Luxury Coach & Transportation

August 2018

Magazine for the professional limousine, charter and tour industry.

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S AN JOSE, Calif. — Here's a business strategy to ponder for a small opera- tor: Install a software system geared toward large fleets. Buy at least one of every fleet vehicle. Pay chauffeurs well above average. Let them take vehicles home for the night. Forget about a sales team. Use only three office employees for all tasks. Double down on luxury level ser- vice. Don't advertise, not even on Google. Doesn't exactly sound like a winning strategy for a luxury fleet, right? For San Francisco Bay Area operator Harry Dhillon, this approach has resulted in $6 million in annual revenues in less than 10 years with a fleet of 33 vehicles. e two time LCT Operator of the Year — 1-10 vehicle category in 2015 and 31-50 vehicle category in 2017 — defies some industry conventions and enjoys steep growth in the metro region that birthed Transportation Network Com- panies (TNCs) like Uber. "I've always tried to see things dif- ferently and take calculated risks," says Dhillon, owner and president of San Jose-based Ecko Worldwide Transpor- tation. "I didn't do slow stops and tried to do things out of the box." Dhillon entered chauffeured trans- portation by happenstance. He was pur- suing his certification in radiology in 2009 while working as a chauffeur. One day, while talking to other chauffeurs in the baggage claim area at the San Fran- cisco International Airport, he learned about the advantages of going out on his own. "I started a limo company not be- cause I wanted to, but I had a situation where I had no choice but to look for a job that fit my schedule," Dhillon says. He bought his first Town Car, and by 2014 had grown his fleet to 10 vehicles with $1 million in revenues. He started acquiring local limousine services in 2015 and grew to $2.4 million in reve- nue. Ecko averages about 90 trips a day. It's All About The Software, Smarty One of Dhillon's most pivotal deci- sions came in 2016 when he moved his small fleet operation to the Santa Cruz enterprise transportation soft- ware, which mostly attracts medium to large fleet operations. "e reservation system really helped me," he says. "My previous system was taking too much manpower and time. A lot could be done faster if I invested in a new technology." When considering Santa Cruz, Dhil- lon accompanied the system's developer, Apurva Patel, CEO of GroundWidgets which owns Santa Cruz, to India in June 2016 and observed his work on the system. Patel's knowledge and how he configured the system persuaded Dhillon to buy it. As a result, Dhillon needs fewer employees to handle reservations and farm-outs and to communicate with clients. Patel told LCT that of his 120 luxury transportation installations, about 10% qualify as small fleets. Dhillon's was among the first to sign up when he launched the full system in 2016. "It was a big jump for him," Patel says. "I was impressed he was willing to take the challenge. He's willing to take the busi- ness risk and that leap of faith and say, 'I'm serious about growing my business from a technology and customer ser- vice perspective.'" Patel points out operators like Dhil- lon can save about $120,000 the first year in reduced labor costs by using Santa Cruz, which means the upfront investment more than pays for itself. "If you have aspirations for growth as a small operator, the biggest thing you have to remember is you can't scale your business if you do not automate processes in your company. If you are depending on human labor to update, process, and look at things, and make sure drivers are going out, your growth will be constrained based on the num- ber of people you have at the office. At some point you will reach a plateau where you can't grow because you are constrained by your labor costs." e system integrates with global dispatching systems and enables events 4 2 WWW.LCTMAG.COM LUXURY COACH & TRANSPORTATION AUGUST 2018 Going Out Of The Box Northern California operator and two-time Operator of the Year Award winner Harry Dhillon grows revenues by taking some risks. By Martin Romjue, LCT editor BOLDLY COVER STORY: OPERATOR PROFILE Ecko Worldwide Transportation's Harry Dhillon, shown here March 14, 2018 with a 2018 Ford Expedition MAX XLT at the International LCT Show in Las Vegas, says the SUV attracts the same level of client interest as the Lincoln Navigator.

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