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Driven to please Featured

9:40am EDT July 22, 2002

It was a simple equation of supply and demand.

Organizers of the Peter Lowe business seminar, held in Columbus last April, expected nearly 14,000 people to attend their event at the Jerome Schottenstein Center.

However, the Schott only had parking spaces for 2,000 vehicles. Sure, the campus itself has 28,000 spaces, but almost all were filled with faculty, staff and students on the regular class day.

To balance the equation, Michael Gatto, director of event services and administration at the Schott, and Beth Kelley, associate director of transportation and parking services for The Ohio State University, sought the help of Royal Livery Service Ltd., a $5 million, 70-employee East Columbus ground transportation logistics company.

“We had to be looking at off-site locations,” Kelley says regarding the parking needs. “Because there were none adjoining the university, we had to start looking at shuttle services.”

Communication was key.

“We put out a mailer and press release and used the local media to get the word out” about the parking, Gatto says.

Royal Livery shuttled event attendees to and from the Ohio State Fairgrounds and provided communication and management at both sites.

“Although the Schott, of course, was of a massive scale, it really depicts what we do best here, and that’s management of logistics,” says Gail Thompson, president and CEO of Royal Livery Service. “We do that on a daily basis for one passenger or 1,000 passengers or 10,000, depending on the clients and their need.”

The company’s fleet includes sedans, which carry one to three passengers; minicoaches for up to 35 passengers; and larger coaches to accommodate 49 or 57 people. The company also has pickup trucks to help passengers, such as trade show staff, who arrive with big packages.

Thompson says 98.5 percent of his business is from Central Ohio corporate clients such as The Limited, Nationwide and Sterling Commerce.

Pricing, he says, is based on vehicles used, but he also writes specific contracts with a lump-sum fee for larger events.

“Some of our groups we do can approach $100,000 or more, whereas you’ve got simple sedan runs we do for very important people for $50, so it’s all over the board,” he says.

His challenge is to educate potential clients that No. 1, his company exists, and No. 2, that there’s a need.

“[Columbus] is not a New York or an L.A. But it needs to be thinking in terms of New York and L.A. because it’s too big to take for granted any more,” he says, also urging consideration of the human resources aspect.

“You don’t want a prospective team member driving around the city blindly trying to find your office when there’s a better way to do it,” Thompson says.

Woody King, who is owner and president of Destination Management & Marketing Ltd. and coordinates events such as the Ohio School Boards and Ohio Florist associations’ conventions, subcontracts his transportation needs to Royal Livery Service.

“They get to know how we operate, and we know all their people,” King says. “First and foremost is the success for our client; that’s the bottom line. If they don’t have a successful convention or meeting or conference, why, we don’t get additional business.”

King offers advice to business owners on finding a service to fulfill transportation needs:

  • Find out if the service, in fact, has experience.

  • Make sure the vehicles are new and clean.

  • Make sure the drivers are good quality.

  • Find out if the company has an emergency plan.

  • Check whether it provides support such as radio communication and management staff.
How to reach: Royal Livery Service Ltd., www.royalliveryservice.com, 475-2557

Joan Slattery Wall (jwall@sbnnet.com) is associate editor of SBN Columbus.