2015 Ford Transit:

An American Brand Gone Global Comes Home

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10 Steps to Control Workers’ Compensation Costs

Mind Your Manners

Social Media Etiquette: 4 Things You Need To Know

Grassroots:

The Basics of Lobbying for Better Regulations

Myth Busted:

GPS Tracking Software is Not Too Expensive



Thursday, April 24, 2014

Three Steps to Hiring the Right Employee

Hire Power


It’s been a common occurrence whenever you start looking to hire chauffeurs or internal staff, especially in a post-2008 economically-depressed world, that when you place an ad in a newspaper, cover letters start pouring in like a tsunami. Unfortunately, here’s what many of them say (and what they actually mean):

Dear HR Person,
I am responding to your ad for a chauffeur as I feel I am the perfect candidate for the job (Which any dummy can do). 
My current position involves working extensively with the public and I am not averse to working odd hours (We’re open 24 hours). I have great attention to detail (I have never spilled a drop while filling a Big Gulp), worked with all makes and models of automobiles (Will that be Regular or Hi-Test?) and also have a familiarity with insurance procedures (We were robbed three times last week). In my previous job I was able to interact and communicate extensively with people of diverse cultures and nationalities (Hello. Welcome to Wal-Mart).  But most importantly, I feel I fit the position of chauffeur because I have successfully passed all state mandated training in order to successfully accumulate the skills needed to enable me to perform for you at the highest level of satisfaction. (I didn't flunk my driving test and they gave me a license).
 I hope to hear from you soon.

This is pretty much what we find in our inbox these days, and will continue to find as long as there is a perception out there that chauffeuring is an unskilled position—that all you have to do to fit the position is possess a driver’s license and you automatically possess the skills necessary to navigate a Cadillac XTS through busy city streets, in a snowstorm, and get a high-level CEO to the airport without missing his 7am flight. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Just because I have the ability to turn on the faucet in my bathroom doesn't mean I have the skills needed to become a plumber. But before we change the public’s perception, we need to change our own by realizing that our chauffeurs are the face of our company, and in hiring drivers we need to take that high-standard into careful consideration.

Most managers know that finding great candidates, ones who possess the skills, know-how, and the attitude to get the job done, is vital to moving forward with their business goals. Hiring, assimilating, and ultimately firing an unsatisfactory employee is expensive, exhausting, and detrimental to your business. Getting it right is absolutely necessary.

So how do you equip yourself with the knowledge necessary to discern between a “hit” and a “miss” when it comes to hiring? Here are a few ways to increase your chances of hiring a winner:

First, don’t place too much emphasis on the resume. It happens all the time: you put out an ad for a position (whether a chauffeur or in-office support staff) and get flooded with tons of interested applicants. You bring in the person who submitted the most impressive resume, with the flashiest alma mater or the most jaw-dropping array of skills. You hire them instantly, perhaps in desperation to fill a much needed position. Fast forward a few months or a year and you find yourself with an employee who looked perfect on paper, but is creating friction within the office and refuses to work as part of a team. Perhaps they simply cannot adjust to the demands of the actual job and you have no choice but to let them go and restart the hiring process.

Step 1: The Application

Finding employees who have personalities and attitudes that are compatible with your work environment begins with the application process. An effective way to weed through the hundreds of applicants is a company like Hireology, which will actually rate the candidates based on your criteria and only funnel the worthy ones your way. It saves time and energy, but ultimately the decision on who to hire is still yours. And that’s when the application/interview process comes into play.

The majority of the trips our chauffeurs take center around the Boston area. So instead of the traditional interview questions, we have each candidate answer a series of questions pertinent to our region, many of which can be restructured for your location, such as:

  • Leaving Logan Airport, which is the most efficient way to get to Framingham, MA?
  • How would you leave our facility to get to Cambridge, MA?
  • Where is the Four Seasons Hotel located in Boston? 
  • And how would you get there from the airport?
  • If you were at Boston Common and needed to get to Harvard Business School, which route   would you take? In case of an accident, what is the best alternate route?
  • A train leaves Buffalo heading west carrying 500 lbs of bananas, while a train leaves Denver                heading east carrying the entire Denver Broncos offensive line. If each train is traveling 200 miles
    per hour….?

Okay, maybe you don’t need the last question. Still, you see what we are doing here, which is not only to make sure the prospects are familiar with the area, but that they also don’t rely solely on their GPS.
We also include a series of Yes and No questions, such as:

  • Is it OK to ask the client what route they want to take?
  • Is it OK to have the car stereo on if using only front speakers?
  • Is it OK if you carry a client’s luggage into their home?
  • Is it OK to discuss your personal life with a client?
  • Is it OK to use your cell phone while driving with a client?

Step 2: Test Drive

Once a candidate is chosen they spend at least two days in a car with an experienced chauffeur, who is also available as a mentor should they have any questions. We also look at physical appearance, communication skills, ability to speak multiple languages, and their ability to adapt to a flexible schedule and other changes. And don’t overlook or downplay the importance of personality and attitude. There are a variety of attitudes and personalities which simply do not fit in a teamwork-based business model, both for chauffeurs and support staff. This non-productive attitude will cause a number of problems for your company and will ultimately cost you money. This is why it’s important to pay attention to a potential employee’s history, ask pointed questions about how they deal with inner-office strife or conflict, and communicate clearly about expectations when it comes to inner-office attitude and collaboration.
Step 3: Contractor or Employee?

Once a candidate is chosen, the oft-discussed question arises of contractors vs. employees. We hire our chauffeurs as employees so they feel like they are part of the company and not just hired hands. We do this by offering a competitive salary, full health benefits including vision and dental, Disability Insurance, Life Insurance, Accident Insurance, Critical Illness Insurance, and FSA (Health Savings Account). This has helped us retain our chauffeurs longer, and they do a better job because it creates a sense of pride and keeps their heads more in the game. We don’t hire drivers—Uber hires drivers—we hire chauffeurs.

That’s the mindset we need as we realize we are competing for quality help with a large number of other ground transportation companies in our very backyard. There are over 780 licensed chauffeur companies at Boston’s Logan Airport alone, just 18 miles from our facility. Unless your facility is located in a Nebraska wheat field, you are likely facing the same stiff competition for competent chauffeurs and office staff.

Finding the right candidate for the position you’re advertising for is often drawn-out and expensive. But the money you’ll save by putting forth a well thought out and slightly out-of-the-box strategy as you search for those qualified candidates will be well worth the energy, and will likely save you money in the long-run.

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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 and jgreene@etsintl.net.


Fleet Car Washing Choices: What's Best For You?

Limo Washing


What is the most important element of washing vehicles in your fleet: company image, driver satisfaction, extended life of equipment or  environmental impact?


All can be achieved with great returns, yet consistent washing is still generally ignored by most companies, giving it little investment or thought.

In light of today’s level of concern about the environmental impacts of business, the ground transportation industry has given serious thought to its own impact on the environment and has found ways to be efficient in the areas of tires, engines, fuel consumption, aero-dynamics, among others. With that in mind, isn’t it time to do an analysis of how you wash your vehicles?

There is now technology available to meet the needs of your washing requirements, from the financial to the environmental. Generally, the most popular mechanical options to wash vehicles are automated drive through, rollover and walkaround units. These systems make it possible for a limousine to be washed and rinsed in two to five minutes. Also available are water reclamation and recycling systems to offset environmental impacts and help you to save on water costs.

However, there are many operators still using the manual pressure washer and hand brush scrub system, which can take up to 30 minutes or more to wash and rinse. Reliable labor, time costs and wash consistencies are the major frustrations associated with a manual system.

Washing inside your building usually requires you to be tapped into your municipal water sewage system, thus the grey water is being sent to the local treatment facility. This does help the environment but there still may be big costs to pay:

  1. The cost incurred by the municipality to clean this water
  2. The cost to your company or building to pay for water (possibly on a meter). Check your water bill and understand it.
  3. The cost of sewage discharge: Some areas meter wash in and out, often charging twice the amount for water discharge.

Today’s technology allows for water treatment systems to be right at your wash bay. There are many systems available that capture your water, clean it and re-use it for washing. This allows a zero discharge, thus saving money and the environment.

The use of water can have major hidden costs, not only for your company, but for the environment. Do the analysis and find major savings, especially when you look at your cost per gallon of water.

For most of us, the municipality supplies the water through pipes to our facility. Examine the water bill and determine a cost per gallon of water. This is not easy, but necessary to determine your cost per vehicle washed. After determining the cost of water, capture the costs of labor, chemicals and supplies.

Overall, limousine washing has more of an impact than most operators take time to consider. There is a major effect on company image, driver satisfaction, the environment and the bottom line of every company, city and municipality.

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Jack Jackson is the President of Awash Systems Corp. that provides large vehicle washing systems. Jack has 30 years of experience in sales and marketing, with a passion for providing solutions to clients.  Entrepreneurial-relationship builder focused on delivering exceptional customer service with “best of class” products. “We at Awash, believe that we can help everyone in the industry understand the most efficient way to wash their vehicles.”


A-1 Limo Reaches its 50-Year Milestone


A-1 Limousine in Princeton, NJ

Last month marked A-1 Limousine’s 50th year in the ground transportation business, and the company’s father-son leadership team sure has a lot to celebrate.

Theirs is a half century-long story of resilience and innovation, during which their company came to be a household name within the industry, and one of the top limousine services in the United States. Like any good success story, the saga of the Starr family business comes with some bumps in the road.

A-1 Limousine began with humble beginnings on March 1, 1964, with just four taxi cabs and two limousines in the university town of Princeton, New Jersey. Technically, the company has historical roots from around the turn of the 19th century, when it was a horse and buggy taxi service owned by Joseph E. Nutt and Son. Michael Starr and his wife, Marilyn, would eventually acquire and rename the business, and ever since,
A-1 Limousine has been entirely owned and operated by the Starr family. Michael currently serves as
the company’s CEO, and his son, Jeffrey, who joined the company in 1985, has served as president
and COO since 2004.

Local regulations would be one of the first obstacles the company would encounter in its early years, but by adapting to overcome this initial challenge, the company was set on course to become the global limousine service it is today. “In Princeton,” Michael recalls, “you couldn’t expand a taxi cab business. There have been 28 licenses since they started with taxi cab regulations, so you couldn’t add any unless you bought somebody out.” Because A-1 was already more of a limousine and sedan business at this early point in its history, the company made its final exit from the taxi cab industry in 1971. “We moved out to Route 1 in West Windsor Township, and that’s where we’ve been ever since,” says Michael. The company has also since seen the addition of an independent and fully operational second location in Whitehall Township, a suburb of Allentown, Pennsylvania, with its own dispatch and maintenance centers.

Also in that game-changing year of 1971, A-1 Limousine first adopted its official tagline, “For People Going Places,” which continues to define the company’s brand identity and mission to this day. Although they could not have foreseen it back in the 1970s, this slogan would later come to be utilized as the official name of A-1 Limousine’s worldwide affiliate network, as well as its associated global travel information website.
“We have two different programs that work off of FPGP.com,” says Jeff, “the travel information website and our affiliate network.” The website functions essentially as a hub for clients seeking worldwide ground transportation and international travel information.

Also in that game-changing year of 1971, A-1 Limousine first adopted its official tagline, “For People Going Places,” which continues to define the company’s brand identity and mission to this day.

The affiliate network has flourished into a large but exclusive global organization of carefully selected partners. “We use fully qualified services,” Jeffrey explains, “so in order to be a part of our network, they need to apply, and they need to provide us with information regarding vehicle types, the age of their vehicles, driver training programs, insurance, licensing, and things like that.” In addition to carefully screening the fleets and operations of potential affiliates, A-1 Limousine also ensures that their affiliate partners prioritize safety and service. “Regardless of where they are in the world, we verify that they have what is required to be legal for operations in that part of the world. We also enforce quality control for each of those companies to make sure they resolve any issues with clients, and if they don’t, then they’re not part of the network anymore.”

FPGP.com is also the home of an interactive blog, on which clients, partners and travelers can share their travel experiences or insight into a particular location. Additionally, it is home to the FPGP Travel Blog, a brand new marketing initiative that just debuted last month. A member of A-1 Limousine’s in-house marketing staff, Rachel Branstrom, was recently announced as FPGP.com’s designated travel blogger, and her focus in that role will be simply “writing great stories about interesting locations.” You can read Rachel’s inaugural post about traveling to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, on the FPGP Travel Blog (www.fpgp.com/fpgp-travel-blog/).

“We’re always doing different types of marketing,” says Jeffrey, and in conjunction with their recent addition of a staff blogger, the marketing department at A-1 Limo has big plans to ramp up their social media content in the coming months. “We’re on social networks, but it’s a limited amount of content we’re putting on there, so we’re looking to bring someone on full time to manage those outlets.”

FPGP.com and the slogan that inspired it are emblematic of A-1 Limo’s ability to balance timeless business values and familial tradition, with the adaptability and innovation required of a company that plans on staying in business for as long as this one has. On that note, while changes in operations and fleet composition are necessary for survival in this business, some things, like A-1 Limo’s company culture and core values, never change—nor should they.

“The culture here can be described in one word,” says Jeff, “and that’s ‘family.’ My parents started the company, I’ve been here since 1985, and two of my children work here part time while going to school. Within our organization, we have several father/child and husband/wife teams that work for us. We just have a very family-oriented company and mentality. The company was started as a family business, and even though we have over 300 employees, it’s still treated as a family business. We look at our employees as part of our extended family. All of our drivers are employees, and the company owns and maintains all of the equipment. We don’t use any owner/operators or independent contractors, and we haven’t used any since the company started.”

It is presumably this consistent “family-oriented mentality” that enabled the Starrs and their extended A-1 Limo family to overcome the most daunting challenges they have had to face in their company’s 50 year history: the unavoidable setbacks, shared by many companies, stemming from the challenging economic conditions we have seen since the early 2000's.

While changes in operations and fleet composition are necessary for survival in this business, some things, like A-1 Limo’s company culture  and core values, never change—nor should they.

“Before the recession,” says Michael, “we had over 300 vehicles. Now we’re at about 230 vehicles currently.” The economic downturn forced A-1 Limo, like countless other businesses, to cut back. In addition to having a much larger fleet, leading up to 2001 the company also had 350 full time employees and 200 part time employees. Pre-2001, Michael recalls business reaching heights upwards of 600 jobs per day. Post-2001, business had dropped to lows of five jobs per day. “It was a tremendous impact, like it was for everybody in this area. Then the other two recessions caught us and everybody else off guard. So we’re now just starting to grow again, and hopefully there’s nothing around the corner that will hit us in the head again. We have to try to climb back to, and hopefully surpass, where we were before the recession.”

In light of the past decade’s economic climate, the Starrs have had to rethink the company’s strategies and goals. “The short term goal,” says Jeff, “is obviously growth, rebuilding and continuing to improve. Long term goals are to diversify our services to make us a little more recession proof.”

“We have branched out and diversified,” says Michael, “but the meat of the business is still the airport. I’d say that’s probably more than 50 percent of the business.” Although A-1 Limo continues to do a tremendous amount of corporate service, the team takes pride in their ability to “move large groups of people very efficiently and effectively” with their substantial bus fleet, which includes 22 full-size buses (56-passenger, 47-passenger, and 36-passenger), 16 vans and a number of shuttle buses. “For one of our clients,” Michael recalls, “we moved over 7,000 people into and out of an event within a four hour period of time. We moved them in within a half an hour window, and then had everybody on the vehicles and out of the event in an hour. One of the largest moves we did was putting together a camp shuttle system event, and during the course of the event, we moved over 34,000 people in the course of four days.”

In addition to diversifying their fleet, the Starrs have also prioritized innovation as a means to keep the company modernized and competitive. For some time now, A-1 has partnered with CarbonFund.org, one of the largest U.S.-based carbon offsetting companies, to create the Ride Silver Program. It is an optional program that essentially offsets the carbon used on a client’s trip, rendering the entire trip carbon neutral. According to Jeff, more than 50 percent of their customers are now opting to participate in the Ride Silver Program. One of the other ways A-1 Limo is taking a “green initiative” is with its garage’s heating system. “It’s been about eight years now,” says Jeff, “that our garage has been heated by waste oil, so it significantly cuts down the cost of heating by utilizing the waste oil that comes out of our vehicles.”

Such creative innovations really indicate that we have entered a new era of the luxury ground transportation industry, and it is clear that the Starrs are marking A-1 Limousine’s milestone 50th anniversary by demonstrating that they plan on continuing to be leaders in this new era. With five decades of industry mileage comes a proportionate amount of know-how and grit, and with the company’s second generation of family leadership now taking the reins, A-1 Limousine is poised to remain a fierce local and global competitor in the industry.

“I think the biggest challenge is that the east coast of the United States is probably the busiest as far as limousines, sedans and buses go,” says Jeff. “There’s a tremendous amount of competition, so you've always got to be on your feet, ready to compete.”

You can learn more about A-1 Limousine at www.a1limo.com, and you can wish them a happy 50th anniversary on Twitter @A1_Limo.

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

Get Up and Go: Airport Companies Band Together For Greater Success

Go Group


They say that the “whole is bigger than the sum of its parts.”  For one group of transportation companies, nothing could be truer.

In 2007, an association of airport shuttle companies, known as GroundNet, reorganized itself as a limited liability corporation, for the purpose of creating a single marketing entity that could create a national and international presence for the individual companies.

Today that company, The GO Group, LLC encompasses 35 airport transportation companies serving 68 airports in North America, Central America, the Caribbean and Europe.
         
“Many of us believed there was a benefit to creating a single brand that passengers would recognize from one airport to the next,” says John C. McCarthy, who has served as the group’s president since the national launch.  “We also felt that collectively we would have greater opportunities to negotiate with suppliers, corporations and national travel wholesalers.”

Another impetus came from the airports, according to Ray Mundy, executive director of the Airport Ground Transportation Association and an early advocate of establishing a national brand for shared-ride shuttle operations.

“In the 1980s, when many shared ride shuttle services were launched, airport ground transportation was considered strictly a local business,” he says. “Passengers got off the plane and then looked for a taxi or shuttle to take them to their destination.”

With the advent of the internet, branding became more important as passengers began pre-booking ground transportation, Mundy points out.  The airports, which are concerned with satisfying national travelers, wanted to make sure they had recognized shuttle operators at their terminals just as they have nationally recognized car rental companies.

McCarthy confirms that for many GO members, having a national brand was critical to securing an airport contract. The first task to creating that brand was choosing a distinctive, recognizable logo and identity that could be easily adopted by the local companies, each of which maintains its individual ownership.

A green arrowhead with the word “GO” was selected. Today, the majority of GO companies operate white or silver vans with the GO identity. And each operator uses the word GO in front of its name.

While member companies maintain their own websites and call centers to take reservations directly in their local markets, a joint, international website (www.goairportshuttle.com) was developed that allows passengers to book shuttles in all of the GO cities. The biggest advantage of the joint site is that it creates a cross-selling opportunity, allowing travelers to arrange transportation at both departure and destination airports in the same transaction.

Creating a collective website was simplified by the fact that many of the original GroundNet members were already using the same reservation system—one developed by The Hudson Group in Lawrence, Mass. Hudson, which also engineered the joint reservation system and hosts the goairportshuttle website, is a member of GO and partners with the operating companies to make sure their reservation system incorporates all the latest technology.

Other joint marketing includes monthly emails to a list of almost a half million names, representation at international travel shows, including PowWow, the World Market in London and ITB in Berlin, and an ad campaign on Google.

GO is run by a nine-person board, the members of which are all executives of their own GO operating companies. The board meets six times a year and sets direction and policy. To support the organization, members pay dues based on their fleet size as well as 10 percent of all revenue that comes from the collective website and national sales.

By drawing on the talents and resources of its members, The GO Group has managed to keep its overhead costs to a minimum. Instead of setting up a separate call center, for example, these duties are handled from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. by the Chicago member, GO Airport Express, and from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. by the Seattle member, GO Shuttle Express, with costs billed back to GO.

Similarly, the executive director, the national sales representative, the marketing coordinator and the comptroller split their time between GO and individual GO member companies. So far, the arrangement has worked very well, according to McCarthy.

In 2008, the first full year of operation for GO, joint sales were just under $1 million. For 2013 (just five years later), the organization is projecting $7 million from web sales, wholesalers and third-party resellers. This is in addition to revenue earned by each individual company.

The joint website, alone, currently receives more than 100,000 visitors and generates from 15,000 to 17,000 transactions per month.

The wholesale business grew slowly, at first, before there was brand recognition, according to Richard Kerekes, director of national sales. As awareness was established through trade shows and sales calls, tour operators began testing the service in one or two markets. Satisfied with the level of service they received, the operators added on the rest of the GO network.

“Our volume of business doubled from 2011 to 2012,” says Kerekes. “We now have dozens of domestic and international wholesalers booking with GO.”

The alliance has also paid back in a number of other ways. On the marketing side, GO has an agreement with Guest Logix to sell shuttle tickets on airplanes, and an arrangement with Visa credit cards, whereby cardholders can get a discount on GO reservations by going to a designated portal. In addition, GO members frequently share group business from one city to another.

Members have also benefitted from collective purchasing. By working together, they now get better rates on credit card processing. Similarly, a deal was recently struck with a national photography company to provide members with new fleet photos for a cost of $200, of which GO is paying half. The group is also working with a propane fuel provider on lower fuel costs and conversion rates.

“The biggest benefit,” according to McCarthy, “may be the fact we have 35 entrepreneurs who are working together to achieve common goals.”

“We try to create as many opportunities as possible for members to meet, exchange ideas, share resources and create joint ventures,” he adds.

The organization meets three times a year. In between there are phone conferences, webinars, reports and frequent emails to keep everyone up to date.

“Communication is critical to an organization like ours.”

What’s next? McCarthy says that the organization is planning to sell additional services on its website, including sedans and tours. In addition, the company, which already has members in Paris, London and Prague, hopes to increase its international presence. The most recent meeting was held in Madrid, with six prospective European members in attendance.

“We already know the benefits of a strong national alliance. These benefits can only multiply exponentially on an international basis.”

Q&A: Mark Kini, President of Boston Chauffeur


Mark Kini


Mark Kini is president and founder of Boston Chauffeur, a premier global provider of executive sedan, limousine and event transportation services.

Founded almost 15 years ago, the company has grown organically in the hyper-competitive Boston market, and continues to flourish through the hard work and high standards championed under Kini’s leadership. In this compelling and candid interview, Kini tells us how he got Boston Chauffeur off the ground, shares his veteran insight on how to stay competitive in a crowded regional market, and sounds off on the many regulatory challenges faced by small businesses.

How has this historic winter weather been affecting Boston Chauffeur’s operations, and what measures have you taken to mitigate that effect?

Well, as you know, we’re powerless against the weather, and it’s certainly been a brutal winter. The first quarter is typically the slowest quarter for us anyway, and that was just compounded by the weather with a record number of flight cancellations, and travelers being wary about getting stuck in other cities. It impacted us greatly. January was a really tough month, but somehow we were able to turn it out right at the end of February. On a positive note, we’ve started March out remarkably strong.

Let’s back up a little. Can you share the origin story of Boston Chauffeur? How did you get started in the luxury ground transportation business?

I was kind of at a turning point in my life when I was about 30, back in 2000. A friend of mine that I had worked with in sales had somehow gotten into the chauffeur industry, and this was right at the height of the tech boom. He bought one car and put a few ads on the internet—this was before the internet became so hyper-competitive with Google AdWords and things like that—and he started doing remarkably well out of the gate, working off a cell phone. He said, “You should look into doing this.”

"One thing I am a real stickler for—where I  have zero tolerance—is being late for a job."
So I took some courses at the SBA—they gave me a small grant at the time—and I got my father to cosign a loan for my first vehicle, and for the next two years I literally worked 24/7. Between driving, answering the phone, doing billing, and everything else in between, I had no social life whatsoever. It was just a time in my life when my body was conditioned to do something like that. I would typically drop a client off at 1 am, and I would go to my 4  a.m.pickup and park down the street, set my alarm clock on my cell phone, and sleep until my 4  a.m.pickup. I’d shower when I could, and pick my battles, but I was at that point working primarily off a cell phone.

Where our office is currently located is a monster corporate office park; Tristar is also located here, coincidentally. It’s like a college campus...I don’t know how you can describe it...it’s like a town within a town. There’s a lot of bio-tech and technology companies here, a whole variety of different corporations. So I started handing out flyers, got some calls, set up some accounts, and I noticed there was a small office that someone was looking to sublease. 9/11 had hit at this point so business had slowed down quite a bit, and I felt that if I had an office presence it might give me some more credibility. So even though I would have the phones forwarded to my cell phone, I was paying $500 a month for this office. Then I hired my first employee and she worked nine-to-five answering the phones while I was out driving.

Since then it’s just been a series of baby steps, sometimes one step forward and two steps back. It’s been a learning curve. I’ve made a lot of bad hiring decisions, and I’ve made some good hiring decisions. I guess I made more good decisions than bad decisions because I’m still in business, but it’s clearly been—as I look back—a journey.

Can you unpack the thinking behind your tagline, “When being late is not an option?”

One thing I am a real stickler for—where I  have zero tolerance—is being late for a job. I have a sales background prior to getting into the chauffeur industry, and when I go out and pitch accounts, that’s one of the things that I tell my clients, that we’re always on time. Our policy is that we get to our pickups 15 minutes prior to the pickup time, so it gives the client an extra sense of comfort that the chauffeur is there. We don’t want our clients to have the extra stress of looking out their window when it’s a 5:30  a.m.pickup, and the chauffeur’s not there at 5:27, and then they get nervous and have to call us—that would just start the whole service off on a bad note. I would say our on-time percentage is a consistent 99.5 percent.

Can you talk about your approach to marketing your services? What approach yields the best results, and what can other firms learn from your strategy?

So you want me to give you the recipe to my secret sauce? [Laughs.] We have an extremely strong web presence. I have an excellent SEO person, and that’s been a game changer for the company—following up on leads that we get from internet bookings, trying to convert them into accounts, grooming the accounts and the customers, and being vigilant with that process but also patient. Sometimes you have to plant the seed, water it, wait for it to grow and then wait for an opportunity to come about.

I recently decided to delve into a little bit of direct marketing, targeting specific households in the more affluent communities with a promotional offer. I’m trying that out, but they have yet to go out so I can’t yet give you any feedback on the results. We also run promotions monthly on our website. It’s still a work in progress.

I read that you have incorporated some hybrid and flex fuel vehicles into your fleet. Can you speak about the demand for these types of vehicles? Do you anticipate adding more to your fleet, and would you advise other companies to take the same “green initiative?”

That’s a great question. We did try to aggressively move in that direction. We had a couple of Toyota Hybrid Camrys, but the demand was very low and the vehicles just weren’t profitable. So we do have a couple of flex fuel vehicles, and we have a couple of new
Mercedes with fuel efficient technology—the engine will stop running when the car is sitting at a light—but we do not currently have any hybrid vehicles in our fleet. I am very attracted to the Tesla Model, but the infrastructure is not here in the Northeast yet like it is in California, so I just don’t see the client here in the Northeast wanting to request that type of vehicle.

Although you say the demand is low, what types of clients are requesting those types of vehicles?

The best example I could give you—and you’ll laugh at this one—we had Al Gore. He flew in on jet fuel in a private plane, and then hopped into a hybrid. That is a pretty typical scenario, I’m not kidding you.

It’s worth mentioning that we have started to transition over to the vehicle that I’ve picked to replace the Town Car, which I think is really important. There are so many options now in the marketplace, but I finally decided upon the Mercedes E350—we already have three of them. We also have two S550s, including a 2014, the brand new one that just came out with the new body style.

"We really micro-manage each reservation, and if there are any issues with the customer, we go above and beyond to make them happy, even if we have to eat the ride and take a loss on the job."

My understanding is that Boston is a pretty competitive market. How does your company differentiate itself to remain competitive?

They say it’s the most competitive market in the country. Boston is a relatively small city with major powerhouse chauffeur and limo companies based there: BostonCoach, Commonwealth, LTI, Dav El, the list goes on and on.

I would say Boston Chauffeur is more of a boutique type of company, so our primary focus is on service. We really micro-manage each reservation, and if there are any issues with the customer, we go above and beyond to make them happy, even if we have to eat the ride and take a loss on the job. I’m a big proponent of “the customer is always right,” and keeping that client retention. Also, all of our vehicles are three years or newer, we pay our chauffeurs the best in the market, and I feel we have one of the best chauffeur teams we’ve ever had in terms of experience and competency.

What would you say is the biggest regional challenge faced by Boston Chauffeur?

Massachusetts and California are the two most highly regulated states in the country. Massachusetts has the most stringent independent contractor statute, so we really have to rely on doing everything by the book, because there have been a whole slew of lawsuits that have infiltrated the Boston market. Dawson Rutter, the CEO of Commonwealth Worldwide, even said in a recent interview that with all the regulatory challenges, he is considering moving his company out of Boston. Some of the big companies have gotten dinged pretty bad. So we pay by the hour, not by the job; we pay overtime; we’re required to pay health insurance, and that’s been the case since 2005 since Romney was in office. Everyone’s talking about Obamacare and all the new implications associated with that, but we’ve already  been dealing with it for years. So we pay 50 percent on health and dental for all our full time employees. We do paid vacation, paid sick days, workman’s comp—we do everything by the book.

The one thing that’s enormously frustrating to me, particularly here in the Boston market on the subject of these regulatory issues, is that we are not all on an even playing field. My deal is, I just want to be able to put my head on the pillow and sleep at night, but there are a lot of companies that are falling under the radar, and because of that they are able to offer lower rates. We just can’t play that game, because I would say more than a third of our rate structures are fixed costs alone.

So if a customer is calling around and checking for rates, we try to stress the level of service that we provide, but of course some customers are fixated on rate structures. We have all heard the expression, “you get what you pay for,” but there are a lot of companies that are still cutting corners—some of them the established ones, and I have great admiration and respect for some of the owners.

They are 1099ing their chauffeurs, and they are not offering health insurance because they are defying the independent contractor statute, which basically says if you work within the same industry, you cannot be an independent contractor; you are an employee. So it makes it pretty black and white, yet they’re still doing it, and I’m sure at some point they’re going to get hit by a train. But for the time being, I’m the one getting hit by the train.

Massachusetts also has the Treble Damages Law for employment issues, and it can pierce the corporate veil, which means they can go after your personal assets, your house and everything you own. So most of these cases are settled outside of court, because it saves on attorney fees, and nobody wants to pay triple damages. But even one of the market’s largest companies just got dinged for $900k. It is a pretty well-run company, but the action was that they weren’t paying chauffeurs for down time.

That is certainly a big ding.

Yeah, that would smoke me; I wouldn’t be able to survive something like that. And if a company like that is doing it as a routine practice, it makes it that much more difficult for me to survive in this market. I hate to throw out specific names, but that is the biggest conundrum for me right now. I’m doing everything by the book—health insurance, comp, overtime, paying my people properly—yet some of my peers are not.

I almost feel like I have to be an employment attorney. I even have to get EPL insurance, a proactive insurance just in case I get sued. That’s insane. There are other markets throughout the country that have very little enforcement, as well. Texas is pretty lenient market, but Massachusetts and California are just brutal, and I think Massachusetts is even worse when you factor in the high level of competition.
I heard David Seelinger speak at the Atlantic City show, and basically what he said was for years he treated his chauffeurs differently than his internal employees, and he ended up getting hit with a huge lawsuit, which finally made him have an epiphany about looking at the chauffeurs as employees, and compensating them accordingly. So now all of their chauffeurs are employees; he doesn’t pay them as IOs. So he had spent enormous resources trying to circumvent the system, but now he has just conceded to it, which is in essence what I’ve done.

I’m afraid to even open up my mail because there are mystery bills that come all the time—a license for this, a permit for that—it’s absolutely crazy. Our chauffeurs have to be licensed through the town we’re in, and when that started it was ten bucks; now it’s $50. Each vehicle has to be licensed each year through the town, and then we have to be licensed through Massport for each chauffeur. Medical tests are required if they are going to drive vehicles with a passenger capacity of eight or more, which entails a special physical and license after that. Hiring each chauffeur is about a $500 investment up front before training, and before they are in a position to generate revenue for the company, so we’re very selective about who we hire. It’s therefore a lot more challenging to find good quality chauffeurs. Before you could just hire a guy, throw him on the road and hope for the best. Now we can’t afford to do that.

It’s just brutal. I don’t even want to get into the whole Uber conversation, and how they’re able to bypass all the regulations. I don’t think they’ve impacted my business, but I think at some point they will. They are expanding into my area—you know I’m 20 miles from Logan Airport and they are now advertising that they have cars in this market. So with their money and the backing they have behind them, they’re really looking to take over, and now there are several others who are following a similar model.

You’ve got to have eyes in the back of your head. You’ve got to keep thinking one or two steps ahead, but I always just come back to “service, service, service.” That is the only secret weapon I have.

Sounds like a good strategy to me.

If you know a better one, I’d be more than happy to hear it.

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Boston Chauffeur Welcomes New Addition
Since our interview with President Mark Kini, Boston Chauffeur has announced a new addition to its staff. Kini and the Boston Chauffeur staff have recently welcomed Daniel Krueger as the new managing director
of the company. Krueger brings years of transportation industry experience to his new role at Boston Chauffeur, which we can attest to, as he is an active participant in the Limo Digest group on Linkedin.
We enjoy and appreciate all of his contributions to these social media group discussions, and congratulate him on the beginning of his new role at Boston Chauffeur.

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

Monday, April 21, 2014

Ford Transit Skyliner Concept a "Private Jet on Wheels"


Ever fantasized about having the ultimate personal-use executive motor coach at your disposal? You’d better add the Ford Transit Skyliner Concept to your wish list, then.

Read the full story at www.technologytell.com.

Check out the press release, plus images and videos at media.ford.com.


Rose Chauffeured Transportation Named Family Business of the Year

 
 
Charlotte-based Rose Chauffeured Transportation won 2014 Family Business of the Year in the medium-sized business division from the Wake Forest University Family Business Center.

H.A. Thompson and his son Andy have built the Rose name into the largest corporate ground transportation company in the Carolinas, according to Wake Forest. They grew the business from one car in 1985 to 53 today. 
 
Read the whole story at shoptalkclt.blogspot.com.

Read more here: http://shoptalkclt.blogspot.com/2014/04/and-2014-family-business-of-year-award.html#storylink=cpy

Five Challenges That Women Entrepreneurs Face



Each year, more and more women set out on the journey to become successful founders and CEOs of their own companies. While these business-savvy ladies are inspirational to women with dreams of launching a startup, entrepreneurship remains a traditionally male-dominated territory, and there are still some significant obstacles that many female business owners have to face.

Here are Five Challenges That Women Entrepreneurs Face:

1. Women entrepreneurs think they need to act like men.
Most female business owners who have attended networking events can relate to this scenario: You walk into a crowded seminar and can count the number of women there on one hand. When women entrepreneurs have to talk business with primarily male executives, it can be intimidating.

“When you own a business, you’re constantly negotiating deals with many different people,” said Hilary Genga, founder and CEO of women’s swimwear company, Trunkettes. “Many times, with female owners, men think they can be dishonest or give her a bad deal because she’s a woman—something they probably wouldn't try with another man.”

To compensate and protect themselves, women often feel as though they need to adopt a stereotypically “male” attitude toward business: competitive, aggressive and sometimes overly harsh. But Genga believes this is the wrong approach to take.

“Be yourself, and have confidence in who you are,” she advised. “Don’t try to be a man. You made it to where you are through hard work and perseverance, but most importantly, you’re there. Don’t conform yourself to a man’s idea of what a leader should look like.”

Many times, with female owners, men think they can be dishonest or give her a bad deal because she’s a woman—something they probably wouldn't try with another man.

2. Emotions and nurturing skills can affect their business.
Though trying to act like a man doesn’t guarantee success for a female entrepreneur, allowing her “feminine” qualities to stand in the way of getting things done isn’t necessarily recommended, either. By nature, women are more emotional and nurturing, which can sometimes be a hindrance to running a business.

“For men, a business is mostly about the bottom line, but for women, it’s more than that,” said Delia Passi, CEO of WomenCertified, home of the Women’s Choice Award. “We get emotionally connected, and that can hold us back from making the tough decisions. Male board members and investors get frustrated when we’re not as quick to fire or make dramatic business changes that could impact employees’ families.”
Passi noted that women also tend to be very relationship-based in business, placing a high premium on building up relationships that they hope will naturally lead to a sale. Connections are highly important to success, and nurturing strong professional relationships can go a long way. However, Passi reminded female entrepreneurs to also be direct and stay focused on their business goals.

3. Women often lack the support of other female business leaders. 
Long before she founded online women’s eyewear boutique Rivet and Sway, CEO Sarah Bryar worked with undergraduate female engineering students at the Massachusetts Institute ofTechnology . These “trailblazers,” as Bryar described them, felt insecure about being in the minority as women who excelled
in math and science, and longed for more camaraderie and support from female peers in their field.

“The main challenge for female entrepreneurs is just like the challenge for female engineering students:
There just aren’t enough of us,” Bryar told BusinessNewsDaily. “There aren’t enough women to be role models, act as sounding boards, do deals with — in short, to create normalcy for women in leadership positions.”

Despite the quickly growing number of female executives and business owners, finding fellow women entrepreneurs to connect with isn’t always easy. Women-focused networking events like American Express OPEN’s CEO BootCamp are good places to start, as well as online forums and groups specifically created for women in business.


“Opportunities to lead do exist for women,” Bryar said. “We just need to continue to support and promote women in the limelight to encourage others to come along for the ride.”

4. Many women have to balance raising a family with running their OWN business. 
Work-life balance is often a goal of entrepreneurs across the board, but mothers who start businesses  have to simultaneously run their families and their companies.

“Being a mother while running a business is very challenging,” Genga said. “There are ways to balance your time, but the perception is that you could be more effective running your business if you didn’t have to deal with kids.”


Genga has learned to not take shortcomings on either front too seriously, and to not beat herself up over the little things, like missing a class trip with her children. “Momtrepreneurs” have dual responsibilities to their business and to their family, and finding ways to devote time to both is key to truly achieving that elusive work-life balance.

5. Women entrepreneurs are afraid of failure.
According to Babson College’s 2012 Global Entrepreneur Monitor, the fear of failure is the top concern of women who launch startups. Failure is a very real possibility in any business venture, but Passi believes it shouldn’t be viewed as negative.

“You need to have massive failure to have massive success,” she told BusinessNewsDaily. “You may need 100 “no’s” to get one “yes,” but that one “yes” will make you more successful tomorrow than you were today.”

Bryar offered similar advice for female entrepreneurs, encouraging them to work through the moments of self-doubt that every business owner faces.

“Work hard at ignoring that inner voice that may discourage taking action, speaking up or getting outside your comfort zone,” she said. “It’s something I struggle with myself, but I know fundamentally that I wouldn’t be a CEO today if I hadn’t taken chances to assert myself.”

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Nicole Fallon began freelancing for BusinessNewsDaily during college and joined the team as a staff writer in July 2013.
After receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University in 2012, she spent
a year as Editor in Chief of culinary/health trends website Healthy Way to Cook. Follow her on Google+ and Twitter @nicolefallon90. 



Vincent Limo "Turbocharged" by Tesla


A decade ago, Vinny Vassallo was a laid-off factory manager.

Today, the entrepreneur from Eagan is tooling around in a $90,000 Tesla electric car. He may buy another one this year.

Just don’t think Vassallo, 60, is on easy street. He still works up to seven days a week as chief chauffeur and owner of six-vehicle Vincent Limousine. And he pays himself a $60,000 salary, far less than the job he lost in 2004.

“But this is my business, and this is fun,” said Vassallo. “I mostly have worked physically hard jobs. Delivering papers, ironworker and at the factory. This isn’t hard work. And I like to meet people.”

Read the full story at www.startribune.com

Bollywood Event Means Big Business for Tampa Transportation Providers



TAMPA — City transportation could be tested with up to 30,000 people expected in town for Bollywood, the International Indian Film Academy Awards events from Wednesday through Saturday.

But local officials say transportation issues will be more on the scale of a major convention or concert rather than large events Tampa has hosted, including Super Bowls and the 2012 Republican National Convention.

Some bus routes will be modified. Street and highway congestion and road closures are expected at certain times near areas hosting Bollywood events downtown, at Raymond James Stadium and the Florida State Fairgrounds.

The impact on taxi and bus service remains to be determined because Bollywood, with a mix of celebrities and fans, and a blend of international and domestic visitors, will be the first of its genre of special events that Tampa has hosted.

Tampa’s new alternatives to taxi service, Lyft and Uber, don’t have permits to pick up passengers at the airport but can drop them off, airport spokeswoman Janet Zink said.

More than 150 limousines have been booked for the celebrities and their entourages, in what might have been a larger boon for business if Bollywood took place in June as envisioned a year ago rather than late April, a customary peak period for limousine rentals.

Read the full story at www.tbo.com.

Controversy in Calgary: New Rules for Curbside Limo Pickups



Late-night partiers willing to fork out extra dough for a luxury-sedan ride home will soon have to pre-book their trip a minimum half-hour in advance if city officials have it their way.

The “30-minute definition” aims to both keep drivers of the lower-cost taxi drivers flush with business and also increase customer safety, according to livery officials, but the proposal is fuelling sharp criticism from the general manager of the city’s largest limousine sedan fleet.

“It’s ridiculous, it’s actually kind of comical,” said Allied Limousine’s Cam Naghshineh of the proposal, which will go before a city committee later this month. “Get a grip, let’s think of the customers and providing customer service instead of trying to create that perfect utopia for taxi drivers.”

For the full story visit www.metronews.ca.

Fleetmatics Reveals New Products and a New Focus


Fleetmatics Group PLC, a leading global provider of mobile workforce solutions, recently unveiled their new fleet management software platform, along with new products designed with the small-to-medium enterprise in mind. Mobile workforce solutions can be a real game-changer for the bottom lines of chauffeured transportation companies, and you don't have to be operating a huge fleet to see results.

The company's current percentage of clientele from the chauffeured transportation industry is between two and three percent, said CEO Jim Travers. But that number is growing, and with the release of the new platform and SaaS (software as a service) products, Travers said that "for-hire" businesses are a new focus for Fleetmatics.

Terry Murtaugh, co-owner of the Boston-based global ground transportation company United Worldwide, said his company loves the Fleetmatics platform. In the past three years they've been using it, Murtaugh said, "it's been a game-changer, and the customer service and ROI has been amazing."

He cites three key areas as having been most improved by the fleet management software: 1) the quality of service provided to clients, 2) reducing costs and complying with state laws associated with vehicle idling, and 3) promoting safety awareness among chauffeurs. "The monthly report with each chauffeur's rating," he said, "has been a huge asset." Currently, United operates a fleet of 14 vehicles that includes nine sedans (primarily MKTs), four SUVs, and one van.

A great selling point for the small-to-medium ground transportation company is that there is no up front commitment with Fleetmatics, and installation is fast, requiring only three to five working days. Free training and customer support is also available from Fleetmatics' award-winning customer service organization. 

Fleetmatics REVEAL is an easy-to-use yet powerful GPS vehicle tracking solution designed to increase productivity and streamline costs. With a mobile app available for iPhone and Android platforms, Fleetmatics REVEAL provides comprehensive insight into field activity, driver behavior and productivity.

Fleetmatics WORK is a mobile field service management solution that makes it easy to manage customers, jobs, schedules, invoices and drivers, promoting efficiency and quality of service. Fleetmatics WORK also integrates with Fleetmatics REVEAL to provide additional insight into workforce productivity.

"The improvements to Fleetmatics REVEAL are impressive - I've never had a better handle on the overall fleet and each driver within it," said Murtaugh. "Fleetmatics makes us more efficient, allowing us to react more quickly to customer needs and to service more customers without adding resources, while still maintaining our high customer service standards. The system ROI views have helped us elevate the field service group internally, because now we can easily quantify the impact we're having on the business."

For more information about Fleetmatics and their new products, visit www.fleetmatics.com.

For more information about United Worldwide, visit www.unitedprivatecar.com.


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

Friday, April 18, 2014

3 Ways To Revive Your Website


3 Ways to Revive Your Website


If a salesperson dressed sloppy, didn't care what they looked like, gave out inaccurate information and had lazy traits, would you keep them employed? Surely not. Well, your website is a salesperson. And by keeping that lazy salesperson on the payroll, you're hurting your company. And if your salesperson insisted on writing letters with quill pens and refused to learn how to use modern technology, would you keep them around long enough to see a paycheck? Odds are, that is a big "no".

As I have written before in my blog posts, the brand of a company is not about the vehicle; it's about the ride. It's about the employees. Every company has vehicles and employees. How you treat the vehicles is what is important. The ground transportation industry relies on the maintenance and performance of its vehicles and employees. The same care needs to be applied to your website. Way too often in the ground transportation industry, companies get lazy about their website maintenance. And that can cost you.

During the course of our daily activities here at Limo Digest, we have to fact-check our sources. One of the ways we do this is by verifying the websites that are included in press releases. There is something really depressing about seeing a website that is left to collect dust and looks neglected. There are many symptoms of a website on life support. The most frustrating part of having to witness so many dying websites is that there are some really easy cures to getting them healthy again. Here are three ways to get your website up and running again:

1. Get Your Info Up-To-Date. I can't tell you how many times I go to a company's website and see that they have devoted an area of their website to company news and the last post is over three years old. That says one of two things: 1) your company hasn't done anything newsworthy in recent years or 2) the enthusiasm of updating your website has waned. Either way, it's not good. If you have a Winter Special at the top of your home page and it's July, then you've clearly missed the mark. If your website says you are celebrating your "20-year anniversary" and it's clear that it was four years ago, then the party has gone on too long.

There is an economic principle called "the Broken Window Theory" that I think clearly articulates the problem of not fixing a problem in a normal amount of time. It is based on the idea that the longer a broken window in a building takes to get fixed, the more likely another broken window will occur. In other words, if something is left uncorrected, the more likely it is people will think that an area is not supervised by anyone and attract vandalism. Clean up the sidewalk every day, and the less likely litter will accumulate. The same theory applies to marketing. The more mistakes and disinformation that occurs in a company's marketing, the less likely a potential customer will trust that the company is being supervised. If a website is a vacant lot full of broken windows (and, perhaps, broken links), the less likely the potential customer will trust the company as someone who is dependable.

Here are some action items to fix immediately:

  • Get your fleet info and photos up-to-date
  • Populate your "News" section with up-to-date information about your company
  • Update your contact info and staff members. Make sure that all the links work properly and are current. Also, update your employees and the contact emails. Remember Johnson who used to be in charge of Affiliate work? Well, he's been gone six months and  yet his mug is on the "Meet the Team" page and his email is still the contact for inquiries. Not good.

Make your house look occupied and people will trust your company a whole lot more.


2.  Keep Your Branding Consistent. Why are so many websites designed without any thought of the overall branding consistency?  If your logo and marketing collateral are blue and gold, why did you choose a black and silver-based website? It may look cool, but it could make people think they have the wrong landing page. If someone recognizes you by your colors (and in the ground transportation industry, they do), don't switch it up on them by going with a different color scheme. Also, make sure your message is clear. If your company is about being "on time", then make that the focal point of your website.

If you promote your company's Facebook and Twitter accounts on your printed material, don't forget to include them on your website as well.

Action items:

  • Keep brand colors and slogans consistent
  • Include social media links on home page

3. The Aesthetics of Your Website. Let's face it, websites are a great marketing tool for your company but they can be a pain in the rear end to design. And I'm not just talking HTML, either. Designing the site and how the viewer can navigate can get complicated and tedious. The "site map" is a process... but well worth it. If your site gets too "crowded", clean it up. Make it a pleasurable experience for the reader to get directly to what they need to see. Create five main tabs and prioritize the information with secondary tabs underneath, if need be. Avoid the temptation of wanting to overload your home page.

If your company's website includes a "blog" tab and your last post was in 2005, then you either have to start writing again to make it relevant or eliminate that tab altogether. It looks bad to the viewer that you went on a two-week writing binge ten years ago and then nothing. That's a decision only you can make. But you have to commit to a decision either way.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, if your site is so simple that it looks antiquated, get it back in shape. It's nice to have photos, obviously. However, photos that look dated are no good. Don't be afraid of some white space. There is a tendency in the ground transportation industry to go overboard on verbiage. Competition is fierce, so if you present the reader with too much to read, they will hit the "back button" way before they get to the meat of the site. Having clear, engaging copy on your home page and subsequent pages will keep the viewer longer and result in more business.

Action items:

  • Create a concise, easy-to-follow menu—including tab sequence.
  • Rethink the copy on your site and ask: does it really matter to the reader?
  • Clean up any grammatical errors, including misspellings.
It's time to give your website the attention it merits. If it's lazy and full of misinformation, replace it with a better representation of your company. Oftentimes, your website is your company's first impression to a potential customer. Don't let them be greeted by a person you're looking to fire.

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Written by
Creative Director
john@limodigest.com

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Comic Relief



Comic Sans: The Internet's Most Hated Font


One faux pas that I see way too often in the ground transportation industry is the use of the font Comic Sans in a company's marketing collateral. Finally, someone decided they had had enough and retweaked the intolerable font and made it actually work! Here is the story:

For those who can’t stand the sight of Comic Sans, say hello to Comic Neue.
Developed by Craig Rozynski, an Australian graphic designer in Japan, Comic Neue is a new take on the oft-criticized Comic Sans font. “The squashed, wonky and weird glyphs of Comic Sans have been beaten into shape while maintaining the honesty that made Comic Sans so popular,” a description for the new font states.
For more on this font (including a limited-time free download), click here: http://thenextweb.com/insider/2014/04/07/hate-comic-sans-maybe-youll-find-comic-neue-more-appealing/

Use with caution, however!

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Written by
Art Director
john@limodigest.com

Monday, April 7, 2014

EU Wants Electric and Hybrid Vehicles to Add Artificial Sound



Last week, the European Parliament ruled that all electric and hybrid cars must add artificial engine noise so that pedestrians can hear them coming. While the mandate is mostly to protect visually impaired pedestrians, the noise will also benefit anyone on the street who's ever had a near-miss with a Prius.

The fear that a quiet car might kill you is not unfounded: According to one study in 2012, when traveling at speeds under 35 mph, hybrids and electric vehicles are 37 percent more likely to hit walkers and 66 percent more likely to hit cyclists than traditional gas-powered cars. 

Read the full story at gizmodo.com.

Lyft Begins Operations in Tampa


Any moment now, cars with giant fuzzy pink mustaches on the front grill may pull up to Tampa International Airport, offering rides to travelers who use the upstart Lyft car service for a — lift. Standing at the curb will likely be government transportation officers, ready to write up citations against those drivers, who the county basically considers “pirate” taxis.

Besides the dramatic pink mustaches that are the icon of Lyft, the showdown pits two powerful forces against each other — entrepreneurs versus the government and established taxi/limo corporations. San Francisco-based Lyft calls itself a ride-sharing system, and the service launched in the Tampa area on Friday at 7 p.m. Some established taxi and limo companies call it a threat to their existence.

People who have cars and can pass a background check can sign up to be Lyft drivers. People who need rides download the Lyft smart phone app, signal they need a ride, and then see potential driver profiles — photos and car models included. If there’s a mutually acceptable match, the driver picks up the passenger and Lyft handles all the financial transactions so riders are charged and drivers are paid.

Read the original article at www.govtech.com

Washington Regulators Crackdown on Party Bus Industry


Prom season is coming up. That means tuxes, gowns and limousines. But these days an old fashioned stretch limo can look a bit stodgy. The new rage is party buses. They carry more people and you can even stand up, dance and drink as you cruise down the road. But these parties on wheels can come at a price. Nationwide there have been nearly two dozen fatalities on these buses  including one here in the Northwest.

Now regulators in Washington state are getting ready to crackdown on the industry.

If you’ve never been on a party bus before, let me take you inside one.

“I’m William. This is my party bus.”

William Prigmore is showing me his converted 1998 Ford shuttle bus. Picture neon lights, wrap-around leather seats and the center aisle converted into a narrow, wood dance floor.

“Got a nice stereo system with a PlayStation II, 37-inch flat screen TV, exotic pole,” says Prigmore.
Yes, this bus even has a brass pole – and no, it’s not for holding onto around corners. I ask Prigmore what’s the point of a party bus?

Read the full story at nwpr.org

How to Write a Killer Blog Post to Promote Your Company



Before you begin writing your blog, you need to follow a format that is proven to be successful.

I must confess, it is weird to be writing a blog about writing a blog. I'm not going to lie. What's the saying about opinions? Oh yeah, we all have one. But some people's opinion has more merit, especially in the blogosphere. As most of you are are aware, "blogging", or the process of writing a blog, has gone from an exercise in vanity to a content extension of your personal brand. Just about every person with a computer is attempting to blog these days, some more successful than the majority. Before you start writing, however, there are some sure-fire points to consider in order to make your blog successful.

1. Start With an Outline. Anyone familiar with blog reading knows that an effective blog needs to be structured like an outline. Blogs that follow a series of numbered items are the easiest to digest. Have at least three points to address your subject. If you can't come up with three points, it isn't worth sharing as an article. Constructing the outline is the most arduous task to writing a blog. It requires thinking and making a logical progression. Once you construct an outline, it is time to write.

2. Write Like You Speak. Now comes the easy part. Blogging, more than any other form of writing, is conversational. It's purpose is to create an open dialogue and encourage feedback from the audience. Blogging is effective when the tone of the blog post creates a personality behind the written word. It's a slippery slope, however... as much as you want to cultivate a persona, you also don't want to take away from your credibility. The key is to be entertaining but informative. Sprinkle in your sauciness but don't let it get in the way of establishing your intelligence and experience on the topic. The goal is to establish a point, make the point with clear, concise arguments and end with a point that leaves the readers engaged, whether they agree or not.

3. Write About What You Know. Let's say you live in Chicago and have been a season ticker holder for the Chicago Bears for 15 years. That makes you a dedicated fan, but not an expert. Surely, you can post about the Chicago Bears and their need for a better running game, but that's not what you are being paid to do. Years of successful management makes you an expert on managing. How you got to where you are required years of experience and lessons learned along the way. That's what makes for an interesting blog post. Not only are you supplying your readers with a wealth of knowledge, you are simultaneously establishing your identity as an expert. Write with the same fervor and passion that enabled you to elevate yourself to where you are now. Readers want to believe that they are heading there with the knowledge you present in each and every article you post.

4. Start Out With a Sprint. In blogging, there is no time to warm up to the reader. Because there are so many websites and so many blogs and so little time, you need to immediately grab the reader out of the gate. If there is a place to be controversial or cute, it's the beginning of the post. Face it... if I didn't hook you in to this post with something interesting, you wouldn't still be reading this article. So instead of stretching and a slow jog, sprint to your point. Be concise about your point in the first 50 words or so. Have a point. Choose a side if it is appropriate. If you are going to sit, sit. If you're going to stand, stand. Whatever you do, don't wobble. After you are done sprinting, make sure what you write is skimmable. Test your post by skimming through yourself and see if the layout is easy to digest.

5. Basic, Basic, Basic... In That Order. Don't make your message complicated by losing your reader with technical terms and jargon unfamiliar to the audience. Dumb down your message while still providing information that will aid the reader. If you do present a technical term, explain it. Assume the reader does not know something, even if they should. The President reads his speeches at an Elementary School level for a reason. He wants everyone to get the message. 

Break up your blog with subheaders, bold captions and pull quotes, if appropriate. Don't be afraid of white space breaking up the article to emphasize certain important points.


Like this... see?

6. Add Appropriate Images.. But Not Too Many. The point of the post is to communicate a point. But to get the reader to notice your post, an image is needed. Just like a speech you gave in high school was aided by the use of visual aids, an image serves as a great compliment to your post. If a reader sees nothing but a bunch of words, they may be discouraged to read on. An interesting image that grads the reader's attention as they are surfing the web could be the catalyst for locking the viewer into further investigation. Don't overload your post with too many images, however. Use images further down ONLY if they help present your argument or explain a point further. An infographic is the perfect example of an effective way of communicating a detailed series of steps or a workflow, for example.

7. Save the Title For Last. There is much merit to titling your blog post. The title of the blog is probably the most important aspect of constructing a blog post. After all, it is the first thing a reader sees. If the title isn't compelling, the reader will move on to the next blog. The title is also the most influential portion of the post because it is what search engines have replaced "meta tag" keywords with. Blog post titles are what "meta tags" (Meta tags were, at one point, the most important piece in the complicated algorithmic puzzle that major search engines looked at when deciding which results are relevant to show users who have typed in a particular search query) used to be as to how search engines rank your blog. So title your blog with the same vigor and enthusiasm that stemmed you to write your article in the first place.

8. Update and Engage. Once you have written your blog post, make sure you stay on top of it. Make sure you interact with your readers if they comment on your article. Don't allow yourself to get in an online altercation with your readers if they post something you don't particularly like. Remember you are the person in control—so, if anyone attacks you personally, simply delete their comment and move on. The point is to get people to comment on your post, whether it be favorably or negatively. Some posts are going to more of a "lightning rod" for opinions than others, so be prepared if you choose to write about controversial subject matter. The frequency of your posts is as crucial as the content. A blog that is updated weekly is sure to generate organic traffic.

Sharing your posts via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin or other forms of social media is another way to get traffic to your blog. The more you "share", the bigger the audience. Even if you have the most thought-out, well-written blog is worthless if no one is reading it. Check your traffic and see what topics are most popular and tailor your future posts for similar topics. When you start to garner the trust of your audience, the more likely the audience will share your posts with their circle of friends. Google+ is another network that can benefit the blogger. If you look at your own Google results, you will see that the articles showing up in the most Google+ "circles" end up near the top of the search results. Usually the Google+ profile with a photo is more likely associate trust to the article as well. People like putting a face to a name.

9. A Definitive Call-To-Action. So you have gotten the reader to read all the way to the end of your article. Now what? This is where you have the fortunate opportunity to go further with the correspondence. This is where you have to decide what the "call-to-action: is. A call-to-action, in the realm of internet marketing, is a link or graphic that allows the user to get closer to a valued commodity. It may be that you want the reader to "subscribe" to your blog and receive occasional e-mails with valuable information. By locking in that subscriber, you know have the information needed to take this "warm lead" into a potential customer.

By utilizing the above eight points, you can not only begin blogging the right way, but you will also be on your way to gathering an audience that value your expertise.



Written by
Art Director
john@limodigest.com

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