His career as a limousine driver lasted all of one day.
"I was the worst [driver], ever. I quickly discovered that I was and am much better on the other end of the business. I was terrible," behind the wheel, George Jacobs said, laughing.
It was 1980 or 1981, Jacobs said, and he owned a car and admittedly "thought I knew it all and could drive without any training."
He was wrongand is still laughing at the memory, decades later.
He overcharged a bunch of customers, left the airport without a passenger, and was involved in a minor accident. Plus, he turned an hour-long trip to suburban Country Club Hills into a three-hour adventure.
"I might be the best operator, but also worst chauffer," he said.
Jacobs, 60, who lives in Hinsdale, is now the president of Windy City Limousine, among the nation's fastest-growing ground transportation services and the first ground transportation company to be included on the Inc. 5000 List of the fastest-growing private xompanies in the U.S. four years in a row.
It is also providing vehicles at a discount for the March on Springfield for Marriage Equality Oct. 22.
Windy City offers a diversified and impressive fleet of vehicles, and one of the company's chauffeurs was recently named the "Chauffeur of the Year" by Limousine Digest. Windy City Limousine was named the Best Transportation Vendor by Meetings and Events Magazine in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Windy City owns and operates more than 200 vehicles, everything from sedans and hybrids to 55-passenger motor coaches, including SUVs for 6 to 20 passengers, limousines, 6- and 14-passenger executive vans, and luxury mini buses for 23 and 35 passengers.
Windy City Limousine will do about $25 million in business this yearnot bad for a company that started less than 10 years ago with a payroll of $500,000, zero cars, zero chauffeurs, and zero customers.
Still, Jacobs said he "never doubted" the company's growth "because it had to."
The key, he said, "is giving great customer service. People care more about service than anything else. They want to be taken care of. They need to know that they can trust you."
Windy City Limousine, with about 300 full-time employees, has 24-hour dispatch, plus all of the modern technologies in its industry, including drive-cams in every vehicle, showing the road ahead of the chauffer in case of anything, including a bump in the road, an accident, or a swerve in the road. Windy City also boasts a state-of-the art GPS system in every vehicle, so alerts can be sent to the customer when the vehicle is about 10 minutes away. Plus, drivers used iPads to greet customersno more hand-written signs.
Jacobs, who is straight, is the five-time president of the National Limousine Association. For the past six years in a row, his company has been named the best limousine company in Illinois by Illinois Meetings & Events Magazine.
Millions of miles later, Jacobs is still having fun. "Oh God, yes," he said. "I love thisthe industry, the people, the challenges. It's so much fun, truly. Keeps me young and enthused."
Jacobs' company was a sponsor of the Gay Games in Chicago in 2006 because "I thought it was the right thing to do," he said.
His company also in 2012 was the official limousine and bus provider of the NATO meetings in Chicago, and his company also even serviced protesters to/for that event.
Windy City Limousine also has been the official limousine and bus company of the Ryder Cup, and countless movies and TV shows in the city.
"People just count on us, and that truly, truly is very rewarding. I love the business; I love the people," he said. "The gay community is a great client for us."
Windy City Limousine even has advertised on billboards with the catchy, gay-friendly slogan, "We Come Out Every Night."
"We show our unity with the gay community," Jacobs said. "There is no other community that we support like we do with the gay community."