Luxury Coach & Transportation

January 2019

Magazine for the professional limousine, charter and tour industry.

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OPERATOR PROFILE Innovator Combines Work With Wisdom After 35 years in the industry, operator George Jacobs enjoys the advantages of experience in embracing industry changes. By Martin Romjue, LCT editor C HICAGO — Operator George Ja- cobs can claim an industry legacy stretching to 1984, but old school is not a term to associate with him or his operations. If anything, his experience going back to the founding era of LCT and its first trade shows makes him all the more seasoned in how he runs his company, Windy City Limousine & Bus of Chicago, and all the more generous in how he supports the luxury trans- portation industry. A recent overview of his operations reveals how the owner and CEO, in confronting challenges, picks the right ideas and approaches, whether time- tested or full of potential. Going Big On Buses It's a growing trend, but Jacobs was among the first operators in the indus- try to head into the motorcoach market 10 years ago, which has proven more profitable than black vehicles. His fleet numbers 160 buses of all types and 200 chauffeured vehicles. More than half of his company revenue comes from bus and motorcoach clients. While the company may get 500-560 sedan orders on a typical day, the 125 bus orders that day can bring revenues far greater, Jacobs said. "We are sold out of buses every day, and we sell out of cars often," Jacobs said. "Every day we make sure we have enough vehicles ready and get them back on time for the next round of runs." Windy City does a lot of work for corporations, travel agencies, and groups going to special events. "e coach business has picked up like I've never seen it. It's crazy." Motorcoaches are by far the most profitable moneymakers among fleet vehicles, due to high demand for them and the fact they will go out more days per month than any other type of bus. Windy City's coach business divides about 65% in-state and 35% out of state, with sports teams and colleges often traveling beyond Illinois. "People think nothing of taking mul- tiple coaches," he said. "Two nights ago we had nine motorcoaches shuttling people from a venue, to dinner, and to their hotel." Jacobs estimates if a coach is booked 23-25 days per month at $1,000 per day in revenue, it's possible to clear a profit margin on the bus of 12-15%. One policy that works to Windy City's benefit is a standing 10% fuel surcharge for coaches and a flexible one for black vehicles. "at's a huge help because used coaches may only get four to five miles per gallon and new ones seven to nine miles per gallon," Jacobs said. Although he mostly buys new motor- coaches, he recommends starting with used buses, since the overhead costs are low enough to offset higher repair bills. "It's a chance to get your feet wet in the market and get comfortable," he said. Many of the motorcoach manufac- turers partner with industry operators, said Jacobs, a client of MCI, Van Hool, and Volvo/Prevost. "I've had huge suc- cess with them. ey understand our business and work hard to figure the best fit for you." Jacobs finds added value in shar- ing buses with other operations with complementary off-seasons, especially among northern and southern climates. "If someone in Florida buys a new 39-pasenger bus, but has a dead season, I'll take the bus and keep it through No- vember and pay for the bus, insurance, and repairs for eight months." 1 4 WWW.LCTMAG.COM LUXURY COACH & TRANSPORTATION JANUARY 2019 Jacobs, known for showing up at Chicago- area White Sox, Cubs, and pro-sports games in his bright yellow M&M jacket, strides atop a Windy City bus adapted for McDonald's. His wife bought it for him as a birthday joke, and he started wearing it to games in 2003. Since then, enough TV cameras have picked him up for close-ups that he's now recognized about town for his jacket. Seeing its branding potential, Jacobs now has four of them, including one with a Miller Lite logo, a NASCAR jacket with the Windy City logo, and one with Toyota Racing.

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