The event put on last week by Chauffeur Driven and the National Limousine Association, and sponsored by Ford and Lincoln, was a little different this year for a number of reasons. For starters, this was the first time that the annual trade convention was held in Texas and Dallas proved to be a welcoming destination.
The 2021 edition of the CD/NLA Show was also different because it was a more intimate event than in past years. We had gotten used to seeing nearly 2,000 limo operators, business owners, and industry vendors, and the event hosted a much smaller crowd this year. In reality, I think this was a positive thing because those in attendance were able to spend more time catching up with colleagues and focus on the helpful workshops and seminars.
But it was the first live limo convention since February 2020. It was the first time in over 18 months that operators and vendors were able to come together; and, man, was that a beautiful thing! It felt like years had passed and everyone was really glad just to be together. This comradery and friendship have been sorely missed throughout the pandemic, and it was palpable that folks in the limo industry are ready to put it behind them.
The theme “Rebound Stronger” really summed up the elephant in the room though. This year’s event was totally different because of the “new normal” that we are all grappling with in 2021. The limo industry is still working to come back from the pandemic lockdowns and economic slowdown. Now, it’s challenged by a number of additional factors.
1. Driver Shortage
I know; this isn’t news to you. It isn’t news to anyone. Yet the “Great Resignation” is a big deal in our industry. More than 4 million Americans have left their jobs in search of better pay, more flexibility, better conditions and to chase their dreams. In our industry that means that everyone needs drivers. For example, when there is an event in Las Vegas these days, you can’t find a vehicle for 60 miles…So, there is a huge demand for drivers and we’re hoping that potentially loosening the CDL requirements will help ease this critical shortage.
At the CD/NLA event in Dallas, it seemed like the business owners who we talked to really fell in two categories at the moment. On one side there are the companies that want to hire drivers or bring back staff, but they can’t find qualified applicants. Drivers and staff have either left the industry or aren’t accepting the wages they’re able to offer. Plus, a lot of drivers have retired and left the workforce entirely, while with COVID disruptions business owners haven’t been able to replace those positions in the last two years.
Even for a limo company with lean operations, revenue for owners still depends on volume; and the volume that drives revenues requires drivers and a fleet.
Related article: Rebuilding Your Workforce in a Time of Labor Shortages.
2. Tired of Unreliable Staff
On the other side, there are the companies that need help but don’t want to deal with the hiring process and unreliable help.
“There are a lot more husband-wife teams these days than there used to be,” explains Lisa Harding, the VP of Operations at LimoLive24. “I think this is because business owners are really exhausted with managing employees. So, in some ways being able to scale down has been positive. They’re happy not to have to handle the drama of maintaining an employee.”
“They’re just done with employees; they are ready to look at other options,” says Lisa. “And that’s really where LimoLive24 comes in. We’re able to take the place of office employees for fleet operators—booking rides, manage the ride, and handle affiliate jobs—so that owners can really focus on their business.”
3. The Need to be Creative to Capture Clients
Unfortunately, international travel and business travel have not come back with a bang like we were hoping. And now, canceled flights and travel disruptions are making the situation worse. Though there is talk that a rebound will still happen but more likely after the new year in the first quarter of 2022. This means that limo businesses are booking fewer rides than they would like.
“I think the best thing you can do is to cut back staff and realign the business,” said Vince McGlone, the president of LimoLive24. “Downsizing, in terms of labor and vehicles, really forces you to relearn your business – identify the strong points and improve on the weak points. The limo operators who are doing well right now have focused on what works and gotten creative with the services they offer.”
For example, we have clients that did really well by expanding their services and doing more work with Uber Black Car Services, and delivering for Uber Eats. Another client of ours made out handsomely by offering an under-the-stars dinner experience—picking up a meal, chauffeuring couples to a romantic overlook, setting up a table with a crisp tablecloth… So, there are opportunities here if you have the time to strategize and take advantage of them.
“By turning to technology, like integrated limo answering services, owners will have the operational support they need to focus efforts on other aspects of the business and get creative. Because currently, I think owners need to get creative for success.”
How the CD/NLA Show in Dallas Approached the Challenges of 2021
These factors—the labor shortage, were on everyone’s mind and were also discussed in a more targeted way. The schedule of events included:
- “Lessons Learned from the Pandemic”
- “The Game has Changed: Mergers & Acquisitions in a Post-Pandemic World”
- “Rebuilding Your Credit: A Look at Post-Pandemic Financing”
- “Finding & Hiring Chauffeurs and Employees in Challenging Times”
- “Get Your Business Back in Gear with PR and Social Media”
- “Yield Management: How to Do More with Less”
Really, the CD/NLA Show in Dallas was a hit. The speeches and workshops were well attended. The mentor program and affiliate networking opportunities were much appreciated, as always. And everyone had a positive attitude and was ready to socialize, which made the after-parties especially fun.
Save the Date: March 27 – 30, 2022* in Las Vegas
March 2022 is set to be an important event for the limo industry, with a lot of participants, hopefully, some international colleagues returning, and a great benchmark in terms of business prospects for the coming year. The International LCT Show for vehicles, luxury, road transport will be held at The Venetian Resort and Hotel Las Vegas. As always, it will feature national and international exhibitors, including yours truly: LimoLive24. We can’t wait to see you all there!
*The previously published date has been changed. Currently, the Las Vegas event is scheduled for March 27 – 30, 2022.