H.A. Thompson bought a used Rolls Royce in 1985 and took weekend wedding jobs with his college-age sons. Now, the 2008 LCT Operator Of The Year runs a $4 million transportation business.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Since starting out with a used Rolls Royce and working out of his home with his two college-age sons on March 23, 1985, H.A. Thompson has grown the Charlotte.-based Rose Chauffeured Transportation to a $4 million annual revenue business.
Rose Chauffeured Transportation’s fleet is comprised of 31 chauffeured vehicles, including one stretch limousine; 12 sedans; seven Van Hool motorcoaches; five 10-passenger SUVs; four 24-passenger mini-buses; and two executive vans.
Thompson, 76, a former radio talk show host, recalled the weekend wedding business as being slow going for the first 10 years, but eventually his family business acquired six stretches and a couple of sedans. “Then we started doing some airport rides [and] one thing led to another. It took us 16 years to get to $1 million in revenue,” he said.
One of Thompson’s sons, Andy, and one of his daughters, Laurie, are still running the business alongside him.
One secret to his success, Thompson said, is that he always keeps in mind that the transportation business is not about vehicles. “It’s about personal service… it’s not the biggest, newest car, the bells and whistles,” he stressed.
He added that well-trained people and technology are crucial. “We have 24-hour dispatch, and that’s very important in our business, now that we’re doing upwards of 80 or 90 rides a day. We have to communicate well with our people and not put untrained people in there.”
Hiring the right people also keeps Rose financially sound, Thompson said. “Turnover will kill you. It’s very expensive. We’re testing candidates now, to build a model for hiring. We’re servants in this business, and there is a real art to it. Not everybody can do it.”
After the company passed $1 million in yearly revenue in 2001, Thompson recognized that it was time for a technology upgrade. “We were handwriting reservations. Knowing we were going to grow, we had to get the proper software and get the place computerized.” The operator now uses GPS system for greater efficiency.
Another factor Thompson cited in his company’s success is paying strict attention to finances, including hiring a CFO. “Numbers are very important even when you’re very small. That’s critically important and a lot of people in small businesses are not careful about that. You have to pay your bills and you have to get paid.”
As they hit 25 years, Rose Chauffeured Transportation finds itself focusing on charter and tour aspects of the motorcoach business and putting less emphasis on the limousine side.
“We got in the motorcoach business two years ago when the recession started. We’ve grown to seven in less than two years,” Thompson said. “We’ve just about gotten out of the long car business because of what the public wants; it’s not what we want. We had three three years ago, two two years ago, and we’ve got one this year. That has a lot to do with how the city dynamic changed.”
— Nicole Schlosser, LCT Magazine