NATIONAL chauffeur-service company Good Fellas has come a long way since it started with a handful of staff in 2005, growing to a bustling business with a staff complement of nearly 1500 employees.
Good Fellas, which provides a driving solution for clients who have had a drink or two too many, has recently expanded its infrastructure by relocating to a new premises that houses a 270-seat, state-of-the-art administration and customer contact centre.
The Nelson Mandela Bay central administration office moved from its premises in Walmer to Fairview and the relocation and new business centre cost a total of about R15-million.
With its head office situated in the Bay, the business has contributed significantly to job creation in the city.
Good Fellas also operates in Johan- nesburg, Pretoria, Durban, East London, Cape Town and most recently in George and Bloemfontein.
About 70% of all the business's clientele is based in Johannesburg.
The company's founder and chief executive, Jonathan Bishop, said Good Fellas was a Port Elizabeth success story as it now boasted a membership figure of 27000.
"We have our centralised admin office in PE and the national bookings are taken here and transferred to our operational branches nationally. The business is controlled from here," Bishop said.
"Good Fellas is not a taxi service, it is a membership-based service that is guaranteed. We send a driver to where you are and he will drive you home in your own vehicle.
"Although it is strictly membership-based, we do provide a once-off service for customers who are not members, but it is booked at a premium rate," he said.
Bishop described his clientele as a range of "smart, responsible people who have made a lifestyle choice".
"With our members it's not about drinking too much and getting drunk; it's about having even one drink.
"Our members are law-abiding, responsible citizens who make a planned choice not to drink and drive," he said. There are 1250 drivers who are employed on a permanent part-time basis by the Good Fellas group and Bishop said the number was going to increase to 1450 drivers by December.
There are about 100 call centre staff and 38 administration staff in PE and 20 staff based at the operational offices across the country.
"We are on a recruitment drive because we are heading into the busy time of the year."
Bishop said the company would purchase about 300 vehicles over the next 18 months. During the first phase, the company would purchase 160 vehicles.
"We work in teams of two and how it works is that the 'sweepers' would drop off the drivers who transport our clients home in the clients' own vehicles, and the sweepers effectively follow the car to pick the driver up.
"We used to reimburse the sweepers for using their own vehicles and it has been successful, but we felt that in the long run it would be more efficient to roll out our own fleet."
Bishop said Good Fellas was not competing with the taxi industry, but was merely another solution to provide a safe driving service to its members. "The taxi industry is an alternative method, not competitive.
"I am proud to be based in PE and to have an established, successful business here that has national reach. It is satisfying to have achieved that," he said.