Loyalty Above Talent and The Consequence of Betrayal

Transportation Tech Editor
5 min readApr 5, 2024
Richard Ramis, AYS Dispatch, Inc.

Two simple statements. Firstly, nobody owns a client. Secondly nobody owns an employee.

Are these complicated or simple claims? Are they right or are they wrong? When the Chicago Black hawks hired, no excuse me, drafted Connor Bedard — sorry, excuse me again: When the Chicago Blackhawks “selected” Connor Bedard in the NHL Entry Draft he became their new employee. Sometimes referred to as “hired Help” or perhaps a teammate.

The Chicago Blackhawks now own him. His obligation is to be the best Hawk he can and in a perfect world he will one day have his own statue next to Michael Jordan’s in front of the United Center.

Now if the coach of the Colorado Avalanche decides he wants Connor Bedard on his team can he simply go and poach him with a sweeter deal. That answer is yes but with many conditions. You have union rules, league rules, team rules and the such. Doable but with many restrictions. The sports business, like most big businesses, is heavily regulated. Regulation is good, especially self-regulation. Unfortunately, our industry shies away from regulation. Many acquaint regulation as government interference. Personally, I see it as functional guidelines to level the playing field giving all companies equality and fairness.

I remember meeting a very high-profile New York operator years ago who spoke of his bounty program where drivers were encouraged and paid handsomely to poach drivers from the competition. It was actually very common back in the day.

Although the employee shortage has been slowly loosening up, we had some tough years. I had one employee mention to me that one of our medical accounts solicited her for employment and offered a good package I couldn’t come close to matching. The only saving grace I had was I allowed her to bring her baby to work occasionally so I kept her. I was so angry I called the manager of the account and told her I thought it was wrong that she did that.

Her response was that their primary hospital was successfully poaching her employees and in these times all is fair.

Then there was this impressive blue-chip operator in downtown Chicago. They operated out of the Ritz-Carlton. Way back when numerous 4- and 5-star hotels had premium services operating out of their garages and many had lobby counters. This company had a unique problem. In two years four of their fortune 500 major accounts poached their favorite chauffeurs to become their in-house corporate chauffeur employees. I remember one invited me to his new office downtown. Granted it was small and he was remanded to the mail room for off service work, but he had it all. Full health insurance. Profit sharing, 401k and all the bling.

Eventually the owner of the service had to add addendums to existing account contracts stating they can’t solicit their staff for a year after they leave and added the disclaimer to all future clients.

I belong to many limousine and bus related groups on Facebook. Or as I so affectionately refer to “As the limo turns”. Some time ago there was an operator who was grieving the loss of a chauffeur to another company. What gave a unique twist to this situation was that his chauffeur was farmed out to another affiliate who is a good friend of his. It was a multi vehicle order and allegedly the affiliate’s driver solicited the farmed in driver. No 2-week notice. No nothing. He simply quit at the end of the job and switched teams. This story played out for awhile and the first thing that surprised me was the many comments alluded to the fact that if he paid and treated him well, he would not have left. I found that reasoning to be awfully cold and insensitive and likely wrong.

Employees today have a slightly distorted take on their value. In essence the servers are now the served.

Regarding owning a client. I am always reminded of an old fried Russ who is no longer with us. He was a classic comedic limousine man. One of his famous lines when booking proms was telling the parents. Remember, if Tommy or his friends vomit in the back, I am charging you $150.00 for cleaning up then another $75.00 for the chauffeur’s compartment. Mom would ask why for the front. Russ would say, If Tommy throws up then I am going to get sick and throw up. You will pay.

Russ drove a white stretch Armbruster Lincoln. The advent of the white stretch lit the flame for the prosperous 1980’s. It was the most requested limo out there and, in the day, the color beat length for book ability. Russ was a South Suburban based owner op, and I was North Suburban based. I hire him for a 3-car white wedding, and he was open and accepted. At some point during the wedding one of my drivers finds a pay phone and calls me. He says, “Rich, you told me Russ is good people, right?” I repeated, “Yes, we have worked together for years, and I consider him a good friend.”

He then goes on to explain Russ is passing out business cards to all the girls in his vehicle. I found this totally unbelievable, but my driver swore this was happening. I knew I would see Russ the next day. He mentioned he would drop at O’Hare and stop by for a check on the way home. That next morning, he walks in, and I flat out ask him. “Is it true you were carding the girls at the wedding yesterday?” He starts laughing and says, “You are not going to believe this.” I say, “Go on.” The maid of honor was my niece. I had no comeback.

What is the solution. You can’t poach proof your business, you can’t put chastity belts on your clients. It is rough out there. I suppose you simply must follow the rules. Respect the inner and outer circle and if you do it right you will persevere and enjoy life in a perfect world. Speaking of a perfect world, I just finished watching the Ottawa Senators smack down the Hawks. Perhaps Coby White will be Michael Jordan’s new neighbor before long.

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