Not long ago, Margarita Pleasant was working as a salesperson for Yellow Book when one of her clients, Steve Garcia of Lucky Boyz Limos in Albuquerque, NM, noticed her skills and thought she would be a good asset to his company.
He recruited her, and she became a driver and salesperson for the transportation provider. In just five years, she has risen to the position of VP of affiliate relations for Lucky Boyz’ sister company, American Limo & Transportation. We had a chance to talk with her about that rise to success, and the challenges and triumphs she has experienced along the way.
Tell us a little bit about American Limo & Transportation, and your position there.
I’m the VP of affiliate relations for American Limo & Transportation, so I’m in charge of all the relationships with the affiliates and all the corporate business that comes into Albuquerque and Santa Fe, as well as special requests. American Limo & Transportation has been in business for 15 years, and we have 22 vehicles, including both retail and corporate vehicles. We have the Executive Ls—the last of the Town Cars that Lincoln made— and we’re looking into what we’re going to do next. We’re possibly going to make a switch to Mercedes vehicles, as we want to change our strategy a bit. Then we have SUVs—the GMC Denali XL series. We just purchased a Sprinter, and we have 31- passenger minicoaches, 15-passenger vans, party limos, and Hummer stretches. Our fleet is the most diverse in the Albuquerque and Santa Fe areas.
As the VP of affiliate relations, how do you sustain and expand your affiliate business?
Well, sustaining is really the key. It is very difficult to trust somebody else with your clients. So for me, taking care of somebody else’s clients is something I take very personally. We have affiliates like Empire CLS, Limo Link, Gem Limo and Flyte Tyme. These are people who trust us, so we have to really make sure we serve their clients. Acquiring new clients is a day-to-day thing. I do things such as making calls in person, sending emails and e-blasts, and going through the cards of people I made contact with at the different shows, like the Limo Digest Show and LCT in Vegas. Our company changes—we purchase new vehicles and so on—so we keep people up to date on what we’ve got. As we get more and more affiliate partners, our referrals go up as well, of course. And we’re so happy to hear that. Often times we don’t ask how somebody found us, but in the conversation they’ll say “Diamond Limo sent me from Florida,” for example, and it feels great to hear that they talk about us.
What makes American Limo & Transportation an outstanding company, compared to your competition?
Good, friendly service. Our clients are always able to reach someone live, rather than leaving a voicemail. We always look for ways to make our rides special experiences—such as offering refreshing towels for those arriving from the airport. Cold waters are standard, but sometimes we’ll add chocolate, or something that has our name on the packaging, so that people really remember us. Sometimes, with the affiliates, we’ll ask questions, such as, “What does Mr. Ronald like?” so we can add it in a vehicle at no charge. That’s how we’ve become known. The other thing is that we’re the only company in New Mexico that is able to offer gate meet-and-greet at the airport. So we are able to go all the way to the gate for our affiliates and clients, as well as providing bodyguarding and services like that for people who need protection.
Tell us a bit about the challenges and the successes in your own rise to where you are in this industry today.
I guess I could go back five years to when I started, and was passing out cards and driving. At that time, I never thought I would be responsible for corporate clients, or our corporate client list. I can tell you an instance when I was intimidated—and I will not deny it. It was when I went to my first Limo Digest Show in Atlantic City. It was overwhelming for me to see all these men! It’s a man’s world! I thought, “holy smokes, how am I going to overcome this? What am I going to say?” It’s intimidating to see all these suits around you, and very few women. But little by little, the less I thought about that and the more I realized that these are regular people, I was able to just focus on what my job is, and make my name known.
Since you’ve started in this industry, what has surprised you most about the business?
There have been many surprises, but one that comes to mind is that I didn’t know the corporate world was so alive—that it was possible for so many people to fly in and out of town. We’ve been so busy at times, I’ve thought, “where do these people come from?” That was a surprise for me, but now, of course, I only see it as a great opportunity, and that question has become, “how can we get them to call us and not somebody else?” Also, as I mentioned, it’s a man’s world. I’ve moved past that fear and intimidation, but I still feel sometimes that men don’t listen to women. But, in the last four years at the shows, I’ve noticed a lot more women involved in this industry—a lot of intelligent women making it, and that’s encouraging. So it does help to talk to women and see what they have to say about what they’ve gone through.
Do you have anything in the works for the future, or any ideas you’d like to put into effect in the next few years?
As I mentioned, we’re thinking about redirecting our strategy. Sometimes it’s not as important to have so many vehicles as it is to have very nice vehicles. I’m not sure exactly when the shift is going to happen, but we are already focusing on quality over quantity, with vehicles such as the Mercedes-Benz products I mentioned before. Our vehicles are very nice—they’re 2012 Executive Ls—but like I said, we dream of having MBs, and maybe BMWs, and offering those exclusively to certain people. We also want to keep focusing on having quality chauffeurs. That’s one of the challenges. We have really good guys, and there are also those who come and go. We focus our efforts on making sure our guys represent what we want them to represent, which is the best quality and the best service.
What training and other practices have you implemented to ensure that those chauffeurs are the best they can be?
We meet with them once a month, or sometimes more depending on what occurs. They’re like family— these guys are here every day, and they wait around the office for runs, so we want them to feel valuable to the company. We don’t want them to feel like they’re just “drivers.” We encourage them to take our training, which is Tom Mazza’s training, and to give us their input on what we can do to improve things. We’re open to ideas from them because they’re the ones who are sitting in those vehicles, facing our clients. So they’re very important to us, and we want to hear their voices.
What would you tell other women who want to thrive in this industry?
Don’t get discouraged. Sometimes we feel like we’re unheard, or unseen, but everybody can contribute something. And to woman owners, I’d say that you have to depend on many people to support your ideas. You can’t do it alone—and don’t try, because it’s a team effort. So always think about your team. Always remember that you don’t have all the answers, you don’t know it all, and you’re going to need to rely on other people. Don’t try to do it alone.
For more information about American Limo & Transportation visit www.americanlimosabq.com or call (505) 877-7576. //LD