When your company reaches a certain size and you are not ready to sell, you can give it a corporate polish by appointing a chief executive and stepping back from the business.
That is what the owners of Corporate Cabs did four years ago.
The four businessmen who have owned the 22-year-old business for the past 14 years hired former Incentive Solutions general manager Colin Samson, a corporate executive who had also worked for DB Breweries and Cadbury.
He was initially made sales director then promoted to chief executive.
Samson, the face of the company, says the business has grown from 120 owner-drivers when his employers bought it to 400, located in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown.
The busiest turn over more than $100,000 a year. "There are two types of operators: those who are semi-retired and those genuinely looking at working for Corporate Cabs as a reliable [career] option," says Samson.
A franchise costs from $20,000 to $100,000, depending on whether the driver wants a new car and owner-driver churn is about 30 a year.
"We have people from every walk of life - ex-military and police, ambulance officers, former courier drivers and previous business owners who want to get into something less stressful with fewer hours," says Samson.
He has created a website, www. jointhefleet.co.nz, to provide information to potential new owner-drivers.
"We are getting people in their late 30s and 40s but the average age is 58," says Samson. There are 32 women drivers, some in husband-and-wife teams.
Corporate Cabs' point of difference is that 80 per cent of drivers' work is pre-booked with clients such as law firms, hotels - including the Hilton, Sofitel and Heritage - TVNZ and airline Emirates.
"We target people who are going out in the morning and back in the afternoon. They don't have the stress of being out at night. Our drivers will take a woman passenger up to her front door."
They are also trained to open the car door, carry luggage and meet clients at airports.
Corporate Cabs also has a subsidiary, NZ Limousines, which caters to the wedding and corporate tours markets, using the same cars without markings.
The business is committed to improving efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
It has a carbon offset programme operating with Energy Mad, the Ecobulb manufacturer, and Holden New Zealand.
The programme has won the business custom with firms that receive incentives for patronising sustainable transport providers, says Samson.
Corporate Cabs claims to be the first New Zealand cab company to offer customers a smartphone pick-up request application that connects directly to the firm's electronic booking system.
The app works with Apple and Android phones.
In 2011 the cab company took the unusual step of entering the glossy lifestyle magazine market with ME, a 4000 print run bi-monthly publication free to passengers.
"We used to have magazines in the cars. We thought why not create a magazine we had influence on," says Samson.
It has attracted luxury advertising, and with publication handled by The Marketing Dept, doesn't cost Corporate Cabs anything to produce.
Make sure your business systems work well for customers and try to work alongside them.
Best business achievement
Named a Superbrand by Nielsen NZ in 2012 alongside Air New Zealand and Jockey.