Who: Rachid Ben, owner of Aviation Limousine & Transportation, Houston
Customer service: Being flexible and prepared to do anything a customer or affiliate needs to keep them happy and comfortable is the best way to provide outstanding service, Ben says. “When dealing with affiliates, their rules are my rules. If they want their own chauffeurs to be onsite 20-30 minutes before a pickup, I make sure that’s how we do it, too.”
Biggest success: Ben credits his success to his wife, Fatima. “When I bought my second car, I didn’t have enough time to do everything and couldn’t run the business by myself. Without her, there’s no way I’d be where I am. I’m also so thankful for the staff I have. They are really flexible and more like family than employees.”
Start-up costs and methods: To drum up business, Ben went to all the hotels in the area and spoke to whoever was available about his services. He’d also put his business card on cars in the parking lot. These tactics worked, but not exactly as he expected. Ben then did research online and asked some friends about better ways to market. He soon discovered limo tradeshows and attended his first in Atlantic City. “I didn’t know anyone or have any business cards, but I met Tom Mazza, bought his book, and watched his videos,” he says.
Marketing strategies: When the company started in 2008, Facebook wasn’t as good an option for advertising as it is today. Instead, he knocked on all possible doors, bought ads in Visit Houston magazine, and put 10% off ads on the back of grocery store receipts. This worked well for a while, but when social media started booming he advertised on websites.
Advice: Ben’s words of wisdom to other operators are to be honest and educate yourself. “If you don’t learn, your business will suffer for it. You can survive a few years, but not long after that,” he says. He used to write his trips in a notebook, and left it in his car once. The vehicle was stolen, and with it, his reservations for the next month. Before he went to shows, he didn’t know about the different available software that would ease his life as a business owner. “Do things the right way. People are looking for receipts, quotes, etc. and you have to be able to produce them fast. Invest in software, good insurance, and clean cars; go to every show you can, and make friends in the industry.”
Origins: Ben worked as a hotel doorman and was then employed by a limo company. There, he learned a lot about the industry. He started his own operation in March 2008 when he bought his first vehicle, a 2008 Lincoln Town Car. “I’ll never forget that day,” he says.
Future plans: Getting deeper into the Sprinter and bus markets are Ben’s next steps.
Lessons learned: Be flexible. “I don’t believe in the words ‘I can’t do it,’” Ben says. “Love what you do so you can do what you love; if you don’t love this business, you’re not going to go far.”
Free time: Ben loves being with his family. He also enjoys playing soccer two times a week to relieve stress. “It gives you energy to work more,” he says.