GROWTH BEYOND IMAGINATION
Reston Limousine began 25 years ago with five cars and a dream of growing to a fleet of 10. When it reached its goal, it aimed for 15. From those modest dreams, Reston Limousine has grown into the largest limousine and bus company in the Washington area, serving a diverse set of individual and institutional clients.
“It’s the American Dream of starting a business and having it grow way beyond our imagination,” says CEO Kristina Bouweiri. “We never in a million years thought we would grow the company to the 230 cars that we have today.”
In the early years, Reston Limousine’s growth just “happened” without much advance planning. “We just grew, and we had to deal with growth as it happened,” Bouweiri remembers. But today, the company’s growth strategy is intentional. Its five-year plan will grow Reston Limousine 7 percent for two years and 12 percent for the remaining years. “We feel it’s very doable,” Bouweiri says. “It’s actually a very conservative number. We’ve had a much higher growth rate than that, but it’s better to grow slowly and in an organized fashion than it is to grow too fast.”
Growing too fast — or growing for growth’s sake — can strain a company to the breaking point. Bouweiri takes to heart a simple but underappreciated business truism: As your revenues increase, so do your expenses. “It’s hard to maintain consistent profits because every time you grow, you have to reinvest in the company — you have to hire more people, you need more space, you need more equipment,” she says. “There’s this fine line between growth and profits.” As a CEO whose instinct is to grow the company as large as possible, Bouweiri says holding herself back can be a challenge. “Profits are always more important,” she says.
Another challenge that comes with fast growth is the constant need for more space. Reston Limousine was founded in Reston, VA, but quickly grew out of its space and moved to Herndon. Two years later, the company was forced to move again, this time to Sterling. At that point, Reston Limousine bought land to build its own facility, what it hoped would be its final home. “By the time we moved into that building, we had outgrown it,” Bouweiri says. The company now operates out of three locations to best serve its customers and employees.
As the company has grown, so too has its leadership team. Bouweiri says adding diverse, seasoned executives to her team has been one of the most rewarding aspects of her job. Barry Gross, director of business relations, joined Reston Limousine in 2014 and describes the spirit of open, vigorous debate that characterizes the management team’s discussions. “We have complete freedom to approach any issue and to discuss it passionately,” Gross says. “As a result, we get a broad spectrum of ideas, rather than one idea and four people immediately saying ‘yes.’”
Bouweiri strives to make Reston Limousine a great place to work, paying its drivers as employees instead of as subcontractors and offering some of the best benefits in the industry, including healthcare, paid sick leave, bereavement pay and vacation time. Still, Bouweiri says the labor shortage in the DC market results in times of feast or famine. “Sometimes there’s a lot of business out there and we can’t hire enough employees, and then there’s other times when business is slow and we have lots of employees, so it’s a battle,” she says.
Having a diverse customer portfolio means that Reston Limousine doesn’t need to pin its growth to one vertical. Where previously the company’s growth relied heavily on government contracts, today Reston Limousine’s clients include universities and hospitals, with other offerings including airport transportation, weddings, wine and brew tours, and shopping excursions. The company recently expanded its events division to capitalize on DC’s robust convention market. Reston Limousine also invested in six new motor coaches to enhance its tour and daytrip business. “By increasing our footprint, we’re able to attract a much wider clientele,” Gross says.
Reston Limousine’s existing clients have also been a key growth driver, owing to Bouweiri’s innovative approach to customer appreciation. About five years ago, she began hosting client appreciation lunches, leveraging her business network to help defray the costs. Each month, Bouweiri gathered 50 clients to thank them and keep them up to date on Reston Limousine’s latest offerings. “I met thousands of clients, broke bread with them and grew the business 27 percent, just by going back to thank my current clients,” Bouweiri says.
Photos (L to R): Top row: Kristina Bouweiri, CEO; Tony Simon, COO; Bruce Kudeviz, CFO. Bottom row: Carolyn Callahan, Director of Sales; Barry Gross, Director of Business Relations; Frank Gibbs, Contract Operations Manager