Growing up with two parents who had an entrepreneurial spirit, B.J. Burton learned early on that success takes a lot of passion and hard work. When his dad was approached by florist and business owner Dick Knight several years ago about the idea of taking over the limo business, Burton never dreamed it would be as successful as it is today.
“The business was actually started in 1998,” Burton said. “My father was driving for the previous owner, Dick Knight, who also owned the florist. The limousine business took off so fast he wasn’t able to continue running the florist and the limo company.”
Burton said when he and his parents purchased the business, Limos by Knight, in June of 2000, they originally thought it would be something fun to do on the weekends, but the business quickly continued to grow.
“We started with two limos, and it kept growing and growing — now we have seven limos,” Burton said. “It went from a weekend hobby to running 5-6-7 days a week.”
Burton said he and his parents became 50/50 partners in the business, with him doing most of the day-to-day work as they enjoy retirement. He said much of his business consists of transporting corporate clients, passengers to airports and assisting with special occasions, such as weddings and birthdays.
When hiring limousine drivers, Burton said he first started out hiring friends, friends of friends and people he went to church with. He now places ads when necessary and ensures his employees receive the best training.
“I don’t call my employees drivers — I call them chauffeurs,” Burton said. “There is a difference between being a driver and being a chauffeur. A chauffeur is part of the limousine experience. My chauffeurs are trained to open doors and treat passengers like royalty.”
Limos by Knight has transported many notable passengers over the years including actresses Florence Henderson and Bea Arthur, comedian George Carlin and musical talents such as Hank Williams, Jr., Charlie Daniels and members of 38 Special.
While Burton takes pride in each passenger the company transports, he said one of his favorite parts of the job is making the dreams of young children come true.
“I work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation transporting the families to the airport,” Burton said. “These kids are terminally ill and they are going on the vacation of a lifetime, but when they hear they get to ride in a limousine — it’s all they talk about. They are so excited to ride in a limo even though they get to go on a once in a lifetime vacation.”
Burton said there really isn’t a slow time of year, as the times and trends have changed and he now stays busy year-round.
“Right now, I’m getting into my busy wedding season,” Burton said. “There are still weddings in June and July — but August, September and October are becoming the wedding months.”
He said November and December are filled with Christmas shopping and light tours, corporate business guests keep the months of January through March busy, and April is the onset of prom season.
Although he currently has seven vehicles in his fleet, Burton said he has accommodated groups as large as 52.
“I work with transportation companies that provide larger vehicles,” Burton said. “I have access to about any size vehicle they need.”
When asked if the increasing popularity of transportation services like Uber and Lyft had affected his business, he was quick to distinguish between the services Limos by Knight provides.
“Uber and Lyft is a great way for people to have less expensive transportation, but there is a huge difference between an Uber or Lyft driver and a chauffeur,” Burton said. “All of my chauffeurs have to have a DOT physical and be insured. All of the cars must be insured properly and licensed and all of the limos have to be inspected every year — it’s not like that with the ridesharing companies.”
In addition to Limos by Knight, Burton has also been part owner of Impact Marketing Consultants, a full-service advertising and marketing firm, for the past 15 years. As the Burtons look toward their 20th year in the limousine business, B.J. said he gives his parents all of the credit in the world.
“My mother and father both owned their own businesses — they are the reason I have this business. They still are partners, just kind of silent partners,” Burton said. “You’ve got to take care of your customers — you want your customers to feel comfortable — I learned that from them. I knew that’s how my dad ran his business and that’s the way I wanted to run my business. I cannot believe I have been doing this for almost 20 years and I still love it.”