Thursday, April 17, 2008

Driven to Succeed: Reston Limousine's Kristina Bouweiri

When Kristina Bouweiri co-founded Virginia-based Reston Limousine 17 years ago with her husband William (pictured here), she didn’t have much leadership experience. She had worked for five years in sales, but had never built or groomed a staff. In the beginning, she concentrated on being a positive, easy-going boss and didn’t worry much about boosting her team’s morale. During the booming 1990s, that approach worked brilliantly. “Sure we had some turnover,” she admits. “But the phone was ringing off the hook, so I didn’t focus on motivating employees.” Then came Sept. 11, and business came to a screeching halt.

Turning lemons into lemonade “Americans were afraid to travel, and that meant they didn’t need limos to take them around Washington,” she explains. “It was very scary.” The business downturn proved to be the perfect time to turn around her leadership approach. Kristina began reading management books, joined several professional business groups and attended luncheons where successful business people described how they led their firms. “I heard them talk about playing games to team build, and a light bulb went off,” she recalls. “It’s not that I didn’t know about the benefits of team building**dozens of companies used our limos and vans to transport their own employees to nights out on the town or other adventures. It just never dawned on me that it was so critical.”

The solution She decided to give it a whirl and organized a scavenger hunt. “We divided the staff into six teams and each group took a limousine into Washington, D.C. They had to fill a small bottle with water from the Reflecting Pool and buy a gift from Ford’s Theater, among other tasks.” Then she treated employees to a company picnic near the Washington Monument. The experience did wonders**and not just for the staff. “The outing made me realize that having fun was truly the key to success,” says the CEO who now plays on the company softball team and sponsors Survivor parties for her staff. “I learned that if you invest in making your employees happy, it comes back 100 times.” This year, in fact, her company is projecting gross revenues of $15 million.

Awards and accolades Kristina has won many awards for her business acumen, including being named one of the Top Women Business Owners in the DC area by the Washington Business Journal. Her clients range from George Mason University to Fannie Mae and the MCI Center, and often her limos carry some of the most rich and famous who come to Washington, DC for business and pleasure.

But it is Kristina's kindness, warm heart and generosity that puts her on the "Truly Amazing" list. "I cannot think of a better friend than Kristina," says Cynthia De Lorenzi, a businesswoman who in 2006 founded the networking group Success in the City. "She is one of those people who is always there when you need her, someone who goes beyond friendship and is truly a sister. I watch her share her money, her time, and her laughter with people and it always makes me smile. Even when things get a little rocky, she always has a smile on her face and a kind word to say. She's a straight shooter, but is also someone who never ceases to see the bright side of things. Kristina is one of those women you are honored to call your friend."

For more information, visit