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Coachbuilder's Corner

This Month: Executive Coach Builders

Thursday, September 26, 2013

6 Common Mistakes Limo Companies Make in Marketing

Imagine being your own boss: a dream many people have once they venture into the world of business. In the competitive industry of ground transportation, many entrepreneurs come and go for many obvious reasons. Whether it be a slow economy, an overpopulated and competitive market, bad employees or lack of experience in running a business by yourself, owning your own limo business is a daunting task. If you manage to be one of the outliers and succeed, the rewards can be plentiful. But it takes hard work and some thought-out planning. The problem with many entrepreneurs is that they rush to the finish line and overlook some of the most important decisions that ultimately put a damper on their initial dreams. Here are six of the most common mistakes limo companies make in business - avoid them, and you will be one step ahead of your competition.

1) Your Business Name is Too Long
Let's face it, the "less is more" theory comes into play when you decide on the name of your business. The recent overturn that has happened in the ground transportation industry has businesses scrambling to market their companies in unique and inventive ways. For example, when the recent recession hit, limousines were viewed by the public as a luxury they could live without, so companies started renaming their businesses appropriately--a company called something like Corporate Limousine becomes Corporate Limousine and Sedan Service within this trend.

Also, adapting a company name with "Worldwide" gave the end user a feeling of a giant corporation and entity. However, having a long name can have its downfalls. Not to name names, but way too many ground transportation companies have company names that sound like law firms. For example, "APT Buffalo Limousine Worldwide Ground Transportation" may solve the problem of letting everyone know all that your company does ("hey people, we service Buffalo with limousines and ground transportation... as well as anywhere in the world") but it's just way too long. No one is going to remember your name. And that's a problem.

Also, you have to think of your website as your business hub. Calling yourself a long name equals an equally forgettable domain name. A lot of companies use acronyms as well, which only confuses people more. Stick to a short, memorable name. For example, a name like Blue Diamond Limousine is both memorable and concise. Sure, it may take you longer to think of one, but the result will be worth the extra time in the long run.

2) Antiquated Email Addresses
You've spent thousands of dollars on brochures, a website and a marketing plan but you're using a hotmail account? Bad call. Nothing screams "amateur" (and small company) more than a search engine email address. A Hotmail or Yahoo email address is not the definition of innovation. Spend the extra $10-$15 and set up an email account that is connected to your domain (usually hosted with your website). Save your personal email address for dating websites... keep it professional when it comes to your company.

3) Busy Signals or Personal Messages
When was the last time you called anyone, let alone a personal friend, and got a busy signal? Exactly. So why should you let a customer with a credit card in hand hear one when they call your business? This happens way too many times, believe it or not. Many small companies are operating with one or two full-time employees, so they use a cell phone to field phone calls. Not using your business name on your voicemail will turn off a prospective client. Take the time and set up a company voice mail message... or better yet, open up a new business line to give the person calling the impression that he or she is reaching a corporate office. First impressions are critical in such a competitive industry.

4) Don't Make the Company About You
You've finally made the decision to jump into your own business and you're feeling enpowered. There's nothing wrong with that... you should feel great about yourself. Avoid, however, the temptation to make the company all about you. Naming a company after a family name was fashionable at one point... in the 1800's. If you are starting out with little or no history associated with your name, name your company after something else. When marketing your company, make it about the "brand" and not "you". Remember, you have good days and bad days - your company's brand has to be consistent. If you make it about you, you run the risk of not only alienating your employees but also diluting the product. All of your employees are part of the brand and having them feel part of the equation speaks volumes about you as a leader.

5) Use Social Media as Your Company Brand, Not Your Personal Platform
This one seems obvious but is practiced more often than not. Posting your personal views on controversial topics may also empowering, but by doing so you can alienate your audience. Keep to business and business only. Offer solutions to your friends and use social media to enhance your company brand and not as a medium to post your political views. Whether you are aware of it or not, the 15 "likes" you get for your post means that just as many or more feel the exact opposite way. Keep your language clean and your posts relevant to your business. Save your personal opinions for a fireside chat with friends. Don't polarize your client base.

6) Inconsistent Branding
Another common mistake is inconsistent branding. Branding, by definition, is the name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller's product distinct from those of other sellers. But it goes even deeper. Branding is a feeling associated with a message. Don't use inconsistent brand marketing and send out mixed messages about your company. Is your company about your vehicles or is it about the ride? Is it about price or excellence in service? If it's about value, don't accentuate your prices. Market how a quality ride is better than the cheapest price.

Also, if your company uses an acronym to abbreviate the company, make sure you are consistent with using it in all of your company marketing. Don't be "ALC" when you answer the phone and "Alliance Limousine Corporation" in your printed collateral.

Keep in mind your target audience. Does McDonalds make the best burgers in the world? No. Not even close. So why are they the most popular hamburger in the world? They know their strengths: consistency of the product, the speed at which you are serviced and their marketing. McDonalds knows that it's the experience you receive when you go there. If you don't know what your company is about, then don't confuse your audience. Figure out what you are good at and market your company the right way. If you don't know the answers, reach out to experts in the industry like Create-A-Card, Inc.

The old adage that you have to spend money to make money is never more obvious than when it comes to marketing your business. Spend wisely, and you shall reap the benefits.

There you have it, six common mistakes limo companies make when marketing. If you can avoid these pitfalls, you're certainly going to stick around much longer than your competition.

Written by
Art Director

Friday, September 13, 2013

Battisti Customs’ Smash Success is the Product of a Perfectly Designed Business Plan

It is a nerve-wracking quest, forming a new company—a daunting and difficult prospect, to say the least. Most who attempt it don’t succeed. When startups do manage to survive for more than a year or two, the growing pains and the struggles to stay afloat are usually brutal, grueling and ongoing. Starting a new company that takes off immediately and just keeps growing and prospering usually amounts to nothing more than a hope.

This is especially true for a new luxury vehicle builder. The upfitter realm is a tough one—there is stiff competition from builders who have refined their work over years of experience, and buyers will only purchase the very best custom-upfitted products.

Bill Battisti and Carl Hazzard with one of Ann Marie Limousine's
Battisti Customs-built Sprinters.

Battisti Customs is the type of young company whose success most startups and new business ventures only ever dream of achieving. This is a company that, in just four years, went from selling parts and doing small conversions to upfitting 10 to 12 Sprinters and buses every month, and becoming one of the most respected and revered custom vehicle builders in the business.

6 Steps to Building a Prospering Ground Transportation Company

With all the modern technology that has flooded the market—to assist us in getting the client from point A to point B as quickly as possible, perhaps nothing has impacted us more than the advent of GPS. Unfortunately, no matter how sophisticated they make it, or how many technological upgrades we download into it, there is no GPS capable of showing us the correct path to building a successful ground transportation company. For that, we have to go “old school” and use a business road map, one that points out six important stops along the way as we rock on down that highway en route to creating a successful company. Buckle up.

1. Growth through acquisitions
Part of your long-term business strategy should be to grow through acquisitions as they present themselves to you. My company has done five acquisitions in the last six years, and it has allowed us to show significant growth without a serious outlay of capital. Acquisitions also allow you to collect valuable assets—not just personnel and vehicles, but those very important client contacts as well. Gasoline drives our vehicles, but a brand new, freshly minted client list from a recent acquisition is the real fuel that powers our success. Our most recent acquisition was a straight asset purchase which included the company’s customer list, website, and access to all its corporate business—a virtual goldmine.

2. Outside sales
Emails, phone calls, LinkedIn messages, and even Skype meetings all serve a purpose in our “not-enough-hours-in-the-day” busy business lives. But you should never ignore the power of that rare opportunity to shake a hand, pass a business card, or look someone straight in the eye without being filtered through a computer monitor. Join local ground transportation associations, be seen at limousine conventions, and make your presence felt at your local chamber of commerce. Build your brand by talking to people face-to-face. It’s something with which no fancy, high-tech, graphics-loaded website can ever compete.

3. Inbound affiliates
This just makes sense. If people are flying out of your city, then most assuredly they are also flying in, and you also want that business. Inbound affiliates are not to be taken lightly when you are putting together a business plan. In fact, they can be a major source of your revenue. For our company, six out of our top 10 clients are other limousine companies referring us their inbound work. More than $4 million of our annual revenue is a direct result of inbound affiliate sales. Do what you need to do to cultivate those important relationships, and do it right.

4. Outbound marketing
There are a number of key ways to reach potential clients, starting with good PR. Never think of yourself as being in the witness protection program: you want as many people to know about you as possible—in a positive light, of course. Send out press releases to local publications and trade and association magazines about the good you do in the community, charitable endeavors, new hires, acquisitions, bumps in your technology prowess, your green initiatives, etc. Send them your company newsletter, put them on your e-blast or e-bulletin list, drop them a postcard. If you are fortunate enough, utilize bylined articles and try to get your expertise on specific subjects printed in major trade publications that affect and impact your industry, such as Limo Digest. Then send the link to that published article far and wide. You can also utilize traditional outbound marketing avenues, such as print and online advertising, radio ads and direct mail pieces.

5. Inbound marketing
I firmly believe that inbound marketing today is what websites were 10 years ago. The sales process has changed dramatically over the past 30 years, when all it took to get in to see a client was a phone call and a briefcase. Or, if you were really lucky (and gutsy), you just knocked on their door unannounced. In the good old days that decision-maker would have been the president of the company’s executive assistant or the company’s travel manager. But in the era of company downsizing, a lot of travel decisions are being made in the procurement department. This means the person who now orders ground transportation has probably just gotten off the phone from ordering those plastic mats that go under office chairs.

So now you need them to come to you, which means you want to increase your Google presence and your social networking capabilities. Each month we do two blogs and one e-blast which are generated through our website and social media channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, etc. Then our sales team, each of whom belong to at least 50 social media groups (i.e. corporate travel planners, wedding planners, travel associations, etc.), send it to their contacts, and so on. Since we implemented inbound marketing, we have already seen the number of contacts who entered our company website through LinkedIn alone jump 35%. Finally, one of the most critical aspects of good inbound marketing can be summed up with two simple words—follow up. Companies like Hub Spot and Inbound Marketing Agents can be instrumental in helping you coordinate all aspects of your inbound marketing program.

“For the past year we have worked with John Greene at ETS to align their marketing and sales funnels into a lead-generation machine,” says, Bill Faeth, CEO of Inbound Marketing Agents. “But the key element is conversion, which requires targeted offers based on the leads buying cycle. You need to know your prospects and deliver the right information at the right time to get prospects to convert to customers.”

6. Customer service
I saved this for the very end because even if you hit a home run with the previous five suggestions, you are only going to wind up like “Casey at the Bat” if your primary focus isn’t on servicing the client. And I don’t mean just meeting their needs, exceeding their expectations. But keep in mind, those expectations will continue to grow. Travelers will continue to have high expectations as they search for better value. They’ll expect to be picked up by a well-trained and courteous chauffeur who shows up when and where he’s supposed to. He’ll know where he’s going, isn’t talking or texting on a cell phone during the trip, doesn’t have Van Halen blasting on the radio, and is quick to offer the customer a bottle of cold water and magazines that aren’t two and three years old (an astute observer once pointed out, “the back of a limousine shouldn’t look like a doctor’s office.”)

Chauffeurs constitute the direct link between your company and the client. They have to be friendly but not necessarily buddy-buddy. The client needs a knowledgeable, courteous, capable driver, not a new BFF. As someone once pointed out, “the biggest variable in terms of quality of experience is the chauffeur.”

So as you see, even without a GPS system to lead you to the financial promised land, there are ways—six in fact—to be successful in this tough, profit margin-thin industry. It’s a road that can be successfully navigated, even with all the obstacles seemingly looming ahead, if you use these six steps as outlined. And if you do, chances are that all those obstacles will soon be in your rear-view mirror, leaving a wide-open road ahead as you strive to build a successful ground transportation company. // LD

Contributed by John M. Greene

John M. Greene is a 25-year veteran of the limousine business, and president and CEO of
ETS International in Randolph, MA. ETS International has an affiliate network of more than
350 limousine companies throughout the U.S. The company won the Limo Digest Show’s
2011 Image Award for Best Marketing. John Greene can be contacted at (617) 804-4801

Fred Beans Means Business

Brand names that resonate most strongly with consumers all possess the same seemingly magical quality, an uncanny element you just can’t put your finger on, which gives them an indefinable recognizability and familiarity. Fred Beans is inarguably one of those magical brands.

Fred Beans Means Business
You may remember Fred Beans Family of Dealerships from the cover of our September 2012 issue. If you are from the Greater Philadelphia area, however, you probably recognize Fred Beans as a household name. As we chronicled in their cover profile story last year, much of the company’s success stems historically from its founding father’s “out-of-the-box” marketing techniques, and today you’d be hard-pressed to find a Philadelphian who hasn’t at some point heard the radio advise them to “Get to Know Beans.”

3-Month Holiday Marketing Plan: How to Achieve Maximum Results this Season

Now is the time to plan your holiday marketing campaign to achieve maximum results 

Summer has barely breathed its last breath and the words “holiday marketing” are already finding their way into our business plans. It’s one thing for retailers to light up the Christmas trees and start playing Bing Crosby earlier and earlier, but in terms of strategically scheduling your holiday marketing campaign, it’s never too early.

As business owners, getting out in front of the mad holiday rush is key to capturing your clients’ attention. Waiting until the last minute will mean you’re competing with other companies who might be offering good deals, but not the tailored personalized service you can provide to your loyal clients. Strategizing now for promotions, mailings, calendars and holiday cards will make this holiday season a little less stressful, but assuredly more fruitful in terms of booking business.

Whether you’re looking to completely overhaul your current holiday marketing strategy, or you just want to add a few new techniques, here are some tried-and-true methods that will get your phones ringing without busting the budget.

What Should I Do in September and October?

Fall is a good time to collect as much data as possible in regards to local events in your community or nearby cities. You’ll want to know the where and when of holiday concerts, Christmas tree lightings, house tours, shopping excursions, plays and more. Plot these events on a master calendar, not only to keep for yourself, but to share with clients. E-blasts are a great way to communicate these dates with clients, and you can include them on your company website. This allows you to become the go-to source for upcoming events, saving customers the time of searching on their own. Share a master calendar in September, and then as events approach, you can tailor each e-blast to promote them individually. Think about the things that your clients will be most interested in, and then carefully construct a plan for the services you can offer to coincide with them, but without overwhelming their inboxes.

For instance, if The Nutcracker, a family favorite, is coming to your city for a limited time, the tickets are going to be sold out way in advance, meaning people will already be thinking about transportation. Create a special message that promotes your company’s ability to take the whole family to the event in luxury, without worrying about parking or walking several blocks in the cold. Make sure to remind them that you’ll be waiting with a warm car when the show ends (especially for those in the Northeast).

Shoppers in your client list will love to hear about the ways you can make holiday gift-buying less stressful. Take this opportunity to grab that Black Friday business by offering special transportation for groups small and large. Most people can’t stand the parking at malls and outlet stores, or needing to bring two cars to fit the whole family plus the shopping bags. You can solve all their problems, right? Tell them that. Show them your fleet of vehicles.

Tell them how you can give them a comfortable ride to any shopping destination, and even play their favorite holiday movie on the way if they like. Remind them through a strategic advertisement, on-hold message, in-vehicle flier or e-blast that they can shop ‘til they drop and won’t need to drive home.

September and October are also good months to think about the holiday cards you’re going to send to clients and colleagues—whether digital or traditional print. Getting in ahead of the mad rush of orders will guarantee your cards are in your hands and ready to be sent. One tip is to think about sending greeting cards for Thanksgiving or New Year to set your card apart from the pack and ensure it gets noticed by valued clients.

What Should I Do in November?

This month is ideal for direct mailing campaigns. You’ve prepped the clients with non-intrusive emails, letting them know about the exciting holiday events taking place, and now is the time to get your branding physically into their hands.

We recommend mailing items out to clients right around Thanksgiving, since this is when plans really start to take shape. Plant the seed that events are coming fast, and planning ahead will relieve some of the stress that could result from scrambling for last-minute transportation to entertainment venues, holiday parties or dinners. Post cards could include promotional codes that will encourage them to call in, or a QR code to bring them to a specific landing page on your website, with holiday specials allowing you to track what is working for your company. Try offering a percentage off the trip or maybe complimentary egg nog when they book one of your holiday tours.

As mentioned earlier, holiday greeting cards should be ordered by now, if you plan to mail them about two weeks before Christmas. Thanking customers for their business throughout the year is not something to skip. In recent years, companies have been switching to digital e-cards as they shift to more eco-friendly paper policies, and many clients enjoy doing business with companies who are doing so. This is also a more cost-conscious method.

For operators who like the traditional route of mailing a quality card that clients will hang on to for a few weeks, there are many options available that will represent your company’s brand while also keeping with the sentiments of the holiday season.

Offering a gift program for your top-tier clients is another strategy to consider for your holiday marketing plans. These accounts are what made your business so successful, and you don’t want to let it go unnoticed. The options run the gamut from sending a gift basket or rewarding them with tickets to a local entertainment venue, to offering a gift card for their next airport pickup or upgrading their vehicle. It’s a special way to reinforce the relationship you have with these clients and go into the New Year on a high note.

What Should I Do in December?

The holiday season is in full swing, now. Company parties, family shopping trips, concerts in the city, holiday light tours—there is an endless stream of reasons people should be using your transportation services. But the number one reason is safety.

One thing that is practically guaranteed during the holidays is the amount of drinking going on in restaurants, bars and offices across the U.S. There is a high risk of getting a DUI, not to mention the risk of hurting someone else if you get behind the wheel after having a few too many. Some people might think chauffeured transportation is too expensive, but there are ways to market your service to help them realize that the advantages far outweigh the cost.

You will want to encourage your corporate account holders to provide transportation for their employees for their company holiday parties. It’s the night when everyone wants to let loose, but there can be serious consequences if an employee leaves a company party and gets into an accident. By providing transportation in your shuttles or motorcoaches, everyone can get to and from the party safely.

For families and even groups of friends who are hitting the town for the holidays and New Year, your high-end limobuses or SUVs are extremely economical. Remind these customers that the cost will be split among all of the passengers, and you can provide multi-stop service to wherever they plan on celebrating. Your marketing materials can spell out the cost of your service compared to the cost of someone losing a license, paying for an attorney, or regretting a decision for the rest of their lives.

The holidays are a special time in everyone’s lives, and as a business owner, it’s a critical time to market your company’s wide variety of services. Through solid pre-planning and targeted campaigns that will attract key clientele, your company will solidify relationships with loyal customers, generate revenue for the last quarter, and ensure that everyone has a safe holiday season. // LD

Contributed by Arthur Messina

Arthur Messina is the founder and president of Create-A-Card, Inc., the leading chauffeured transportation marketing firm, which he began in 1986. Messina has served on the board of the National Limousine Association, is a current board member of the Minority Limousine Operators of America, has been a featured speaker at industry trade shows, and is a frequent sponsor at local association meetings and events. He also is co-founder and managing director of Driving Results, a consulting firm for the ground transportation industry that began in 2011. He can be reached at (631) 584-2273 or via email at

What Comes After the Town Car?

For better or worse, production of the cornerstone of our industry, the venerable Lincoln Town Car, ended two years ago. And that means the luxury transportation industry is in a revolutionary phase of change, because our workhorse is slowly disappearing. As we move forward with new vehicle implementation, the industry is faced with the uncertainty of what to do next.

This phase is further complicated by outside factors, such as increasing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards at the end of this decade, which will inevitably reshape the vehicles and choices we cautiously debate today. Internal factors are equally difficult to project regarding these future assets, as we must estimate reliability, earning potential, durability, and longevity with respect to the former standard, the Town Car. The method of acquiring a new vehicle is the simple part (you buy it), but the answer to the proper replacement is as varied and complex as the number of options available. Research and development (R&D), specifically project portfolios, will facilitate the transition if you plan properly.

When thinking about what will replace the Town Car in your fleet, the most important variable for consideration is your target demographic—specifically, your best clients. Keep in mind that as an industry, we spent roughly two decades lumping all of our clients into a one-size-fits-all sedan, and are now forced (or have the opportunity, depending on how you look at it) to make a decision about sedans on a company level, rather than industry-wide. It is true that there have always been other options, but the industry did not fully buy into them. Clients still refer to all black cars as “Town Cars”—the vehicle became a commodity, and now it is gone. This is the ideal time to get to know your clients better, and find out what your market will handle, as well as what your clients really want.

Look at your target demographic, and you will see that it has changed over the service life of the Town Car. Client expectations are changing as Baby Boomers are retiring and Generation X and Y are quickly becoming the corporate and leisure travelers in your vehicles. Now it is less of a competitive advantage than a necessity to appeal to the different preferences of your client base. Understanding your clients is paramount in maintaining relevancy in your market, and researching your key demographic will invariably show a wider range of viable options than a single vehicle replacement. The variety of available sedan offerings allows us to provide a diverse range of cars within a single fleet. However, there is a caveat. If you are not doing R&D and getting to really know your best clients, you are missing a chance to capture niches within your market during this revolutionary replacement change.

With all this talk about change, you may be wondering, “How do I get to know what my clients want?” Take this opportunity to build upon the relationships you already have with them. Look at your client list, and reach out to your best clients; do not forget your affiliate network. You will need to start your research evaluating potential vehicles. Don’t be afraid to look outside the box, especially when considering your local clients. The traditional manufacturers may not provide the best options for your specific fleet application, but you must consider your client expectations and preferences they have shared with you. For example, your national affiliates will likely buy into something different than your local leisure clients will, but you will only know what it is when you ask them.

Ultimately, you must do your due diligence prior to presenting them with options, e.g. read about consumer reviews, drive them yourself, and consult your employees’ and maintenance department’s views and concerns—and then present these options to your clients to gauge their thoughts on your research. Next, you will need to beta test the potential replacements (rent/borrow/short-term lease them to try them out in your fleet and introduce them to your clients and employees) prior to making a purchase decision. That is basic R&D. However, developing a project portfolio is a bit more comprehensive, as you can then use it to consider more segments of the demographic.

You may find, depending upon your responses and your resource pool for acquisition, that there are several different vehicles available to your fleet renewal project. With market uncertainties and new technologies, the strategic innovations you implement will vary according to your clients and the target demographics of your current and future growth area. For example, the Generation X and Y travelers are more concerned about environmentally friendly transportation, and although they may not be willing to pay more for it, the option may appeal more to them; brand equity will benefit from the goodwill effort of environmental responsibility. Therefore, capturing a first-mover competitive advantage with technologically advanced vehicles will set you ahead of the fast-following competition. During your research, you should come up with many questions and concerns that will fit into the project mix. You will need to factor in the level of technical and market risk you are willing to take with fleet renewal, and apply this to your decisions.

There are five types of R&D Projects, which will be explained with basic examples of replacements for our industry. Keep in mind that individual companies can apply between one and five of the options, concurrently, and examples are simply representative, as the list of options is exhaustive. The quantity and scope of deployment is directly related to the level of risk mitigation within an individual company, along with the amount of capital resources available for allocation in those projects. As previously mentioned, these examples serve as a basis for forming your own individual R&D Project Portfolios and not as a prescriptive analysis that can be universally applied to the industry; the options are highly variable with respect to each company.

As the graphic shows, there are several options from which one can choose when deciding which route to travel towards making a new vehicle purchasing decision.

Postitioning Options

These are the options that will set the standard for an unclear future technological advantage due to research done now. The technology is uncertain, but there is a degree of confidence in the market and segments of the target demographic. Examples of positioning vehicles are gas/electric hybrids: Lincoln MKZ, Mercedes-Benz E400, and Toyota Avalon. Although the vehicles are familiar, the technology is more complex than in their gasoline-powered siblings, and the uncertainty is the concern about the electric components’ longevity in our industry. Furthermore, the electric technology is constantly evolving due to market pressures, so there is uncertainty regarding vehicle/technology obsolescence. These vehicles allow companies to venture into new market segments, and this positioning allows companies to satisfy new clients without betting on the wrong technology for the long-run.

Stepping-Stone Options

These vehicles are the highest risk options, due to technology and market uncertainty. They bring great potential for new growth opportunities into niche markets, but they also run the risk of not being accepted by your client base. Stepping-Stone options are the electric vehicles, such as the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S. These are specialty vehicles with regard to their capabilities in our industry; their high risks include purchase price, real-world range limitation, and charging time versus utilization. The electric vehicle is a very sacrificial product, at this point, as the true benefit to the company is the goodwill earned from “greening.” This investment can grow the knowledge base, absorptive capacity, and technological and maintenance understanding without catastrophic results, if it is properly managed. If you’re going to choose this option, it would be best to find a grant to supplement the cost.

Scouting Options

These are options that probe the market with tested technology. Scouting is best represented in our industry by diesel/biodiesel options. The technology is proven, and fuel is easily accessible, but the U.S. market has hesitantly accepted diesel after the debacle in the 1980s, which exemplifies the long-term effects of bad decisions during revolutionary change. Most diesel vehicle options in the U.S. have proven track records of longevity, durability, and better fuel economy than equivalent gasoline hybrids. Sedan examples range from the VW Passat TDI to the Mercedes-Benz S350 BlueTec. These options differ from positioning due to the potential growth in market opportunities, often at a lower cost in real-world use, even considering diesel costs.

New Platform

This launch is only moderately risky, as the market is familiar with the brands, and vehicle similarity does not typically hinder client buy-in. This will be the most popular option, and U.S. manufacturers have a historical advantage, although competitive advantages can exist. Examples of this option include the Cadillac XTS, Chrysler 300, Hyundai Genesis, Lincoln MKT, and Toyota Avalon. Platform launches, when executed correctly, can continue to build future business provided the target market responds favorably to the offering, which accentuates the need for client consultation and beta testing. During research for a platform launch, consider what will replace these vehicles and transition clients into the next vehicles during the next revolutionary industry change, which is only a decade away.

Incremental Improvements

In present context, this option would be doing nothing, adding more Town Cars, or using vehicles that should not be used as substitutes, such as SUVs. In mid-term context, incremental improvements work concurrently with New Platforms, such as the Cadillac XTS to the larger, as yet unnamed variant, or Hyundai Genesis to the Equus. In long-term context, it will mean incorporating all the derivatives of a model, e.g. gas/electric hybrid, diesel, diesel/electric hybrid, and electric. The options of incremental improvements are low-risk, and require the least investment, but reap the lowest gains in fleet diversification.

When moving forward with your replacement decisions, follow this checklist:
• Determine your tolerable level of market and technology risk.
• Consult your clients, your maintenance department, your chauffeurs, and your affiliates.
• Do not be afraid to operate a diverse fleet; just because you cannot use a vehicle for your affiliates does not mean you cannot use if for your local clients.
• Adhere to a strict budget for the initiatives.
• Do not take on more risk than your company can comfortably handle.
• Regularly evaluate the project!
• Remember that each option is competing against the baseline, and not against the other options—i.e., everything is weighed against the Town Car and the specific role application of the vehicle.

Contributed by Nathan Higdon

J. Nathan Higdon is co-founder and CFO of L'Espace Motorcoach, Inc., in eastern Tennessee, and a serial entrepreneur. He will receive his MBA from Penn State this December; he uses the luxury transportation industry as the focus of his research. You can reach Nathan at or @jnathanhigdon on Twitter. 

Give Within Your Means: Donate Strategically for Sustainable Charity

One of a limo company’s best customers, asked the owner if he would do him a favor. “You’ve heard me talk about my favorite charity,” the customer said. “I’m on the finance committee and you could really help us by making a contribution. Could you do $1,000?”

When the owner takes out his checkbook, what he sees in the ledger is a stream of donations that is quickly becoming a flood. While he is community-minded, he doesn’t know how to contain the damage that so many contributions are doing to his bank account.

It doesn’t stop with customers, either.

They actively spread the word: “Yes, I’m a good customer of Ace Limo. Great people. Use them all the time. Sure, ask them for a check for your project with kids. I know they’ll be glad to help—and don’t forget to use my name.”

How do limo companies, as well as so many others, find themselves in such situations that, for many, become out of control? These businesses succeed by emphasizing personal service, fostering close relationships with customers and doing everything possible to satisfy their needs. That’s a limo company’s strength—as well as its vulnerability.

To make matters worse, customers can sometimes develop a proprietary sense of ownership. They see it as their limo company, and they feel free to ask—and expect—that the business will respond to their requests for charitable donations.

This is a big reason why the number of donation requests grows faster than asparagus in the spring. By the end of the year, owners rightly ask themselves questions like, “How much can we do? Is what we give making an impact? Has it benefited the business?” When the answers to these questions aren’t easily had, business owners might be unsure of what they should do.

Businesses want to be helpful and show their appreciation. No one likes to say no to good customers or to the community. However, like any other aspect of a business, when charitable giving isn’t managed, it gets out of control—the stream becomes a flood. This is the dilemma so many find themselves in today. Here’s how to make charitable contributions—both in-kind and cash contributions—work for your company, while helping worthy projects and organizations.

1. Get the Most from Your Giving

Making a series of random-type donations is a recipe for disaster. Whether these are small or large, the list gets longer and expectations climb higher each year. With this type of giving, a company is just one of many—sometimes thousands—of donors, and finds itself lost in the crowd. Rarely do businesses talk about this openly, although most are concerned about the number of checks they write and the total amount of annual donations. On the other hand, no one wants to be known as a scrooge.

While it will always be necessary for your business to make a number of smaller donations, there’s a more effective way for you to benefit from charitable giving: doing it strategically, as you would any other business investment.

Sending a check can be meaningful, but taking a sustained interest in a charitable organization is even more valuable and sends a clear message that your company really cares. By really getting involved, you and your employees will find ways, other than giving money, to be of help, such as providing management advice, or bringing a new voice to agency issues and plans—in other words, by becoming a valuable resource. Today, the talk is all about “partnering,” and many times, it’s just another instance of meaningless corporate jargon. However, businesses can give genuine meaning to “partner” by making it their goal to act like one.

2. Get Your Employees Involved

A good way to start may be with a small group made up of those employees who have an interest in the company’s community support. This becomes your employee committee. You might share with them the amount of money the company is currently donating in cash and in-kind donations; in many cases, some of them may be surprised as to the extent of your charitable efforts.

The employee committee can help by talking to and researching various organizations, and then evaluating their findings. In the process, these employees become ambassadors by communicating their interest to others in the company. The committee may narrow the search to perhaps three possibilities and then meet with the employees, share their findings, and then have everyone vote on which one the company should support.

The organizations that are being considered will undoubtedly want to win the vote, and will make an effort to put their best foot forward by indicating what they would want to do to help make the company’s support as worthwhile as possible. Since these groups know the value of publicity, they will let you know how they can use public relations to carry your company’s message to their members and the public.

In addition to cash contributions, think about how you can leverage in-kind services utilizing your company’s resources, which can include giving your employees the opportunity to take part in charitable projects and events. These might include road races, serving on charitable boards, tutoring school kids, helping to prepare and serve meals for those in need, transporting senior citizens and others to events, and dozens of other possibilities in the community. Make sure you provide participants with clothing that identifies your business.

Of course, there’s one important step to take before making any commitment, and that’s vetting, or checking a potential non-profit recipient to make sure it’s a responsible organization.

3. Choose the Right Charities

One of the most effective ways to accomplish this objective is to align the company with a charitable partner that both reflects the business and resonates with your customers, allowing you to focus the lion’s share of your funds, the participation of your employees, and other resources so that both the company and the charity benefit.

The key is finding the right match and becoming the primary sponsor of a charitable entity that can benefit from the resources you are able to commit, so that when someone thinks of The Great Kids Club, for instance, they will also think of your company. When this occurs, the charity becomes more involved with you over time, and you become more engaged with it. This works with companies of all sizes.

The task involves identifying organizations that are the right fit for your company, with the dual goal of choosing the one for which you can do the most good, and which is the right match for your business objectives. Furthermore, it is important to steer clear of controversial organizations that may alienate some of your customers.

Since tax deductibility is one of the benefits of making charitable donations, you want to be sure that your gifts qualify. This means that a non-profit organization must have been granted 501c3 status by the IRS. Otherwise, your contributions will not be tax deductible. The laws are complex and benefits vary by corporate structure, so be sure to consult your accountant before proceeding with a major commitment. Of course, you may decide to assist a worthy community endeavor that does good work and is worthy of help, but doesn’t have 501c3 status. If you want to help, go ahead and do it. Just remember that the contribution is not tax deductible.

4. Establish a Written Charitable Giving Policy

As a businessperson, you want to control every aspect of your business, including your donations—so, it’s up to you to put a process in place that lets you manage the gifts you give effectively.

Your “charitable giving policy” might include a statement about your commitment to the community, the types of projects and organizations you support, how you go about making decisions and when, what you expect from those who are requesting a donation, and the amounts of typical gifts. It’s helpful to have this posted on your website so inquiries can be directed to it.

Sharing how you go about making donations indicates that you take charitable and community support seriously. Always ask for written proposals so you’re totally clear about each request. Set up an employee committee to review and recommend. Thank everyone making requests immediately, letting them know your process or telling them that the request is outside your charitable focus.

Then, prepare a plan for making your giving policy known to employees, customers and the community through your marketing and sales efforts. Don’t be shy about it. Since you control the process of giving, you need not worry about others finding out about your policy. In fact, you want charitable organizations to make their needs known.

You will only gain support for your giving policy if everyone knows the rules of the game. Without rules, you can easily become a charitable giving victim.

5. Create Your Own Non-Profit

At some point you may want to take yet another step in community support: setting up your own non-profit. This requires going through the process of obtaining 501c3 status from the IRS. In this way, you can make requests for support that are tax deductible for those causes you feel best represent your business values.

By managing the growth of your corporate responsibility programs, your business can play an even more effective role in helping to meet community needs.

Needless to say, this view of charitable giving won’t make much sense to those who believe that a company’s donations are a matter that rests in the hands of the person who runs the place. Certainly this is, more often than not, how it’s thought of in many businesses, particularly by those who derive personal satisfaction from “handing out checks.” However, in a time of ever-increasing “transparency,” more and more customers want to be confident that the companies they do business with have a genuine sense of community responsibility.

To put it bluntly, customers see through pompous, self-serving business behavior. They want to believe that companies they do business with are motivated to make charitable donations out of a genuine commitment to the quality of life in the communities they serve. // LD

Contributed by John Graham

John Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing and sales consultant and business writer. He publishes “No Nonsense Marketing & Sales,” a free monthly eBulletin. Contact him at, 617-774-9759 or visit

Breaking Ground: The Tesla Model S

Inarguably one of the most talked-about, groundbreaking vehicles of the year, the Tesla Model S has received many awards and accolades during its first year on the market, including Motor Trend 2013 Car of the Year©, Automobile Magazine 2013 Automobile of the Year, the 2013 Yahoo! Autos Car of the Year, TIME’s Best Invention of the Year 2012 and Consumer Reports highest score ever given to a car.

The Model S is the world’s first premium electric sedan, engineered to elevate the public’s expectations of what a premium sedan can be. With the most energy-dense battery pack in the industry and best-in-class aerodynamics, Model S has a range of 265-miles—the longest range of any production electric vehicle in the world. Tesla’s electric motor produces an impressive 443 pound-feet of instant torque, propelling Model S Performance from 0 to 60 in as little as 4.2 seconds. At the heart of Model S is the proven Tesla powertrain, delivering both unprecedented range and a thrilling drive experience. With a rigid body structure, nearly 50/50 weight distribution and a remarkably low center of gravity, Model S offers the responsiveness and agility expected from the world’s best sports cars while providing the ride quality of a luxury performance sedan.

For more information visit

Q&A with Melissa Thornton, CEO of LSW Chauffeured Transportation

Just over five years ago, LSW Chauffeured Transportation’s Melissa Thornton returned from a successful career in corporate America to take the reins of the family business she grew up with. Taking advantage of the many opportunities available for woman-owned and minority-owned businesses, as well as aligning her company with many charitable initiatives benefiting women, like the Go Red campaign, Thornton has led the White Plains, NY company she inherited to new heights.

Melissa Thornton, CEO of LSW Chauffeured Transportation

LD:  Can you give us a brief overview of your company?

Melissa: LSW Chauffeured Transportation is an executive ground transportation company specializing in transportation solutions for meeting planners, executives, VIPs, CEOs and the like. We service the immediate tri-state area surrounding White Plains, NY, but also offer services in over 500 cities worldwide. In business for over 35 years, we are a second-generation family business, and certified as a woman-owned business and minority-owned business. We have a very diverse fleet that includes sedans, minicoaches, motorcoaches, SUVs, and Mercedes Sprinters.

LD:  So you’re the daughter of the founders of the company?

Melissa: I sure am! My parents started this business in 1978. My father originally started in the bus business, then gave that up and started LSW with one car out of our home. When my father passed away many years ago, my mom took over, and she was running the business as the only owner until I came on in April of 2008 as Chief Operating Officer. I worked in that capacity for about two years, and then I took over as CEO in January of 2010. Even though I was born and raised in the business, I had left and gone into corporate America, worked there for about 15 years, then came back to run the company. It was never my intention to come back to the family business, but I’m happy I did.

LD: Can you elaborate a little more on your corporate background?

Melissa: I graduated from Pace University with a degree in Management Information Systems. I worked as a business analyst, a project manager, and a systems analyst in several Fortune 500 companies, such as Philip Morris, Pfizer Pharmaceutical and Barclays Capital. That type of experience really helped me in the position I’m in now; it helped me understand how corporate America thinks, what is important to them, and how our company should interface with them.

LD: What separates your company and what helps you stay competitive?

Melissa: Well, we are not the largest company by far, and I think we run it in what you might call a boutique mentality. We get to know our clientele, and they get to know us. You’re not just a number with LSW, and we do all the right things to make right by the client. In hiring, we focus on talent, skills and training, and we want to know, who is this individual picking up our phones? Who is the person driving our vehicles? Because the company is being represented from the time the customer has his first experience with them. So we drive customer service as just a way of life. I try to make that a constant part of our culture—how we treat each other, and how we treat our customers. I’m also a very accessible CEO; when one of my associates is on-boarding a client, I’ll jump on the call and introduce myself. I want them to know who they’re doing business with.

LD: Can you share some insights about how you grow and maintain your affiliate business?

Melissa: As I get out there and network with new people, people become more familiar with our company, and that’s how I’ve been growing some of my inbound affiliate work. As it relates to the outbound, a lot of times I’ve used the connections I’ve made in the industry as a reference. So say, for example, I’m doing business in a city I just don’t know—I’m happy and blessed to say that I have contacts I can call and say, “You know the kind of operation I’m running here. You know what’s important to me. Can you help me find a provider that is going to offer my customers a seamless experience?”

LD: How have the organizations you belong to, like the Women’s Business Enterprise and the National Minority Supplier Development Council, benefited LSW?

Melissa: I have to tell you, the certification process is exhausting and time consuming, but in the end it’s worth it. It’s very important that those who go ahead with the certification process don’t just stop there. Certification gives you the opportunity to network yourself within circles you would not normally have access to, but it only starts there. It opens up a door, and now it’s up to you to walk through and expose yourself to the opportunities. We’re on our second year of being certified as both a woman-owned and a minority-owned business, and we’re now starting to see the net results of that. There are a lot of opportunities out there for women and minority businesses, and I have every intention of exploring them. We’re actually on the tail end of trying to get our DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprise) certification, as well. The application’s been on file with the processor for over a year, so that we can get access to, for example, the Tapanzee project, which is this major $4 billion construction project that’s been ongoing in our area for many years. Being DBE certified will give us the opportunity to participate in ground transportation and shuttling opportunities for that project over the next five years.

LD: Can you tell us about your experience at the Tuck-WBENC Executive Program last October?

Melissa: So every year they select 50 women CEOs from around the country to participate in this weeklong event, which is co-sponsored by Dartmouth University and IBM. I was selected to attend on a free scholarship, which I was very happy about. They are exhausting 12-hour days, but it’s the most amazing experience. They had about five professors they flew in to coach CEOs to the next level through seminars and lectures covering subjects like financial planning, financial forecasting, how to grow your business, how to market your business, sales, and personal development. Quite frankly, I was among 50 of some of the brightest women I’ve ever had the privilege to be around, and I’ve developed lasting relationships across many different industries.

LD: What advice would you give to other women- or minority-owned businesses trying to succeed in this
or any industry?

Melissa: Running your own business will test your limits, but it will show you how strong you can be. It’s going to present challenges you never dreamed you’d have to face, but be patient, be strong, and fight when you need to fight. But don’t forget to enjoy the highs, because it’s almost cyclical, what you’ll experience—good years, and not-so-good years. You’ll have sleepless nights, but believe in yourself and what’s important. Get out there and network, like I do with Women on the Move, a group of women CEOs in the transportation industry, which has enabled me to meet women I look up to—mentors. What’s so frustrating about growing a business is that you don’t always have the answers, and joining groups like this allows you to simply ask the question: “How do you do this?” You are going to need that emotional and professional support. Lastly—and I say this as the type of CEO who is more comfortable behind the scenes—try to get out of your comfort zone, because you are your business, and nobody’s going to sell your business like you. Make the effort to get out there and meet people, because at the end of the day I have found that people want to do business with people they know.

Call me five years from now, and I’ll probably give you a whole different perspective.

LD: We’ll hold you to that.

For more information about LSW Chauffeured Transportation, visit or call 877.878.LIMO (5466)

Written by
Associate Editor & Digital Media Manager

Grand Avenue Transportation of Nashville Wins National Award

The Public Relations Society of America awarded the 2013 Bronze Anvil Award to Grand Avenue Transportation and Seigenthaler Public Relations for launching a campaign promoting Nashville as The “It”
City, an exciting destination for visitors looking for vibrant nightlife, thriving businesses, and easy access to popular tourist destinations. The campaign was launched by Grand Avenue CEO Carl Haley to pay tribute to the city whose growth is fueling his full service transportation business.

“As the number of people visiting Nashville has grown, so has Grand Avenue,” said Haley. “When I tell people about our company and our city, they either tell me about their last visit or their plans to come here soon. Nashville’s reputation for hospitality—a century in the making—has captured the attention of the world.  This city has earned a well-deserved spotlight, and that is what we sought to celebrate in this campaign.”

Haley said the campaign was designed to reinforce Nashville’s growth as a tourist spot, but also to build the city’s brand as a great place to buy a home, build a business or find a creative outlet. “We feel very fortunate to have creative and forward-thinking clients like Carl Haley who set an ambitious vision not only for this campaign but for his company,” said Beth Seigenthaler Courtney, CEO of Seigenthaler Public Relations. "We are so grateful to be able to partner with Grand Avenue to celebrate the city that makes us so proud.”

The national Bronze Anvil Award has been given by the Public Relations Society of America for more than 40 years, celebrating the “best of the best” in public relations tactics, reflecting the growing scope, creativity and importance of strategic public relations.

For more information about Grand Avenue, visit

Blue Diamond Promotes Celeste Reeder

Blue Diamond Worldwide Transportation in Raleigh, NC, is pleased to announce the recent promotion
of Celeste Reeder, from affiliate manager to operations manager/affiliate director.

Celeste Reeder
Operations Manager/Affiliate Director
Blue Diamond Worldwide Transportation

Reeder started with Blue Diamond in June of 2012, and has since been a proven asset to the company. In her short tenure, Reeder has expanded both corporate and affiliate accounts. She has also spearheaded efforts to transform the local limousine company into a renowned worldwide transportation service provider.

Reeder has over 10 years experience in the chauffeured transportation industry and brings a unique skill set to Blue Diamond. Carrie Peele, president and CEO of Blue Diamond, is elated to have Reeder on her staff.

“Celeste’s level of professionalism, attention to detail, and passion for this industry are beyond comparison,” said Peele. “Her bubbly personality adds excitement to our sales and office environment on a daily basis, and I am excited to see what the future holds for Celeste here at Blue Diamond.”

For more information on Blue Diamond Worldwide Transportation, visit

Mosaic Global Transportation Acquires VIP Airport Shuttle

On Aug. 2, Mosaic Global Transportation announced their acquisition of VIP Airport Shuttle. Established in 1990, VIP Airport Shuttle has become one of the premier shuttle/limousine companies in the San Francisco Bay Area. Its fleet of 15-passenger vans has been a staple in the Bay Area for the past 23 years.

“We plan to leverage the good name of VIP Airport Shuttle, but change the business model a bit to cater to
a more corporate clientele,” said Maurice Brewster, president and CEO of Mosaic Global Transportation.
Edgar Miguel, former president and CEO of VIP Airport Shuttle, indicated his excitement about rolling his company into Mosaic Global Transportation, and knows his clients will be well taken care of—not only on a local basis, but on a national basis as well.

Mosaic Global Transportation is a family-owned, certified minority-owned and -operated business committed to providing outstanding service on a worldwide basis. Mosaic Global Transportation offers service to its clientele in more than 440 cities across the globe.

For more information about this announcement or about Mosaic Global Transportation, contact Maurice Brewster at or (800) 398-7881.

Premiere #1 Limousine Wins Harrisburg Magazine Reader's Choice Poll

Premiere #1 Limousine has been recognized by Harrisburg Magazine as the “Reader’s Choice” Limousine Service for 2013. “I’m honored by the support of the readers of Harrisburg Magazine and our customers,” said Douglas Rydbom, CEO of Premiere #1 Limousine. “Every employee strives for excellence on a daily basis, and they all share in this great achievement.”

Douglas Rydbom
CEO of Premiere #1 Limousine
Premiere #1 Limousine has won the “Reader’s Choice” Limousine Service award in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

For 12 years, Premiere #1 Limousine Service has provided luxury transportation services in central Pennsylvania. In March 2009, a new owner acquired the business and has since expanded the fleet to include S- and E-Class Mercedes, SUVs, passenger vans, corporate limousines, minibuses and luxury motorcoaches.

With a combined total of 30+ years in the transportation industry, the principals have a highly capable and experienced management team in place. Premiere #1’s discerning, upscale clients demand safety, quality and exceptional value, which the company consistently delivers.

For more info, visit

ETS International Acquires Platinum Coach, Ltd.

ETS International, a full-service ground transportation company with offices in Randolph, MA and Warwick, RI, has announced the acquisition of Platinum Coach, Ltd., a limousine company based in Westwood, MA. The transaction was an asset purchase which includes Platinum’s customer list, website and access to all its
corporate business.

“This is a part of a long-term business strategy put in place at ETS International, which is to grow through acquisitions as they present themselves to us,” said ETS President John M. Greene, commenting on the purchase. “This is our fifth acquisition in the last six years, with combined total revenue of $3 million. Platinum Coach is a solid company with an outstanding reputation in the industry, and we are excited about assimilating them into the ETS family.”

ETS International operates a fleet of luxury sedans, SUVs, limousines and executive vans in the Boston, Manchester, NH and Providence, RI areas, as well as a global network that services cities around the world.

For more information, visit

The Tenney Group Advises Cline Tours’ Acquisition of Callahan Bus Lines

Cline Tours, Inc. has announced its acquisition of Callahan Bus Lines, a premium, 22-year old charter bus service in Oxford, MS. Callahan Bus Lines boasts a 95 percent return customer rating and was awarded the Tennessee Motorcoach Association’s Operator of the Year Award in 2007.

Headquartered in Ridgeland, MS, Cline Tours will absorb Callahan Bus Lines directly.  With a fleet of more than 100 vehicles in operation, Cline Tours is already one of the largest operators in the Southeast.  

Callahan Bus Lines has an incredible reputation and a longstanding history of service to the United States Armed Forces, as well as to the University of Mississippi Athletics Department. The Callahan family retained The Tenney Group, a firm that specializes in transportation business sales exclusively across the U.S., to handle the sale.

“It has been a pleasure to serve James and Nancy Callahan, and to get to interact and work with such wonderful and dedicated owners,” said Spencer Tenney, managing partner of The Tenney Group.

For more information on Cline Tours, visit

For more information on The Tenney Group, visit

Regulators Join Rising National Trend Prohibiting Rogue Smartphone Apps

Transportation regulators are joining a growing movement across the United States to curb the unsafe, unregulated expansion of rogue car service apps. The International Association of Transportation Regulators (IATR) is pleased to announce that efforts informing regulators of problems associated with rogue ridesharing apps are gaining significant traction.

In the last few weeks, regulators in Los Angeles ordered apps Uber, Lyft and SideCar to cease operations immediately. In Philadelphia, SideCar suspended operations after receiving pushback from regulators. Local authorities in Austin, meanwhile, have proposed changes that would adopt IATR model regulations allowing technology to flourish while also holding apps accountable to the public and to regulators. Pending IATR opposition, SideCar closed its operations and was shut down by the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission.

The Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association (TLPA) has also submitted comments warning of the threat to public safety posed by deregulation of the for-hire vehicle industry. These and many other actions taken by individual states suggest that although rogue app companies are attempting to expand at a rapid pace throughout the country, there seems to be a general consensus among regulators that these apps are dangerous.

A summary of recent legal developments that have hindered rogue app companies and, in some cases, caused them to cease operations, can be found at

The IATR is a peer group of taxi, limousine and for-hire transportation regulators. It is dedicated to improving the practice of licensing, enforcement and administration of for-hire transportation through the sharing of information and resources. For a summary of state-by-state rogue app developments, visit

AmProd and Michelin Partnering to Bring Fleet Tire and Service Card to the Industry

American Motor Products, Inc. (AMProd) has partnered with Michelin to offer a unique and first-of-its-kind Fleet Discount Card designed specifically for the livery industry. Livery operators across the country can now obtain their tires through authorized local Michelin Dealers, and get the discounted National Fleet Account price.

In addition, when they obtain the AMProd Fleet Card, normal service and maintenance are also discounted through the National Fleet Account. Savings are expected to be in the 20-30 percent range from normal local pricing, and tires are less expensive than through any other outlet.

The authorized dealers have Michelin, Goodrich, and Uniroyal tires in stock, so they can supply operators with tires for all their vehicles—from Town Cars and limos all the way up to buses. The system is designed to be easy to use, and to provide tremendous savings on tires and service for the operator.

The Michelin P245/60R/17 (T108) Energy LX4, the heavy duty stretch limo tire everyone is looking for and can’t find, is a part of the program, and Michelin is now stocking all their dealers with the tire.

For more information, call David Ward, AMProd EVP of Business Development, at (800) 935-9135, or email

Weldon Worldwide Owner Jerry Robbins Honored by Boston Celtics

Weldon Worldwide owner and founder Jerry Robbins was honored this month by the Boston Celtics for his support of the Celtics’ Heroes Among Us program. Weldon Worldwide, based in Boston, provided complimentary chauffeured transportation to and from Celtics home games for each recipient of the Heroes Among Us award.

Jerry Robbins (left) poses with Jared Sullinger, forward for the Boston Celtics.
Robbins reached out to the Heroes Among Us program six years ago to offer his transportation services free of charge to each award recipient. Weldon Worldwide is proud to continue its support of the Heroes Among Us program and the Boston Celtics team during the 2013-2014 season.

The Heroes Among Us program is one of the premier community outreach programs in professional sports. Established as an initiative of the Boston Celtics in 1997, Heroes Among Us honors individuals who have made an overwhelming impact on the lives of others. For more information, visit

For over a decade, Weldon Worldwide has been known for professional, courteous chauffeur-driven transportation with a strong commitment to service. Weldon’s global affiliate network provides the same industry leading level of service in 550 cities around the world. While Weldon specializes in serving corporate clients and their executive travel needs, their modern fleet of exceptionally maintained vehicles is
perfect for any occasion. For more information, visit

LHPH and Advantage Funding to Provide Subprime Financing for Dealers

LHPH, LLC, a provider of services to the “lease here pay here” (LHPH) and “buy here pay here” (BHPH) industries, announced an exclusive relationship with Advantage Funding to provide financing for select BHPH and LHPH dealers.

“The largest single hurdle for dealers looking to enter into the LHPH space is access to capital,” stated Terry Bowdler, founder and CEO of LHPH, LLC. “We have now removed that hurdle for many successful dealers across the country.”

LHPH, LLC and Advantage Funding worked together for over a year developing a dealer finance model which is profitable and easy for dealers to use. The finance structure, which works for both subprime loans and leases, enables dealers to fund the cost of the vehicle plus a small mark-up at below market interest rates.

What is most unique about this opportunity is the ability for dealers to now fund subprime leases. Most banks in the BHPH space do not want to be involved in the LHPH market, but Advantage Funding’s program treats leases and loans the same, enabling dealers to partner with a lender that understands their leasing business.

For more information on LHPH, LLC, visit

For more information on Advantage Funding, visit

New Study Finds U.S. Diesel Vehicles Have Lower Total Cost of Ownership than Gasoline Vehicles

A new study found that diesel vehicles saved owners $2,000 to $6,000 in total ownership costs during a three to five year period, when compared to similar gasoline vehicles, according to data compiled by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

The University of Michigan study, “Total Cost of Ownership: A Gas Versus Diesel Comparison,” was conducted for Robert Bosch LLC, and the results were released at the 2013 Alternative Clean Transportation Expo in Washington, D.C.

“These new findings, that clean diesel vehicles are a more cost-effective investment for car owners, reinforce what auto analysts and other comparative studies have determined in recent years,” said Allen Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Diesel Technology Forum. “The significant savings diesel owners experience compared to gas car owners highlight another major reason why clean diesel vehicles sales will increase significantly throughout the U.S. in the coming years.”

“Fuel efficiency has always been a major attraction of clean diesel vehicles,” Schaeffer continued. “Because diesels are 20 to 40 percent more fuel efficient than gas cars, drivers save money with diesels, even when diesel fuel prices are slightly higher than gas prices. This is an exciting time for diesel vehicles, as the number of diesels is expected to more than double in the next two years.”

The Diesel Technology Forum is a non-profit national organization dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of diesel engines, fuel and technology. Forum members are leaders in clean diesel technology and represent the three key elements of the modern clean-diesel system: advanced engines, vehicles and equipment, cleaner diesel fuel, and emissions-control systems.

For more information, visit

Employee Appreciation Drives Destination MCO’s 12th Anniversary Celebration

Destination MCO, a leading provider of ground transportation services in Central Florida, credits its impressive growth over the years to an unyielding focus on employee appreciation. As the economic downturn of 2008 took its toll, Destination MCO was able to avoid layoffs and grow at an average rate of 34 percent between 2009 and 2011. The company’s philosophy is simple: engaged employees provide better customer service.

In honor of their 12th anniversary, Destination MCO treated employees and their families to a special outing held at Kings Bowl Orlando. “We attribute our success to our focus on our employees,” said Nour Elotmani, president and CEO of Destination MCO. “Employees who feel unheard and disempowered are unhappy, which leads to high turnover rates and lower quality of work. We’ve worked hard to establish an environment where our employees are invested in our success and have the tools to grow and become future leaders at Destination MCO.”

Destination MCO’s popularity resonates throughout Central Florida. The company was recently named a first round finalist for “Florida Companies to Watch,” an annual awards gala that celebrates the top 50 second-stage growth companies in Florida. Destination MCO has also been nominated as a finalist for “Operator of the Year” by industry publications for the past three years.

For more information, visit

ABC Inks Exclusive Distribution Agreement with Leading Bus Component Manufacturer

ABC has recently signed an agreement with IBP Industries, Inc. to become the firm’s new distribution partner in North America. Under the new deal, ABC will have sole distribution rights of IBP’s exterior bus components, which encompass a robust inventory of body parts for major coach models such as MCI, GILLIG, Prevost, and others.

IBP Industries, Inc. is a leading designer and fabricator of body components for the motorcoach and mass transit markets. A 25-year industry veteran, IBP is recognized as a high-quality components supplier—designing, engineering and manufacturing a complete line of body parts at their Florida-based state-of-the-art facility.

“This is an important strategic initiative for ABC and our customers,” said Dane Cornell, CEO and chairman of ABC Companies. “Our exclusive partnership greatly enhances the ABC Parts business capability—significantly expanding inventory levels of body parts which will be made available under the ABC Select Parts offerings.”

To order, or for more information about the new ABC Select body parts inventory and catalogs, contact the ABC Parts Call Center, 877-427-7278 (US)/800-265-0520 (Canada), or visit

Fleet Financing Resources Hires Senior Credit Manager and Business Development Officer

Fleet Financing Resources, LLC (FFR), a premier national lender for new and used transportation equipment, announced two new appointments: Eleanor Baker as senior credit manager, and Darrick Holt as business development officer.

Eleanor Baker, Senior Credit Manager
Fleet Financing Resources
Baker has over 25 years of experience in risk, credit, and assessment of collateral values specializing in motor vehicles and construction equipment. Most recently, she was credit manager for Edson Financial, Inc., the captive finance company for Krystal Enterprises. Previously, Baker held management positions at Orix Financial Services, Inc., with approval authority of $1 million, and assisted with collection of the company’s construction and transportation portfolio.

Darrick Holt joins FFR in the role of Business Development Officer. In his new position, Holt will assist with sales and relationship development for current and prospective customers.

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Grace Limousine Acquires The Ultimate Coach

Grace Limousine is proud to announce the acquisition of Manchester, NH-based chauffeured car service provider, The Ultimate Coach.

Mike Campbell, CEO of Grace Limousine,
and Marc Drouin, former CEO of The Ultimate Coach.
“We have always been impressed with the standard of excellence at The Ultimate Coach, and I am so proud to finally bring our two companies—and over 50 years of industry expertise—together under the Grace banner,” said Grace CEO Michael Campbell. “This is truly a win-win for Grace and, most importantly, for The Ultimate Coach’s loyal clientele.”

Jointly, the leadership teams of both organizations have created a transition plan to ensure uninterrupted service and quality. “Our service offerings have complimented each other well over the decades we have worked together, and we are thrilled to incorporate the best of both businesses,” added Kristen Carroll, executive director for Grace.

Grace Limousine is a New Hampshire-based family business, headquartered in Manchester, with offices also in Portsmouth. Providing chauffeured car services to the Greater Boston area, and northern New England, Grace Limousine is New Hampshire’s largest chauffeured car services provider.

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

LANJ Enlisted to Amend Bill to Stop Illegal Jitney Activities

Illegal practices of “jitneys” operating out of Atlantic City, NJ, as well as Bergen, Hudson, and Union Counties in the northern part of the state, have long been a subject of contention amongst area ground transportation professionals and regulators. New Jersey Assembly Bill A3993 was introduced earlier this year to deal with these illegal activities by requiring jitney drivers to possess commercial licenses, and imposing increases to insurance requirements. With support from the Limousine Association of New Jersey (LANJ), several other transportation organizations and a number of state officials, the bill has gained traction in the state legislature.

Some of the illegal activities that prompted the aggressive pursuit of this legislation include jitneys providing service at the Atlantic City International Airport, as well as charter work servicing weddings, proms, concerts, and other events outside of their regulatory authority—sometimes even providing interstate trips. The conflict arises from the fact that jitneys in Atlantic City are supposed to operate only on a fixed route within four municipalities adjacent to the city. Regarding jitneys operating in northern New Jersey, the bill addresses the fact that they do not meet the definition allowed by state law in order to be classified as a jitney, as they are routinely rented to drivers without commercial licenses.

All parties agree that this and further legislation is necessary to enforce penalties and reduce the legal ambiguities regarding how jitneys are allowed to operate. In a recent development, LANJ was asked by the NJ Assembly and Senate to work with the Office of Legislative Services to amend the bi-partisan bill. The amended bill will impose higher fines to enforce inspections, insurance, proper licensing and criminal background checks. Additionally, owners of jitney-buses that lease or rent their vehicles will be fined the same as the driver for any of the offenses.

The new, amended Senate bill is scheduled to be introduced in September by Senators Sacco (Chairman of the Transportation Committee and Mayor of North Bergen), Cunningham (Senate Majority Whip) and Holzapfel (Republican Member of the Senate Transportation Committee).

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TLPA Members Donate Over $1.5 Million to Charity

In a 12-month period ending May 31, some members of the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association (TLPA) donated an impressive $1.5 million to charitable causes. A portion of the 1,100 transportation company members from within the association—the oldest and largest trade group of its kind in the world—gave to a wide variety of causes, including breast cancer, kidney disease, wounded veterans, hospitals, children’s wish campaigns, and educational funds, to name just a few. This was the first year the TLPA
has attempted to track the overall charitable efforts of its members. It is part of a new TLPA initiative to encourage, track and recognize donations made by its members and by their affiliate drivers, called Community Connections.

“These generous members, most of them family-owned, community-based small companies, show us what we have always known: that our industry is one of the most charitable in the world,” said William Rouse, president of the TLPA. “Our members are local leaders who care deeply about helping their communities. This is a giving group of business leaders, and we applaud their efforts.”

Reporting their charitable efforts is voluntary for members, and only about 10 percent of members submitted their donation tallies as part of Community Connections in this first year. This year’s tally of $1.5 million, TLPA believes, is therefore an extremely conservative representation. As the program continues, the charitable figures will be tallied by May 31 of each year for the industry’s previous 12 months of charitable actions.

“Collectively, the 1,100 members of the TLPA are an especially powerful philanthropic force,” said Alfred LaGasse, CEO of the TLPA. “The TLPA believes that these charitable actions should be recognized. As more and more members report in over the years, I believe we will see that number increase significantly year to year.”

Established in 1917, the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association (TLPA) is a non-profit trade association of and for the private passenger transportation industry. Its extensive membership spans the globe to include 1,100 taxicab companies, executive sedan and limousine services, airport shuttle fleets, non-emergency medical transportation companies, and paratransit services.

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MLOA Discusses Show Presence at Monthly Teleconference Meeting

The Minority Limousine Operators of America (MLOA) held its monthly teleconference membership meeting on Aug. 28, and addressed topics ranging from business cards to tires. Presentations were given by Create-A-Card’s Arthur Messina, Lenore D’Anzieri from Driving Results, David Ward from American Motors, the Limo Digest Show’s Kay Weninger, and Chris Weiss from Chauffeur Driven.

Messina gave the association advice on marketing for this season’s industry shows, urging members to update and stock up on business cards for the events. Ward discussed issues relating to fleet tires—such as the once-again-available Michelin P245/60R/17 (T108) Energy LX4 stretch limo tire—as well as American Motor Products and Michelin’s joint-effort Fleet Discount Card, which allows livery operators to receive the discounted National Fleet Account price on their tires when purchasing through authorized Michelin dealers. (More information on this topic can be found here.)

The MLOA also discussed the idea of reducing the frequency of their meetings, which are now held every month. Some members feel that the meetings’ frequently low attendance is due to the fact that the meetings occur too often. The meeting’s primary focus, however, was the MLOA’s presence at this fall’s industry shows. The association announced that it will have a booth at the Limo Digest Show’s Association Alley, and that it has an association meeting scheduled for the event. Show Director Kay Weninger was on the call to update the members on the show’s latest news, plans, events and features.

The MLOA is a non-profit organization comprised of minority-owned limousine operators and affiliate and vendor members. The association prides itself on being a proactive, non-profit, tax-exempt national organization that is dedicated to the success of its members and the support of all facets of the chauffeured transportation industry, locally, statewide and nationally. The MLOA provides a forum for member
companies to exchange valuable ideas, expertise in customer service, and information about employee hiring and other industry-related matters. The association also provides educational and legislative assistance to its members, and acts as a liaison between its members and the many regulatory agencies they work with.

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