Name: Michael Potter
Job Title: Driver, Personal Assistant and Bodyguard
Where: Los Angeles, CA
Employer: Author Stephen J. Cannell
Years of Experience: 24
Education: 3 Years of College
Salary: Typical chauffeur job salaries: $50-$80K and up
Chauffeur Jobs: Pay Rates for Limo Drivers
You see them on Entertainment Tonight and on the E! Channel: limousines galore. Celebrity lifestyles and chauffeur jobs seem very glamorous, but behind the glitz, a limousine chauffeur has to navigate crazy traffic and find parking places, all while looking smooth as air. To find out what chauffeur jobs are really like, we spoke to Michael Potter, a driver, personal assistant, and bodyguard for TV series creator and author Stephen J. Cannell.
In this interview, Michael discussed pay rates for chauffeur drivers, how to become a limo driver, the typical requirements of chauffeur jobs (also mentioned at LATimes.com) and advice on how to get chauffeur jobs. Keep reading for an insider’s scoop on how to become a limo driver.
Chauffeur Job Description:
My main function is to drive. In addition to that, I am running errands, taking clothes to dry cleaning, grocery shopping, I have even babysat. My employer has several cars; I am in charge of maintaining the cars, keeping them running and looking good, for when he wants to jump in one. Imagine if you didn’t have to do anything that wasn’t fun in your life, you had someone to go out and do it for you. That’s what I do. There have been times I will do research for my employer; I’ll read books and articles, and give him the breakdowns.
How did you become a chauffeur?
I managed a Von’s Grocery store for ten years in San Diego and was tired of it. My older brother called me up and said, “If you want to move up here to Los Angeles, we’ll buy a limousine and you can start a business.” So I moved to L.A., printed up business cards and made flyers. I went around to tuxedo shops, funeral homes, wedding planners, hotels, and just put my cards everywhere. I got some business, but you have to pay a lot of money to get chauffeur jobs.
So I owned my own limousine company, me and one car. My oldest brother was the president of Financial News Network (FNN). His director of operations left FNN (now CNBC) to build a studio for Stephen J. Cannell. He called me and said, “Stephen J. Cannell needs a driver.” My business wasn’t doing real well, but I didn’t want to move to Pasadena, where Stephen lives, because I live at the beach.
Jump ahead a few months later, he says, “We used the maid’s husband, but he wrecked the car twice and gets lost all the time. Why don’t you come meet Stephen?” My business was doing even worse, so I thought, “What the heck, I’ll come meet him.” I started work the next day. Just like that.
Do you recall any memorable moments from your chauffeur job?
My very first day working for Stephen J. Cannell. It was midday, I was coming out of the office restroom and I saw these two guys walking in front of me with holey jeans and t-shirts. They walked right through the secure door and into Stephen’s suite. I followed them. One of the guys said to Grace, Stephen’s assistant, “Grace, you got the ‘bleeping’ FBI following me?” The guy turned around and it was actor Robert Conrad. He and I have remained good friends ever since. I invited him to my wedding. He is just a wonderful man and I treasure that moment.
Is it glamorous to have a chauffeur job in Hollywood?
Yes, I know all the best driveways in this city. You go to the fanciest places in town and you’re in the driveway. I’ve met a lot of neat people. I’ve met virtually every star who has ever worked for Stephen J. Cannell, and some who haven’t, like Quincy Jones. I drove him around for a couple of days. That was pretty cool. He was a really neat guy.
Do you have any advice for those wondering how to become a limo driver?
You have to be a good driver. You need to know the city. When I moved to Los Angeles, I didn’t know the city at all, that was a bit of a handicap. So I would draw a map for myself, before Mapquest.com, when we used the old Thomas Guide books. I would be prepared so I would not make wrong turns. These days you have satellite navigation systems, so it’s very easy.
For those who want to work for a driving service, one of the questions they always ask is, “Do you know where all the hot spots are?” “Do you know where this club is?” “This hotel?” “This restaurant?” So you gotta know the buzz of the city, regardless of what city you are in.
Can you describe some typical pay rates for chauffeur drivers?
There are two kinds of chauffeur drivers, ones that work for a service, like a limousine company, they get an hourly wage plus tips. I think a good driver is going to average between $50-80K a year, maybe a little bit more, if they are full-time. The other type of driver, a private chauffer, works for one person: those drivers can earn in the $50-150K salary range.
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- Chauffeur Jobs: Median Salary by Employer Type