Luxury Coach & Transportation

February 2014

Magazine for the professional limousine, charter and tour industry.

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Page 36 of 101

LIMOUSINE, CHARTER & TOUR FEBRUARY 2014 33 Learning The Limo Life The shows were also a recurring crucible of ideas, policies, and business strate- gies, indicative of an industry interacting and working on its long term owner's manual. One of the most lasting contri- butions of the shows has been the edu- cational seminars, which became a co- operative venture between LCT and the National Limousine Association. Opera- tors learned how to run better businesses from front to end while becoming savvier about how much to pay for stretch lim- ousines, Di Giacomo recalls. You can't put a price or value on how it started and how it happened, Ramis recalls. Of Limousine & Chauffeur Maga- zine, which went hand-in-hand with the Show, he says, "We got our encyclopedia late in life, clung to it, kept running with it. The magazine kept up with [the in- dustry] and that was our forum." As old as the livery profession is, from organiza- tional standpoint, the limousine industry is still very young overall, he says. "What is old is new again. It's good to under- stand how we got where we are so we can get to the next step." Selling Products In the 1980s, chauffeurs had two-way beepers. There was no dispatch software. Fax machines and disposable cameras were common. Vendors were categorized as vehicles, accessories or products. "There was a ton of business com- merce," Shanker says. "Everyone wanted a limo and wanted something else to set themselves apart socially; the bigger the car, the more extravagant the car." Exhibitors wore tuxedos, but attend- ees were more casual than the business- suited corporate-oriented operators of today. "Three people actually showed me attaché cases loaded with cash read to buy the limos," Di Giacomo recalls. Cirlin used to sell 100 stretch limou- sines a year. "What really stood out was [the 90s]. With more coachbuilders than ever, the shows got crowded. It was a good time for the country and indus- try; we rock and rolled for a number of years. Attendance soared from hundreds to thousands. You could walk into the shows not knowing what to expect, and walk out with great orders." Cirlin deals with many of the same customers he did 20-30 years ago. "Peo- ple I sold to here introduced me to so many other operators. It's been like a cascading waterfall meeting more people for 30 years." For Limo Bob, the shows provided the venue to make connections and pro- fur length coat and 30 pounds of neck jewelry attended the 1984 show and just about every one thereafter until semi- retiring to business consulting in Florida in 2009. Limo Bob, 55, has been driving livery vehicles since the age of 15 while growing up in his native Chicago. He start- ed his limo company in 1982 with a 1973 Lincoln Town Car. "I was right there at the f rst show," Limo Bob says. "The funniest thing I heard when they opened the doors and cut the ribbon was, 'Do one thing be- fore you enter. Park your egos in the coat check room before you come in.' I thought that was a horrible thing to say. Thirty years later, do I ever know the truth of that statement. We had egos big- ger than a storm. If you had a limo, you were the Mac Daddy; you were superstar of your own world just having one limo." The Show eventually established four primary purposes for operators and ven- dors that resonate 30 years later as the pillars of International LCT Shows: Aff li- ate networking, education, product sales and socializing. Networking In early days, attendees numbered about 300 to 400, creating a better sense of in- timacy, says Bruce Cirlin, a sales manager with Complete Fleet Limousine Sales in Union, N.J., who has never missed a show since 1984. He has been selling and f nancing vehicles since 1980. Before that, he ran a limousine service for three years. There weren't any aff liates, so the shows set the industry template for net- working and encouraging operators to do business with one another, Cirlin recalls. "A lot of people didn't know each other. You knew people from you area. It was just so interesting getting to meet coachbuilders and people from all over the country. There were people I spoke to on the phone for years that I never knew. Everyone became like old friends and developed a lot of camaraderie. It became a big thing you look for- ward to every year." The industry needed a national voice and power in unity at the time, Ramis says. The act of bringing in- dustry members together for the f rst time soon led to the formation of the National Limousine Association in 1985. "The networking started slow but sure," he says. "Networking was more of a referral thing, giving each other phone numbers. It took 10-15 years before net- working really came to fruition. It took many years for the networking part of the industry to solidify. It is still a work in progress." Limousine Operators International was the f rst referral network, along with Carey and Dav El which were national limousine booking operations, he says. "You couldn't build a better forum. We never had it. One cannot even attempt to put a value on what it gave us. We would not be talking today had we not had a starting point. You couldn't even begin to fathom. Every show became more powerful." Adds Cirlin, "The great thing that de- veloped was the ability to network. Peo- ple really didn't have aff liates in those days. The opportunity to meet people and have seminars really helped the in- dustry take off." Of course, the networking during the Show was an art form all its own. Who wouldn't look back and laugh at the bul- letin boards with the papered scrawlings of attendees trying to connect. "The mes- sage boards were hilarious," says Jeffrey Shanker, who owned his f rst limousine company starting in 1986 and attended shows from 1986 to 1988. Shanker is now a vice president of A-1 Limousine in Princeton, N.J., and a board member of the Limousine Associations of New Jer- sey. "The message board has become the cell phone, and the cell phone has be- come texting. Now we text on the show f oor and meet up." Legendary Limo Bob added a heavy dose of f air and character to the limousine industry that still resonates today. The f rst limousine trade shows captured the 1980s era in all its glory. Limousine businesspeople built a lasting pro- fessional and social network. It all started on Dec. 9, 1984 at Caesars in Atlantic City, and it hasn't stopped since. L I M O _ 0 2 1 4 s h o w a g o . i n d d 3 3 LIMO_0214showago.indd 33 1 / 2 1 / 1 4 1 0 : 2 1 A M 1/21/14 10:21 AM

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