Running In Rhode Island: Operators Find The Right Combo

Posted on January 22, 2010 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Three of the most widely known names in New England chauffeured transportation have combined to form one company that will offer a complete array of corporate, retail, and leisure luxury ground transportation across a prime service area that includes Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.

Providence-based O2 Global Chauffeured Services, which owns Bristol, R.I.-based Rockstar Limo, bought the assets of Providence-based All Occasion Transportation on Jan. 13 in an asset purchase of an undisclosed amount. All Occasion on its own was the largest chauffeured transportation company in Rhode Island, and the combined company will remain No. 1.

The deal was negotiated and arranged in steps throughout 2009 by chauffeured transportation business consultant Tom Mazza, owner of Philadelphia-based Tom Mazza Consulting and a chauffeur trainer and financial coach.

The three companies will continue to operate under their respective brand names. The deal will not affect existing client and affiliate relationships. O2 Global owner John Olinger, 35, is the president, CEO, and sole owner of the company. Former All Occasion owner Eric Weiner, 38, will retain the title of founder and focus full-time on his favorite roles: marketing, sales, and quality assurance.

In an interview following a late Thursday news release, Olinger said the company has an aggressive overall revenue goal of $5 million for 2010. The 45-employee company will operate a diverse chauffeured fleet of 25-35 vehicles, fluctuating throughout the year based on seasonal travel demands.

The company — including the three brand names — will be headquartered for now in the All Occasion building in Providence, but Olinger and Weiner are looking for a larger property in the city that can handle the combined offices and vehicles, and leave room for future growth. A sales office will be staffed in the coastal city of Newport.

For Olinger and Weiner, the deal satisfies many complementary goals, foremost the business visions of each operator and the need to make the most of a challenging economy and transportation market. Their respective companies experienced sales declines as a result of the nation’s two-year recession and transportation demand slowdown.

“Twenty years after starting a successful, significant company, I found that personally I was only wanting to focus on particular parts,” Weiner said in an interview Friday. “I was not as motivated to do the things that you needed to go through in these economic times, such as the downsizing that I had to consider. I had a shortlist of two companies I wanted to sell to, did my due diligence, and asked Tommy [Mazza] to talk to the companies in an anonymous fashion. I was very careful to pick the two companies I could move forward with, and one of them was John [Olinger], who is young and aggressive.”

Olinger founded Rockstar Limo, which had an 80% leisure and 20% corporate split, in 2004, and started the more corporate-oriented O2 Global in 2009. Weiner founded All Occasion Transportation in 1990, growing it into an operation split 80% corporate, 20% leisure. The combined companies will service a predominantly corporate clientele, with the Rockstar Limo brand focusing on retail and leisure.

“My motivating factor was I saw a slowdown in our growth and wanted to jump start our organization,” Olinger said. “All Occasion already has the world class customer service. What we were looking for in terms of sales and revenue growth, and an even stronger operational base, Eric [Weiner] filled squarely for us.”

Going forward, the three brands will be able to pool infrastructure, training, vehicles, and expertise, ensuring it is positioned to pursue more clients during the emerging economic recovery.

“All three brands will be out there,” Olinger said. “All three have tremendous brand equity, so there is no disruption or instability whatsoever to our customer base. It’s important for corporate customers and affiliates to know that nothing changes. It all stays the same.”

Mazza said in an interview Friday that the deal combining the companies closely reflects the realities of the sales climate for chauffeured transportation operations. As the recession has forced, and will continue to force, small- to medium-size chauffeured operators to sell, merge, or shut down, Mazza said the most advantageous deals take time and should not be left to generic business sales brokers unfamiliar with the limousine industry.

“There are more deals going to happen, but the problem we’re having with deals is borrowing money,” Mazza said. “If it’s done, people have to be willing to finance. People also have to be realistic. Listing your company for sale with a business broker is the dumbest thing you can do. . . All kinds of negative things happen when you are [just] for sale.”

Operators looking to sell should wait for the right buyer and the right deal, and not just go with a broker who doesn’t care and is just pushing to get any deal, Mazza said.

Source: Martin Romjue, LCT Magazine

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