OCEAN CITY — Patrick McLaughlin might seem like the most unlikely person to have a taxi fleet in Ocean City, but if you look at his resume, he might just be the perfect fit.
McLaughlin might be the newest face to the cab industry in Ocean City, but he knows perhaps more than anyone how to succeed in the niche market of town franchises, as he owns Telescope Pictures, a little less than half of the town’s beach franchises with his 85 and Sunny beach stand company and has a small stake in the ice cream truck franchises as well.
On Monday, McLaughlin scored three of the 175 issued medallions, making him one of six new fleet companies in the resort this year.
“In a seasonal resort where business is always changing and you only really make money for 100 days out of the year, you have to jump on good opportunities and dilute your risk and find new ways to generate revenue,” said McLaughlin. “I took the offensive approach and capitalized on the opportunity at hand, because in business, if you play too much defense, then it’s too late.”
McLaughlin said that as the taxi medallion debate raged on over the course of the last two months he saw a one-time chance to capitalize on what was being offered and saw a good way to cross market his existing businesses with his new venture.
“Being in the cab business will now extend my season and will defray my costs over longer periods of time,” said McLaughlin. “It might be tough to make a huge impact on the industry with only three cabs, but I thought that having a small fleet of taxis would fit well with my existing businesses, and in essence, help build a better mousetrap by incrementally improving the way cabs do business in Ocean City by offering great customer service.”
McLaughlin could have a bit of an advantage when advertising his new taxi venture w compared to some of the other new independent or fleet companies. High volumes of local and visiting traffic frequent his Telescope Pictures locations, and with almost 50 percent of the beach stands in the town of Ocean City, McLaughlin’s cab message will most certainly get out.
“My business is always changing with technology and of course with the economy, so I saw this as not a huge investment and a perfect opportunity to piggy back this idea with the ideas that are already in place and established,” said McLaughlin. “So, I think it will all come down to how well we plug in the new idea and execute it.”
Some veteran cab operators have argued the town’s hopes of improving the industry will be virtually impossible based on the amount of cabs on the road and the number of new companies on the roads.
“The new folks that have never been in the cab industry don’t know how to make it, and they don’t know how to draw a customer base,” said ‘The Cab Guy’ Taxi owner Kenny Ethridge. “Some of these drivers that got their own medallions were the ones that were breaking the rules in the first place, and the others are just going to be waiting in line at Seacrets every night.”
“It’s not a hard formula at all the way I see it,” he said. “You treat people well, you offer them great and reliable service, and in doing so, you build a good clientele. It’s 80 percent planning and 20 percent execution.”
McLaughlin also notes that he doesn’t agree with some of the disdain coming from the existing cabbies concerning the town’s decision to instill a $1,500 medallion rule as part of the new franchise.
“I’m taking Ocean City University right now and learning about how much it costs for the government to upkeep everything that we take for granted in town every single day,” said McLaughlin. “Business costs are going up, and so are the costs to upkeep our streets and everything else that we use everyday. So, I think they gave everyone a good opportunity and I chose to take it.”