From 1 to over 150 luxury vehicles in the private transportation industry
For the first article of our series on Leadership, we spoke with Gary Bauer, an innovator and leader in the limo, bus charter and private transportation industry.
Spanning 25 years in the industry, the story of Gary Bauer is instructive and inspirational.
1. Passion for the passenger transportation business
Gary displayed his entrepreneurial spirit long before Bauer’s.
Beginning as a pre-teen, he created one successful business after another, displaying passion for business and success.
It is this same passion that he applied to his current business, growing it over 25 years.
Gary Bauer grew up in Novato, north of San Francisco, and was always into sports. One day, he had the idea to sell snacks at sports events.
He asked a local vendor, who sold him snacks which he then resold at a profit.
Then he started a window cleaning business, which led to the creation of a landscaping business.
He worked hard at it, and ended up working on these great places, with swimming pools and tennis courts, the whole thing.
2. Enthusiasm and fun
Richard Branson said, “Fun is one of the most important – and underrated – ingredients in any successful venture. If you’re not having fun, then it’s probably time to call it quits and try something else.”
Fun was the reason why Gary Bauer bought his first car, which turned out to be the basis for his passenger transportation company, Bauer’s Intelligent Transportation, and his current success.
When Gary saw an old Cadillac for sale, he bought it because he thought it would be fun to have a car to do things with his friends and go into the city.
Other people asked him to use it and rent it. So he decided to purchase a limousine, and start the limo service.
He would work from 6 am until 6 pm in the landscaping business, go home to shower between 6 pm and 7 pm, and then drive the limo from 7 pm until 3 am.
Risk is a very interesting concept, as it can involve both making and not making a decision; there is the risk of loss by making a change or a risk of lost opportunity by not making a change.
At heart, it is taking an action without knowing the outcome, which means without risk, nothing new would be created, nor could growth occur.
In business, as in life, you are either moving forward or moving backward.
In 1995, he moved the limousine business to San Francisco, as he knew that he had to do that if he wanted to grow the business.
And then in 1998, San Francisco International Airport contacted him to help with the increasing congestion at the airport.
At the time, there were about 85 hotel courtesy shuttles contributing to congestion and poor air quality. He converted the hotel shuttle service to using clean fuel and successfully reduced the congestion by about 75%.
4. Innovation, keeping up
Staying current is important, as is responding to new situations and opportunities as they occur.
With a perspective of responding to a need and a demand, innovative solutions can be created.
In 2005, Google contacted him to help with transporting their employees. So he created and put together the first ever corporate commuter system.
Now they have 67 vehicles and are moving more than 6 million people per year.
Then other companies like Zegna, Dropbox and others started using Bauer’s, too. They have a lot of large companies now using this service.
Then they started providing passenger transportation service for large events such as the Olympics, Super Bowl, and festivals.
5. Know when to say no
But not every opportunity is right, and saying no to something that doesn’t match your values or fit your vision is sometimes necessary. As Richard Branson said, “knowing when to say no is a skill that everyone should possess.”
About seven years ago, Gary was contacted by a new on-demand car service to become involved.
He decided not to get involved as he didn’t see that they applied the same duty of care that he does for his customers.
6. Hire good, qualified chauffeurs
Most business people acknowledge that the most difficult part of their job is hiring the right people.
In Gary Bauer’s passenger transportation company, hiring good qualified chauffeurs is the foundation for his passenger transportation company, because they are the foundation of his responsibility for the safety of his customers, first and foremost.
Hiring good, qualified chauffeurs is the most important thing. When Bauer’s Intelligent Transportation hires someone, they make sure that they are right.
They do full background screening and references, yes, but they do more than that.
They do fingerprinting and drug testing, because just background screening doesn’t cover everything you need to know.
They believe that the safety of their customers deserves this, so they do everything possible to provide and maintain the highest standard of duty of care to their customers, both individuals and companies.
They also provides $35 million liability insurance, compared to the $1 million provided by the on-demand car service companies.
That’s a big difference.
The most important standard is duty of care, to the customer. And because they, and the industry, have these standards, there are no incidents.
Start with the right people, then provide the right training to maintain and exceed the quality of service. This applies to Gary’s employees and also to their affiliates who must meet the same standards.
It is also part of the duty of care.
7. Being ahead of the game
Not only do you have to keep up, you have to see where the market is going, and go there first.
“The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.” (Peter Drucker).
For example, the on-demand car services exposed a change, and a gap, in the marketplace.
The on-demand car service has taken off, but Gary didn’t believe that they met his duty of care – hiring the right people, doing the right training or having appropriate insurance.
He purchased limos.com and formed icars.com to be able to provide the on-demand car service at the level of duty of care that he wanted, feeling that was his responsibility, to his customers and to the industry.
He now has one app, for the whole passenger transportation company, his vehicles and his business affiliates. And he gives one invoice to a customer company.
He has 2500 operators, in 500 cities, using the one app for all.
8. Have the right clients
The well-known secret that 80 percent of our results in business comes from 20 per cent of our efforts, is often rephrased as 80 percent of business comes from 20% of customers.
Smart businesses sometimes fire bad clients, but smarter businesses have the right clients to begin with. By choosing and working with the right clients, who share your vision and values, you can create a partnership in delivering excellence.
It is important to have the right clients, who understand the business and what duty of care means and why it matters.
By understanding and sharing the duty of care philosophy, corporate partners and Bauer’s work together to accomplish safety for the passengers.
It is a relationship with a single goal.
9. Be creative and technology driven
From the beginning, flexibility has been demonstrated in many ways.
From moving the business to San Francisco for growth in 1995, to responding to market needs and demands, such as working with the airport in 1998 to reduce congestion to launching iCars in 2016, flexibility remains a constant.
Innovation has also played a key role, demonstrated by several firsts. Among his many firsts are building the first stretch hummer, the first corporate commuter program when contacted by Google in 2005, and the first wine country tours.
Source: Bauer’s website
10. Be willing to take a chance
An entrepreneur is, by definition, someone who is willing to take chances. And successful ones share the perspective of musician Miles Davis, when he said, “Do not fear mistakes. There are none.”
An environment where taking a chance is encouraged is dynamic and empowers the person and business to learn and grow.
Gary put it better:
Don’t be afraid to take a chance and learn. If you never try it, you never know. Never be afraid to innovate. You have to come together to grow.
How to Apply This to Your Business
There are always lessons to learn from industry leaders and new perspectives and ideas.
One way to use this information is to ask yourself which of these lessons apply to you, your colleagues and/or employees, and to your business.
Does the corporate culture of your passenger transportation company incorporate the attributes of passion, risk, fun, creativity, innovation, being technology driven, with a focus on employee training and client selection?
The second is to reflect on your business, and ask yourself, what lessons you have learned – if different than the ones in this article.
Please feel free to comment in the forum on the lessons that you have learned.