New opportunities in the South and South West of England.
The chauffeur driven executive car industry is one of the easiest to get into whilst at the same time, the hardest to make a success of. In a tough economic climate such as we have now many will be considering taking redundancy or will find themselves unemployed and considering a change of career path. Some will consider the Chauffeur Driven Executive Airport transfer and Hire business. as a way forward.
Before committing to a career in the chauffeur car industry, you should consider using your hard earned savings or redundancy pay long and hard before parting with your nest egg at the local executive car dealer.
In the first instance it is thinking about what market you wish to break into. Is it the airport transfer market? Taking your friends and family to the airport on their holidays? If so, how far is the airport and what are other companies charging? What type of vehicles are they using? The biggest driving force at the moment is price; everyone is looking for a bargain. Just because you have a shiny new BMW, it doesn’t mean that people will pay for it, even if they would like too! Fuel economy is vital with pump prices nearing £1.40 per litre and set to climb higher. The cost of running and maintaining your vehicle well is the starting point for your reserach which will determine your bank balance at year end.
Consider your competition well; if you are in an area which has seen a lot of people being made redundant, will they be having the same idea as yourself? If this is the case you will find yourself constantly under cutting each other’s prices in a bid to get work. The minute you have to start buying work you are on the slippery slope! The Transport Industry is a very competitive market with Taxi and Chauffeur businesses being some of the most cut throat there is. I will always remember one owner saying to me "the only way to make a million in the taxi industry is to start with two"
The type of car you use for simple holiday transfer work will also determine your income - saloon, estate or multi purpose vehicle? The preferred vehicles for the holiday transfer market at present are the Skoda Superb and Octavia, Ford Mondeo and the VW transporter. There are some real bargains to be had but piece of mind should be a major consideration with up to five years unlimited mileage warranty and 0% finance available from some car manufacturers at the moment. The frustration will always be that you opt for one and all the calls you receive require another! Don’t be tempted in the early days to commit yourself to additional vehicles and the associated costs this will bring. Simply concentrate on doing what you are doing and, do it well.
Another consideration is the Taxi Test and regulations imposed by your Local Authority Taxi Licensing Department. Passing the knowledge test can be difficult in some Boroughs and in some areas applicants are required to wait a certain period of time before they can re-sit the exam. Make sure you check in advance of purchasing a vehicle and insurance as this will become a costly mistake. Pass all your exams first and apply for your Criminal Records Bureau clearance before investing any of your nest egg. The other stumbling blocks to consider is the medical for your Private Hire Licence; dependent on your age and fitness level this can catch some would-be chauffeurs out. Many local Councils are now also requiring drivers to sit a Passenger Transport NVQ at College before issuing new badges. On average you can expect a lead in time of up to six months before you are ready to turn a wheel.
Other expenses to consider - medicals, uniform, computers, fax machines, mobile phones, sat-nav, accountancy and licensing fees and your first month’s expenses for fuel, food and contingencies!
You should also consider the hours you wish to work when deciding which market to target. Both holiday and executive travel take place around the clock. The business community tends to move mainly during the early morning and mid to late evening,this is not a nine to five career! Corporate Executive clients are liable to amend and cancel bookings at the last minute whilst the holiday traveller can attract long delays which cannot be charged for. Neither solution offers any less stress or telephone calls to your mobile in the dead of night so, it will be down to local demand to determine which business road you decide to travel down.
Starting an Executive Class Chauffeur Service
Whilst this career option may sound more glamorous, all the issues raised in the previous section apply before you get started. Breaking into the business sector is often more difficult as it obviously depends in the first instance, on your immediate locality and the density of businesses likely to require executive chauffeur services or airport transfers. Manufacturing based industries appear to have the greatest travel need as their sales teams are often required to travel. This can present problems as these companies may already have a supplier or, in the main, use airlines that supply chauffeur services as part of a First or Business Class Airline Ticket. Emirates and the new BMI chauffeur services are good examples of this. Again, a little bit of legwork will pay dividends and save you sleepless nights in the future.
Whilst introducing yourself to a potential business client use the opportunity to ask them what type of service and vehicle they would require. At present, companies are sensitive to this perceived expenditure as they are aware that whilst they may be making some employees redundant, they do not want others to be seen as living the high life in chauffeur driven executive vehicles. It is a serious consideration.
The type of vehicle you opt for will determine your bottom line at year-end. Jaguar and BMW are both vying for a firmer footing in the chauffeur market by adopting Lexus’s approach to a Professional Chauffeur vehicle purchase scheme. TheeExecutive car sales market is very competitive and it is nice to walk into these showrooms today and have salesman clambering to get to you, when it is was not that long ago the greeting received in any of the major executive car dealerships was far from welcoming. The standard of vehicle will also depend heavily on your local area. The chauffeur hire market in London is far more buoyant and clients demand Mercedes, Bentleys and Jaguar chauffeur vehicles and are prepared to pay for them. Although this sounds alarming the Central London chauffeur does a fraction of the annual mileage covererd by the Shire County chauffeur, so in the long term, the investment in such a prestigeous vehicle could pay dividends.
Green credentials, fuel efficiency, service intervals, tyre costs, insurance, depreciation etc are all things to consider prior to making a purchase. It may be worthwhile buying nearly new to avoid the initial de-valuation? Or, by purchasing a new car your are buying peace of mind with a warranty, this could be vital if you intend to keep your vehicle for four years, or more? Another positive aspect to buying new is that any depreciation can be written off and the VAT re-claimed if you are VAT registered and that you can prove that the vehicle is only used for 100% business. The crucial thing to remember if claiming back the VAT element of your purhcase is, that you must charge VAT on your selling price when disposing of your vehicle. It goes without saying the VAT is then passed back to HM Customes and Excise!
Fylde Executive Cars operate the Mercedes E-Class and BMW 7 Series saloon and estate vehicles as well as the Merceeds Viano People carrier. These vehicles have proven their reliability and are able to soak up the miles each year without much problem. Our philosophy is to buy them almost new and aim to replace them after four years. This enables the maximum benefit in respect of depreciation against your tax. Advice from a qualified accountant would be a good investment before taking the plunge.
The would-be chauffeur should also be prepared to work with other independents and other established chauffeur companies. Affiliate programmes are common place and large chauffeur hire companies such as Fylde Executive Cars are happy to sub-contract work to an independent during peak times. The most important advice I can offer is not to try and poach this work, however tempting. The executive car hire market is very competitive and also very quick to blackball any individual, or company, deemed to be untrustworthy. Clients are also very loyal and can take great exception when carded by a new face. By tailoring your personal service to that of your areas largest chauffeur operator you could be securing an alternative career option should your own business not take-off.
I hope that by following this simple advice you may save yourself some time and more importantly your hard-earned nest egg. Once you have done your research, decide which business option is the most likely to succeed in your area – then stick with it. Times are tough and without long hours and flexibility you will find it difficult to make a success in the chauffeur or airport transfer industry and be warned - a shiny car does not necessarily guarantee success.
Author: John Coombes, Managing Director, Fylde Executive Cars Ltd, Lancashire