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Derek Stafford of Elegant Image Limousine and his wife

(Transcript) The Blind Spot: EPISODE 13 with Derek Stafford of Elegant Image Limousine

THE BLIND SPOT PODCAST WITH DAVE UZIEL
 
(Intro music: percussion beats and cymbal)
 
DAVE: What’s up guys? Dave here at The Blind Spot again, hope everybody’s doing well. I’m sorry for the absence the last couple weeks, but I’ll give you an update on the podcast that’s going to be previous to this one … 
 
(Dave claps hands together) 
 
But I’m super excited to have somebody I consider to be a good friend — I got to meet him a couple years back and, uh, being a Cali boy, he’s only a couple hours away from me, I want to introduce Derek Stafford from … where’re you from buddy? 
 
DEREK:  San Luis Obispo! What’s going on guys? Thanks for having me on Dave, I appreciate it. 
 
DAVE:  Appreciate it Derek. Uh, Derek has a limousine company like ours in the Central Coast / San Luis Obispo area, um, great vehicles, great company, he’s strong-minded, knows the business really well, and I’m excited to have him because we’re going to talk a lot about, um, well we’re going to talk a LITTLE bit about the limo industry but a LOT about just personal growth and the struggles that everybody’s kind of having in COVID. You know, I’m going to let Derek do a little introduction about himself and then we’ll kind of just dive into the questions. So Derek, tell us a little bit about yourself.
 
DEREK:  Awesome. So Derek Stafford, San Luis Obispo, California. I’m the owner of Elegant Image Limousine, I purchased it back in 2014. Uh, a little bit about myself: I’m a former professional BMX athlete, um, I did compete on the Olympic level but it was a step below the A-Pro division. Did that for awhile, retired from that, jumped into the limo industry back in 2013 and into 2014 when I purchased [my company]. Started out with just two cars and built it into a fleet of twelve before we hit this, uh, whatever you want to call it going on in the world right now. 
 
DAVE:  Yeah, it’s definitely pretty crazy, huh? 
 
DEREK:  (Shakes his head) VERY crazy. It’s been, uh, it’s been a year of rollercoaster up and down. I mean you can’t even predict anything anymore what’s going to happen, it just depends on what’s going to go on with the news and, uh, whatever our wonderful governor is going to make us believe today. (Laughs) 
 
DAVE:  Yeah, well, we can get into our political opinions but I try to keep that to the side …  
 
DEREK:  Yeah, we’ll keep that out of here for sure. 
 
DAVE:  Um, so what got you into the limo business? Why the limo business? 
 
DEREK:  To tell you the truth, I was going to Cal Poly back in 2005 and I was working just kind of a dead-end delivery job, and, uh, was tired of lifting shit all day and I wanted to do something that was going to be, for lack of a better word, just a little bit more chill and I could have some fun with. I saw a limo drive down the road and that’s what got me initially hooked into it at first. Saw the traditional 120 Stretch moving down the freeway, saw a guy in a suit, a bunch of girls in the back hanging out, and I said “This isn’t a bad gig, I think I’m going to sign myself up for it.” 
 
(Dave laughing) 
 
So I had a buddy, in 2006 we purchased our first limo. It was an Excursion and, uh, just basically ran it the first two years just off of fraternity and sorority events — no real marketing, no real plan, it was more of just a joke just to have some fun. And that’s initially how I got started in it.
 
DAVE:  Awesome. And so you said you started back in 2014, started your own company. 
 
DEREK:  Yes, started my own company in ’14. 
 
DAVE:  Ok. And what did you have when you first started? 
 
DEREK:  When I started I had two Crystal 120 Stretches, white, and I had, uh, I believe it was an ’06 or an ’05 El Dorado home-made, Home Depot party bus. I call it ‘Home Depot’ because, uh, it looked like that from the inside. Definitely not as nice as this one I’m in right now, this stretch (moving his camera around to show the interior) but, uh … 
 
DAVE:  (Chuckling) What year is the one you’re in right now?
 
DEREK:  Right now this is a 2017 Grech, this is my limo Sprinter I’m in. So I’m actually on the road today traveling, helping a buddy move, and, uh, I took this car here and where I’m at right now with time … this is where I’m at and this is where we’re filming and shooting the podcast so, on the fly, I like it.
 
DAVE:  We gotta do it. So let’s kinda get into the nitty gritty, you know … 
 
DEREK:  Absolutely.
 
(4:25)
 
DAVE:  We’ve talked about … we’ve talked a lot over the period of just the mental, um (sighs) … the frustration we all have as owners, as business owners, and how COVID has affected you mentally. You want to talk about that a little bit and then we’ll get into the other stuff, too? 
 
DEREK:  Yeah, absolutely. Um, you know, jumping into the whole COVID thing … For myself, I’ve actually found out, working with my counselor — which I’ll talk on more here a little bit later on — but this started before the COVID for me. COVID is what brought it to light for me. 
 
Um, going in with the working of the business, of the high demand of how this is, the day-to-day of what it requires from dispatch, from reservations — this business will suck you in and it’ll spit you out and it won’t even think twice about it. So I found myself in a frickin’ whirlwind, walls were building up behind me. 
 
You wouldn’t know it, anyone wouldn’t know it on the street, heck, my own wife didn’t even know I was even struggling with it, it’s just something that came in and got me. And, uh, coming through the whole COVID thing it brought it to light in myself, where I found myself in a depression where I was on the couch for almost three weeks, didn’t want to get up, didn’t want to do anything, didn’t want to talk to anybody, I just wanted to lay there. Didn’t know what to do, didn’t know where to go from there … and it took some pretty, some pretty drastic changes in my life — personally, business-wise — just to even get me to a spot where I am today, where I can even talk about it, uh, you know, openly with you on this podcast.
 
DAVE:  Right, right. And you know obviously, you know, personally I go through PTSD and obviously with this stupid COVID it just added more depression, more anxiety because the day-to-day unknown of, you know, what happens to our business? Like, we’ve been working so hard to build this stuff up and look what happens … 
 
DEREK:  Absolutely. You know, coming off that, you know we did a record year in 2019. 
 
(Dave nodding)
 
Uh, you know, we’re up, you know, 30 or 40 percent. Our January and February, we were up in January I think we were at 75, we were 100 percent up in February. You know we all went to, you know, the show — we went to the 10X event, probably one of the best all-time highs we’ve ever come off of. And then coming back into reality it was like getting hit with a baseball bat … just getting hit over and over and over again. And you didn’t know where it was coming from.
 
DAVE:  Right. When did you, I mean, did you start seeing it pretty much right away in March, um, that things were going down, or did you have a little bit more time of profit?
 
DEREK:  So we had a little bit more time of profit, uh, when I came back our first two weeks were OK, we started getting the calls and the conversation about what’s going to happen … We had a big wine festival weekend that was scheduled for the third week, um, and that pretty much makes our March revenue with it. You know where we’re farming cars out from all over, doing events, shuttle events, winery events —  everything going on that whole entire week. They cancelled that on Wednesday and that’s when the ship started to sink with us. Just alone from that Wednesday to Saturday we had $125,000 in cancellations. They just hit just like that, and it just continued and continued and continued where, you know, I didn’t even want to pick up the phone anymore. I just started letting things go to voicemail because I knew what it was already — it wasn’t for a reservation, it was for cancellations.
 
DAVE:  What, um, at what point did you realize that you were going bad, personally? Not — forget about the other stuff we’re going to talk about — but just kinda talk about your personal experience.
 
DEREK:  Yeah, absolutely. Um, I started noticing myself in April … I started noticing myself right at the beginning of April, where I was going down a wrong-way path. And I didn’t know how to get off the ship. I was sinking fast, myself. 
 
Sinking fast. I found myself in a deep depression. It came into a point where, uh, middle of April, where I was ready to kill myself. And that’s talking openly about it right now, I haven’t told very many people that, but I was ready to take my own life because I could not figure out anything — how to get off the ship. I was too embarrassed to ask for help, couldn’t reach out to family or anything like that, and uh, you know, by the grace of God, you know he helped me that night, steered me off of it, and uh, I started reaching out with some friends, and was able to start the path I’m on today. 
 
DAVE:  Well first off, um, you know obviously I’m a little speechless just because I don’t know how to react to such an honest and truthful statement — especially that you’re expressing it in kind of an open platform, so, first off, I want to THANK YOU … 
 
DEREK:  You’re welcome.
 
DAVE:  … because I’m 100 percent sure you’re not the only one. Um, I can’t say I ever felt that deeply, but I know that there was times where I just didn’t know what to do. And I wanted to run away. Because then if I ran away, I didn’t have to deal with it. I’m thankful that you, um, found whatever tools you needed to get past that day and that evening, and so that’s amazing and I think that you being honest about where you were is an important reason why I wanted to do this podcast with you. Because our friendship, you know, I wouldn’t say that we talk to each other every day, or every month even, but every time we do talk it’s pretty candidly and we trust each other and there’s no (garbled noise).
 
DEREK:  Yeah.
 
DAVE:  So I’m kinda like — I guess I’m kinda walking in circles right now (making spinning motion with his finger and chuckling) just thinking about what you’re saying.
 
DEREK:  (Laughing) Yeah.
 
(10:45) 
 
DAVE:  So, if you don’t mind, take me back to that day. Because obviously you’re in a way better place right now, for sure. 
 
DEREK:  No, I’m definitely in a way better place. I, you know, I’m thankful for my small circle of friends, you know, for my counselor, which I’ll get into later on it here. But, uh, walking back to that night … you know, I came home from work and my wife and I had a disagreement, and we started just talking and next thing you know I started seeing myself spiral into it, and our discussion ended up getting worse, and heated. She went to bed. I laid down in bed, and I got up, and I just did not feel right. I said “I can’t do this anymore, I’m pushing everyone away in my life to a point where I’m just keeping them away, I’m not opening up, I’m not being real with them in life.” And, uh, you know I went downstairs and uh, I sat down there and … was ready to go, uh, behind the train tracks where I live at my house and I was ready to just take my own life that night. And just do something completely, completely selfish, you know, looking at it now, because that’s not the answer to anything. I have a really good friend, her dad committed suicide, you know, a couple months ago, and we talked a little bit about it and um, just seeing the aftermath of what that causes — how the family is affected — it’s long-lasting, you know, over it, and to me, I just couldn’t do something that selfish. So I’m glad that I was able to wake up, you know, wake up from that and be able to start to reach out for help. However embarrassing it is, whatever the case it was, but I was glad I was able to do that. 
 
DAVE:  Yeah, I can tell you that, um, like I said I had — well it wasn’t at that level — but I remember when I got diagnosed with PTSD I felt like everybody could see it on my head (pointing to forehead). Like, nobody knew, the only person that knew was me and my family, but I always thought that I was walking around with like a hat on that said “PTSD.” And it was kind of one of those things that always held me back, until finally I got the right help, got the right support, and realized that OK, it’s NOT that big of a deal. It’s something to deal with, depression — everybody has different forms of depression, whether they want to admit to it or not.
 
Were you ever in a place … did you have any addiction problems or anything like that, you know, at any point in your life, or even now? 
 
DEREK:  Me, personally, I do not struggle with addiction problems. I was raised into a family with addiction problems, you know, my mom falls under the opioids, my dad was an alcoholic. So it runs in my family, as far as addiction goes and all that, but no, I’ve never struggled with drugs, I’ve never struggled with alcohol, any of that stuff there — you know, that stuff just really doesn’t interest me. It’s really crazy and just kind of blows me away how both my parents struggled with that, still struggle with that to this day, and me, I don’t have a problem with it. At all. Not one bit. 
 
DAVE:  Are your parents in town? Also in San Luis Obispo? 
 
DEREK:  No, my mom is actually somewhere on the East Coast. You know, we haven’t spoken in quite some time due to her addiction, and my dad, you know, same thing — I think the last time I spoke with him was when I was, uh, 21. 
 
DAVE:  OK.
 
DEREK:  So it’s been awhile, on there, but uh, you know, getting into that side of it there, the addiction was greater than the relationship that we had, and that’s the problem with addiction — addiction’s always going to outweigh the relationship and, you know, the person that is struggling with the addiction has to hit the rock bottom before they can move forward in their life to even remotely begin to have relationships with people.
 
(15:00)
 
DAVE:  Yeah. I mean, I’m very lucky that I personally didn’t have to deal with that growing up. We actually grew up in a very dry family. You know, my parents were definitely not into any kind of alcohol or anything like that, so I really didn’t understand it. Surprisingly, I do enjoy drinking — I would say I’m a weekend drinker, for sure. But, you know, this kind of leads into kind of our next topic, and I’m … not really sure how to bring it up and I don’t want to, you know, it’s something that you’re dealing with right now and you want to kind of just, talk about it. You know, so let’s just go with that. 
 
DEREK:  Yeah, absolutely. Uh, you know, go ahead and bring it up. Go ahead and ask the question, let’s do it. 
 
DAVE:  Alright, well.
 
DEREK:  Let’s fire it. 
 
DAVE:  I was able to talk to Derek this weekend, kind of in a deep conversation, because unfortunately he’s dealing with somebody in his life that has an addiction problem. You know, I’ll let him talk about the story, but somebody very close to him has an opioid problem and instead of him giving up he really grabbed life by the horns and said “OK, I’m going to find a solution.” Unfortunately it didn’t work out as he planned, but … Derek if you want to talk about it — do you want to give a little bit of a preface to what we’re talking about?
 
DEREK:  Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, as you mentioned, I’m not going to name names or name anything on the side of where it is, but I have someone very close and dear to my heart that is struggling with an opioid addiction, you know, cocaine addiction, and uh, I found all that out during the whole pandemic. One of my closest friends growing up is actually a speaker that goes and travels around the world speaking on addiction, I reached out to him and uh, he came out and we started the process and found out exactly what was going on, and um, did the intervention and sent the family member into a treatment facility to help, to give the person another shot at life. You know, anyone that’s close to me knows that, uh, once you’re in my circle, once you’re in my heart, you’re in my heart. You know, it’s not going to matter whether you’re struggling in life, what you have going on, even what you said or what you done to me, you know, in the past, that all doesn’t matter to me — I’m going to be there first and foremost as a friend, to help, you know, to help anybody out that they need for it. And you know, I saw the cry for help, and even though this person wasn’t asking for it, I saw it, and uh, said “Hey, you know, we’ve gotta get treatment.” And against my council, against better advice, it wasn’t … I don’t want to say it wasn’t the right timing for it, but uh, I just couldn’t let this person spiral any more, so we did it. And you know, I’d like to say hopefully this person is in a better place and is moving forward in life. For, you know, addiction-free life. 
 
DAVE:  What do you think you learned from it? 
 
DEREK:  What I’ve learned from it is, more or less, is just that the addiction is … I mean, I learned a ton. I studied, probably … I’ve probably studied the last two and a half months just on addiction, just on the personalities, just on the behavior traits, just even the WHY’S on there. And from what I found, it always stems deeper, and it stems from self-esteem, growing up, issues in life from, you know, when we were kids, and it just gets moved forward into the teen years, into the adult life. And things just never really get addressed, and it just takes something to spark it, and uh, you know, next thing you know if you’ve done something in the past and you’re going down that road for it. Also, too, having counselors and doctors that are prescribing stuff that they shouldn’t be prescribing. The common answer to America is “Here, let’s take this pill, go ahead and take this, it’s going to fix you” — that’s not fixing anything. The only way to fix stuff is to be in counseling, to talk through it, to work through it, to reach out to family members, and really dive deep into the actual root problem. And that’s going to help you in the long run, you know. I could have easily slipped into it myself, going into a drug addiction myself with everything going on this year. I could have easily done that. But I knew that wasn’t the answer, I knew I had to dig deep and do the hard work even though I didn’t want to. And that’s showing up for yourself each and every day, when no one else is going to show up for you. 
 
DAVE:  Right. And I think it does, um, kind of make you realize that, you know, a lot of people want to say that addiction is not a medical issue, but it’s 100 percent a medical issue. 
 
DEREK:  Absolutely.
 
DAVE:  I mean, nobody — I don’t think anybody can say that they WANT to be addicted to drugs.
 
(Derek shaking his head)
 
Even though, in their mind, you know, during that time when they ARE addicted that’s easy to say, obviously, we know that. 
 
But I think that, the big issue is, how do you manage THAT, along with you having to deal with COVID-19, and you trying to figure out, you know, how do I pivot myself? And on top of that, you know, this same person caused some more financial distress to you — which, we don’t need to talk about that part — but, you know, the cost of rehab is not cheap, we know that.
 
DEREK:  No, no, it’s definitely not cheap.
 
(21:10)
 
DAVE:  And the fact that you took that burden on you shows what kind of man you are, but, you know, how do you keep yourself from going down that route? 
 
DEREK:  Well, you know, keeping myself grounded and keeping myself from going down that route, you know, is, uh … it’s almost going back to my roots. Back when I was … when I was going through this, and talking to my counselor — his name is Dr. Jason Richardson, you know, very great guy out of San Diego. If you ever need any help with anything I totally recommend reaching out to him. He helps your mindset think differently, and he gets you to dive deep into the actual root problems. So I reached out to him, and, you know, we were discussing points in my life where I was the happiest, where I was the most content in life. And that was going back into, you know, back when I was racing. I had so much discipline going on, from getting up in the morning and training, believing that I was going to be a top-level athlete, going through the course of the day, proper nutrition, proper rest, you know … that’s what I did, I basically had to get myself back into that mindset of being an athlete again to where I could go in and start attacking the other portions of the day. 
 
So I get up in the morning — I usually wake up without an alarm clock between 5:30 and 6 now. If you’d asked me that a year ago, I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed without my wife bringing me a cup of coffee. That’s how bad I was in staying up late, working until the wee hours of the morning. I wake up now, on my own, I get up and I put my AirPods in — I either listen to a podcast myself, listen to music, catch up with family — and I go out and I walk and jog in the morning, or I’ll hop on my bike for at least 45 minutes to an hour. And that’s what I do, the first thing I do in my day is I do something for myself before I do anything else for anybody else, before I touch an email or a phone call at all. I make sure I put time in for myself, I show up for myself, and THEN I start going on the day. 
 
DAVE:  (Nodding) Right, right. And that’s good. How often are you seeing — er, you know, obviously during these times — how often are you chatting with your therapist? 
 
DEREK:  So, uh, we were on, doing twice a week, uh, we are now down to once every other week, is what we’re doing now, just because the progression’s there. I built my ’toolkit,’ as I like to call it, on how to be aware with things and, you know, just be at a peace right now, in life, with what’s going on. You know, stuff’s getting thrown daily, constantly, at me still, and I can almost say, like, I have a peace at it now where I know that I have a good toolkit, I know that I have a good circle of friends that can help me if I need to lean on for it, and I’m able to see the bigger picture even, you know, even in a dark place. 
 
DAVE:  That’s great. And you should be really proud of yourself because like you said — 
 
DEREK:  Thank you.
 
DAVE:  It’s really easy to give up and, you know, walk away from everything and just say “Fuck it” you know, but you didn’t. 
 
DEREK:  Right, right. 
 
DAVE:  You stood your ground and you helped your loved one, and I hope and pray that this person finds peace in their own process and will be able to come back around and, you know, live the life that that person wants. 
 
DEREK:  Exactly.
 
(24:40) 
 
DAVE:  I mean, I know when I was a cop I ran into a lot of people who had addiction problems that were really good people, um, but the problem really took grasp of them. And so, I can’t imagine what you’re going through, but it sounds like you are finding your way through it, and that’s really good. 
 
So let’s talk a little — we talked about that stuff, which is  kinda cool, and we really appreciate you opening up — but, uh, going back to business … I mean, I’ve kinda known you, you’ve gone to a few of Bill Faeth’s retreats, kinda other things, so can we talk about that? 
 
I know this weekend you were at his first one that he had this year, after, you know, first time traveling. So tell me how that was, what did you learn, what did you feel, like, you know, where were you, obviously with everything else that’s going on in your life? So, how did that help, how did it not help? Not saying CONTENT-wise if it helped or not, but just the overall being away from your home. 
 
DEREK:  Right, so, getting into Bill Faeth — I’ve attended, you know, pretty much all the events that he’s put on over the years. I met him, I believe it was 2017 or 2016? I can’t remember, it seems like a lifetime ago with it. But, uh, I was at a point in my business career where I found myself where I felt like I was stuck. And I mean I felt like I was stuck, I felt like I was just going through the same patterns, the same motions, day in and day out but not getting a different result on there. So I wanted to try something different. So I went to one of his first — really one of his first boot camps, was in Nashville. Was almost a ’test event,’ was what he called it. There were 15 operators from all over the United States that came, and, uh, it was probably the most hell-hole set up I’ve ever seen of just diving deep into stuff, I mean I was just so exhausted, had so much information thrown at me, where, when I left on Day 1 my brain hurt so bad, like, I couldn’t even do anything the rest of the night, I was just … it was like you’re cramming for a college exam — 
 
DAVE:  Right.
 
DEREK:  And you could not take … retain the information any more. So, it was a lot thrown at me, but I took the information that I had and started breaking it down into different smaller pieces and stuff, and, you know, we ended up doing, I believe it was in 2017, we had about a $400,000 spike in sales, which I contribute to, you know, attending these events, you know, just thinking differently. 
 
The whole thing in this, on the business side, we all get into that same mindset, but we have to think outside the box, we have to be inventive. We can’t be relying on the affiliates to give us the work — the Bostons, the Empires, the Commonwealths — you have to build your own damn business to be able to make it in this world.
 
DAVE:  Right.
 
DEREK:  And especially right now, it’s showing. It’s definitely showing who’s busy, who’s moving the wheels and all that. So, getting into the events this year, I flew out to Scottsdale, Arizona. We had an AirBnb set up there and we just went in and just started trying to dive in and dissect — see where everybody was in the group. We’re all in different, you know, places in there. Billy from Arizona was out there, KJ Carter from Indianapolis, Chad Peterson in there as well, you know, Kevin out of LA was there — you know, bunch of us there. Sam Reuben. And um, we went in there and just started dissecting to see where we’re at, and started essentially building plans. Getting together, building the business plan of what we’re envisioning our business to be coming back in the rest of 2020, 2021. 
 
DAVE:  Right. 
 
DEREK:  For myself, I wasn’t more-or-less going in there to try and build a plan, I was going in there to get myself back in the business mindset. I told Bill, moving forward into it there, I said “I haven’t had my head in business really in about 5 to 6 months.” I haven’t even really thought about it — the pre-COVID stuff, going on personal issues with my own life, I just didn’t care.
 
DAVE:  Right.
 
DEREK:  And that’s being genuinely honest. I just did not care to even put forth in there, because I realized you have to have yourself in a right mindset first before you can go in and try to remotely implement stuff in business. 
 
DAVE:  Right.
 
DEREK:  If you’re not mentally sound in your life and be able to move stuff, you’re not going to be able to do a good job and you’re going to find yourself, you know, spinning and, you know, it’s just not worth it. 
 
DAVE:  Right, right. Well that, yeah, I mean I think that the collective that you had there, it’s pretty impressive because, you know, I know Sam — I know everybody you brought up — and they’re all from different kind of businesses. 
 
DEREK:  Right. 
 
DAVE:  I would say that Sam and Kevin and Billy are more corporate — airports, that kind of stuff. I think Ken’s more … 
 
(Derek’s screen goes black) 
 
Did I lose you, or are you there? (Waiting) … I think we lost Derek.
 
DEREK:  (Screen still black) Can you hear me? 
 
DAVE:  I hear you. I think the camera went out, but … Can you hear me? 
 
DEREK:  Yeah, I can hear you. Sorry, hang on. I don’t know what happened here. My phone just took a shit. (Laughs)
 
DAVE:  Hey, that’s … 
 
DEREK:  Can you hear me?
 
DAVE:  I can hear you. 
 
DEREK:  As long as you can hear me we’re good.
 
DAVE: Yeah. Yeah, totally. So back to what I was saying is, having everybody from such a diverse business, you know, you’re probably able to hear kinda what’s happening right now in the industry where retail business is the key. Are you feeling the same way, do you see the same thing? 
 
DEREK:  Yeah, absolutely. You know, for us, we’ve always been a primary retail business on it. I started getting into the corporate stuff end of 2017 and into 2018, but our main focus has always been the retail work — we’re doing wine tours and weddings. I’ve never really been focused in on the airport business, the margins are just so, so little, and, you know, the retail business, that’s — the retail business is what’s moving right now. People are tired of being stuck in their homes, they’re tired of being trapped, they want to get out and they want to do things. That’s where the work is right now, you know.
 
DAVE:  Are you seeing — I mean, you have all pretty much party buses and some executive buses, right? 
 
DEREK:  Yeah, absolutely. So I have a majority of party-style buses, I have an executive-style mini as well, and then of course we’re running the, you know, the Grech Sprinters, you know, all limo-style. And honestly the Sprinters have been the biggest during this time just because of what we’re limited to by the restrictions of where we’re at, what we can run. The buses are really just sitting. So our Sprinters are the ones that are constantly moving, for the groups of 6 or the groups of 8 going wine tasting and all that. And, you know, it’s been good, it’s been really good. 
 
DAVE:  That’s awesome. Yeah, I mean, we’re definitely not a retail business. Obviously before we got on here I was talking to you about how I was kinda looking into, you know, maybe finding a used limo Sprinter or something like that because I’ve just — what we see here, you know, we’re not seeing people flying in, we’re definitely not seeing, you know, anything to write home about. And that’s been a little tough. And so we’ve tried to diversify, you know. I think all of us here in California, and probably the Western states, are still trying to reopen. We’re not at a point where we’re reopening. So I’m not seeing a big influx of calls for going up to the wine country yet. And that’s where it’s like, ok, do I go jump into something with not getting the phone calls yet? Obviously once you have a product you start pushing that product, but it’s also one of those things where, will that product move now, or do I wait a month or two until things start to reopen? So, I mean that’s kinda, looking for your advice and seeing what your thought process is. 
 
(33:15)
 
DEREK:  Yeah, so my thought process on that … I’m just going to flip it right back into the corporate side. You know, pretty much 2017, 2016 and back — even 2018 — all I had was party-style vehicles or SUV’s, I didn’t have any corporate stuff. So what did I do? I reached out to some local affiliates that I had that I knew had decent equipment, or that had something decent in there, and we worked together, and I would put the stuff up on my website and I started practicing just selling it. And you know, I struck out quite a bit at first because I was shooting through the fence, shooting too high with pricing on there, but uh, I went in there and just tested it and just taught myself what the demands were for it. And pretty soon, once I started getting it going you know, I was farming out trips probably pretty much weekly, a couple times a week into some corporate stuff or some shuttles and stuff. And it pretty much came to a point where I felt confident in it enough that by purchasing a vehicle that I was going to be able to sustain it, and in you know 2019 obviously that was the case — I was able to sustain it, and then some. It’s more or less just getting out of your comfort zone, thinking outside the box like I said earlier, and you know, finding a way for it. 
 
DAVE:  Right. Yeah, I mean, I definitely am going to push to see where we can take this. I think I’m probably going to wait about a month to make any moves because, like I said, we’re not really open yet and it’s kind of one of those things where we’re still trying to figure out what’s going to happen, because we never know. You know, we still have November 4th to come around, and everything could change there — 
 
DEREK:  Yes.
 
DAVE:  Whatever day it is, I’m not even keeping track anymore. But, you know … I don’t know — I keep baffling myself. But that’s kind of also why I pivoted myself and went the different direction, which is the Amazon service partner, which, you know, I’m going to talk about in a different podcast for people. But you know, Derek, I don’t want to hold you up, I know you’re helping a friend move. 
 
DEREK:  Oh shit, Dave … 
 
DAVE:  Can you hear me? You there?
 
DEREK:  I lost volume, hang on let me see … 
 
DAVE:  OK. I can hear you … Are you there, buddy? Hello? 
 
DEREK:  Can you hear me?
 
DAVE:  I can hear you, can you hear me? We’re having some technical difficulties.
 
DEREK:  The volume just went, I don’t know what happened.
 
DAVE:  That’s OK. Can you … can you hear me, Derek? Good, let’s see if we can get him to log off and log back on. Yeah, he just logged off, let’s see if he’ll log back on. 
 
Sorry guys we’re having some technical issues — I forgot to mention to him that maybe being in one place would be helpful. He’ll be back on. Just to kind of chime in with my thoughts: Derek definitely opened up to a lot of things that he’s been going through and, uh, he deserves a lot of credit for being able to go through this and still be able to talk about it. These times have been very hard for a lot of people, and I keep coming back to how we need to support each other through these times and it sounds like he had a close core of people who were willing to help him, and you know, him being candid about what he went through is … fucking phenomenal. (Dave searching for words) He’s got so much strength … and, hold on he’s back. We got him back! There he is.
 
(37:10) 
 
DEREK:  (Screen visuals working again) Alright, here we go. We’re good. I don’t know what happened! I just had to close out and completely re-do it again. So I’m glad we got video and audio again, so sorry about that. 
 
DAVE:  No worries. I was actually just giving you a lot of kudos that you can listen to when you listen to the podcast.
 
(Derek laughs)
 
DAVE:  I was just saying that I think that your story is not like anybody else’s — it’s yours — but people could relate to it. And the fact that you were so candid and open about it, I hope people will take from this to reach out to people that care to help you through the struggling times, because it’s never easy — nothing’s easy, we know that. 
 
And, you know, to wrap up this conversation: What are some things that you feel like you can tell people who are kind of going through what you are to keep their head up — like, what do you think? Give your last thoughts.
 
DEREK:  Yeah, so my kind of wrapping up, my final thoughts — you know, I would say people that are going through, just going through stuff, you know even similar or know someone that’s going through stuff in this is always to remember to keep your head up and always remember to reach out to positive people in your life. There are people that come in your life and there are people that go in your life, but always remember to go to someone in your life that is there that’s a true friend, that’s going to be there for you no matter what, that’s not going to judge you on what color shoes you’re wearing, what color hat you have, you know, what kind of car you drive — whatever the case may be. How much money you have in the bank. All that bullshit doesn’t matter. Someone that’s going to genuinely care for you. And don’t be afraid to reach out for help, that’s the number one thing — you cannot find yourself where the walls are closing in, because you’re going to find yourself in a situation like I did, and you know honestly, it’s not a pretty thing to be in. At all. 
 
DAVE:  Yeah, it definitely isn’t. And having a good therapist, having a good core of people that you can keep close and that you feel like you can get a positive support system, that’s important. 
 
Derek, I want to thank you so much for coming on here with us. It takes a lot of courage to talk about what you’ve been through — you definitely came out the other side better.
 
DEREK:  Yes.
 
DAVE:  I can see it, I can hear it, and I hope that you continue your path, and I truly believe that we’re all going to take from this COVID situation for our business and realize what not to do. How to slim down and get a little less stress off of our backs so that we don’t have to go through it all over again.
 
DEREK:  Exactly.
 
DAVE:  So, thank you, Derek. I wish you the best. I know we’ll be chatting soon, and uh, for everybody who’s listening, we’re going to put some links to some support groups that we know of for you to connect with. Derek, how do people get ahold of you if they want to talk to you? 
 
DEREK:  Yeah, so you can reach out to me on Instagram, Facebook, give me a call — you can drop my cell phone in there, I have no problem talking to anybody at all that has questions or even just struggling through it, you know. I hope this podcast can help someone out that’s struggling in life that’s in our industry or you know, not in our industry — just someone that’s struggling. I want to be able to help any way I can. 
 
DAVE:  Yeah. Well, again, thank you so much for your time, Derek, and we’ll chat soon.
 
DEREK:  Sounds good. Peace, guys.
 
DAVE:  See you, buddy.
 
(Outro music: the same percussion beats and cymbal)

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