Matthew Holowinski (with employee Jil Williams), owner and founder of independent Greenberg Rent A Car, upgraded the company's image with a professional logo and employees with uniforms and nametags. Customers say they enjoy the customer service from a company they think is much bigger.
It's been a busy year and a half for Chicago-based Greenberg Rent A Car since Auto Rental News first profiled the independent rental company ("Finding Your Niche," Sep/Oct 09). Since then Greenberg has evolved from the ground up, changing from a business that worked with high-risk, cash rental clientele to one that now services corporate customers and credit card holders from its new counter at the Radisson Hotel Chicago O'Hare.
How has founder and owner Matthew Holowinski achieved this business success, even as the travel industry exits the recession?
A New Breed of Customer
Holowinski got his start by offering to take competing car rental companies' cash-only castoffs.
"I built a ground for my business on those higher risk customers," says Holowinski, who developed his career as a top salesperson at Avis O'Hare and then as an Avis independent operator. "I paid the price for that too, but that was the cost of starting the business."
"A lot of cars were coming back with slight damage or damage," he says. "It was really hard to collect from those people. We learned from our mistakes and it changed our direction completely."
"When I was doing just the referrals, I was basically on life support from my competition," Holowinski says. "I knew that sooner or later, something might happen and I wasn't going to have business from them or they're going to change the rules and I'm not going to have any business."
Holowinski knew he needed to upgrade his customer base.
A Strategic Location
An essential first step was a higher-profile location. The company moved from its original rental location in Norridge to the Radisson Hotel Chicago O'Hare, less than a mile from the airport. Holowinski keeps the Norridge location as a main office.
Both locations are just outside of Chicago's city limits, saving the company around 18 percent in taxes without losing the convenience of proximity to the airport.
He pays a reasonable flat rate to the hotel. "The hotel knows we're a new business and that they can't ask for a lot of money from us right away," Holowinski says. "It's convenient for them to offer a rental car company to their customers."
Holowinski realizes the hotel took a chance on an independent. He returns the favor by projecting a "big-business" look with a professionally-designed lobby counter and a trained counter employee who wears a uniform and a nametag.
Greenberg-the translated name of Holowinski's hometown in Poland-also runs a minivan shuttle with the company logo. "Everything looks very professional," Holowinski says. "People think that this is a big company."