Q: Tell us about your military service.
A: I served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1983 to 1989, at which time I had attained the rank of corporal. I was in the First Marines Division and served in Camp Pendleton, Calif.; Okinawa, Japan; Korea; and finished in Pearl Harbor.
There was no combat going on at that time, but I did earn good conduct awards and meritorious unit commendations.
What advantages did serving in the military give you when it came to owning your own business? Were there any incentives for veterans to start businesses when you started yours?
I feel it's an extreme advantage. It gives you some core values that you can take into the business world with you. It gives you a sense of camaraderie with your employees. You develop good relationships with people and that reflects well upon your business.
When I got into it, there really weren't a lot of incentives at that point. The only incentive would be to concentrate and respond to what your customers want at that point so your business can grow.
Why did you get into this business in particular?
I liked the limousine end of it because you get to enjoy everybody's most memorable moments, from a wedding, to someone proposing, to something as simple as taking somebody's grandmother to the airport. We do a lot of corporate transfers, but the most valuable opportunities to me are when you trust us to take someone to come see you or to transport your spouse or your children.
How did your time in the military prepare you for this line of work and ownership?
I think everything you do inside the military, if you take the value of it, there's an application in the business world. There's pride in yourself, and taking ownership in the good as well as the bad. The military sets a sense of discipline inside you, and that's really self-discipline.
What types of passengers make up the majority of your business? Any interesting stars?
We have transported a lot of stars over the years, and a lot of those are very discreet, so we don't publicize them. Every passenger is as important as a movie star. Every passenger is a star to us, whether they're famous or not. They are all treated with that same respect if they have a dollar in their pocket as opposed to a million dollars in their pocket.
Sixty-five percent of our business is corporate transfers, 35 percent would be considered retail (parties, weddings, etc.).
How have rising gas prices and other issues in the recession affected business?
It has affected our bottom line. We have not passed it along to our customers, nor do we intend to in the near future.
We've seen some effects of the recession — people may need a limousine for a special event, but they may not rent as large a limousine as they would have in the past. They'll rent a 10-passenger instead of the 12-passenger that they might have rented for more room and comfort. Everyone's gotten a little smarter with what they spend.
Customers recognize the value in using the car or transport. Not the dollar value sometimes, but the interaction with the people in your group. Or if you're doing a business transport, the communication you can still have in the backseat of the car. We're more Internet-based now — everyone has iPhones, iPads, laptops — and people are able to multitask in the car rather than worry about driving.
Douglas Rydbom, 47, lives in Elizabethtown with his wife, Rose. They have a 28-year-old son.
"Everything I've learned has been through practical application and a good set of ears," he said. "A good businessman is a better listener than speaker sometimes."
Rydbom founded Premiere #1 Limousine Service, based in Londonderry Township, Dauphin County, in 2001. Among several awards the company has earned is a 2011 selection in theknot.com's "Best of Weddings."
He and his wife enjoy traveling in their spare time and recently went on a cruise through the Panama Canal.