Celebrity Coaches stays small to deliver a big punch
By David Hubbard
When she set out to establish her own motorcoach operations in 2003, Paulina Salen, president and CEO, Celebrity Coaches of America, Las Vegas, NV, was not about to settle for anything less than the Wow! Factor.
She envisioned a small to mid-size company of no more than 25 vehicles that would combine limousine and luxury coach service. Salen and her team would deliver customer service to the Nth degree for both the business community and the party crowd in a town marked by its penchant to pamper and indulge. Seven years later: mission accomplished.
The proverbial bus bug bit Salen during her college years in Vancouver, BC, Canada, where she worked in dispatch for a motorcoach company. She later relocated to Las Vegas, and spent five years with Nevada Charter, where she moved from dispatch to general manager before the company sold to Coach USA in 2000. During that time she saw Nevada Charter grow from four coaches to 62 at the time of the sale. Salen stayed on as sales director under the new owners for two years before leaving to eventually form her own do-it-all transportation company.
Salen, a staff of nine and 38 drivers provide group charters, corporate and sports team transportation, airport transfers, shuttles for conventions and tradeshows, party coaches for weddings, reunions, specialized tours, sightseeing and school field trips.
A fleet of 22 Van Hool luxury motorcoaches serves the two divisions of the company. The motorcoach division provides the basic services, while the limousine coach division specializes in customized transportation experiences. Eleven coaches with standard seating configurations handle the basic coach charters and transport. The other eleven party buses feature custom interiors that Salen has individually designed to satisfy a wide array of customer preferences. Two M1235s from ABC Companies also outfitted in custom décor serve as executive limousine coaches for smaller corporate groups.
The themes range from reserved and subdued appointments to flamboyant leopard and zebra upholstery. The party coaches and limos feature bars, flatscreen TVs, elaborate sound systems and electronics, as well as fiber optics.
“Celebrity Coaches is a very manageable niche that allows us to pay closer attention the details, which makes us who we are,” says Salen. “We never want to be any bigger than we are now. Our customers know us as the company that can personalize everything.”
The Nevada Minority Business Council named Celebrity Coaches best in professional service in 2006 and nominated the company again this year.
“Our largest segment of business is with business groups that prefer the privacy, flexibility and amenities enjoyed in the executive limousine coaches,” says Stacie Lu, vice president, sales and operations. “But this is Las Vegas and everyone comes ready to have fun, and our coaches and operations certainly cater to their high expectations.”
Lu says corporate groups can conduct meetings and presentations on board. With advance notice and some pre-planning, Celebrity Coaches can have power point and visuals ready when they board.
Salen says with the size of Celebrity Coaches firmly established as midsize only, she has been able to concentrate on her customer service priorities and her plan to build the company headquarters and maintenance facility. Taking advantage of the depressed market in Las Vegas, Salen purchased the land in 2006 and began construction on the permanent facility two years later. It opened in November 2009 complete with administrative offices and a three-bay maintenance shop.
Now situated less than a mile from McCarron International Airport, Lu says Celebrity Coaches is positioned to make transition from air to ground fast and seamless — even with those unpredictable blind arrivals.
“We make every effort to get all the pertinent travel information up front so we can greet our customers on time and guide them as effortlessly as possible,” she says. “But we always have to be ready to think on our feet.”
Salen says even the more difficult customers who may not plan as carefully expect and do receive the same high level service.
“We work with it,” she says. “I believe this is largely why our business has survived and grown.”
The company philosophy carries into every department and every employee. Salen says all Celebrity Coach drivers receive cross training on each of the vehicles, as everyone is a little different. They also learn to quickly read the varying mix of customers. She says for them to know when to remain subdued and less engaged for the corporate clients conducting business on board is as important as keeping it lively for revelers out on the town.
“Some customers want all the information, every detail about Las Vegas, we can throw at them,” say Salen. “Others just want to be left alone. We have become very adept at knowing when to turn it on when to back it off.”
Either way, says Salen, the mission is to wow the customer.BR