Lessons Learned In 2015, New Beginnings In 2016|Kristina Bouweiri

LoudounJanFeb2016HR_Page_23As one year closes and a new one begins, I like to take the time to look back and review lessons learned as well as create new goals for the new year. This year my goals are professional, personal and health related.

Last year was a very difficult one because I lost my beloved mother. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor in January and passed in August. I visited her nearly every weekend, spending more time in North Carolina than in D.C. I will cherish that time forever. What did I learn? I learned that life is too short and you never know when you are going to lose someone in your life. I learned that it is never too late to create a stronger bond than ever before and show someone you love how much you care for them.

Professionally, I was able to watch my team take care of business and let me spend time with my mother. Our biggest wins at Reston Limousine were taking over contracts where other companies were failing. Once again, our flexibility to start quickly and grow or retract for our clients helped us win new business. Being adaptable is always a great strategy.

For my health, I gained 20 pounds taking care of my mother! Whenever I visited her, she asked me to get her out of the house and take her to a great restaurant. We got to enjoy all of her favorite foods together. After she passed, I made my annual visit to the Optimum Health Institute’s San Diego Campus for a week of detoxing and cleansing. The diet consisted of only raw organic food and a lot of wheat grass!

For the new year, professional goals remain pretty consistent: Grow revenue, grow profit and reduce expenses. We are looking to expand in Baltimore and Prince George’s County. We continue to develop relationships with our affiliate partners all over the world and we look forward to collaborating. We continue to attract and retain the best talent in the industry. We are constantly looking at technology and looking for better ways to do things.

Personally, my goals for the new year include visiting my father, who is 79, every two weeks. He lives on the Eastern Shore. Now that my mother has passed, I plan to spend more time with him. I hope to talk to him, listen to him and videotape him. I want to record our family history before it is too late.

In terms of health, I hope to continue on my journey of eating healthy, working out and pushing myself out of my comfort zone. My six-month goal is to ride a bike for 20 miles! I plan to get up early, exercise daily, meditate and write in my gratitude journal. As you look at your plans for the coming year, I wish you and yours a happy, healthy and prosperous new year!

Kristina Bouweiri
703-478-0500 ext 511

Growing Business Through Strategic Partnerships | Kristina Bouweiri

LoudounJulAug2015_Page_16In 2009 I was having lunch with a friend, Heidi Kallett, CEO of The Dandelion Patch retail stores. We were discussing the recession and how it was affecting our businesses. She mentioned that her Reston store was her biggest challenge. She said the rent in the Reston Town Center was high and that her sales were solid but only marginally profitable. I pondered her dilemma for a moment and then I suggested that the two of us join forces on an event to bring her more business.

Reston Limousine was founded in Reston — in fact, at the Reston Town Center where her store was. I knew I had a lot of clients in Reston but had never reviewed our client list by geographic area. I found 1,500 clients in Reston. I then narrowed the list down to the top 250 corporate clients
closest to the Reston Town Center. We then planned a lovely lunch at Il Fornaio Restaurant. The lunch would be superb with appetizer, choice of entrée and then to top it off, three desserts!

I emailed my clients and invited them to a client appreciation lunch. I told them that I was inviting 250 and we could only accommodate 50 people so they had to RSVP right away. We had 50 RSVPs in the next 24 hours!

So now I had a group of 50 clients for Heidi to meet and I thought to myself, “Who else would like to get in front of these clients?” Thanks to 10 years of networking, I had a vast list of companies to invite. The clients that were attending the lunch were the administrative assistants, HR managers and office managers of large corporations in Reston. I invited representatives from a florist, a catering company, an event planner, an office moving company, an office supply company, a bakery, a bank, a CPA firm, a housewares outlet store, an ice cream franchise, and a spa.

The day arrived and we had a wonderfully successful event. Each sponsor was able to pitch their business for one minute and give out a door prize. When it was my turn to speak I reminded my clients that I have sedans, buses, vans and limousines. Some of them were only using our sedans. Some were only using buses. I also reminded them of all of our offerings on our website: the wine tours, shopping trips to New York and brew tours. I also told them that we now offer a car in any city in the world through an affiliate network.

LoudounJulAug2015_Page_17When it was over, the sponsors sat down to a beautiful lunch. They all looked at me and said, “When are we doing this again?” We replied that it was a one-time deal. They then told me they wanted to do it every month. Then the bill arrived and it cost each of us $150 to take these clients to lunch. Out of the very first lunch, The Dandelion Patch got a $33,000 order for holiday cards. The event planner got a 500 person picnic! The florist picked up a 12 restaurant chain!

Reston Limousine has benefited greatly by these lunches also. We now book clients in other cities all over the world. This lunch triggered an account with an international relocation client that gives us 20 trips a day. So we started doing this lunch every month. We moved it around from Reston to Tysons to DC to Alexandria to Chantilly to Herndon. Each month after the event, the sponsors would sit together and try and figure out how to get more business from these clients.

Instead of trying to figure out ourselves how we could get more business from this group, I suggested that we start a focus group with our clients.
I invited top clients to another lunch at Morton’s. This time it would be a working lunch. They could order whatever they wanted but we would
be picking their brains.

Here is what we learned:
• Clients just want a great experience.
• Most administrative professionals are overworked and underpaid.
• They don’t have time to shop vendors.
• They want one reliable vendor they can call each time and not have to worry about the service/product.
• We learned that restaurants give incentives to admins to order to go lunches.
• For every six lunches they ordered to go for their office meetings, they would get a free one.
• We heard other catering companies were offering cash back incentives for online orders.
• We learned that just because one person was using us, it did not mean we were getting all the business!

It was a very interesting lunch. We received a lot of information from this group.

The other great byproduct of this concept was that we had now created ambassadors for our companies within large corporations. We now had an advocate in the building who was suggesting everyone give us the business. Lastly, the sponsors all became ambassadors for each other’s business and we all started referring business to each other.

The bottom line is people want to do business with people they know and like.

This idea alone grew my business by 27% and it was during a recession! It became so difficult to win new clients, we won by going back to our regular clients, thanking them for the business, getting to know them better and having a regular presence in their lives.

By: Kristina Bouweiri
CEO, Reston Limousine

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

Paving the Way to DC’s Wine Country | Reston Limo

LWMJanFeb2015-smallfinal_Page_27How Reston Limousine CEO Became The Wine Tour Lady

It’s a new year and with it comes new beginnings! I am looking forward especially to a year of celebrating 25 years in business and another banner year of innovative business strategies across the company. As I look back, I have to say that one of the most innovative strategies was the launching of our winery tours.

After 9/11, my business, along with many others, was at a standstill. I decided wine tours would be a great way to get my buses out on the road on the weekends since they were used only during the week on government contracts. The only way to really maximize my assets is to keep them on the road.

Two friends and I made a plan to visit nine wineries in one day. We made appointments with the owners. Our goal was to make sure the buses would fit in the driveways. We had agreed that we would not drink any wine so we could stay focused and get to nine of them in one day.

At the first winery, we ran into Chris Pearmund who is one of the most amazing and accomplished winemakers in our state. He has traveled the world searching out the best winemaking techniques in France, Italy, Spain, Australia and South Africa. His wine is magnificent. He insisted we try the wine at the first stop!

To make a long story short, we drank a lot of wine that day. We got horribly lost off the beaten track! By the end of the day, we were convinced that wine tours would be a gold mine!

I had no money for marketing so what I did was create a “public wine tour.” For $35 anyone could buy a seat on a bus and visit three wineries. There was an optional picnic lunch for an extra $15.

Since I belonged to 10 chambers/organizations/associations, my marketing plan was to donate a wine tour for two to each of these organizations each month. I gave away 240 wine tours annually. I also invited strategic groups out to wine country with me to showcase the beautiful experience that I had discovered. I was probably personally hosting two wine tours per month.

It took two years to make a profit on wine tours. Two years into this new market segment, the Washington Post rode my tour and wrote a fantastic article! That article alone kept my public wine tour full for the next three years! Today our business has grown along with the number of wineries in the area, now branded as DC’s Wine Country. I have 20 buses in wine country on Saturdays and Sundays, and our winery tours have won Virginia Wine Lovers People’s Choice awards for the last several years. We’re continuing the tradition of innovation with our new brewery tours, which were launched early last year. Just like the winery tours, we were the first transportation company to offer brewery tours on a large scale to the public.
And like our winery tours, we pride ourselves on the strong relationships we have cultivated with the craft breweries and wineries in our regions.

We are looking forward to another 25 years of innovation in our business operations!

By Kristina Bouweiri
Reston Limousine

The Amaaazzing Accidental Entrepreneur | Kristina Bouweiri

LWMNovDec2014small_Page_23CEO Reston Limousine and Founder of Sterling Women “Co- Founder” of VA Business Women’s Conference. Shares Her “not so accidental” Life Journey and Success Story

The first thing people always ask me is “How did you get into the limo business?” I always laugh and say,“It’s a great story because I am the Accidental Entrepreneur!”

I was born in Japan to parents who were teaching English in Japanese schools.Soon after our tour in Japan, my father joined the Foreign Service. I then spent my childhood in Brazil, Portugal and 10 years in Africa.It was a great childhood with many exotic experiences!

I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps so I studied International Affairs at George Washington University.My senior year I was working as an intern at the Overseas Education Fund and when I graduated they  offered me a job. I went back to Africa and worked in Somalia to uplift the status of women!

After two years in the nonprofit world, I decided it was not for me.I returned to the United States and the only job I could find was a sales advertising job. It was cold-calling through the yellow pages that introduced me to Reston Limousine.I sold the owner an ad and soon after we started dating.Within one year we were married – and that is how I got in the limousine business.

When I joined Reston Limousine it had five cars. I diversified the business, first into weddings and then government contracting.By the time my four children were born, we had 100 vehicles and we were doing $5 million a year in revenue.It was at that time that we decided that the founder of Reston Limousine would stay home with the kids and I would take over as CEO.

Since then, we have diversified into hospital and university shuttles, wine tours, brew tours, NYC shopping trips and more! Somewhere along the way we realized that 85% of our customers – or at least the person booking the reservation – were women. It was usually the CEO’s executive assistant, the HR manager, office manager, wife, sister or mom.Let’s face it, women are the event planners in the family and groups!Because of this, Reston Limousine has always aggressively marketed to women.

In 2008, I founded Sterling Women, a monthly networking lunch for women.After 10 years of networking I felt that I had created the perfect networking experience for women: We shop, we eat and we enjoy an inspirational speaker! If we are lucky, we win a door prize!This concept is so popular that it is now licensed and being duplicated in other cities.

When I saw how strong the need was in our community for women to come together and grow together, I partnered with JP Events & Consulting to produce an annual women’s conference right here in Leesburg. It is becoming just as successful as our monthly event, with more attendees coming every year.

I am grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way over the years and that I have had the network of support to create yet even more opportunities … not bad for an “Accidental Entrepreneur!”

By Kristina Bouweiri

All rights reserved Ruby Red Press LLC 2016