chauffeured transportation companies in the country. With humble beginnings in 1985, Rose has grown from a family-operated limousine company with three employees and a single sedan, to the leading ground transportation provider in the Carolinas, with a fleet of more than 50 Town Cars, SUVs, executive vans, minibuses and fullsize motorcoaches, a staff of over 90 employees, and a nationwide network of over 400 affiliates.

“I had a five year start on it before I got out of the radio business in 1991,” Thompson recalls. “My sons, Andy and Jeff, were driving on the weekends, and then we just evolved into the business.” It all started with the purchase of their first Rolls Royce sedan, which inspired the company’s original name, Rolls Limousine Limited. After a Rolls Royce representative caught wind of their first yellow page ad and warned H.A. about possible trademark violations, he rebranded the company, and Rose was born. The irony does not seem to be lost on H.A. that there was no special meaning or reasoning behind the now famous brand name initially. “It’s not a wife’s name or a family name or anything … somebody said, ‘let’s just call it Rose. It sounds the same.’” The name’s real value would blossom organically in the years to follow.

Vice President Andy Thompson has grown the business with his father since the very beginning when he was just 18 and still in high school, spending his weekends providing chauffeur services mainly for weddings, anniversaries and proms. Since Rose’s early days, he’s seen the company evolve from servicing mostly social events to mostly corporate customers, adapting to a transforming industry several times. “By 1992,” he says, “we had had enough of the Rolls Royces, because we were fixing them more than we were driving them. We had as many as seven stretch limos back in the 90s, and just last year we sold our last one, so we’re out of the stretch limo business.”

Rose was in the limousine business for more than 20 years before they ventured into the motorcoach business six years ago, a bold move at the time, as they bought their first motorcoach during the worst of the economic crash. “We took a risk when people weren’t investing,” says H.A., and he is deservedly proud that the risk paid off, not failing to mention that his legal consultants said he and his team “were geniuses to start at the bottom of the recession.” They said the company “came out smelling like a rose.” We imagine the pun was intended.

Rose’s fleet currently includes 15 full size motorcoaches, which brings them a substantial amount of business, not to mention local recognition. They are often booked by the many notable universities in the Charlotte metropolitan area, like UNC Charlotte and Queens University, and by the region’s major sports teams, from the Carolina Panthers to the Charlotte Checkers and the Charlotte Knights. The city is also home to a number of major American companies who regularly use Rose for their corporate transportation needs, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Coca Cola.

 “What we were able to do, which nobody else was,” says Director of Operations, Tom Holden, “was grow a brand new motorcoach division within the company during a recession.” Holden is proud that Rose “kept moving forward at the same time everyone else was just hanging on.” He attributes the success of reinventing their fleet, despite challenging economic conditions, to smart timing and smart investing. “We downsized our inventory of Town Cars, but in doing so I would sell two used ones and buy one brand new one, so not only were we downsizing, we were improving the age of the vehicles. So when the economy came out of it, we were running newer cars instead of much older ones.”

Having owned and managed businesses in the past, Holden applied for a chauffeur position at Rose 10 years ago, looking for a part-time position to “relax for a little while.” It wasn’t long before a consultant interviewed him and recommended that it was time to take him out of the driver’s seat and promote him to a management position. Although Holden’s initial reaction was that he wasn’t interested, the next thing he knew, he was sitting behind a desk. Currently, Holden is a 24/7 management figure with an evident passion for his industry and his company. Holden is also president and co-founder of the Charlotte Regional Limousine Association, and regularly contributes his legal and safety expertise to industry publications, including Limo Digest.

“Rose is entirely different than most transportation companies across the country,” he says. “I look at us as a rare breed of transportation, and the future of transportation. Sure, there are companies that have Town Cars at one company, and then own a motorcoach company separately, but we have it all under one roof, all under one management.” Rose has also made passenger safety a top priority, becoming one of the few bus companies in the area certified by the Transportation Safety Exchange.

The Rose Team


Holden has seen the company through a period of amazing growth, from a $1.2 million to an $8.6 million enterprise. Since Rose has come through the recession not only unscathed, but stronger than ever, the company has become focused on developing a number of innovative strategies to differentiate themselves from competitors and maximize their potential, both internally and externally.

In addition to their sizable fleet of Rose-branded vehicles, the company has developed a unique partnership with the Westin, the largest hotel in Charlotte. “We operate 28 vehicles out of the Westin as independent operators,” including Town Cars and SUVS, Holden explains, “and they’re contracted to us to handle their front door service.” They also supplement Rose’s primary fleet for large events or on days they encounter high demand for airport transportation.

The company is also focusing on diversifying and modernizing its marketing strategies. “For an organization like Rose, it’s good to have an integrated plan,” says Heather Head, whose company, Groove On Marketing, was enlisted at Rose after she helped H.A. edit his book, Do Something Scary: Get Undressed for Business. “We started talking last January about what we could do to bring their marketing up to the level of their business operations, to stay ahead of the curve.”

Since Head has begun leading Rose’s digital marketing initiatives, she’s focused on analyzing where the market is going, who the next generation of upand- coming corporate executives will be, and how the needs of motorcoach clients differ from the traditional market. “We took a look into all of those things and developed a plan that we’ve been executing since August,” which includes the development of working documents outlining the target personas of their marketing campaigns, a Facebook page to give the company a social media presence, and a blog to bolster the search engine optimization of their website. To keep up with current internet marketing trends, they’ve also revised the website with a mobile-friendly design, and plan on eventually developing a smartphone app. By watching their website analytics, and actively learning from them, they’ve been able to begin adapting to the growing trend of young executives using mobile devices instead of secretaries to book their rides, while at the same time conserving traditional methods of booking for motorcoach clients, who tend to visit Rose’s website from traditional PCs.

H.A. believes strongly in the new digital direction of marketing. “The money spent today on the internet,” he says, “is better than traditional media.” In addition to the mobilization of their web marketing strategies, Head reports great success with Infusionsoft, an automated sales and marketing software solution for small businesses. Web-based forms associated with the software platform have provided convenience to Rose’s marketing efforts, and help them tailor customer communication based on how they interact with the forms. She reports “huge success” with the company’s initiative to capitalize on the “parking nightmare” stemming recently from ongoing construction at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. With most of their parking decks closed, the airport’s solution has been to park travelers’ cars for them and bus them to the airport. In response, Rose has been using Infusionsoft forms to provide airport customers with more convenient airport transportation at a comparable cost, and the software’s email automation “just takes all the work out of it.”

There is great energy and confidence not only in the company’s creative new external initiatives, but also the internal projects aimed at creating what Andy Thompson describes as “a culture where people are proud to come to work and want to achieve and help the business grow.” Aside from him and his father being present in the office just about every day during the week, they strive to promote this positive sense of company culture in part by utilizing a behavioral assessment tool from a consulting and training company called Global Behavior. This behavior profile helps them identify the best personalities for chauffeur and office positions among applicants.

“You can’t believe how it really hits the mark,” says HR Manager Toni Martin. “They know what kind of personality it takes to drive the cars and deliver the customer service they expect.” As the initial point of contact for all applicants, Martin has found the behavior profile program to be incredibly helpful in how she advises Holden in his hiring strategy.

Improving communication and morale is the ultimate goal of behavior profiling, says Don Crosby of Global Behavior, as well as saturating companies “with the concept of people appreciating thoroughly what they do.” Having helped to unlock behavioral issues for a variety of companies, the statistical process “eliminates the learning curve of knowing a person, allowing you to really connect.” Crosby has been working with Rose for three and a half years, and estimates that in just the first year he was able to save the company more than a quarter of a million dollars.

Rose has come a long way in its 28-year journey, and the team has no plans on slowing down the company’s upward momentum. “The future of Charlotte seems very bright,” says Andy. “It’s growing a lot, and there’s a lot going on.” “Of all the pictures that were ever made for this company,” says Head, referring to a photo of H.A. and Andy washing cars with chauffeur caps on their heads, “this is my favorite.” “I’m just like a Greek restaurant,” says H.A., “you know they hang their pictures all over the place.” He ruminates about his “oldie goldie” pictures, and this one in particular profoundly resonates with the unfolding new chapter of the story of Rose Chauffeured Transportation.


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

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Hollywood Limousine Shoots for the Stars

Hollywood Limousine President Ricky Brar
Hollywood Limousine is having a good year, to say the least. With a newly expanded fleet, an exclusive contract with the Winnipeg International Airport, and a Winnipeg Consumers Choice Award for the third year in a row, this star of Canada’s luxury ground transportation industry is certainly living up to its lustrous brand name.

Competing with more than 20 other limousine companies in the Province of Manitoba’s capital city—some of which have been in business for more than 30 years— Hollywood Limo has prevailed as a regional leader just seven years after its inception in the summer of 2006. The company’s persistent track record of firsts-and-onlys within the local market has earned it the reputation of having the most distinctive and state-of-the-art fleet, as well as the most consistently high-level customer service in Winnipeg.

“The key to our success,” says President Ricky Brar, “is keeping an open mind, getting vehicles that clients are used to getting in larger cities, and keeping up-to-date with technology.” Hollywood’s diverse 35-vehicle fleet includes SUVs, stretch limos, SUV stretches, party buses and their most recent additions, six new Lincoln MKTs. Brar proudly reports that Hollywood is the city’s only company that operates MKTs, or any brand new vehicles for that matter. “All the other companies buy second-hand vehicles, so we actually were the first in 2009, when we introduced the brand new Mercedes Benz E-Class to our fleet, and ever since then we’ve had the reputation of having the most unique fleet in Winnipeg.”

Furthermore, Brar credits the purchasing of new versus used vehicles to long-term cost-efficiency associated with having a more fuel-efficient fleet that requires less maintenance and comes equipped with better technology. Many of the vehicles in Hollywood’s fleet are equipped with Live Bell TV, WiFi, tablets, POS terminals, and the latest GPS tracking and dispatching technology.

“Technology means efficiency,” says Brar, yet “nobody else in Winnipeg uses dispatch software,” which Hollywood has been using for the past three years. Not only does investing in technology make operations more efficient for the company, but more importantly, Brar points out, it improves the client’s experience. “Whatever we can do to make it convenient for the client,” he says, “we try and do it.”

The company’s commitment to delivering customer service that not only exceeds expectations, but dependably does so every time, is what the Winnipeg Airport Authority cites as their rationale behind designating Hollywood Limo as the Official Limousine Service of the Winnipeg International Airport. “Hollywood shares our vision of adding value to the traveling public through the delivery of excellent services,” said Barry Rempel, president and CEO of the WAA.

“Creating a positive first impression of our city and meeting or exceeding the needs of customers is our shared vision.” Brar happily reports that the spike in business since being awarded the airport contract has “been unbelievable,” and he is thrilled to have such a large organization validate that Hollywood Limo is a dependable company.

“The main thing Winnipeg lacks in the limousine industry,” says Brar, “is consistency,” which he believes isa key area of differentiation for his company. Beyond having the best luxury vehicles, the ability to deliver a consistent customer service experience clearly depends on the company’s staff of more than 40 chauffeurs. Accordingly, the company requires all of their drivers to go through a training program designed specifically for Hollywood Limousine, on top of the mandated chauffeur license from the Manitoba Taxi Cab Board. In addition, Brar says Hollywood is Winnipeg’s only limo company with a uniform in effect— black and white, of course. “It’s the same universal uniform wherever you go in the world, but no one else in Winnipeg enforces that. A lot of our clients are world travelers, and I think they should expect this in Winnipeg as well, because we are comparing ourselves to the larger cities—we want be compared to New York and Toronto.”

Despite Manitoba’s capital city being on the smaller side, with a population of just over 700,000, there is a certain serendipity to Hollywood Limo’s big-city attitude considering recent expansions to Winnipeg’s otherwise steady economy. With the renovation of the Winnipeg Convention Center and the construction of around ten hotels over the past few months, Brar has seen a large influx of conferences coming to the city, which has brought a substantial amount of corporate business to the company, the likes of which Brar has never seen before. Along with a “long overdue” new airport terminal and the Canadian Human Rights Museum, scheduled to open next year, Brar says these new developments have put Winnipeg on the same scale as Canada’s major cities.

While the local economic conditions have historically been good to the livery industry, the main challenge to the region’s operators has typically been the geographic location and the weather that comes along with its high latitude. “We’re also known as Winterpeg,” says Brar. “It’s just unbelievable how much snow we get, so trying to maneuver around in the snow and the cold temperatures is not easy on the vehicles or our chauffeurs.” Between that and dealing with flight delays caused by bad weather, the winters in Winnipeg can seem incredibly long to a limo operator—particularly because wintery conditions can last six or seven months. “That’s one of the reasons our company introduced the MKTs,” says Brar, “because they’re all-wheel drive, which will help us to provide a safer ride to our clients in the wintertime.”

The extreme Winterpeg conditions, however, are nothing new to Brar and his father, Paul, who is also vice president and co-founder of the company. A Winnipeg native and transportation industry veteran with 30 years of experience, the senior Brar of the family business is the go-to advisor of the operation. “He has a lot of knowledge and experience,” says Ricky. “He’s seen people in the industry come and go, and because we don’t want to make mistakes that other operators have made in the past, we always go to him for advice before we make a major—or even a small—decision.”

Though the Brars were the first to start the business in 2006, General Manager Jag Singh came on board later that same year, and Ricky describes him as “the go-to guy for pretty much everything.” Unified since their modest, onevehicle inception, this successful trio is one that always inspires Ricky’s confidence. “Between the three of us, we can do anything,” he says.

That momentum is carrying Hollywood Limousine to the end of their most successful year ever. Fortified by all the new business stemming from the airport contract awarded to the company, Brar hopes to refine their focus on corporate clients, and increase inbound affiliate business. As a member of the National Limousine Association, as well as the Winnipeg and Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, he is optimistic about the potential to build affiliate relationships by networking within these “big extended families.”

Continuing their tried-and-true strategy of differentiating themselves from their competitors, Brar’s goal for the future is to expand Hollywood Limousine to other major Canadian cities. “Hopefully by next year,” he says, “we’ll expand into another large Canadian city, if not two.” To get there, the company will continue to invest in educating the public about why Hollywood Limousine stands out from the Winnipeg crowd, through billboards, TV and radio campaigns, internet advertising, and many other avenues (they even have a YouTube video). Spreading the word, Brar says, is important, but keeping that word is imperative. It’s just unbelievable how much snow we get, so trying to maneuver around in the snow and the cold temperatures is not easy on the vehicles or our chauffeurs. Hollywood Limousine’s distinctive, state-of-the-art fleet. For more info, visit www.hollywoodlimoservice.com. //LD



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





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