The idea or concept started to take form with odd, unique operational practices and tricks I picked up over the years. One of my all-time favorites was FedEx and the flying spares.
Now remember, the FedEx aircraft fleet is one of the 10 largest in the world. 6 nights a week they would launch 3 aircrafts from different parts of the country just to fly.
If a plane had a mechanical issue, reroute, and done. I also recall a payload could be extra-large and they would reroute and load up. A brilliant fete of dispatch gravitas.
Turned out UPS did a similar program called “hot spares”. As the years have progressed the spares have been replaced by a concept called sweep flights and recovery flights.
I find so many commonalities between the airline and ground transportation industries and it has always been a great source to study, think, learn, and ponder. So many members of our industry function with a cookie cutter when there is always a better, more efficient, or more profitable way.
I have a friend Vlad. Vlad runs a small service serving an extremely upscale part of suburban Chicago with a fleet exclusively comprised of mini vans. His theory was to offer an alternative to that upscale market with a bargain price. Further cementing his popularity was that older people can enter and exit a Chrysler minivan easier than a millennial can enter or exit a SUV.
Vlad was one of my pandemic losses. His demographic had no problems parking themselves at home for 2 years and not moving or traveling. He was always an easy account. All regulars trained like soldiers. We provide the answer phrase and they spit out last name and phone number like clockwork. Get the time and we are good to go.
Last month Vlad calls and needs a favor. He needs to go overseas for a family wedding and wants us to take his calls for 10 days. Vlad makes it clear that his phone hardly rings now so he wants a good price. I offer a great monthly price to come back with a 12 month guarantee but he assures me his volume is way down and he does not need a service, nor can he accept any more expenses. We agree to cover him and work out pricing on his return. Same program as his previous trips over the years. Email the order in, he travels with his laptop, he inputs the order, assigns it and emails us a fresh 24-hour grid every night.
I don’t know what prompted me to make this next move, but when I sent a staff memo out that we would be on for him the next 10 days I announce everyone gets $1.00 per order booked. I further stated the top booker would get a 20.00 prize and the second place will get 10.00 above and beyond. It was an impulse decision, but I strive these days to live and look through a wide(r)-angle lens.
And off we went to the races, people love incentives, some people are born to compete. My staff did not need to be trained, they knew to ask for returns. They knew how to push, they just never had to. It is basic human or employee nature to not start anything, not to finish anything, but, most importantly, never eat the last doughnut.
Now, admittedly, I have not dealt with him in 2 years, so I have no call logs to compare with but by the third day he emails me two small forthcoming booking time blocks. He mentions that he is surprised at the volume and can’t explain it.
It is also possible that he was in an energy funk like a lot of people are in and simply didn’t push the product. One trick I stumbled upon years ago was the forced return. If a client was booking an outbound but just was not sure or was on the inbound fence, we would say let me book it anyways, it is much easier to cancel an order than book from scratch. Passengers would agree with such basic logic and book, and I can honestly attest that an established order in place would help someone “off the fence” at third base on numerous cancel thoughts. Essentially, “a bird in the hand.”
Needless to say, the program was a resounding success. We booked 96 orders while he was gone and even though he had to call clients back and cancel 7 of them I learned a lesson. He unfortunately, is so old school that he considers it a fluke, but people believe what they want to believe.
Never, ever think you must follow the status quo in any portion of your operation in modern day now. All the rules are retired. Reinvent, revise, and restructure.
In the spirit of “outside the box” thinking and creative business techniques 101, I want to tell you about a woman I worked with many years ago, nicknamed The Wedding Queen. She specialized in proms and weddings and took it to heights that I have to this day never found anyone who could come close to what she accomplished.
It started years earlier with one paid spot at the local wedding show. From there, each wedding she created was akin to performance art. She became her own wedding show. Her garage looked like a Hobby Lobby with decorations, trinkets, fake flowers and more glitter, glue, and rhinestones then I have ever seen.
One of the fascinating secrets about her operation was that she only did around 10 weddings per month during peak season. However each wedding was priced at 1999.00. Now keep in mind that was 20-year-old money. How, you wonder? She had one product. The Royal Wedding. It was an all-inclusive package that included airport transfers round trip for out of towners, sedans for the grandparents who often left early. Naturally the bridal stretch, champagne, color-coded decorations, even the honeymoon airport transfers. There was nothing it did not include. Her famous quote, “Who says limousine services must be ala carte?”
This concept also taught me another neat lesson that I discovered the gift card industry also benefits from. The real money is in the over/under. She would sell these Royal Wedding packages and more times than not the party would not utilize all the portions, so it was free money. If they needed more, or the over, they were charged handsomely.
And these did not include standard confirmations or forms. She had 1/18 scale Majorette Die cast white limousines with their names and date printed on the roofline. The gift doubled as the giftable unit.
Every wedding party had the one wealthy uncle who loved gifting large. In retrospect this woman turned wedding transportation into a gravy train.
Thinking outside the box and not being afraid to experiment coupled with an understanding of the past will allow a clearer formation of your future enterprise.