Off the cuff

When Andrew Taylor took over Enterprise Rent-a-Car from his dad in 1991, it was an also-ran in the car-rental business.

Jack Taylor built Enterprise as the rental company that provided substitute transportation for people at home whose car needed repairs or those who needed an extra car occasionally.

Now Enterprise is the largest rental-car company in the world, the largest employer of new college graduates in the US, and is planning to move into more traditional airport rental markets.

Monitor staff writer Eric Evarts spoke with Andrew Taylor by phone about where the rental-car business is going, customer service, and what makes a company No. 1.

My dad started the business just wanting people to think well of him and to have fun. He began selling cars, then leasing, and then renting.

"I'd like to say we had this great foresight or intuition, but we really stumbled into our business [model].

"It was just a matter of listening to our customers. Somebody said they just hired a new sales manager and needed a car for two weeks before the new one arrived. Or they needed a car for their kid for a trip.

"Customer service has always been at the forefront of what we do.

"We've had people, when a customer shows up with an expired drivers' license, drive them down to the licensing agency so they can rent a car from us.

"We empower employees to make decisions early in their careers.

"We try to hire people with a lot of extracurricular activities, working outside of school, treasurer of their fraternity - we call it the EQ-'Enterprise quotient,' more than grades. They're people who know about balance; with good social skills.

"That's where customer service comes from.

"Now our customers are saying: 'Why can't we rent from you at the airport?' And that's what we're doing. We think we can provide better customer service there too.

"These infrequent travelers are pretty smart, they know what they want.

"In the future we'll see more demand for cars with high-tech electronics: navigation systems, e-mail, and such.

"[At home] more people want cars for special occasions- a convertible for a weekend outing or a minivan for a trip.

"We're seeing more people in urban areas use Enterprise as their car, and even in suburbs, people are using us as their second or third cars."

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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