Second and third prestigious award for the Drive Arrive Team
We feel extremely proud to have won two prestigious awards at the recent annual chauffeur and private hire industry awards dinner.
The event, run every year by the Professional Driver Magazine, sees hundreds of entries in over 10 categories and culminates with a glittering ball and presentation evening at a hotel near Gatwick Airport.
In these QSI Awards (Quality, Service and Innovation) we scooped the Chauffeur Company of the Year (1-10) vehicles, (13 finalists) and Peter was honoured with the Professional Driver of the Year award, (9 finalists). These two bronze awards are in addition to the award we received in the spring from The Transport Awards organised by SME News where we were awarded Best Executive Car Hire Service for the Home Counties.
When I'm not driving I'm at the helm steering the good ship Drive Arrive, sometimes through turbulent water in the dead of night, but it’s the team of drivers who have all hands on deck, are out in all weathers, sometimes in the pitch black, lashing rain and freezing conditions who do the real work and deserve these awards.
In order for them to do this I know there are loving and supporting dedicated partners and families who not only get woken by hastily silenced alarm calls or the sound of closing doors in the early hours but who provide unconditional support and practical help to enable their loved ones to competently do their jobs.
So, these recent awards are not just for me, I just collected them. They are ‘very’ much for the dedicated Drive Arrive team, and it is a team, who tirelessly work hard as the dedicated professionals they prove to be time and time again. I thank them all from the bottom of my heart and they are: Peter Conisbee, Neil Valentine, Sam Hawes, Paul Watkins, Ray Lamkin, Peter King, Martin Kirrane, John McDonald, Gary and Daniel Page, Charles Boardman, Shakeel Abbas, Paul Harris, Chris Warrilow, Alan Webster, Phil Murphy, John Migliore, Lee Saunders, Illyas (Saj) Sajawal, Andy O’Neal, Alex Milne, Wayne Colliass, Tim Butler and past drivers Gary Albert and Tony Hubbard who have since retired.
I would especially like to thank my partner Isabelle. There is a standing joke, a bit of friendly banter amongst some of those named above that I rarely work at weekends. We live 45 minutes apart and really only get to see each other at weekends when she is off work so while it’s work, work, and more work Monday to Saturday morning the rest of the weekend is our time. A good and proper work life balance is vital to maintain ones physical and mental health and Isabelle ensures I get proper rest, relaxation, nutrition and exercise at the weekends and I love her immensely for it.
Here are our entries that won us the awards:
Chauffeur Company of the year (1-10 vehicles)
Since starting Drive Arrive in July 2015 with a single vehicle and a few clients my approach has been to treat each client with utmost respect, as if they were my only client, and to pay drivers immediately. A seasoned chauffeur once told me, “Do it right and you will do it again”.
I have tried to imagine what clients would expect from a chauffeuring service and concluded that consistently providing a punctual, first class service in immaculately clean luxury cars, driven safely and courteously by smartly dressed respectful chauffeurs would always be a winner and I have vowed to never become complacent. As an ex-advanced driving instructor I am passionate about road safety and safety is Drive Arrive’s USP. My duty of care to clients and drivers is paramount.
The business quickly soared from a handful of clients to around 215. Within a year a second S Class was purchased, two freelance chauffeurs employed and very soon the business reached the £85,000 VAT threshold. The oldest S Class was replaced with a new shape S Class and soon after the other S was replaced with a Mercedes E Class Estate, providing clients with two levels of service and pricing. Within a year I acquired Huntingdon’s second largest employer and more recently Huntingdon's largest employer, two US Air bases, to provide a discreet, punctual and safe ground transportation services for their Colonels and base commanders. In the spring of 2019 Drive Arrive won the Best Executive Car Hire Service 2019 - Home Counties award from SME News in their National Transport Awards.
I have always been very active in the chauffeur networking groups on social media where I closely observed colleagues interactions and got to know their personalities and values. My business was providing an exceptional level of service and growing fast and I needed more resources of the right calibre. I selected a number of local associates and made a commitment that, if they collaborated with me, I would pay them immediately upon receipt of their invoice.
In addition to myself as driver and business owner, I now have one full-time ex-police officer freelance chauffeur and 22 owner driver associates dotted all over the country. Drivers are sat in a vehicle, sometimes for prolonged periods of time with my valued clients, every one of which I consider as a VIP and I believe that by treating drivers in the way I would like to be treated, will ensure great customer care. I strongly believe that the benefits of paying drivers straight away are much greater than any small interest I would get by holding on to payment.
I am fortunate that many private clients pay before their transfers, all account holders pay on time and I have never had anyone not pay which ensures a healthy cashflow. Due to the consistently high level of service Drive Arrive provides, I am able to charge a premium which feeds down to drivers, so when I post a job on my WhatsApp group I often get an immediate response. I sometimes seek feedback from clients to ensure that high standards are being met. See www.drivearrive.co.uk/testimonials for reviews from 55 of my clients and visit my Google page for the 12 5 Star ratings.
I introduced a cloud booking system through Chauffeur Drive Systems. Clients and drivers love it and this has really enhanced the business. Booking with Drive Arrive is an even more efficient experience, including features which update passengers and bookers of the status of their hires, give chauffeur and vehicle details to the client and provides live tracking of the vehicles on Maps. I believe that Drive Arrive would be a very attractive business to a purchaser due to its strong reputation, its pool of associate drivers and the efficient systems which have been invested in to support its infrastructure.
Above and beyond:
These are the things Drive Arrive does that I feel are unique.
We offer to pick up basic essentials or briefly stop at supermarkets with returning passengers if they have been away for a long time. In addition to bottled mineral water we provide blankets, eye masks, ear plugs and noise cancelling headphones for passengers who really want to relax. I make secure notes from conversations in order to show a personal interest during future journeys. I often post seasonal advanced driving and road safety tips over my social media platforms. I was an advanced driving instructor for 8 years. Last week while fetching a couples luggage at the start of their holiday I advised them not to leave their car keys on show and to hide them away in a tin which is an effective faraday cage. I run a Facebook group called Executive PH Dead Leg Filler which hundreds of colleagues have subscribed to and where empty journeys are being advertised for colleagues to fill. This has proved very popular and has helped to minimise empty miles therefore reducing carbon emissions and has maximised profits.
My ethical approach to drivers and my determination to be as efficient as possible on all business levels has proved successful in the growth of the business. Clients trust us to consistently deliver on time and to uphold very high standards, and drivers know they will get paid quickly. As a result, clients often want to pay early meaning a healthy cash flow which my suppliers benefit from and which spurs them to provide an excellent service for me. Efficient communication, integrity and honesty are vital and are the qualities and standards I adopt in my approach to business.
Professional Driver of the Year
I’d like to nominate my driver Peter Conisbee for professional driver of the year.
During the Spring of 2018 I put an appeal out on my local community Facebook pages for a new freelance chauffeur to join my business. Ideally I required a driver to hold an advanced driver qualification in order to meet my high safety credentials which is my unique selling point. Within an hour Peter had replied with a brief introduction of himself and I was interested to read that he was a recently retired Metropolitan Police Officer.
I have always been good at judging character and believe in listening to my gut instinct so when I met Peter for a coffee and received a firm handshake, eye contact and a smile I was immediately impressed as that would be how he would greet my clients and first impressions count.
During our conversation over a couple of Cappuccino’s he told me about his new found lifestyle recently into retirement, his young family and how much he enjoyed being a house husband while his wife forged a career in the police service. Peter stated that he would not be available much during the weekdays due to child care but absolutely loves to drive through the night and at weekends. As a private hire operator this was music to my ears as most drivers want to work daytime hours and I already had these times covered. Peter is hardworking and went on to tell me that he also has his own licensing consultancy and even does voice overs.
It was Peters driving credentials and experiences that particularly interested and impressed me. It was clear he’d seen some harrowing scenes in his police career and that he now wanted a calm, stress free family life out of the Metropolis and with some equilibrium.
Peter received blue light response driver training which enabled him to drive Astras and Vans and later on did a Tactical Personnel Carrier Course and the Advanced Driver Course which saw him driving riot vans often in highly charged and dangerous situations, often during 12 hour shifts on a block of 7-9 day tours.
During his 30 years he had a gun held to his head, was shot at, dodged a knife attack, was run over twice, thrown down stairs and had his wrist and nose broken. Peter was serving during the poll tax riots where the only protection was a wooden truncheon and a chin strapped helmet. He has given CPR twice, talked a man doused in petrol out of setting fire to himself, Peter and a colleague, pulled a family of 4 out of a burning car. Peter attended many suicides, dealt with the aftermath of the Paddington rail crash, was on the scene at Lee Rigby’s murder and held a dying man in his arms after he’d been stabbed. There were lighter moments too when he had an impromptu chat with Princess Diana at The Horse of the Year show at Olympia in the early 90’s. Needless to say Peter has received many commendations for his actions while serving.
After screaming along London streets at high speed in riot vans with adrenaline pumping I felt the calm, serene and luxurious interior of a Mercedes S Class was just the tonic he needed where he would excel and be brilliant at the job. The licensing and insurance process followed and in no time at all Peter was starting to meet clients, learn the routes and get to know all the different drop off and pick up protocols at the airports. Peter is an absolute natural and while I of course briefed him on the etiquette of the job, showed him the useful apps and technology we use and talked through access at the airport terminals etc he pretty much embraced it and took to it like a duck to water. Peter demonstrated very early on that he is excellent at working on his own initiative and does not need micro managing meaning that, as the business owner, I can relax knowing that my clients and vehicles are in safe competent hands. I trust him completely to look after the vehicles and to keep me updated on any maintenance issues.
Peter absolutely deserves to have some calm in his life, enjoy his young family and I am honoured and privileged to have him on the team. He has learned the chauffeuring ropes extremely quickly and efficiently, gets on with the job with no fuss or drama. Clients have commented on Peters caring attitude, punctuality, smartness, character and especially his extremely good driving and from my point of view I couldn’t wish for a better driver and ambassador.
Having spent 30 years on the front line with the Met Police in our ever increasingly violent capital I’m extremely pleased at Peters seamless transition into this profession. Peter is a natural and an outstanding chauffeur and I am honoured to have such a popular, caring and capable professional representing my company. I’m happy that after what must have been a very difficult, stressful and dangerous career he has found a calm equilibrium at an important time in his life and that he is able to make work fit around family life. Peter’s picture and bio on the the Drive Arrive website - https://www.drivearrive.co.uk/drivers