Magazine for the professional limousine, charter and tour industry.
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34 WWW.LCTMAG.COM scheduling and planning for these events 18 months out at the minimum. You need to know who the host com- mittee team is going to be for the DNC or RNC, and you re- ally need to work with your local Convention and Visitors Bureau to forge bonds. Once you do that, you have to stay on top of them. Everyone is going to need group trans- portation, and I don't think the TNCs are going to tackle that very soon." While you should ask other operators about their experi- ences, Chrystal says, "Try not to base your preparation too much on someone else's ex- perience. Do what seems nat- ural and don't lose your regu- lar business. They are going to be around for a long time; the RNC comes and leaves." Donohoe reinforces chauf- feur training. "Make sure you have enough capable bod- ies to put behind the wheel who are properly trained. You can't just throw anybody there to fill the seat." Partly because of the high level of security, but also be- cause of today's on-demand obsession, don't fret if the phone isn't ringing much, Qua says. "Be patient be- cause reservations won't re- ally be coming in until the end. Two weeks prior to the event don't wonder if your pricing is bad because you don't have any reservations. They will come, but they are going to come late." But it's never too early to plan. The Mazzarellas suggest creating a contract with clear terms so you'll be ready when organizations, affiliates, and the media approach you. Also, if you know you will need additional fleet vehicles through rental car companies, or if you're going to need to get hotel rooms for staff, Mary Jo suggests pre-paying. "When big events like this happen, you can get pushed out. You run the risk of being bumped. When you pay in advance, they can't do that." — Lexi@LCTmag.com them to get their credentials before we could even take them to their hotel." Tim O'Brien, owner of Preferred Car & Limousine in Pennsauken, N.J., took five farm-out jobs for the DNC and was thankful he knew how to navigate Philadel- phia well. "Law enforcement kept the protestors off of the main streets and there weren't many traffic situations." As a smaller operator, the biggest challenge was competing with TNCs during the event. "If they weren't around, we would have gotten more calls," O'Brien says. "Even though they would've been smaller runs, they add up if you do enough of them." Tips Traded John Petrus, owner of Pe- trus Limousine in Brunswick, Ohio, is a smaller operator who advises: "Pick up the phone and call the potential affiliates that don't know you exist. The bigger companies aren't always familiar with the little guys. They know we're there, but they don't neces- sarily know us. The more you stay in touch with larger op- erators, the more you're only helping yourself." Because of Uber's wide presence, Barreto under- scores the need to form and keep strong relationships with clients and groups. "This convention was different be- cause you had another, what is now considered 'tradition- al,' line of transportation in TNCs. You have to look into the future because they start because they can't sit in front of the hotel or office building. We know the client will come out of the building on one of our trips around the block, but this event was one where you couldn't do that." With porta potties replac- ing parking spaces and TV studios where good waiting spots used to be, his team had to stay on top of clients. "We just had to communi- cate often and make sure all of our chauffeurs knew how to text their passengers, be- cause that often was the only way we could reach them due to thin cell service," Qua says. "When a voice call won't come through, sometimes a text will." D o n o h o e says a prob- lem he came across was p a s s e n g e r s lacking prop- er credentials. R o b i n s o n adds, "In most cas- es, a lot of these high ranking indi- viduals had their credentials waiting for them in Philadelphia, but had to go pick them up. They'd land at the airport and we'd have to take ear out for situations. "We monitored police scanners just to make sure we weren't missing anything that might have been happening in the city. Cleveland took a really positive approach and had a picnic with both protes- tors and the police forces at Edgewater State Park. They barbequed, had games, and a dialogue circle. The protes- tors felt like their voices were being heard." Qua believes communica- tion deters problems. "There are times when a chauffeur will just go into circling mode BUS/VAN: OPERATIONS The protestors were milder than expected at both conventions. Credit: Steve Qua (L to R): Mike Barreto, John Donohoe, and Tim O'Brien dominated the DNC.