Monday, 17 December 2012

How To - Private Hire Licence. Planning & Preparation.

Planning & Preparation

A major part of your service to the customer has been completed before you even meet.
Planning and preparation can make or brake the journey and may be the difference between success or failure.
If done properly your customer will be impressed with the smoothness of  their journey and how professionally you have delivered them to their destination.
Impress them and you may have a repeat customer and, certainly, recommendation by 'word of mouth'.

Some of the obvious considerations include route, time sensitive issues, any additional costs.

Part of your planning has been considered when you have supplied a price. For example, a journey into London may attract the congestion charge that will have to be added to your fee. Adding car parking fees is another obvious charge. Forget to add these extras and you will see your profit diminish and you can hardly alter your quote later.

Southampton Chauffeur Hire provide services that include variable considerations depending upon the type of journey and requirements.
Treat each journey individually and research each aspect.
There are some first time experiences where there will be only a few resources so you can only gain the knowledge by completing the journey. There are places that I will give examples, namely Wimbledon and Twickenham, the 02 Arena and Calais. I will explain later. Using the categories or pages on the website I have given some examples of the variables involved.

Airport Transfer & Airport Car Southampton 

1/ Time critical - Normally the customer will state the time of pick-up but sometimes they will ask for your advice. Time of day and traffic volume, will be the variables. Allow time for unseen circumstances like traffic incidents and bad weather. Always allow more time than needed as it is better for the customer to arrive early than to suffer the stress and worry after suffering a delay that puts the arrival time and flight in jeopardy.
2/ Luggage - Ensure that you vehicle's boot capacity is big enough. Confirm this with the customer at the quote stage. Cruise passengers can carry more luggage than air travellers as they don't have to worry about weight. Also they carry more luggage to cater for evening wear.
3/ Airport destination - Some airports are easily accessible while others, like London City Airport, demand a route through London or via the Dartford Tunnel. This will increase the journey time.
4/ Car parking and 'meet and greet' - Some airports (Bournemouth) charge for entering the airport grounds, even to just drop-off. Others charge to pick-up (Luton). Consider adding to your quote for parking as collecting your passenger will incur extra time as well as the parking fee. 

Executive Travel including Hampshire Executive Travel & Bournemouth Executive Travel

Business/corporate clients use executive standard travel for a variety of purposes that also include entertaining and social engagements. You may take a customer to a business meeting or to the airport but it could be to Twickenham to watch England v Australia. Therefore, depending upon the purpose, it may be time critical.
Conversation will include business matters in addition to general conversation. Be aware that business conversation will be confidential while general conversation may include you. Judge when you should contribute and when you should be inconspicuous.

Wedding Car Hire including Hampshire Wedding Car Hire & Bournemouth Wedding Car Hire

1/ Time critical - 'Get me to the church on time' goes the song. You may only be asked to take the bride and bride's father to the wedding venue but you may have several trips before the final journey. Taking other members of the party may be included like brides maids or family members. Normally several trips are OK if the wedding venue is nearby. Be aware of issues on the day. For example Southampton Registry Office is near the docks and adjacent to the main shopping complex. If the cruise terminal is busy or it is a busy shopping Saturday at Christmas or sale time, traffic volume will lengthen the journey time. If Saints are playing at home this will have the same effect.
Allow more time for these issues. Weddings are happy occasions where some guests have not seen each other for along time and have a lot to talk about. Getting guests there early will not cause any problem. Your main concern is delivering the bride and escort to the venue on time.

2/ Wedding car decorations - The weather can be a consideration for how you dress your car. I have florist prepared door and bonnet decorations and ribbons that will stain in the rain. I have purchased cheap waterproof bows and ribbons to use in bad weather. Please let your customer know that you may use the less attractive decoration if the weather is inclement as you don't want them to be surprised or disappointed.

3/ Wedding car parking at venue - Some venues have restricted parking that may mean you park nearby to the entrance and the wedding couple will not know where their car is located. For their reassurance let them know where you will be located.

4/ Route to reception venue - Your happy couple have emerged from their venue officially married and it will be their first opportunity to discuss the day's previous events and their wedding ceremony. They may not want to take the quickest and shortest route to their reception. Ask if they want to take the scenic route and take time together before entering into the next part of the celebrations.

5/ Music - Consider playing a CD containing wedding type music. This will complement your wedding car image (ribbons and bows) and add to the ambience and atmosphere.

6/ Car and chauffeur presentation - Both you and your car should be immaculate. Car spotless inside and out. Air freshener used. Suit and polished shoes.
Give yourself plenty of time for car preparation and getting yourself ready. You don't want to put yourself under stress. 

Luxury Private Hire

This category includes the other reasons why you will be hired. Any reason why your customer will want a luxury chauffeured car to take them to the special occasion. It could be as a prom car, retirement 'do',  Christmas or New Year party.
Each journey will require individual research.
Here are a few examples to give you an idea.

A) Wimbledon Tennis. An elderly couple who were not disabled but could not walk far. Research, on the official website map, showed the closest car park and access to the grounds was for coaches. Upon arrival I was permitted to drop-off and collect from the location.
B) Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff. Google Street View was good to show me the road layout and access points and possible drop-off and pick-up points but I realized that traffic volume would impact at the time sensitive times. A phone call to the general enquiries office resulted in the staff member imparting her local knowledge and suggesting a nearby service road adjacent to Tesco Express. Having arrived early, at the pick-up point,
I was able to park and collect my customers.
C) The 02 Arena, London. A phone call to the Enquiries Office did not assist and I was merely referred to the website map. Google Maps showed that there was a likelihood of congestion as the car parks and taxi points are adjacent to the arena. The Private Hire area is a 100 metre one way cul-de-sac next to the main entrance/exit.
At the time of collection the area was grid locked. Roundabouts and junctions were blocked causing buses to block access points. Drivers sounding their horns and the public streaming out onto the roads.
My customers were happy to wait and accepted the situation. However I saw that, prior to the car parks, there were pull-ins and areas suitable for waiting. By arranging with the customer they could have evaded the delay and walked a couple of minutes to an amended location. This would have saved about 45 minutes.
Consider printing off the website map and handing it to your customer. If you can not get to the agreed collection point you can call their mobile and request any new instructions.
D) Wembley Stadium, London. The customers wanted to be dropped at a local pub for a meal etc. prior to the game. Drop-off was fine but at final time the roads were coned and parking officers were everywhere. The collection point was not accessible. I was lucky in that I found a parking space just a couple of hundred yards away and phone my customer.
E) Twickenham Rugby Stadium. Prior to final whistle the police restrict access in the whole area (including the A316). There are No Right Turns and blocked roads. There are 'Tow Away' areas and parking officers. It is difficult for taxis to arrange to pick-up as the authorities try to encourage use of official car parks and to keep residential streets for locals. Fortunately my customers were regular visitors and arranged for me to collect them from a street that was about ten minutes walk from the stadium.
F) Calais. Dogs, unless assistance dogs, are not allowed on the ferry with foot passengers and Eurostar does not allow pets. I was hired to drive, via Eurotunnel, to Calais and collect the customer and dog. I then transferred them to Southampton, back though the tunnel. This 'job' required research as to legality for me to collect in France. Comply with French law (Breathalyzer kits, GB sticker etc.). Route from, and to, Calais Frethun Station, Pet Passport and Eurotunnel 'Check-in' procedure.

For every return journey make sure you give your customer your business card. If contact has to be made, for whatever reason, then can remain 'in touch'. Politely enquire if there mobile battery has enough charge.

Be aware, that for most events, the police and authorities will restrict access prior to the finish of the event. Get back to your collection point in plenty of time before the restrictions are put in place.

I hope this has been of some help and I'm sure I will be adding and updating this page with other examples. 

Saturday, 20 October 2012

How To - Private Hire Licence. Your Professional Image And The Service You Provide.

 Your Professional Image And The Service You Provide.

It may seem obvious that image and service rank high on the order of priorities but, even after six months of trading, I have heard customer's stories that confirm that some private hire drivers think otherwise.

Examples of dirty vehicles and drivers arriving late or even forgetting their booking! One client supplied feedback to a company complaining that the driver had commented upon a confidential business mobile call that was made - he was not impressed!

Whether you are employed or self employed your professional image and the quality of the service you supply is paramount to getting repeat business and for your reputation to be passed to other potential customers.

Get it right and, for the self employed, you will build up a solid and constant customer base which will grow into a self supporting and rewarding business. For those who are employed, you will be valued and considered an asset to the company. You will be trusted with important clients and benefit from the more profitable jobs.

In my opinion the following are essential good business practices for operating Southampton Chauffeur Hire

1. Vehicle presentation.
The vehicle must always be clean, inside and out. Carry some cleaning materials to keep windows clean. Use carpet or car air freshener.
I find that if you keep the vehicle 'up together' it is easy and quick to get it back to an acceptable standard.
For peace of mind, regularly check and maintain your vehicle - tyres, water, oil etc.

2/ Driver presentation.
Chauffeur work requires a suit complimented with a collar and tie. Be aware of the unwanted creases in the jacket and trousers that are a result of sitting behind the wheel. Sorry to be obvious, but clean and polished shoes are something that customers notice. Be conscious of your personal hygiene. It may be, for men, that you will have to shave twice in the day to get rid of that '5 O'clock shadow'.

3/ Punctuality.
Always, without fail, plan to arrive early at the collection address. This will minimize your stress and allow time for any unforeseen delays. You may have to allow for more time due to the time of day and heavy volume of traffic on route.
Initially park near to the address and not outside the customer's location. He, or she, may feel pressurized if they see your vehicle fifteen minutes before the agreed pick-up time. Five minutes before the agreed time is about right and it's reassuring to the customer. They can spend the last few minutes collecting their belongings and saying their goodbyes.
If, for any reason, you are going to be late, contact the customer and explain the delay. Keeping them informed will minimize their frustration and may deflect any bad feeling. They will probably be sympathetic compared to annoyed if you turned up late claiming 'well, it's not my fault, there was an accident.'

4/ Customer care.
Make you customer feel welcome and that you want them to be comfortable. A happy and positive demeanor will immediately start breaking down any apprehension the customer may have about meeting someone new and put them at ease.
When your customer approaches the car greet them with a hand shake and an introduction. Be aware as to how they wanted to be addressed. Some are formal but some prefer to be called by their first name.
Take any luggage to put in the boot.
Enquiry as to whether they would prefer to sit in the front or back and, once seated, make sure that they are comfortable i.e. leg room and seat adjustment.
Confirm their destination and consider to ask if they have a route preference. Update them as to any delays due to traffic incidents.
Always carry water and place in a convenient place. Draw their attention to the water container, should they need it.
Offer to adjust the car temperature should they be too hot or cold.
Do they wish to have the radio switched on and, if so, do they have a station preference.

Assess and be guided by your customer's behaviour. Take their lead as to how they want to be transported.
'People skills' are so important when adapting to your individual customer's needs. He or she may want to sit in the front and enter into conversation throughout the whole journey while others may sit in the back in silence. Provide the environment that the customer wants.
If someone wants to talk then, I'm sure, you will soon find a common interest. Don't be drawn into an argument but rather offer a different point of you. The last thing you want is to alienate your passenger companion and experience bad feeling.
One handy tip, to assess if they want to talk, is to assess their responses during the topic of conversation. Short and abrupt responses and 'yes' and 'no' answers may mean that they want to stop talking. It is a good idea to then let them start a new topic. Let them take the lead. Be prepared to listen and show interest in what they have to say.

5/ Driving experience.

Take care to provide a good, safe and comfortable journey. Be progressive in your driving without exceeding the road conditions at the time. Your customer must feel safe, secure and that they are making good progress on their journey.
Drive within or at the speed limit and give plenty of room between your vehicle and the car in front. You don't want to be following too close as that can result in being off and on the brakes and your customer being constantly jolted.
When braking anticipate and  try and loose speed progressively, leaving distance to lift off the brake pedal and settle the car prior to stopping or matching traffic speed. When cornering at bends or roundabouts loose speed and adjust steering gradually to provide stability and comfort.
Look for progress, when it can be made. It could be by using a shorter line of traffic upon the approach to a traffic light controlled junction or using a faster lane on the motorway.
Don't sit in the first lane of the motorway doing 50-60 miles per hour with the 'world and his wife', including heavy goods vehicles, speeding by. Your customer wants to get to their destination as efficiently as possible. Conversely, don't be tempted to use speeds that will attract criticism  from your customer or a fine from the police! Keep within the generally traffic speed and limit. On the motorway I do not advocate exceeding 70 mph but I would suggest that you use your discretion.
Show courtesy to other road users and don't get involved in any 'road rage' incidents. You may be the victim but your customer does not wish to become involved in an exchange or two fingered hand gestures or aggressive horn sounding.


A customer that has had a positive and enjoyable experience that he, or she, may want to repeat.
A driver that has been smartly dressed, courteous and friendly, attentive and discrete.
A vehicle that has been presented immaculately, both inside and out.
A journey that was relaxed, smooth, and safe with progressive and good driving skills.

Put yourself in their shoes - would you want to be chauffeured by you.

Get it right and you may have earned a repeat customer. Your good reputation will be relayed to other potential customers for a reliable business foundation.

You can specialize within general chauffeuring to attract customers who require a specific service. I can give you examples that affect Southampton Chauffeur Hire

Airport Transfer.                          Executive Travel    (Hampshire)        Executive Travel  (Bournemouth)
Wedding Car Hire  (Hampshire)  Wedding Car Hire  (Bournemouth)    Luxury Private Hire

Monday, 8 October 2012

How To - Private Hire Licence. Pricing A 'Job'.

Considerations when pricing.

Since starting Southampton Chauffeur Hire in April this year I have found that this is one of the most important parts of the business, and the most frustrating!
I have carried out research on the internet, asked advise, and tried to find out what other companies charge to phoning for a quote. This critical ingredient appears to be akin to a poker player keeping his cards close to his chest.
I'm told 'Don't worry you'll work it out for yourself. It comes with experience.'
I think the bottom line is that every company has it's own formula for charging which creates a sliding scale of prices.
For sub-contracting purposes the company 'owning' the job does not wish to disclose the cost charged to the customer otherwise the sub-contracted company may negotiate for more.
My personal, and some may say naive, opinion is that transparency promotes trust and loyalty between companies who regularly work together. My goal is to work with a reliable group of self employed drivers and companies who can all trust each other to be fair and provide a high quality service when they are representing another company.
I don't have an issue in disclosing my fee compared to what I would pay when sub-contracting.
I realize it is a choice companies make for themselves depending on factors that don't affect my situation.
There are companies who will provide quotes via their websites. Type in the post codes and various prices will be given depending upon the standard of vehicle required. This is a good indication to gauge your own prices.

1/ Mileage from A to B.
For 'over head' purposes total the mileage to include the return trip as fuel costs will come out of your profit.
Consider 'dead mileage' - mileage which is not a part of the customer's journey or return journey and not subject to the fare.
2/ Journey time. Heavily congested areas will affect the time taken. An extra cost would not normally be added to a fee but it should be taken into account.
3/ Discount for return trip. Some companies offer a reduction but that depends upon there initial quote. Some regular corporate customers also expect a discount.
4/ Mileage compared to an hourly or day rate.
This is applicable to clients who wish a return trip or may have a journey that requires more than one stop or requires you to wait. The total mileage may not be much compared to the time involved in completing the whole job from pick up to drop off. It may be more practical, for a simple return trip, to return home compared to waiting. It depends upon the variables concerned. I can give you a couple of examples to help illustrate.

Example - Pick up 11.00hrs Hythe, near Southampton and drop off at Wimbledon Tennis. Allow 2 hours travelling time arriving at 13.00hrs. 90 miles approx. £15 approx fuel.
If you do not wait but return to base without a fare paying passenger then your fuel and travelling will be doubled ie 4hrs and £30.
Consider the alternative. Find something to do nearby and wait. The waiting time, if you remained in the area, compared to returning to base is 4 hours as you would have to leave Southampton at 17.00hrs to get back to Wimbledon for 19.00hrs. You have saved your travelling time and £30 in fuel!

Example - Southampton to Ascot Racecourse I applied the same rules. I found something to do nearby and did not return, empty, to Southampton.

Example - Southampton to Bournemouth (graduation ball) £120 return fare.
Staying in Bournemouth for return trip: 60 miles taking 1.5 hours with fuel about £10.
Waiting equated to 6 hours and £10 fuel total. Profit £110
Returning to base equated to £20 fuel. Due to time of day I decided to return to base which meant an extra£10 from my profit (£100).

Example - Southampton to Goodwood Festival of Speed. Both passengers were doctors that may have been required to return at short notice. Therefore waiting time was charged as I was required to remain with the car. You will have to adjust the hourly rate depending upon the circumstances and your customer.

Some companies charge an hourly rate if an airport passenger is delayed by more than an hour when passing through customs. That is a matter for you but, I would suggest, it would not be a charge that some customers would be happy to pay.

The ideal journey, and most profitable, is having a fare paying customer going up and back. For example, Southampton to Heathrow £80 fare minus £20 fuel (up and back) resulting in £60 profit. A fare paying passenger, on the return trip, will give you a total of £140.

5/ London pricing. Going into London can be time consuming and, in Central London, make you liable to the Congestion Charge. For London trips make sure you add to the charge if you enter the charging area. Also register your bank card with the Transport For London as the fee will be automatically deducted from your account.

6/ Consider the variables. Referring to my website I can list some issues that may affect the quote that you supply. For airport transfer you may add a small additional charge if required to 'meet and greet' to cover parking. Executive travel clients may end up being good repeat customers so be prepared for offering discount. Wedding car hire customers may have bespoke arrangements that means that you will have to adapt your fee according to a variety of variables. It may not be a straightforward journey from home to church and then to reception. Luxury private hire customers may pay a small premium on top of the normal quote for a special event like a prom or graduation.

I hope this has helped into giving an insight to pricing.

My next post will be - Your professional image and the service you provide  

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

How To - Private Hire Licence. Website Contents And Considerations

Image is everything.

It doesn't matter how good and professional your company is if your website creates the wrong impression from the initial view.

You have to create an company image that portrays the standards and qualities you represent and what the customer may be attracted to.

My website is an example of my own personal choices and hopefully conveys an image compatible with the quality of service offered. 

Consider some of the following:

1. Website colour scheme. Background and text colour. Compare other websites on the internet to create ideas and test them out with your own components. I would advice no more than three colours and keep it simple. Colour creates an ambiance and feeling.

2. Font. Choose a font that is easy to read and the correct size.

3. Headings and sub-heading. Attract the reader's attention and be short and to the point. You don't want them to loose interest by too much text that goes on and on.

4. Photos and videos. It is so true that a 'picture paints a thousand words'. A description comes to life when photos accompany your text. Let your prospective customer see your wedding car dressed in ribbons and bows. Be aware of copyright as photos available on the internet may not be permitted to be used by others. Take time to take your own photos as this creates a personal reflection of your company rather than an obvious copy of a freely available image.

5. Create pages for separate sub groups. Your service can be separated into various groups. For example one page can be dedicated to weddings alone. Another for corporate clients.

6. Contact details. Don't let your reader search for your contact details. They should be on every page and there should be a contact page so that they can send an email to you, via the website.

7. Term and Conditions.
This is valuable as it sets out the conditions of the service, should the reader decide to employ your services. Both the public and you have statutory rights for protection and fairness. You need to explain if you have a cancellation policy or things happen that are out of your control. Look at other company terms and conditions to get an idea of what you need to put onto your own site.

Hopefully by the end of the process you will have created a website that is unique and bespoke.

Look at all the components in my site at  to make up your own mind if I have adhered to my own advice. 

Monday, 20 August 2012

How To - Private Hire Licence. Obtaining A Licence (Southampton)

My experiences of obtaining a Private Hire Licence.

These are some of my experiences associated with applying for a licence in connection with Southampton Chauffeur Hire.
Every council has different requirements and fees within the guidelines of the law and regulations.
You will need to obtain an application form and visit the council website to obtain all the relevant information. It is also advisable to personally visit the licencing department to get clarification and information for your own individual situation.
The council licencing department officers are very helpful and will guide you but don't take everything for granted as you are solely responsible for supplying all the necessary paperwork with correct information. Some forms are reliant upon third parties to complete which can delay and hold up the whole process. For example, the driving licence check is completed by DVLA. I had to obtain my own licence check, as the result had been lost, and hand it into the licencing department.
Be methodical and record when and to whom you submitted the forms and any advice obtained. This is handy for reference and quoting purposes. If later you get conflicting advice you can refer to any previous guidance. I intended to use a Mercedes, which I was initially informed, would not require CCTV cameras to be fitted due to warranty issues. At the time of final submission of application forms I was asked for the certificate of fitting for the camera monitoring system. This was soon clarified and I was informed that the original advice was accurate.

Personal Opinion Regarding Varying Council Requirements.

As previously stated, every council applies their own rules within the law and regulations. As a result fees vary and licence applicants face disproportionate requirements resulting in financial and practical differences.
In this day of equality and diversity I find it hard to understand how councils can apply different conditions throughout the UK. Surely applying for a licence in Southampton should be the same as applying for a licence in Eastleigh or the New Forest. Maybe this should be challenged at a higher level!

Southampton Council Requirements.

Fees vary depending upon your doctor.

Driving assessment.
A simple assessment completed by an authorised examiner to check you have the basic skills to drive safely and competently. This is carried out locally and includes an eye sight test (reading a number plate at the legal distance). This is straight forward and takes about one hour.

CRB (Criminal Records Bureau check) for any record.

Driving licence check carried out by DVLA. To check endorsements and history.

Professional Taxi Driver and Private Hire Driver BTEC course. Southampton Council require a certificate to be obtained. Eastliegh College run a course which is four hour sessions, one day per week, lasting about ten weeks. This is a basic course and well within most applicant's abilities. There are computer based exams with multi-choice answers. You are permitted to obtain your private hire licence with out a certificate as long as you successfully complete the course within 6 months of your licence commencement.

Letter from your employer. If you are to work for someone else then you must supply a letter from your employer.

For those who will be self employed you must obtain a vehicle of a suitable type (as per their list). A vehicle issued with any plate is not permitted to be over 7 years old.

Vehicle compliance certificate. Issued by a local authorised garage who carry out an examination similar to an MOT. These tests are required every 6 months.

Your premises must be passed for keeping your vehicle or vehicles. A letter from the Planning Department is required to state that planning permission is not required.

Insurance cover for private hire use. I obtained insurance for chauffeur use which offers a reduced premium. Like any insurance it is advisable to get several quotes for value for money. 

Upon a successful application you will be issued with a Private Hire Licence and an ID card for display. You will also be given a certificate for your business premises and relevant documents for your vehicle including a plate and a windscreen ID badge. The plate (restricted use) will be kept in the vehicle (boot) for production, if required.

This is a very brief account and is subject to council amendments. I would suggest that you make a list of what is required, the cost of each part, and the time lines involved. This will keep you on track and in control.

My next blog will be website www, contents and considerations.

Friday, 17 August 2012

How To - Private Hire Licence. Choosing a company Name.

Choosing A Company Name.

It's all in the name and critical to the success of your business. Give this a lot of thought and don't make any hasty decisions as making changes can be problematic both in financial and practical terms.
Research and ask your friends and family what they think of your ideas.

1. What does the name say about what you do and what you provide?
It must be short, to the point and easy to remember. Try and think of something that is not similar to one of yours competitors or another company.

2. Internet friendly. You will want to be available on all media and especially on the internet. Having your own website is top priority and with it is your own website URL or domain. Your chosen company name will be unique and may or may not be available. If someone else already owns the domain name then you will have to think again. Remember, unless you spend a fortune on advertising, if your name is part of a prospective customer's google search then you will have better search engine visibility.  

3. Think of a logo to go with the business name. You can use initials to add to your advertising and image. How does the name suit other advertising like name badges, banners etc. Phrases can be a helpful in attracting attention. 

4. A colour scheme sets the mood and feel of your product or service. Look at other websites or advertising to see what the big boys do. You must convey the right image to reflect what you offer.

5. Consider a personalised registration plate (initials) to advertise your business name and make you more identifiable when collecting customers.

5. Once you have decided upon a name and started to apply it your your business it will be difficult to change. Once you have paid for the domain name and the business cards etc. there is no going back unless you want to start afresh.

I was surprised that, in a competitive place like Southampton, the name Southampton Chauffeur Hire had not been taken.

Look at my website to see how I matched this criteria to my company name.

Next I will be talking about obtaining a council licence.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

How To - Private Hire Licence. Choosing your equipment from Car to sat Nav.

Choosing equipment to suit your type of work.

What type of work and customer group will dictate the equipment you need. Do your research to find the best equipment and at the cheapest price. The internet is a valuable tool with review companies and price comparison sites. Get advice and end up with an informed decision.

Here are some of the items I researched to suit Southampton Chauffeur Hire


One of the most important decisions is the vehicle you use for the type of work you are targeting. Get this wrong and it can be a financial disaster.
My target group is luxury chauffeured private hire catering for those who are prepared to pay a bit more for transport for weddings, corporate, special events and airport transfer. 
Suitable vehicles include Mercedes, BMW, Audi and Jaguar which can command high prices.
My choice was a Mercedes E Class 220 auto (diesel with a 2.1 engine). My considerations were reliability and running costs. Size and suitability for my requirements.
Apply the same criteria to the vehicle that you research.
Depending upon your available funds, I would recommend second hand and a private sale for a vehicle three years old or more. I found that the E Class was a good size and relatively economical. Apparently, most of the German taxis are E Class due to their reliability. The S Class has higher running costs and would increase overheads, eating away at profit margins.
Vehicles loose most of their value through depreciation by about three years. 
I bought my E Class privately through the Auto Trader. I paid for an HPI check and took over an hour examining the vehicle in detail as well as the usual test drive. Be prepared to travel to get the right one. As the vehicle was three years old and low mileage I was happy to make a purchase without a professional mechanical inspection. I paid £13,500 with 28,000 miles for a car that cost over £30,000 when it was new.

For older vehicles obtain an RAC or AA report. It will give you confidence and help with your negotiations and give leverage if offering a lower price. Ask for a full tank of fuel to be included in the price.

Sat Nav.

Again, research is the key. A sat nav will be your life saver for getting you and your customer to and from a destination. My knowledge and experience of London is very limited so when I had a customer needing to go to Central London I was apprehensive, to say the least! I chose a Tom Tom with Live Services which took me to the hotel without a problem.
Connecting your mobile, via Blue Tooth, is another bonus if your car has no 'hands free'.
I would recommend Live Services as this gives you up to date traffic information and your sat nav will then give you an alternative route if a problem is identified.

Computer/Lap Top/Printer. 

Keep your records and accounts up to date and accurate with spread sheets and invoices. Make sure you 'back up' regularly. A lap top is practical as you can take it with you when you are waiting or between jobs.
The internet can give you all sorts of information especially sites like Google maps with Street View. Highways Agency with live traffic information. Google the flight number and the result page will show if it is on time or delayed.
Sending invoices via Email will save postage and is efficient.
Internet banking transferring and accepting funds is hassle free.
I bought an i Pad which is very handy and fits easily into my briefcase. It's 3G connection allows me to check on flights while 'on the road.'
A reliable printer is essential for several reasons including your 'Meet and Greet' board.

Mobile Phone.

Consider using two phones. Most of us have our own phone for domestic use with another in a draw having been replaced with an 'upgrade'. Depending upon your requirements choose a phone with either a contract or 'Pay As You Go' sim. I use an old phone with a top up sim. Having two phones is a God send when a battery goes down or you use up your allowance on another.


You don't need to spend a fortune on suits. I have bought second hand suits from EBay. People often buy suits for special occasions and don't wear them regularly. They put on, or loose, weight. Buy different suits to fit the occasion. £40 was the average I paid for a suit.

Business Cards. 

A very import way of promoting your company in a professional way are business cards and other printed documents. You can employ someone to design and provide business cards or you can do it yourself which will save you a fortune.
I found Vistaprint very cost effective. They provide the template and you can upload photos making an impressive card that advertises and promotes your business. In addition to business cards consider additional  
advertising products like banners and door signs. I also use large post card size leaflets which attract attention when pinned to a notice board or stands out when filed by a prospective customer.

There are many other items you may need to consider to suit your individual requirements.

Have a look at my web site at to get an insight into my informed decisions.

Next I will be talking about choosing a company name. 

Monday, 13 August 2012

How To Be a Private Hire Driver - Obtaining a Private Hire Licence (Southampton Chauffeur Hire)

How To - Private Hire Licence the basics.

Firstly, welcome to my blog about my experience with setting up Southampton Chauffeur Hire. This is an insight for starting up a new chapter by trying something that I have thought of but have never had the courage.
For me I was in my comfort zone having worked in the same environment for many years and, up until recently, with good job security. I had not needed to change as I could rely on a regular income and a job that I still enjoyed.
Redundancy was the cause, and the effect was a completely new and challenging 'breath of fresh air.' They say 'as one door shuts another opens'. Take the positives and hopefully, find that new direction and go for it!

Why choose to be a private hire driver -

I suppose there are several personal qualities and skills that all transferable and help to make a good private hire driver.

1. Competent driving standard and enjoy driving.
This is a must because what is the point if you don't like driving or you can not deliver a safe and comfortable experience for your customer.

2. People skills.
You must like people and have good communication skills. To be adaptable and have the ability to assess situations. Accommodate your customer's requirements. Be quiet or engage in conversation? Let your customer take the lead and don't dictate. Obtain good and reliable advice from those with experience. You will get to know them for help and guidance. 

3. Use of modern technology.
From the Sat Nav and Google Maps to having your own website - it is all there for you and a lot of it is free! Research the 'job'. Use the Internet to do your homework to assist with completing the job efficiently and professionally. It could be looking up traffic information on The Highways Agency site or checking a flight time table. Going to an event like Wimbledon or Goodwood? Most events have a website with all the information you need.

4. What type of licence/customer group.
From weddings and corporate clients to taking someone on a short trip to the pub. Choose a restricted licence and you don't need to display your vehicle plate when supplying a wedding car service. Obtain a standard licence for regular work. Choose the type of licence to suit your customer group.

5. A suitable vehicle.
Get  this wrong and you will have all sorts of problems from practical to financial. Although it's not important if you are going to work for someone and drive a company vehicle. For the self employed it is imperative to choose the right vehicle that suits your customer type. A Mercedes is perfect for a wedding car but not for a cruise passenger with 6 suitcases. A Ford Focus is fine for general use but not for a corporate client or 5 star hotel guest arriving at the heliport.

6. Portray the correct image to attract customers.
An immaculate vehicle with a smartly dressed driver portrays professionalism and efficiency. Get these two basics right and the implication is that you provide the whole package. 

7. Business sense. Accurate records is essential for the Inland Revenue and to keep tabs on your invoices. There is no point in doing a job if your not sure if you have been paid. You will soon get 'tied up in knots' if you don't keep up to date records. These records can assist with all sorts of business applications from keeping tabs on your over heads and identifying profit to assessing your fuel consumption.

8. Self employed or work for someone.
The choice is yours. Both have their advantages and disadvantages depending upon your own personal situation. Certainly, working for yourself has it's rewards with being your own boss and being in control. However there is no one to fall back on and if you are ill you don't get paid. Conversely, working for someone has less stress as you drive the company car, which is maintained for you. You get regular pay and have little paper work.

So what did I choose? 

I chose - Working for myself.
It was an easy choice for me as I was attracted to being in control of all aspects of the business. For all of my working life I had been answerable to others and being a little cog in an organisation. Now was my time to be in charge and either succeed or fail. I considered myself well qualified and ready to take on the varying challenges to build a business that would provide a suitable income and be rewarding.

I chose - A Restricted Licence. I wanted to cater for corporate clients requiring luxury chauffeured transport. A luxury executive vehicle would also be suitable for weddings and special events. Those wanting something more than a taxi to the airport or cruise terminal may look for something special and be prepared to pay that extra amount.

I have been trading since April 2012 with a website built by me with 1&1 hosting service. Have a look at my website  To be continued....