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....