People

4. BostonCoach/Boston

Posted on July 1, 2000 by LCT Staff - Also by this author

Everett, MA

Established: 1985 as a stand alone Fidelity Investments Company

Fleet: 302 vehicles (211 sedans, 54 vans, 28 mini-coaches, and 9 coaches)

Staff: 350 Full-time drivers, 234 office staff (includes national reservation center and BostonCoach Connection staffs)

Drivers paid as employees with full Fidelity benefits

Software: CARS Reservation System

Management Team: Russ Cooke, President and CEO Linda Stewart, Exec VP Sales, Marketing & Customer Service Mary Aceto, VP Human Resources Michael Fogarty, VP & GM, BostonCoach Connection Hilary Simons, CFO William Gemmell, VP Operations

Tom Stantial is the general manager at BostonCoach’s central operation in Everett, MA. Bob Hermance is the GTS operations manager. Phil Devlin is the operations manager for the BostonCoach Connection. These men and countless other “Coach” managers have a common trait—they all started as drivers. It is a key element to the company’s growth. “We found right away that managers that come from the driving ranks tend to succeed. They understand the operation better. They work better under pressure and they believe in what we do,” says Russ Cooke, company president.

The core of Coach’s Boston business (more than 70 percent) is service to-and-from Logan Airport. BostonCoach, according to the airport’s official numbers, did 11,835 outbound trips in March of 2000. The company’s distinctive Volvos are a constant visible presence in the limousine holding area, and their fresh-faced, red-shirted “greeters” can be seen in every terminal. BostonCoach does more trips from Logan (using March 2000 as a guide) than the combined total of the next nine busiest limousine services. The number one challenge the company is facing is staffing, specifically chauffeur staffing. The Boston office has an immediate need for 25 more sedan drivers and 10 more bus drivers. Complicating this search is Coach’s corporate policy that prohibits their drivers from accepting tips. “If a driver candidate fixates on the tipping issue, we may not get him,” says Cooke. “But if the driver looks at our total package, he or she will realize we are very competitive. We offer paid vacations, medical insurance, guaranteed pay for sick time and a 401(k) plan. We have drivers with significant balances in their retirement accounts. It is a very good place to work,” says Cooke.

BostonCoach has a system of peer accountability, with 12 drivers designated as team leaders, and the entire driving staff broken into teams, with cash incentives paid for reaching group goals. Hermance says the system has improved inter-office communications. “We did a good job selecting team leaders, and we work on getting messages across to the team leaders on a daily basis. Yes, we are a big company with lots of drivers, but this system keeps us much closer to the individual drivers.”

The BostonCoach Connection has affiliate companies in 450 cities worldwide. The “Connection” employs 25 people who are headquartered in Boston. France and England currently account for 80 percent of their overseas business. Cooke says the “Connection” has shown explosive growth. “In February of ‘96, they had two employees and processed 600 rides. In February of this year, 11,600 rides were processed and the staff has grown to 25. We asked our affiliate companies at the LCT Show, what can we do for you? They said, ‘Pay us faster,’ so we began paying them less than two weeks after they complete a BostonCoach trip. It has made our affiliate companies happy and their positive attitude is reflected in the great service they provide our clients,” says Cooke.

BostonCoach is one of the few limousine companies that takes real-time, Internet-based reservations from its clients, and e-mails a confirmation and later a receipt, if necessary. Coach Connection On-line was one of the original business-to-business applications using the Internet to allow the transfer of electronic data regarding reservations. The system allows affiliate companies to receive their trips directly from the Net. The bottom line is that we are on the cutting edge technologically and with a great team in place, life is good at BostonCoach,” says Cooke.—Tom Mazza

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