CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Entrepreneurs typically prefer to do things their own way. But H.A. Thompson has not only been willing to heed the advice of others — he has sought it out. And that advice has consistently paid dividends for his Rose Chauffeured Transportation Ltd.
"I've always said, 'Show me how to do things better,' " says Thompson, a former longtime WBT radio personality who founded Rose in 1985. "A lot of entrepreneurs aren't willing to do that, but it's been a saving grace for me. People fail because they will not change. Consultants show you how to change — and why. It's the magic sauce in the recipe."
In 2006, a consultant told H.A. — who owns Rose with his son, Andy, and daughter, Lori Reed — that the company needed a chief financial officer to keep detailed financial information.
The company hired John Keeser about a year ago as CFO, and Rose is on target to reach revenue of $5.5 million this year, up from $4.6 million in 2007. "We use the figures to help make better decisions," H.A. says.
That growth has made Rose the largest corporate ground transportation company in the Carolinas. The company operates two limousines, 17 town cars, four SUVs and 10 mini-buses and vans, which are housed at its 26,000-square-foot facility in Pineville. Rose has 75 employees. About 90% of its business is corporate work, and half its trips take passengers to and from Charlotte/Douglas International Airport.
H.A. initially called on an outside expert soon after 9/11 for advice on improving the company. The consultant told him to stop doing the driving himself. That year, Rose topped $1 million in revenue for the first time.
In 2006, the company — again on an outsider's advice — launched training programs for its chauffeurs. And it uses a consultant to screen its job applicants, and another outside expert presents monthly coaching sessions for the Rose management team.
The 74-year-old H.A. says he has learned success is not just about numbers. "The limousine business is not about cars or the metal. It's all about customer service. If you give good service, your bottom line will usually turn out good."
Candy Haynes, director of training for Deloitte Consulting, says the Rose president lives that principle. She was one of his first customers and currently uses the service about 10 times per month.
Rose ferried Haynes to Charlotte from Atlanta after 9/11 and brought her home in a hurry after her child was in an accident. Just last year, when there was a last-minute change in her schedule, H.A. picked her up. "They're always there for me."
Business: Corporate ground transportation company
HQ: 11325-A Nations Ford Road, Pineville, N.C., 28134
Principals: H.A. Thompson, Andy Thompson, Lori Reed
Phone: (704) 522-8258
2007 revenue: $4.6 million
Source: Charlotte Business Journal