Great News! It looks like I will be attending the 2011 International LCT Show in Las Vegas! I do not have all my plans in place but right now it looks like I will be definitely attending Monday and Tuesday.
As my fellow Racers start a new fiscal year, Limousine Excursions is now half way through ours. We have been taking you on a journey these past couple of months, sharing one of the biggest challenges we have had to face since going into business — several months of declining sales and a unstable market. I have to admit that participating in the LCT Great Limo Race Blog has been a lifesaver for us. It’s forced us to be “checked in” and aware of day to day operations. Knowing that we are being watched keeps us motivated and proactive as to how we are going to resolve our challenges.
Here are some of the highs and lows of our year.
Trying to save money by not hiring professionals or consultants: We underestimated how much time we were going to have once our business was “up and running.” Trying to research trends in marketing, advertising and social media is no laughing matter. It can be overwhelming and very time consuming. Knowing what’s out there and how it applies to your business is worth its weight in gold. Ignoring it or thinking it can wait caused us to fall behind and possibly affected our sales inquiries.
Technology: We found out just how important a current, properly indexed website is to a business. We thought once you’re on the Web, that’s it. It takes care of its self. It took me coming to last year’s show for me to see we were not using our website to its full potential. Upgrading our site has been the best thing we have done and we saw an immediate increase in web presence and inquiries. We had a tough time viewing technology as a capital expense. In reality, time to monitor technology, learn about it ,and implement it needs to be factored into your operational expenses. Technology includes smart phones, Facebook, Twitter and other media. We still have plenty of work to do!
Don’t get too comfortable. (This has to be our biggest mistake of this year): We brought in our Hummer when the Australian limousine industry was just finding out that larger capacity, SUV type limousines exist. Our phone was ringing off the hook before the vehicle ever got to Perth. For the next year and a half things stayed that way. Then three things happened. The first was Chrysler 300C limousines tripled in Perth going from 11 to 34. They were cheaper to buy than a Hummer and easier to get compliance for. The companies who purchased these limousines thought they could take a chunk of the Hummer market by offering clients two 10-passenger limousines for less than what a 12-16 passenger Hummer would cost. The second thing that happened was GM stopped making Hummers. This caused other limousine companies in Perth to try and come up with the next big thing. Companies added stretch Dodge Nitros to their fleets and some added stretch Ford Territories. Other companies purchased additional Hummers in colors that were not to be well received. This did not worry us too much as our pewter metallic Hummer and our reputation for good service was in demand. This leads us to the third thing that happened. The Hummers stayed in high demand and the Nitros, Territories and Chrysler 300Cs were not getting the market share they thought they would. In turn, hourly rates for these limousines were slashed. The result — the situation we are in now: Instability of our market caused by fluctuating hourly rates. We made the mistake of not looking at the BIG Picture. Now we are trying to figure out how to stay competitive in a situation that we have no control over. We welcome any advice from readers who may have gone through the same thing.
Successes & Highlights:
Having a great team: Starting out our fiscal year with 19% of last year’s gross sales on the books has been what has kept us on track. We could not have done that without having the right people in the roles they do best. A big Thank You has to go to William and Mark. Not only do they look after the safety of our limousines and passengers, they really provide a wonderful experience for our clients. Peter and I have focused our attention to what we both do best. His skills involve more marketing and my talent lies in administration.
Attending the 2010 International LCT Show: I am not saying this just to look good. Although my business is in Australia, being a first timer at last year’s show opened up my eyes to so many things that I would have never thought of. Participating in any type of function where you can be with a group of your peers, share ideas and ask questions that allow you to use to make money is a plus in my book. I don’t know where else I could go to get the kind of information I learned.
The Great Limo Race: Going through what we are going through right now would have scared the you-know-what out of me. Instead of having time to be scared and depressed I am focusing more on trying to resolve our challenge so I stay competitive in the competition and give my fellow racers a run for their money!
Continue to build relationships and grow our business by clients and not by fleet.
Happy New Years and I will see you at the show!
| posted on Wednesday, January 12, 2011 1:00 PM