'Day Off or Not!'

Earlier this week, I was due to have a networking day. Typically they are a Wednesday which this week started again at 04:15 when I woke on the alarm, took Clover our GSD out for a walk, before getting ready for a BNI networking meeting at Swindon which starts at 06:45. At these meetings it is an opportunity to net work with in excess of 35 local business leaders plus any visitors who have become like colleagues and friends.

BNI

After the actual meeting I also had the opportunity in having a 121 meeting with one of the members. After the meeting once back at our Royal Wootton Bassett base, I dealt with a few emails and then went to a 4Networking lunchtime meeting at Chippenham starting at 12:00, but being one of the leaders I needed to get there by 11am. All going well so far.

Then, I had a phone call, before the 4N meeting actually started from an existing client, asking can I pick up his colleague from Swindon at 14:00 to take to LHR T5? Naturally, I responded yet I’ll be there. Question I had to consider is this - Client's needs or networking? Yes, its a no brainer - I gave my apologies and planned to leave for our base.

Thankfully I just had enough time to grab a bite to eat while talking to various people at the 4N meeting, and then had to leave while the meeting continued until 14:00 at Chippenham.

Once back at our base I just had enough time for a quick change of clothes, grab some supplies for my client and then off to Swindon. Thankfully he car wasn’t too dirty, even though it was not as clean as I usually like - the priority this time was the deadline for the ‘last minute.com' for my client! 

The deadline was to get the client to T5 before 15:30. In spite of traffic delays caused by an accident on the M4 with am ambulance weaving through the traffic, we arrived at 15:25 and within all legal road limits.

Heathrow Terminal 5

Objective served and client was happy and relaxed.

This is an example that under extreme circumstances we are always seeking ways to help our clients out even when the notice is short.

On the way back I managed to squeeze in another meeting at Reading to discuss strategy  ]before heading back home.

That evening - it was time to wind down with another GSD walk before getting some shut eye.

 

DB Wedding Cars & Executive Travel shortlisted in first ever The Whitewed Directory Awards

OK so we are super excited to have been short listed for the prestigious award:

DBWC Shortlist Logo.png

 


It has been announced that DB Wedding Cars & Executive Travel has been shortlisted in the first-ever The Whitewed Directory Awards.
Wiltshire based DB Wedding Cars & Executive Travel is shortlisted for the Start-up Business of the
Year 2017 Award.
The Whitewed Directory is the region’s ultimate resource for grooms and brides-to- be, offering a
definitive directory of vetted and approved wedding suppliers. The Whitewed Directory Awards
were launched in June this year to recognise Wiltshire and Gloucestershire’s best wedding planners and suppliers. 
Creator of The Whitewed Directory, Natalie Lovett, said: “Congratulations to DB Wedding Cars & Executive Travel for being shortlisted in the inaugural The Whitewed Directory Awards.
“We were very pleased to launch these awards earlier this year because we wanted to recognise the high levels of professionalism and incredible standards of service we see from our many dedicated suppliers.
“It’s fantastic that we have had so much interest in the awards and are delighted to have received
many excellent nominations from around the region. All of our shortlisted nominees should feel very proud of themselves for this fantastic achievement and we can’t wait to find out who the winners will be at our exciting awards ceremony in February.”

The judges were impressed with David from DB Wedding Cars & Executive Travel’s professional approach to starting up, and his consistent stream of glowing testimonials from clients.

There are three award categories, Business Person of the Year 2017, Most Inspiring Business Person of the Year 2017 and Start-up Business of the Year 2017.
The winners will be chosen by an independent judging panel made up of three highly respected
industry professionals and will be announced at an awards ceremony taking place on 1st February
2018 at the Doubletree by Hilton Swindon.
The Whitewed Directory covers 40 different types of wedding suppliers throughout Wiltshire and
Gloucestershire, from bands and musicians to cake designers, toastmasters and fireworks suppliers.
Every company recommended has been vetted, approved and accredited with each agreeing to
abide by The Whitewed Directory & strict Code of Practice. Suppliers interested in joining the
directory can call Whitewed on 01793 238921 or email hello@whitewed.directory to find out more.
For more information about The Whitewed Directory Awards and the award ceremony,
visit http://www.whitewed.directory/ww-awards.html
Find out more about The Whitewed Directory: http://www.whitewed.directory
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WhitewedDirectory
Twitter: https://twitter.com/thewhitewed

Red Sun and Sand Storm

What an amazing week it has been! We have been exceptionally busy and the weather has been extraordinary.

I have been working hard on marketing, especially on LInkedIn, which is a big thing for me seeing as my background was being an accountant for my first 20 years of working life (refer to my earliest blogs), but during the last week, have been busy on the following:

  • Friday 13th    Pickup a business person from our local area and take to LHR returning late in the evening
  • Saturday 14thWedding in Keynsham with the same car as the day before, followed by reception at Ston Easton Park Hotel - meaning early start 8:30 and back around 3:30 just in time to go to our youngest grand daughters 1st birthday party
  • Sunday 15thMoonraker Whitewed Wedding Show at Bradford on Avon meaning another early start with Steve, one of our wedding car chauffeurs. Return at 5pm ready to be out again in the evening playing my guitar at church
  • Monday 16th     Last minute arrangement to pick up an elderly lady who travelled down from Scotland and arrived at Bristol Airport to visit family and bring back to our town. More on this story below.
  • Tuesday 17th   Lighter day, but a pre-run with my daughter Hannah, when we did the journeys that I will be doing for the Cotswolds wedding tomorrow
  • Wednesday 18th Early BNI weekly meeting at 6:45, followed by a lighter day but focussed on marketing
  • Thursday 19th Last minute request, meaning an early start at 5am to pick up a business person from Melksham, take to LHR and then a trip to Bath Apple Store to replace my new phone which I dropped a week ago. This is the only phone I have ever dropped, but thankfully I took out Apple Care Plus! Arrived home at 3pm.

 

So what was different about the Bristol run? It was the day the birds went silent, and the sun shone red and the wind deposited sheds of ‘Sahara’ sand everywhere. It was a very eery experience!

Before I left our base as on every occasion, including the 5am start on the Thursday run, my Jaguar XFS was immaculate, but by the time I arrived near Bristol Airport, when I got out one mile from the airport, I check the car over. 

The car was covered in a dusty film of sand. I had 45 minutes before the scheduled landing time. No time to spare, I just did what I do - I got out my detailing wax spray in the high winds, and cleaned the car off, including the wheels and the door frames.

Jaguar XFS Airport

I then proceeded to the airport short stay parking area, and entered the terminal. I then received an SMS saying the client would probably be last off the plane as she is an ‘assistance passenger’. 

With that knowledge, I approached the assistance desk and inquired about where I could bring my car closer to make it easier for my client. 

I was then able to move the car much closer.

On every journey whether for a wedding or executive travel, our thoughts are for the client on how we make the experience more restful and stress free for them - every time.

There is much pleasure for us in doing this and I trust makes the journey much easier and restful for our clients, whatever is thrown at us, sand and all!

Were you affected by the sand storm at all - feel free to post comments at the foot of this blog.

 

Airport Transfer Mode - part 2

Following on from last weeks blog on the outward journey to the airport, I thought I would take you all through a typical inward airport journey. The most frequent airports I currently visit are Bristol, Gatwick and Heathrow, although I am able to go to any airport depending on my clients needs.

2 days before, I SMS my client to confirm that I will be at ‘Arrivals’ for them when their plane lands, also confirming the flight number, arrival time and terminal. This again ensures peace of mind that they have not been forgotten.

Once again within 24 hours before I do the journey I ensure that I am not taking in any alcohol whatsoever. to ensure that I am fit to drive within not only legal limits but also within our self imposed limits.

Depending on when the flight arrival time is, I will prepare the car the day before or, early in the day if I am due to meet the client later in that day. By preparing the car, I clean and detail her much as I have described in earlier blogs inside and out.

Jaguar XFS

When it is time for me to leave our base, wearing a black 3 piece suit, white shirt, black tie and a chauffeurs cap, I check the flight to ensure it is scheduled to arrive on time and progress on the journey to the airport.

I arrive in time to once again clean car from the journey there, using a detailing wax spray for waterless cleaning. Since we launched DB Executive Travel, I have not noticed any other chauffeur or driver doing this - it’s attention to detail is what we are focussing on all the time.

Once I am happy with the car, having frequently checked the flight on the monitoring app on my iPhone, I make my way to the terminal with my chauffeurs cap on and iPad in hand already loaded with my clients name on it.

As I progress towards the terminal and as I make my way to the Arrivals area, I am often given a few second looks as they wonder which famous VIP I am picking up. I have now got used to this and I find it quite amusing really!

On a particular occasion, I stood by another chauffeur and checked the landed board (not landed), and as I did, I bid him good afternoon. He responded appropriately and said ‘chauffeurs cap, nice touch. I used to wear one until the car roofs were too low’.

We exchanged chuckles about that and I pointed out that yes, that is an issue and requires careful attention to avoid the obvious mishap, which is why I lower my drivers seat as low as it can go, adjusting mirrors etc and take extra care. Again attention to detail.

Landed

I keep watching the landed board and as soon as the status is updated to ‘Landed’ I SMS the client’s spouse to confirm the plane is landed. If it is delayed I SMS appropriately. When landed, I SMS my client to confirm I am here in Arrivals and will remain here until they come through regardless of how long, and ask them to let me know their coffee/tea choice once they get to immigration, so I can get it ready for them. Peace of mind and another nice touch.

As they come through Arrivals, I present them with the drink of their choice and help with their suitcases. As we make our way to the car park I check if they need anything else and I pay for the parking without passing that charge onto my client.

On one particular occasion, when my client came through at Gatwick Arrivals, I heard her very clearly say to her colleague who was not travelling with us ‘Here’s Dave, he’s mine!’ Its good that my clients are so pleased to see me!

The rest of the journey is mostly the same as the outward journey which I described last week in Part 1.

Once we have our first encounter with any client, we aim to do our best to make sure that is not the one and only time they choose us - we are looking for a longer term business relationship by providing exceptional service every time to every client.

 

Airport Transfer Mode - part 1

One of my most frequent type of trips is to either pick up or take to an airport. Whilst to some this may be thought of just jumping in a car and going to pick up and take to the airport, I thought I would describe a typical run in the way we do this as DB Executive Travel. I hope you find this interesting and provides an insight into the detail.

Before any job whether wedding, airport or special event 2 days before I text my client to confirm that I will be with them at whatever time was agreed when the order was taken. This ensures peace of mind that they have not been forgotten.

24 hours before I do any run for a client I ensure that I am not taking in any alcohol whatsoever. I know there is a legal limit, but I believe my clients deserve something better, so before I take on a job with little notice, I ensure that I am fit to drive within not only legally but also within our self imposed limits.

Depending on when the arrival time is agreed, I will prepare the car the day before or, early in the day if I am due to meet the client later in that day. By preparing the car, I clean and detail her much as I have described in earlier blogs inside and out.

When it is time for me to leave our base, wearing a black 3 piece suit, white shirt, black tie and a chauffeurs cap, I will have already checked the flight to ensure it is scheduled to leave on time - important information that I give to my client when I greet them.

chauffeur ready

Already loaded in the car, is a selection of quality magazines, daily newspaper, mints, tissues, snack bars, cooled bottled mineral water, charging cables for the current top 3 mobile phones along with a USB charging adaptor for the back of the car.

As I arrive near to the client I stop a few streets away and check the car again, wiping down the outside to ensure it is immaculate every time we ‘client face’. I adjust my seat to be as close to the dashboard as is safe to drive and the passenger front seat is already pushed as far forward as possible.

I arrive 15 minutes before due, to ensure peace of mind again, ready to load the boot with luggage.

I greet my clients and assist them with luggage ensuring they are settled inside the back of the car first of all. If raining, I ensure they are dry by escorting them to the car under our umbrella, opening the doors for them.

Chauffeur class attention

As we drive off, I check that air conditioning to set to their preference and let them know of the in car provisions available for them. The sound system remains off unless they request otherwise. My mobile is set to airplane mode to ensure my clients are never disturbed by any calls coming in for me, even though the mobile is connected to the care and is therefore handsfree.

En route the sat nav is on view so they can clearly see the progress being made and the expected time of arrival.

My standard of driving is consistently advanced meaning I look ahead to ensure I avoid harsh breaking and heavy cornering. I do not accelerate rapidly but progressively, so as to ensure passenger comfort and stress free travelling.

I provide as many nature stops as they require, and on arrival I assist with doors and luggage checking that nothing is left behind.

We are committed to the above standard for every journey, as this was what I would have hoped for when I was being chauffeur driven myself when I was working in the corporate world. Sadly, I rarely experienced this, and I now have the pleasure of providing this exceptionally high standard to every single one of my clients which is what I love to do.

 

Wedding Preparation Mode

With the summer wedding season over, we now enter our autumn season with our first wedding this weekend. You would think that after many weddings this year already we might have lost some of the excitement for weddings, but this is certainly not the case.

The week before the wedding I have completed a pre-run of the route to make sure I know where in Calne it is that we pick up the bride and father, as well as checking for roadworks and potential hazards along the way. It is also a good time to check that the sat nav has the correct locations to avoid any awkward moments on the day!

Jaguar XFS on a wedding pre-run

The next route is to where the ceremony is to take place, so on this occasion, I drove to Chippenham and went to the location and while I was there paid a visit to a really good bridal shop, Amare Bridalwear, when we could catch up and see how we are both doing.

This is one of the great things about being self employed, is that I can put in some detours to do some networking, which helps both ways.

Next stop was to go to the reception venue in the little village of Goatacre. 

Goatacre has a very special place in our hearts as a family, as a number of our parents and grand parents were resident at Goatacre Manor Care Centre in their latter days, so it was nice to drive through the village once again. 

Before we approach the wedding day itself, the chosen wedding car, our silver Jaguar XFS is washed and waxed once again and the leathers go through the cleaning and conditioning treatment as well as carpets and all the interior spruced up once again for the brides special day. 

Thankfully, our cars are always cleaned and washed very regularly so this is not a very labour intensive task for each wedding, but they are all given that special treatment. In go the interior flowers colour co-ordinated to the brides colour scheme.

Finally on the day, the car is dressed with the chosen colour for bows and ribbons. For this particular wedding as it is a local wedding, we can do this at our base. For weddings further afield, I will make that a subject of another blog.

On the day, whether myself or one of my 4 reserve chauffeurs, dress in a black suit, white shirt and colour co-ordinated bow tie - a special touch we like to provide along with the chauffeur’s cap.

As we prepare to go to the bride’s house, we arrive close to that spot and then check that the car is still immaculate and clean any marks off the car before we arrive at the bride’s home 15 minutes before the agreed time.

It is essential that when the bride enters the car, that it is spotless so there is no risk of any dirt arriving on her beautiful dress as a result of contact with the car.

Once she is on board we progress to help make her day go as smoothly and stress free as we can on the journey, driving at advanced standard, keeping the car smooth and comfortable. 

Another happy couple begin their journey of life together and we wish them every happiness and a long wonderful life together!

Day in the Life of a Chauffeur

Being a professional chauffeur means that most days are completely different. This keeps an excitement to the role and also keeps me on my toes, as I have the opportunity to meet many different people.

I thought I would write a short blog on the typical (or is there one?) day of a chauffeur.

Today started at 00:30, yes half past midnight. That is when my alarm went off and after getting ready I was out of the door at 01:45 on my way to the Grange City Hotel to pick up my clients, who needed transport to London Heathrow. I was required to collect them at 06:00, so why, do I hear you ask did I leave so early?

To answer, let me say what happened. On the journey I stopped at the last services before London, Heston, on the M4 to have a much needed coffee and short break before I arrived in Central London.

The services were empty except for one other customer in Costa and the barista. It was good to relax and once again, check the flight number and see that it was still on schedule. This is the first piece of information I give my client after I greet them.

I then set off again and made my way to a carpark near the clients hotel, where I arrived at around 04:30. This, is to wipe the car down with waterless wax detailing spray - the same product that I have described in earlier blogs when talking about detailing.

Jaguar XFS.jpg

This means the whole exterior of the car is cleaned and waxed, including the wheels and inside the doors. It is important that my clients receive an immaculate vehicle as I give every client the VIP treatment, every time.

Then, time for a short walk and to catch a few night time photographs around the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and The Shard.

Tower of London

Time came for me to arrive at the hotel, when I parked just outside at around 05:30. There were other drivers waiting their clients. I am getting used to being the only chauffeur who wears a 3 piece suit and the chauffeurs cap - it is quite interesting some of the responses I get, especially in Arrivals at airports - subject to another blog some time. I believe it adds to the occasion for my clients and treats them with the respect they deserve.

My client came outside and I was able to greet them on time. Arriving in the area early makes sure that any hold ups like traffic or otherwise, can be adjusted for making sure I arrive on time.

After loading their suitcases we left for LHR. After setting off, I checked with my clients if the air con was set for their comfort and that the person sat behind me had enough leg room. I offered them cooled bottled water, along with the snack bars, and reminding them of the mints and tissues in the door pockets.

On board are the quality magazines, but on this occasion, no daily newspaper as we travelling before they were able to be purchased.

Traffic through London around 06:00 was not too much trouble and we arrived at the airport around 06:45, in good time for their flight.

Having delivered them safely to the airport, I then headed back a further 71 miles back to our base, with a detour at the next services Reading, to have my sandwiches that my wife prepared with another fresh Costa.

Then home, and once I took Clover our German Shepherd dog out for a walk, I went to bed to catch some sleep.

Tomorrow I am up early again, but this time for a networking breakfast - it is important to keep building contacts when a family business is in start-up mode.

 

Fit to Drive?

As you will have noticed from my first few blogs, I grew up in the garage business and although I was always surrounded by cars, I only started driving when I was 17 - the legal age in the UK. Thankfully, with lots of driving practise between driving lessons, I passed first time within a few months. I did have an incentive, in that I was courting the young lady who became my wife, with whom I share my life with still.

So, before I get all sentimental, fast forward a few decades to 2008 through to 2014.

Those were our most difficult years during which time both sets of parents died following individual long periods of ill health. We were traumatised as so many people are when they loose loved ones.

Within that period in early 2011, when my mother became seriously ill and around the time when she sadly died in March 2011, and the following months, after many years of accident free motoring, I had numerous minor accidents.

My confidence in driving was at an all time low, and I was seriously doubting my ability to gain another good insurance ‘no claims’ record again. The incidents even included a misfuelling into our S Type when I filled her up with unleaded and drove for a mile until she died. This resulted amazingly in the insurance company accepting the claim with the heavy excess charge that I paid, but the cost to the insurance company was £5,000. You can imagine with no ‘no claims bonus' being granted, what that did to our premiums for many years.

Time had come to take action, and it was then in Autumn 2012, that I decided to take the advanced driving test with IAM RoadSmart. After all, the last time I took a driving test was when I was 17. I discovered that my driving ability had dropped significantly and as I expected, bad habits had crept in.

Screen Shot 2017-09-07 at 10.09.42.png

Thankfully, after incredible support from the Swindon Group for IAM RoadSmart, I passed first time on 7th February 2013. Dad was so pleased and proud!

Since then, I have made driving for me an art form, and I pride myself on being the best driver my passengers including my family, ever experience.

I am not satisfied to leave it there, so I am now working on their Masters Advanced course, and hope to have a date soon when the test will be taken - hopefully I can then announce more good news not only for me, but also for my family, friends and clients.

The IAM Advanced qualification is also very good news for insurance companies as a lot of them acknowledge the advanced qualification and award discounts. Unfortunately, however, not for a business client like myself.

With more advanced drivers on the road, driving standards are massively improved and thereby road safety. I wholeheartedly recommend the IAM RoadSmart Advanced course. I wish you all well.

Off Roading

Earlier this summer, I did another wedding in the Cotswolds area and my memories were being refreshed on the drive back in Wales that I mentioned some weeks ago that we called ‘Top Gear Challenge’.

I am so glad that before we arrive on the wedding day, we always perform what we call a pre-run of the route we will be taking. Typically, this would be from our base at Royal Wootton Bassett to the brides parents house, then with the bride and father to the church or ceremony venue, and then finally to the reception venue.

So, the week before the wedding I did that in our 3 year old Jaguar XFS, and the Sat Nav said the infamous ‘you have arrived at your destination’, I arrived, but the cottage and road was not visible anywhere. Thankfully a postman arrived at that point, so I asked and he put me right. Sorted! Everything else on the pre-run trip went fine, so we were all set for the wedding.

The day came, so I started the S Type, the chosen Jaguar for the wedding, with my wife and myself to go to the ‘pre-location’ venue, where, having done the distance to the area we are picking up the bride, we then clean the car again and dressed it with bows and ribbons. This makes sure the bride has a pristine car even though we travel a distance to her.

Before we set off, I put the post code into the Sat Nav for the ceremony venue which was also the reception venue, but the Sat Nav did not recognise the code. 

Thankfully, with my wife looking after my phone, we used ‘Maps’ and set off to the venue and when there, I added the location as a ‘Favourite’. We were all set.

While I was doing the actual journey to the venue with the bride and father, who were delightful, they mentioned to me about going up a hill on a track parallel to the venue, so they could have some photos taken there after the ceremony with the bride and groom. Knowing the venue, I was aware of track, but hadn’t been on it before. When I arrived at the venue, the track was in the distance, and it didn’t look too much of a challenge, so I agreed.

S Type off roading

The time came when the bride and groom as well as the maid of honour were in the car and I drove along the track and up the hill. However, the track had grass growing in the middle meaning that my car was scrapping on the mud and grass! As the incline got steeper, I was hoping and praying all the time that my wheels did not spin, especially as the guests were present! Thankfully, we arrived at the top of the hill and the bridal party had their photos taken.

Then, to come down again, this meant that I had to take it even more carefully and balance my wheels on the central grass ‘track’ and the verge to avoid scraping my under carriage again. My wheels began to slip but I carefully guided the car down and we were safe again.

Another satisfied bride and groom having once again gone the extra mile. I think I may be more careful about accepting these unofficial ‘Top Gear Challenges’ in future though!

Using DoDo for Claying

This is the final part of the mini series on how I prepare our cars for weddings and executive travel and specifically steps 5, 8 & 9 I mentioned in the first blog on the series a few weeks ago. 

  • Use a clay cloth with juice to remove the deeper road grime
  • Apply deep polish to remove swirls etc and polish off with clean microfibre cloth
  • Apply deep carnauba wax to lock in the shine and give further protection and buff up with clean microfibre cloth 

Initially, it is all about preparing the surfaces ready for polish, which is done with the clay cloth. Some people use a clay bar or clay mitt and which ever you use is all about personal preference. Although I am not sponsored by them, I have been giving a shout out to the supplier I buy all my detailing products from and this edition is no exception, so once again The Clay Cloth Company (CCC) have all these products online and I fully recommend them and their service, and a lot of the detail descriptions I have been giving of these products is taken from their website.

So what is a clay cloth used for and why? It is an effective method of removing bonded contaminants from the surface of exterior automotive finishes and glass. Decontamination of the paint surface is critical in order to take correct care of automotive paintwork for a multitude of reasons. For exceptional results using clay car cleaning products, the removal of contaminates before polishing provides a clean canvas, preventing  dragging particles across the panel during the polishing stage which will actually produce a marring effect, resulting in a duller finish. Marring can only be corrected by machine polishing with compound, to restore the lustre; this process can be both time consuming and expensive even for the professional and  is not without risk either. Poor skill levels when machine  polishing can produce burn through, which will require a  visit to the body shop. Other potential hazards include leaving swirl marks or compound trapped in awkward areas, which look unsightly. 

Having mentioned the above, currently I do not use a machine polisher, and that is one of my next acquisitions, so at the moment I polish and wax by hand.

To assist the clay cloth process, I also use Dodo Juice from the CCC, which applied with shampoo and water, help keep the clay cloth moist and working most effectively.

Once the surfaces have ben fully clayed, rinsed and dried off the next stage is applying the polish.

Currently, I use ‘A Grade Refinishing Glaze’, which is a very easy on and easy off polish that can be worked into the surface, providing a good base upon which to apply the wax.

I use Killerwaxx Carnauba Paste Wax which again is very easy on and easy off, which includes Grade #1 Brazilian Carnauba Wax which is 100% pure. It's the strongest you're going to find on the market and will provide valuable protection for 6 months. In my experience, the shine is like no other. 

applying wax

It has been said in the detailing trade that it is difficult to get a deep long lasting shine on silver cars, and as you will know by now our Jaguar XFS is silver and we make sure that our clients travel in a clean and shiny vehicle to all their destinations.

Finally to answer the question about how frequently to I wash and clean the cars - this depends on the frequency of the weddings and executive travel jobs we do. 

Our commitment is to ensure that our cars are in a pristine condition inside and out every time we present them to our clients, so although they may leave our base in that condition, when we travel to pick up a client, we stop a short distance away and check the cars over and if necessary, wipe them down with a microfibre towel, applying water if necessary and sometimes apply more detailing carnauba wax. 

You will also notice when I remember that I use detailing gloves - recommended if you are planning to use any products on a very frequent basis.

Detailing wax at a 'pre-location' before a wedding

Thank you for taking the time to read this series which is not an attempt to provide a tutorial, but just a guide to what we do to prepare our cars.

Its All About Timing

My initial plan this afternoon was to snow foam 2 cars, shampoo, rinse and dry off. This is following a family pick up from Heathrow T5 with loads of luggage in the silver XFS and take back to Gloucestershire. The weather early this morning was wet, so the car became very mucky.

However, as I applied all the snow foam as discussed in my last blog, to both cars, it was raining a little, and as so often happens in our country, the rain turned into what can be loosely called a mini monsoon. Snow foam now off with no soaking effect - its all about timing!

Screen Shot 2017-08-18 at 16.28.05.png

Some times my timing is better, but I have to admit other times I get it completely wrong and in this instance that is the situation. Timings for weddings and executive travel are meticulously checked and learnings can always be made, so I never become complacent. So, this afternoon, it is blogging time.

Enough about timings, so picking up from last week, I would like to talk briefly about alloy and tyre treatments and exhaust pipes.

There are a myriad of different products on the market, that can do the job, so it is a matter of own individual preference on what to use. That said, I am happy to recommend the ones I use and the reasons why.

Alloy treatment - if alloy wheels have been left unattended to for years, then it is inappropriate to expect cleaning them will bring them totally back to their former ‘new’ glory, so it may mean having them refurbished, where most dents and scratches and brake dust contamination can be removed, and the alloys recoated.

This is a professional skill and I have used a local supplier Platinum Alloys for this who always do a sterling job.

When I jet wash the car, I also do the same to the wheels, and with them still wet, I currently use Devil’s Mist Fallout Remover and Wheel Cleaner, from The Clay Cloth Company mentioned in last weeks blog. 

Brake dust contains high levels of iron and once in contact with your valuable alloy wheels, it can start to corrode the surface if there are small pin holes in the clear coat. Devil's Mist will turn red due to the chemical reaction during use which will indicate contamination! Once dry, the alloys can then be washed again using shampoo which brings the shiny alloy back.

Also on wheel preparation is tyre treatment, for which I use Killerwaxx Tyre Gel from the same supplier. This is a very simple wipe on to the wall of the tyres which then transforms them into a shiny black surface, that soon dries.

Lastly exhaust pipes. All the exhaust pipes on our cars are stainless steel, but they still need to be cleaned to retain their gleaming brightness. Currently, I use the same paint surface polishes, which will be discussed in the final blog on this mini series next week.

 

It's Snowing in Summer!

Continuing the mini series on preparing our cars for either weddings or our executive travel services, one of my favourite stages is applying the snow foam.

So why do I use snow foam as the initial step and is this done every time and what is it? 

I snow foam only when the car is really filthy as a pre-wash stage.

A pre-wash, utilising snow foam is extremely effective as softening damaging particles, traffic film, bugs and bird droppings before you carry out a hand wash and it works by drawing these away from the paint surface, wheels and any area where snow foam is applied. 

The ValetPro snow foam I use, is essential to prevent swirl marks, scratches and any other damage being created from these damaging particles which can easily occur during conventional washes without a pre-wash. The key is remove as much dirt as possible without actually touching the paint surface!

At this stage, it would be helpful to let you know where I purchased most if not all, of my cleaning supplies from, which is The Clay Cloth Company (CCC). Quick ‘shout out’ to them as they have been most helpful and are always available should I have any queries on the ‘how to’ for any task.

Snow foam lance.jpg

Snow foam is applied with a jet wash, but by attaching a snow foam lance which the water goes through with the soap foam solution being mixed with the water at predetermined levels. Snow foam provides a layer of white foam which completely covers your vehicle and this is left to work its wonder, usually for approx 10-15 minutes.

Snow foam.jpg

Then, the car is jet washed as normal, leaving much less dirt on it than before.

Afterwards, I use cherry snow foam, as a shampoo supplied as above with a lambswool wash mitt and dry off with microfibre drying towels.

I used to use a sponge and leather chamois which I had being doing since I first washed my cars back in the 70’s, but changed to a mitt and drying towel when we went professional last year, with much better results.

You may have heard people talk about using a clay cloth or clay bar, indeed I mentioned this process last week. I will leave this however, to a later time when I will explain the extra processes needed when performing a deep polish and wax on the vehicle.

Once the surfaces are totally dry, the shine can be enhanced by using detailing spray, which applies carnauba wax to the paint surfaces. The product I use now is CCC’s own Detailing Spray Waterless Valet, which is applied by a spray bottle and worked in with a softest and most scratch resistant microfibre cloth available on the market - or so I am led to believe! This requires very little effort - honest!

The finish is amazing, but is fully dependant upon the work done before and that includes the deep polish and waxing I mentioned but have not yet explained. 

Finally, for windows I use Killerwaxx Extreme Window Cleaner (no spelling mistake there!!), again with a Microfibre Professional Glass Cloth. The results are again incredible and I have never failed to have a smear free windscreen or windows. Fully recommended!

Still to come, is wheel and alloy treatment as well as exhaust pipes, how to prepare the inside of the car, and also clay cloth, polish and waxes. As you are beginning to appreciate, cleaning a car is not just about splashing on some shampoo and drying off - preparation is key to the way we present ourselves to clients whether for awedding or corporate travel, airport transfers, events or special occasions. We aim to provide an immaculate car to every client, every time whatever the weather.

So, I have 2 weddings and an airport transfer coming up this weekend, so I’m off to clean a car. Bye for now!

Washing Day Again!

I mentioned at the end of last week’s blog since our family holidays in our blue S Type, that she has been given a deep clean and now that she is only used for weddings. This leads me to answer what many have asked me since we turned professional - how often do you clean your cars as they are always pristine?

Well, to state the obvious, they do get very dirty on our country roads especially when it is raining. Having said that, the S Type is only taken out when the roads are dry unless we are doing a wedding in her when the weather is bad. Although she is very reliable she is still an old lady and needs to be respected to preserve her!

Needless to say I do enjoy bringing both our ‘working’ cars back to their normal glory when they have got messy.

Before each wedding the car that is being used, is cleaned immaculately and new fresh wax is applied. Additionally, we clean and condition the leathers in the car and give the whole inside a full clean, including inside the doors around the hinges as well, to ensure that the passengers who enter the car need not fear about any dirt getting on their clothes, especially the brides beautiful dress!

For the silver XFS, not only is she cleaned for weddings, but also before any executive travel journeys I do in her for clients, like airport transfers, events, special occasions, or taking clients to other parts of the country for a long weekend, when driving the long distance is just too much for them.

Additionally, when we have to travel a distance either before we pick up the bride or client for executive travel, the car becomes dirty to varying degrees from the road grime on the journey to the client. This means that we set off much earlier to ensure that we have the chance to clean the car again before we meet our client. 

Our intention, is that whenever we meet a client, the car is presented in a totally clean state when they enter the car. Not only is the car cleaned from any dirt when we arrive close to the pick up point for our client, but more detailing wax is applied - subject to when it is not actually raining at that time. Should it be raining, we ensure the car is clean in any case as much as is possible.

So you see, cleaning our cars is done frequently.

Soaking snow foam.jpg
waxing.jpg

So very briefly, to pull this week’s edition to a close, when a car is extremely dirty, we follow the below steps, with the twice yearly additional deeper cleansing as indicated:

  1. Apply snow foam with a snow lance attached to a jet wash
  2. Leave to soak for 10 minutes
  3. Jet wash the car
  4. Wash the shampoo and a woollen mitt
  5. Use a clay cloth with juice to remove the deeper road grime (twice yearly)
  6. Jet wash the car
  7. Dry with microfibre drying towels
  8. Apply deep polish to remove swirls etc and polish off with clean microfibre cloth (twice yearly)
  9. Apply deep carnauba wax to lock in the shine and give further protection and buff up with clean microfibre cloth (twice yearly)
  10. Apply detailing carnauba wax to all surfaces except windows to add more shine and protection, including the stainless steel exhaust pipes  
  11. Apply special window cleaner and buff with clean microfibre cloth
  12. Wheels are also cleaned with using specialised fluids and dried before applying tyre gloss and then finally adding the rim coating to protect from further dirt build up

I will leave to another blog describing the types of materials I use inside the car and outside, why and also where I resource them from to a later blog. I hope you find the above helpful and interesting.

Recalculating…

Several years ago, during the winter, I was trying to get back from Hull and many of the roads were so flooded they were impassable. It was just before this journey that we as a family decided to get a SatNav, thankfully before and not after! As I approached one road after another but still heading South, the roads were blocked so I had to divert and take another route, causing the SatNav to recalculate the route and we tried again. The total journey that usually took between 4-5 hours actually took 10 hours!

The SatNav managed to save me many hours on my business travels, but also on family holidays. As with most inanimate objects used by our family, SatNav was quickly given a name, Jane. We had many adventures with her, but a few have stuck with me - the ones that caused the most stress mostly!

I recall one particular holiday in Pembrokeshire with my wife, our youngest daughter and our German Shepherd Beulah. We found a beautiful beach, Cwm-Yr-Eglwys, and as it was quite late in the day, we decided to have Jane save the location as a ‘favourite’, meaning that no matter what angle we were approaching on another day, we would be able to find it again - perfect!

A few days later we decided to make a day of going to Cwm-Yr-Eglwys. As we were getting closer to the beach, Jane took us down a road that looked like a nice little shortcut through the pretty Welsh countryside. Living in rural Wiltshire, we were quite used to narrow lanes that usually open up into larger lanes, however I was a little concerned when we came across grass growing in the middle of the road. As we headed further along it, the trees got thicker overhead and the verges were closing in on us with rocks sticking out in places - not just soft grass and ferns! After coming so far, I decided it was best to keep going forwards slowly rather than risk attempting to reverse all the way back up to the main road.

The only way forward was for us to each open our windows, the road was too narrow to open the doors, and check a couple of feet ahead to see if the S Type would be able to move forward without causing damage. When I received the all clear, I moved the car another 2 feet, then we each checked again and continued until we were past that stretch.

The next hurdle was a hairpin bend which, when I was negotiating it we noticed some walkers who seemed to watch us with disbelief. As I continued to work my way round the bend so to speak, I called out to them that we were on a ‘Top Gear’ challenge!

Amazingly, we came across a house with a nice couple who told us the best form of transport in that area was, surprise surprise, boat or a very small car! They explained that Cwm-Yr-Eglwys was in fact not reachable on that road. It would come to a dead end just before the beach! Thankfully, before the dead end, there was a turning onto another road that would get us back to the main road and we could get to the beach on the original road we'd used a few days earlier. No need to reverse up that road! 

We did eventually reach Cwm-Yr-Eglwys, which Beulah enjoyed enormously after being cooped up on the back seat of the Jaguar next to our daughter for a long time. 

After many family holidays with a few similar, though not quite as bad, experiences and a German Shepherd, our S Type survived and has since been lovingly cleaned, polished and thoroughly vacuumed throughout. She is now enjoying her retirement as a wedding car!

Why Jaguar?

On my travels and at the networking meetings I attend, I am often asked why I chose Jaguars. When I purchased our first Jaguar 11 years ago, I was working within a global corporate company and previously owned a Vauxhall Omega.

At the time when we needed to change our family car, which was also used to travel for work, Vauxhall no longer manufactured Omegas and didn’t produce anything near the size that we had become used to. So, having driven Vauxhalls for many years, I had to go on the search and test drive many different cars.

When I was being chauffeur driven for the corporate job I was often in BMW or Mercedes Benz, and although they are the normal chauffeur cars, they were not quite what I was looking for.

We first tried Volvo, Ford, VW, Audi and Jaguar. To be honest although the most comfortable we drove was the Jaguar X Type, we thought that there was just no way we could either afford one or would feel too embarrassed owning one being that Jaguars, were usually regarded as for the super rich when I was growing up!

We also test drove a Saab, but even that was not comfortable enough for us - we were beginning to run out of options and really, my heart was set on buying a British car.

So we went back to the garage to see what deals could be done, and Grange Jaguar at Swindon did not disappoint! We soon surprised ourselves in buying the 2005 Jaguar X Type 2.0 V6 SE in deep Pacific Blue.

The day we brought the X Type back with our faithful Omega besides

The day we brought the X Type back with our faithful Omega besides

Now, the timing of this purchase was critical not only for us, but also a couple who we were due to provide a wedding car for. They expected to be using the Omega when they asked us. 

I placed the order for the X Type and while at the garage, I made a phone call to them saying something like this…. ‘Hello, it’s Dave. You know we are providing your wedding car, well we have just sold it and we no longer have it……….. instead we will be picking up a Jaguar X Type the week before your wedding - would you like that instead??’

The answer was just as we hoped for, but even better… it went something like this…. ‘That is just amazing, what an incredible treat and surprise, my fiancé has always dreamt of having a Jaguar for his wedding. Thank you so much Dave’

Our Jaguar prepared for the first big cat wedding!

Our Jaguar prepared for the first big cat wedding!

One of the biggest pleasures was not only doing several weddings, as well as for our 2 oldest daughters’ weddings, but also taking my father out for a drive. He had always loved the Jaguar brand but was never able to own one even though he owned with his brother, my Uncle Gordon, a garage that sold new British cars and used cars for many brands.

That car served us well as a family car as well as for business and weddings until we part exchanged it in May 2009 for another big cat. Our long term relationship with Jaguar as a brand was developing! 

 

Presenting.....

During the corporate jobs over the past 15-20 years, I was required to do many presentations, stand up and address varying people of different levels in the companies. As I've mentioned in past blogs, travel was a big part of my previous job. I was required to go Milan, Italy a few times to do some training and presentations, although there is one trip I will not forget. 

The day I was travelling I was required to go to the company HQ at Slough. Following the meetings I had there, I was whisked away to the airport by the corporate chauffeur. He took me swiftly to Terminal 3 where I paid up, got out of the car and made my way to the nearest departures board - the plane was on time. All going to plan… Or so I thought!

My laptop bag seemed rather light. I checked it and found that my laptop was not inside, it was still on my desk in Slough! I definitely would need it in Milan as I was doing some training at the office. All of my information was on the computer.

I rang the office who gave me the phone number of the corporate chauffeur. I then rang and he agreed to go back to the office, collect my laptop and bring it to the airport. He made it just in time for me to get through Security in time to board the plane. Thank goodness for the kindness of the chauffeur!

The experience of giving many presentations in different environments has put me in good stead as I now need to present in networking meetings but also to key individuals in companies and hotels. Except now it is on a subject that I really can say I am passionate about. 

After planning what to write for this blog, I was presenting at a networking meeting from my laptop. When I arrived at the venue I proceeded to set up my TV screen that I was using, got out the cables to connect it to the laptop, reached in my bag for the laptop… It had happened again! Except this time the laptop on my desk at home and I was the chauffeur, so I couldn't nip back and get it in time for my presentation. I managed to improvised by using my iPad. My opening line was ‘I’ll just connect my iPad to the screen’, at which point I placed the iPad on the top of the TV screen which thankfully caused quite a few laughs. Many people congratulated me on the presentation, so no harm done!

iPad.jpg

Turkish Delight...?

Last week’s blog mentioned about seeds being sown for the chauffeur business, although, at that stage I had no plans to change my career any time soon. The global company I worked for gave me plenty of opportunities to travel abroad, which I loved for many years. More often than not when I was overseas, the business trip was very much like this: taxi from the airport to the hotel, the next morning, taxi from the hotel to the office and at the end of the working day, taxi back to the hotel, change clothes and then taxi to the evening meal somewhere other than the hotel if we were lucky, then taxi back to the hotel and repeat.

So, you can see being sat in the back seat allowed me time to experience the varying standards of driving in many different countries. One of the worst I have ever experienced was in Istanbul Our team were being taken back to the hotel late at night by two taxis. The drivers drove at an unsafe speed, braked erratically, cornered sharply with the result that we were literally being thrown about. We were fearing for our lives when, for some reason, it seemed they stopped in the middle of the road and refused to go any further. We had to pay and get out - I have no idea to this day why and all I can think of is that perhaps we hit a time limit for those particular drivers shift.

So perhaps it was a blessing that our taxi driver threw us out! The drama didn’t stop there though as when our team tried to find our way back to the hotel, the rest of the team decided to go to a night club, which I didn’t want to do, so I was left on my own to find my way back. There was no way I was going to attempt to find another taxi and potentially risk my life again!

Thank goodness for 3G and an iPhone - I turned on Maps and entered the name of the hotel, which it found immediately and I proceeded to walk the 3.5 miles back. However, it was a race against time as my battery was getting low. At least it was quite hot weather in the middle of the night and not raining. 

I took the shortest distance to the hotel, walking past a group a people when I couldn’t fail to notice some poor person was on the floor being kicked and beaten - something inside me was being torn to help him, but I decided the best thing to do was to keep looking straight ahead and walk through the crowd literally praying as I did.

Thankfully the same time my iPhone battery died, I could see the neon lights of the hotel high above all other buildings. I finally arrived at my room, safe and thankful.

Turkish delight.jpg

I did however, find the people in that city very welcoming and their turkish delight was the best I ever tasted - the family enjoyed them too!

Enter Mr Bean!

During my time working for a company that was in Swindon, I was given the opportunity for overseas travel, visiting a number of countries including regular trips to Copenhagen. My three daughters and I had made an unspoken deal in the family that each time I went overseas I would bring a gift I could only get from that country. Some times it was special Danish cakes and other times wafer thin chocolate that I thought was only available in Denmark. Years later my eldest daughter found that exact type of chocolate had been available in a nearby supermarket! I tried!

About 6 years ago the Swindon office was closed and most of the employees were either made redundant or were moved to the offices in Hull or Slough. I thankfully managed to negotiate a ‘work from home’ contract which required me to go to the global head office in Slough for meetings only 2-3 times per week to start with. When friends and family asked me where I was working I would innocently reply the ‘Home Office’. Most cottoned on to the joke, but one of my sisters genuinely believed I meant the Home Office in Westminster! We played that joke for quite a while, until she eventually realised!

Being home based with the need to travel to Slough frequently, meant I was often driving to Slough during the rush hour and naturally got used to driving through those difficult conditions. Then when I had to go abroad, I used to leave my car in the relative safety of the head office car park, and catch a corporate chauffeur driven vehicle to Heathrow. This gave me lots of experience of the good, not so good and quite honestly, the painful times being chauffeur driven by other people. The seeds for creating my own executive travel company were being sown.

Whilst waiting for a meeting to start at the head office, I was sat in their reception area enjoying a coffee. Unfortunately, I was blissfully unaware that every time I reached forward to pick up my drink from the low coffee table, my tie was being dunked in my mug! I only realised something was wrong when the coffee had seeped through my shirt and trousers. Thankfully I was quite early for my meeting, so I rushed to the toilets and attempted to dry my clothes using the hand dryer, very much like the famous sketch by Mr Bean!

Dazzled by the Light

Around 2001, when I was working for the software company, my employer had a job for me in central Manchester which required me to stay over during the week. As it happens, my younger sister and her family lived in nearby Preston. One evening, after work, I popped in to see them. On my way back to my hotel in Manchester, I found that I was unable to actually see the road signs indicating which junction off the orbital M60 motorway to come off. In fact, they were dazzling bright and I realised I could not focus as everything was a blur! This was very frightening and concerning. As soon as I got home I made an appointment to see my optician, who informed me, as I suspected, that I required glasses! Since that day I have always worn them whilst driving. Thankfully I have never since had a repeat of that experience I had on the M60!

In 2002, when I started working with my last employer, I was able to cycle to work just 6 miles away from home. During those initial years I was frequently visiting Derby, Hull and Slough, but also Copenhagen. In one of my previous blogs, I mentioned how I joined a cycling club around this time. Here's a photo of myself with my fellow cyclists from Team Ridgeway.

Team Ridgeway - can you guess which one is me?

Team Ridgeway - can you guess which one is me?

For the journeys in Britain that required a car, I used my own, the Vauxhall Omega; which we affectionately called 'Goldie'.When travelling to Hull from Royal Wootton Bassett, it was a 220 mile journey to the factory. But I used to get up at, what we called, 'the crack of sparrows’ and get there often by 9am ready to do a full days work. I would then head to West Carlton Country Guest House and I would often stay there for 2 or 3 nights before returning home.

West Carlton Country Guest House 2008 

West Carlton Country Guest House 2008 

I will take this opportunity to recommend them, as Tim and Caroline Maltas were always so good to me and provided a very high standard of accommodation and hospitality. Do check them out on their website as they are worth considering when you are in the Yorkshire area. We have even spent a few days on a family holiday there as I enjoyed the visits I did for work so much. Here is a photograph of their property, as it looked in 2008, during a family holiday we had then. Can you spot my youngest daughter in one of the windows?

With all the extensive travelling I have done, both abroad and in Britain, it has certainly given me a wealth of experience!