You would like to enter the limo transport industry but don’t have a clue where to begin? We all get the basic idea, own a car, drive people, and charge them.
But in reality, it’s a complex industry, and if you are reading this, that means you’re interested in the inner workings of this business and how to get into it yourself.
When you think of a limousine, your mind probably goes straight to a white, 30 feet long stretched car with the music blasting.
But the limo service represents a pre-booked luxury car, driven by a chauffeur, regardless of the car length. In this article, you are going to find out all of the crucial checkpoints your business venture needs to cross out to be successful. So let’s get going.
Before you get too far ahead, be sure to have a good plan in place. Developing a business plan is the first step for all limo companies and entrepreneurs.
Get a good overview of the industry you’re trying to enter. The limousine industry has had significant growth over the past ten years, and just in the United States of America, there is over 190.000 registered limousine and town car services.
If you don’t have experience with writing business plans, get a consultant, and do it properly. In your business plan, you’ll have to conduct a SWAT analysis. Be realistic because this business plan is the foundation of your company. SWAT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
By analyzing these four areas of your business, you’ll be able to cut through the noise and focus on what matters. When you understand what makes you strong and what makes you weak, you will be able to exploit opportunities and manage threats that would otherwise surprise you.
These would be the points your organization excels at. Think about your company and try listing the things that set you apart from the rest, the advantages you may have, or features that have uncompromising quality.
For example, highly trained staff and chauffeurs, outstanding limo customer service, 24/7 availability, access to some lower-cost resource, an array of vehicles, or specialized fleet.
Same as with strengths, be objective. What are you lacking? What is it that other companies have on you, or consider as your weakness?
For a new company, the usual weakness it that they are just starting, and cannot compete with some of the leading companies who turn millions in revenue.
List your weaknesses, may they be a limited resource and financial capacity, lack of contacts and affiliates, unclear selling plan, or not enough marketing efforts that resulted in low recognizability.
These are usually factors outside of your business, but they have a significant impact on it. Being able to spot and use them is essential. Start from the beginning – the city or state you conduct business in.
Do you have a lot of competition there? What are the attractions, places of entertainment, and areas of business? Press coverage opportunities? Does it have airports, tourist attractions, famous landmarks, fancy hotels? Where and to whom can you offer your services?
Remember, limo service is a luxury one, so expect to deal with a clientele whose needs fit that profile. Keep an eye on social and marketing trends, up-and-coming business or developing ones, institutions you can do business, and affiliate your business with.
This includes anything that negatively affects your business. A downward economy we live in is always a threat; a more significant change in this industry can cause a problem for you, especially if it’s unexpected. Be aware of emerging competitors.
Technology also has the power to run over a business if you don’t keep up. Think about what obstacles you could have in the future. Plan accordingly.
Some of the other headlines that will have a place in your business plan are sources of income, startup expenditure, pricing strategy, sales forecast, target market, advertisement, and marketing strategy.
After you’ve found an available business name for a limo company, opened a dedicated bank account, getting a license is the next essential checkpoint for starting a limo business. Pay attention to the requirements in your state because they can vary depending on location.
LLC stands for Limited Liability Company, and it is an alternative type of business structure, used by USA citizens. Under this structure, you conduct your business as an independent legal entity. It requires less ongoing paperwork than big corporations do to maintain it.
LLC offers asset protection, separation from personal and business funds, and tax advantages. This is an excellent beginning form of a business that is starting up, and even if it goes up to medium size, but if you would ever outgrow LLC, then switching to a corporate structure is always an option.
As the process of forming an LLC is different in every state, so is the price. It ranges between $50 and $500 depending on your country.
You will have to apply for an employer identification number or EIN. It is a federal tax number, consider it as a social security number but for your business. Insurance is also required; a type of commercial auto coverage is mandatory to get a vehicle on the road.
Your business car or cars will have to be insured with extra limo insurance that not only insures your car, but it takes care of the passenger you have in the back in case something happens. The price for insurance policies can vary but plan for it to be somewhere between $5.000 and $10.000.
The rate depends mostly on your location, vehicles you own, business experience, and the level of risk your business presents. To make it easy on yourself, you could try to pay a bigger deposit upfront and reduce the amount of the monthly payments.
Gathering and Investing Capital
Gathering a capital, whether it’s savings, a loan from a bank, a friend, or a family member, is what follows. With a startup capital, you can procure a vehicle or multiple vehicles. Depending on the direction you want your business to take, you can opt for a standard black sedan, to begin with.
Think about group transportation, whether its sightseeing, group pickups at the airport, sport events and such you may be better suited with a sprinter van, or a bus. A car for limo service can be bought, rented, or leased. See what works best for you in the long run.
What I’m saying is – know your target market. Limo companies mostly serve the high paying customers, who are in town for business or leisure, so business people, corporate executives, politicians, celebrities and such. If you are not driving them, then you should aim to.
Either way, this layer of the society doesn’t stop a cab; they are paying top dollar for five-star service. Don’t just look for customers that would benefit you the most, but also those that could benefit from your service like travel and tour agencies, event planners – especially wedding planners, hotels, and similar.
Launching a fleet at the beginning of your limo service is risky as it requires a significant capital investment. When it comes to dealing with a fleet, you would have to hire limousine chauffeurs.
More vehicles on the road mean more money, but it also involves significant losses if the business is slow. The vehicle or vehicles will have to be put somewhere in the off-hours, so think about investing in a parking lot or a garage to store them safely.
Besides that, the expenses you’re facing at this point will also include vehicle maintenance and a monthly cost of gas.
To keep your customers happy you will need and excellent limousine customer support with well trained and experience limo dispatchers.
To sum it up, you will need to know how much business you’ll need to do and at what price to cover the expenses and accomplish a positive balance, in other words, a profit.
As time goes, you will come to see that the greatest asset you have is staff. So be careful who you let into limo business with you. You and your employees would have to be comfortable with long hours, weekend shifts, and much more to get to a point where you can take a break from work.
The limo business is not right for everybody; it is based on availability, punctuality, and excellent customer service. What does good customer service mean to you? It means that you put the customer first. Be available, meet their expectations, exceed them, and in that way create a customer that will 100% come back for more.
Employees should be a reflection of your company and especially aware of the fact that this business deals with a high-end clientele. Limo dispatchers are to be well-spoken, polite, and able to give information, make reservations or updates on the spot with the customer on the other end of the line.
Limo drivers can be acquired through Indeed.com, Craigslist, LinkedIn, countless job boards and such, but take a good look at their resume and qualifications. The driving record of your chauffeurs has to be perfect.
They should present themselves uninformed, tidy, courteous, and helpful towards the customer. Communication is vital in limo service; you’ll have to provide the means for effective communication.
Letting your chauffeur know all changes that might occur, getting feedback, and offering logistical support in real-time is paramount.u
Software and technology
In today’s society, businesses rely on technology and the internet. In this industry, half of the work is done on a phone and a computer, and for that reason, companies use software that is made specifically for this.
Utilizing business phone systems and limo service software will allow your day to day business to run smoothly. There are many available options from which to choose but make a safe choice and pick one that’s fully developed and proven. Here we will talk about “Limo Anywhere” and “Ring Central” software systems and what they offer.
One more thing that all cars will have to have is a navigation system. It is usually a satellite navigation device for routing and determining the time it will take to get from point A to point B. It is at the same time a GPS tracking device so that you will know the exact location of your car at all times.
It is a specialized business management software and mobile app designed specifically for this industry. This technology solution presents a set of tools created to help both limousine operators and drivers, resulting in a happy customer.
The platform is cloud-based, which means it can be used anywhere, anytime; all that you need for full communication is the internet connection.
Limo anywhere has excellent customer and account management.
Creating new customer account for a limo dispatcher is simple, and once he finish creating the account, the system keeps all relevant information at hand, with specific customer preferences saved for future bookings. You can schedule and dispatch multiple rides, assign limo drivers and cars, monitor status, track flights in real-time, get and make updates.
It makes a limo call center handling everything with more efficiency.
Process credit card info and in-car payments, manage payroll, and create invoices.
Everything is fully customizable, without it being complicated. The interface is user-friendly and highly responsive. You have a driver app that is available to chauffeurs in cars, on a tablet or a smartphone.
From there, they can accept assigned rides, view all trip details, and make status updates that are instantly visible to dispatchers on the grid.
To sum it up, Limo Anywhere assists all of its users from the moment a customer books a ride up until they reach their destination.
This communication company offers PBX – Private branch exchange, this is used for communicating inside the company and the outside contacts by using various channels including VoIP (Voice over IP) meaning that all calls can be conducted via IP phone no matter the location in the world, so users outside the US can communicate just as quickly.
What Ring Central provides is a clear line of communication by using an all in one phone system that is also cloud-based and accessible from anywhere.
By opening a laptop or installing a ring central mobile app which can be used on Windows, iOS and Android systems, you’ll be able to write messages, make and receive calls, automatically record calls, check voice messages, have online video conferences, share files and basically connect and collaborate with your team whenever.
There is no expensive hardware or complicated maintenance. When you log in, the system lets you configure and create extensions, organize call forwarding. It will be a great addition to your workflow.
What does dispatch do? Dispatch is a connection between the chauffeur and the customer. People who work in limo service dispatch answer calls, assign vehicles, monitor operations, and make sure everything happens as planned.
They use provided limo software to make reservations, edit and update them. Answer any questions customers may have about the service, collaborate with management, maintain contact, and offer logistical support to dispatched drivers. The limousine dispatcher should strive to be well-spoken, patient, helpful, and able to react quickly when he or she has to.
Dispatch services are essential for limo business, and it can be the thing that sets you apart — presenting your customer the option to have an actual conversation and avoid losing time and patience typing numbers into the dial phone menu.
Also, something that could push you in front of others has 24-hour customer service. Including night shifts mean you can take a larger quantity of jobs.
Keeping the budget in mind, you may want to consider outsourcing dispatchers for these shifts. Don’t be fooled and think that you could give this job to just anybody who’d do it.
Night shift dispatcher frequently operates alone, and that person needs to be able to deal with any situation, not only handling the scheduled night rides. This position is often overlooked and deemed as the weakest link, so making your weakest link bulletproof makes your business stronger.
There are many available options for dispatch outsource companies such as Limo Dispatch Outsource that are professional, capable, and responsive, plus get the job done at a much lesser price point per hour. Cha-ching!
Your company’s brand is a visual signature, think of it as the letter “S” on superman’s chest, a recognizable guarantee of quality. This would be the part where business gets creative. But the brand is more than a logo. It represents the identity of your company, makes it visible, but also tells a story.
So, before any marketing efforts are made, the brand image should be established. Researching the competitor brands in the limousine industry is recommended, see what you’re going up against, what are they doing well, but try not to duplicate someone else’s style. Stay original.
To build a brand you’d have to understand your target market, what audience are you trying to attract? Make a mission statement; keep it honest and straightforward, be memorable. How are you perceived by your customer depends on the provided service and brand image.
So, a clean presentation, a personalized slogan that in a short sentence represents your business – it doesn’t have to say “best transport for you” or something impersonal and generic like that, but to convey the essence of your brand.
Think about what the core value of the company is and try to transform it into a slogan. As we said before, a brand is not just a logo or a neat motto; it is the whole presentation of your business, every aspect of it in the same recognizable style, color palette, and font. Consistency is vital here.
The M Word – Marketing
Marketing is such an extensive field of possible actions to take. It is not a matter of speed and quantity, but more of strategy and quality. Doing them all is neither profitable nor worth your time, but some are vital and should not be avoided.
There are many types of marketing, and whether you pick five or twenty, the main thing is to keep brand consistency and quality. More often than not, people confuse the terms marketing and advertisement, they are connected, of course, but marketing is much more complex while advertising is a one-way-street part of it.
We know well the “old school” or traditional marketing, which would now be categorized as an advertisement. Description one-way-street is due to the lack of customer feedback and ways to measure the success rate.
Advertising is mostly aiming to attract the attention of potential customers to you, and it can be done with different tools like radio, TV, newspapers, billboards, and similar media.
We are not dismissing this as a waste of resources and time because it is not but just pointing out the pros and cons. Advertisements play an essential role uniquely if placed right – hotels, airports, bridal boutiques, etc.
Nowadays, half of the media people get their eyes on comes from a screen. In other words, – digital channels. The internet has become so available and easy to use to your advantage regarding business; it is a stable advertising platform.
Presence creates visibility, visibility leads to engagement, and finally, to contact and to sell. Digital marketing is nothing more than marketing done over digital tools. But that poses the question, what are those tools?
Starting from the one with the utmost importance, a powerful marketing platform – website, its content like blogs and articles, followed by any form of social media websites. Most significant difference and advantage that digital marketing, as compared to the traditional methods, is the ability to measure and track user behavior.
That allows you to optimize the website and divert funds into improving the areas or pages that are viewed by the most significant amount of people. You can launch a marketing campaign over different platforms, measure the impact they have, and your success rate with Google Analytics reports.
Usually, marketers use a combination of marketing activities to increase sales such as Google ads, banner ads, or social media and email campaigns. That way, you can see what form attracted the most people to your website and what works best.
Imagine having an employee who works seven days per week, every month, all year long – that’s your website. These platforms add credibility to any business and are of great value because all other media accounts your business has are there to point customers in the direction of the website.
A large percentage of new customers will first check out your website before calling to book a ride, and if they like what they see, your phones will be ringing. That means that here, the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” most definitely does not apply.
Successful websites maintain top-notch appearance and functionality at all times. That’s where professional web design comes in. Any web design will allow visitors to see services you offer and at what price, but good web design will make that fantastic first impression and keep the customer coming back for more.
Design is very significant because, besides its functionality and content, it must express quality and have effective information architecture. Mobile compatibility is a must.In the limousine transport industry, most of the inquiries you get come from a person that saw your website and would like to know more, and around 40% of customers who booked contacted you over the website.
If you aren’t achieving those percentages, it means that the website should be better. Most of the websites that perform poorly are the result of the owners or even worse, the designers, bad choices, and lack of information.
This is the one place where you don’t seek a cheaper version to save some money on the side. Pay that professional photographer, pay the designer, and make it first class. As we mentioned, the website works all day, every day, it is your virtual salesperson, and your job is to make it look good and be as compact, informative and usable as it can be.