When Andrew Johnston looks back, he’s going to shake his head in wonderment. But, right now he’s too busy taking orders and picking up customers, depositing them and running back to the office.
Andrew, at age 23, is the latest entry into Barrie’s taxi scene. He’s marshalled his environmental commitment, blended it with a need that’s borne from Barrie’s growth, added in his own special blend of enthusiasm and humour, and launched E Taxi.
Right now, E Taxi consists of 5 Honda Civic hybrid cars. They run on a combination of gas and electricity that’s stored in batteries located behind the rear seats.
Andrew has taken a page from the book that says, “do it differently and people will want to do business with you.” He’s launched taxi cabs that are environmentally friendly, new, smoke-free and driven by drivers with stellar customer service. In fact, it’s the ‘attitude’ of the drivers that is the most important aspect at the hiring stage. “We, of course, look for people with a clean driving abstract, but it’s their ability to take care of customers that comes in a close second,” according to Andrew.
He opened E Taxi in October 2004. That’s when he came up with the idea. He ran a feasibility study, looked at startup and operations costs, found a location, applied for his licencing and called Bell to order the phone.
He then financed five 2004 Honda Civic hybrid cars, one white, one beige, one pearly blue. There are two others tucked away until Andrew has his full complement of drivers. He chose the Kingswood subdivision as his set up location and hung out his shingle. E Taxi–ready to go!
With trip meters installed in each car, E Taxi is compelled by law to use the same rates as any other taxi… $2.50 to start and $1.50 per km and $25 an hour averaging. His E cars are boasting 6.25 lites to 100 km… 54 miles to the gallon by Andrew’s calculation.
He said that while it’s been busy since he started, the work load hasn’t become predictable yet. That leaves the E Taxi people in chaos when it comes to trying to plan work shifts and numbers. Thursday and Friday nights are ‘bar’ nights. Andrew had been driving since the early morning when we talked. I spoke with him when he was still part way through a shift. It was almost midnight.
While Andrew is getting a handle on ‘doing’ his business… dispatching, driving, giving service, following up… the sheer challenge of all the skills needed to ‘run’ the business seems overwhelming some days. Advertising? He’s putting up notices at area pubs. He’s counting on word of mouth. He appreciated coverage from The New VR as part of the local tie in to the kyoto accord. Lower emissions of greenhouse gasses. Cheaper to run. More efficient on fuel. Andrew¹s taxis offer all this.
Running the business is the part that Andrew knows is waiting to be tackled. “I’ve gotten people to help me with the running part. I drive a shift, then come back to the office to work, then head out to drive… flip flop all day. He says he’s particularly grateful for the 12-15 regular customers who use E Taxi two or three times a week.
What kinds of performance goals has Andrew set? “Right now we average 15 minutes in call response. Some days we get a surge of business and it takes longer. But we’re growing. People call us because of our environmental commitment and some just because they need us.”
Andrew is a typical entrepreneur… jump in with both feet, start to do the business and when there’s a lull to catch your breath, take in how awesome you feel and realize just how big a task you’ve taken on.
“I have a lot to learn,” he says. No web site yet. No time. It’s busy, busy, busy at 726-8222. And this young man is determined that his business will make its mark as well as a difference.
You gotta love it! Thanks, Andrew.