Riding Her Road To Better Business | Kristina Bouweiri

LWMMarchApril2015small_Page_20Most people don’t realize it, but the majority of Reston Limousine’s revenue comes from our bus shuttle contracts. As our name indicates, we started out as a limousine company 25 years ago. Back in those early days, we had about five vehicles doing charter work. It was through our shuttle
contract work that we were able to grow over the last two-plus decades into the $21 million company we are today.

In 1992, a gentleman knocked on my office door. He had seen my (one bus) driving around town and he asked me if I would like to bid on a government contract. I didn’t even know what that was! He told me that his wife worked for U.S. Geological Survey in Reston and the agency had a two-van shuttle contract shuttling employees to the Department of Interior in Washington DC. He said that if he brought me the Request for Proposal, or RFP, and we won the contract, he would like to drive for us. I said sure!

The following week he showed up with a one-inch-thick document. I took one look at the RFP and felt very intimidated. I started to read the document and I developed my technical proposal. To create the cost proposal I needed help, so I sat down with the CPA who prepared our taxes and together we came up with a cost proposal.

The contract started out very well. We were on time. Our vehicles were clean. Our drivers, including the gentleman who brought the proposal to us, were very friendly. We were safe. But there was one problem: We were not paying our drivers the appropriate wage. Out of ignorance we were paying $9.00 per hour. The government wage determination at the time was $9.20. Neither we nor our CPA knew any of the rules regarding paying government shuttle drivers. Very soon the Department of Labor came in to do an audit.

Looking back, this audit was a HUGE blessing. The dollar amount of the differential was very low and easily fixed. The audit took up a lot of my time and energy and I wanted to make sure I would never put myself in that position again. I decided to study government contracting to make sure that I would always be compliant.

While I was researching government contracts, I discovered a publication called the Commerce Business Daily. It was a weekly newspaper that published all government contracts and cost approximately $400 for an annual subscription. Soon I was finding other government contracts and I started bidding on all of them.

For the next five years, we won every government contract in The District that was up for bid. We had two vans running for the U.S. Geological Survey, then we won a four-van contract with the Department of Health and Human Services. Six months later, we won a four van contract for the Internal Revenue Service. Next came five buses for the Department of Justice. Soon after that, we won a contract with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Later, we went on to win contracts with FDIC, Federal Reserve Board, and US. Fish & Wildlife.

As a shuttle bus company doing business with the government, we knew we were winning these contracts because a) we were doing a great job and b) we were classified as a small business.

Most government shuttle contracts are small business set-asides. We were not an 8A, we did not have minority status and we were not woman-owned at the time. We were growing very fast and we knew at some point that we would no longer be a “small business.” So, we started to look around for similar contracts that were not with the government. We found other shuttle opportunities with corporations and apartment management companies that offered shuttles to Metro stations, as well as with private schools, universities and hospitals.

Despite losing our small business status in 2002, the company has thrived, even tripling our revenues since then. How did we do it? We continued to diversify our business and we are currently in 13 markets. Government and other contracts keep our buses busy during the week. On the weekends we have wine tours, brewery tours, NY Shopping trips, buses for Gold Cup and weddings. In any business, you have to stay ahead of the market and ensure productivity is at the highest level it can be.

Kristina Bouweiri, President and CEO
Reston Limousine

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