One car, one client, one chauffeur: It’s a recipe familiar to any operator who has undertaken the daunting task of breaking into luxury ground transportation one milestone at a time. And 25 years ago this past August, it was a similar story for Bart van Leijden when he took the auspicious advice of a neighbor who ran a taxi company and suggested that driving cabs might be right up van Leijden’s alley.
The future CEO of the Dutch ETS Executive & VIP Transport then quickly realized that he did, indeed, enjoying driving passengers—though perhaps just not in a taxicab.
“If I wanted to continue with this profession, I knew I was going to have to buy a beautiful car and build a business based on corporate travelers,” he says.
And van Leijden did just that, as well as immediately began courting Rotterdam’s only five-star hotel, The Westin, which is now The Rotterdam Marriott Hotel—and still an ETS client. Securing that job quickly led to work from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs—like chauffeuring the Italian president at the time—and other government transportation, all leading to the necessity of acquiring more vehicles and hiring more staff, starting with his brother-in-law.
As ETS has since grown to include three offices—one in the Czech Republic capital of Prague, one in Brussels, and one right between the Dutch cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam—with 18 late-model vehicles: sedans like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series, Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7 Series, BMW X5 SUV, and both an 8- and 15-seat Sprinter. The Mercedes E S-Class and BMW 7 Series are the company’s two most in-demand vehicles, which van Leijden attributes to their respective brands making “just really nice cars.”
Comprising a staff fluent in English, French, and Dutch are 6 office employees, and a pool of drivers: 10 full-time ETS chauffeurs and another 40 from a driver corporation—essentially full-time IOs who work exclusively for ETS.
It is no secret that running a transportation operation in Europe can be more difficult than it is in the United States, as taxes are staggeringly high (van Leijden reports paying a 52-percent tax after profits) and regulations are stringent if not outright binding. Among those especially daunting hurdles are strict restrictions placed upon chauffeurs that make juggling their schedules a significant logistical challenge, and can carry a hefty fine if even just inadvertently fumbled.