If you’re thinking of opening a non-emergency Chicago-based transportation business, you’ll need tenacity and cash, but the biggest question you must answer is: What type of transportation service does Chicago need? Scour the Chicago market to learn about people-focused and package-focused services; start by visiting the Chicago Better Business Bureau’s website. Figure out where you fit on that list, and you’ll be ready to move in the right direction.
Obtain either an Illinois driver’s license to transport goods or an Illinois chauffeur’s license if you intend to ferry people around Chicago and out to the ‘burbs. Both require a clean driving record, and if you’ll drive people around, your chauffeur’s license will be contingent upon a background check. Visit the closest Illinois Secretary of State licensing facility to apply for either. If you need to study for your Illinois Commercial Driver’s License, download the study manual from the Secretary’s website.
Identify your market and come up with a Unique Selling Proposition that’s so strong, you can wrap marketing, advertising and promotional strategies around it. There are already plenty of non-emergency shuttle businesses servicing O’Hare and Midway Airports, but you can jump into that fray. The Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Company is a sightseeing star with its red, double-decker buses. Identify a need and conceive your USP. For example, Chicago has no non-emergency transport service just for women. Or, take a page from Canada’s Driving Miss Daisy Transport Service and focus exclusively on Chicago seniors.
Buy or lease a van. Head outside Chicago to take care of this important purchase as Chicago sales taxes on automobile purchases are heavy. DuPage, Lake, McHenry and other adjacent counties are loaded with dealerships selling every type of van and bus on the planet, and since you don't require a vehicle that's outfitted for emergency care, customizing costs will be minimal. Once you’ve driven your choice off the lot, obtain Illinois and Chicago vehicle stickers and permits, also available from the Illinois Secretary of State’s office.
Build fluctuating fuel costs and liability insurance into your budget; you can’t live without either if you intend to operate in Chicago, and both will claim a disproportionate amount of revenue within your budget. Above all, avoid Chicago gas stations, or you may need your own emergency services. In June 2011, Chicago had the dubious honor of having the highest gas prices in the nation. Instead, head west to Bensenville, the first village past O’Hare when driving west on Irving Park Road. Cross into DuPage County to find more reasonable pricing.
Prioritize your marketing efforts. Little things mean a lot when competition is stiff. You need a continual flow of marketing efforts to keep your non-emergency transport business on the road to fiscal solvency. If your USP is pioneering, somebody’s bound to steal your idea, but if you closely align your fees with competitors, keep your vehicle clean and well maintained, and make certain your driving record stays pristine, there’s no reason why you can’t dream of owning a fleet of transport vehicles that run up and down Lake Shore Drive.
Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.