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Aventura Worldwide Transportation founder, owner and COO Neil Goodman, at the Eden Roc Hotel, Miami Beach, Fla., Tuesday, May 20, 2014. Photo by Martin Romjue
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — Among big-city limousine operators, Neil Goodman belongs in that exclusive club whose members can say with confidence they have seen it all.
With about four decades in Miami, three decades in the limousine business, and more than two decades running a company, Goodman, the owner and founder of Aventura Worldwide Transportation, can speak with authority on all aspects of chauffeured service. That would be a bit much for one interview, so LCT Magazine recently asked him about some themes in this issue, such as fleet vehicles, management, regulations and leadership. Yet despite all his experience, Goodman and his company are seeing the toughest challenge to date of his career: Uber and the growth of transportation network companies (TNCs).
In the interview, Goodman candidly discussed managing a luxury fleet in a vibrant metro region that has become an international business, tourism, finance and real estate capital for the Americas and beyond.
Goodman relocated to Miami in 1972 from New Jersey, trying to find a job in the insurance and mutual fund business. While searching for a job, he got a job as a valet car runner and chauffeur at a private club called the Jockey Club. In 1991, Goodman was offered the opportunity to take over the transportation department of a private club called Turnberry Isle in Aventura, Fla. near Miami. The owners asked him if he had the resources to start up a new company. Knowing he had no resources and no affiliation with local operators, Goodman took a chance and borrowed $50,000 from a client and friend, bought his first two stretches, and cut a deal to rent six Lincoln Town Cars. The rest is industry legend, as Goodman and his executives now run one of the largest chauffeured and charter bus transportation services in South Florida.
Q: What attributes first attracted you to the limousine business?
A: Not being able to settle in with the insurance company I transferred with, and on the verge of returning to New Jersey broke and alone, a friend referred me to an exclusive private club in Miami as a valet runner, fetching rich people’s cars and driving them in a factory Cadillac Limo (with jump seats) to the AP, or shopping. I immediately fell in love with being a chauffeur, the independence, the different, interesting people I was meeting, the stress-free life, and the money I was earning — for just driving and being nice to people! To this day, being a professional chauffeur is still the best job in the world, and those days are still the happiest I’ve ever been!
Q: What about limousine operations management was easier when you started in 1991 versus now, and what is easier now versus then?
A: In 1991, I was still driving clients, washing cars, doing tune ups, reservations, dispatching, billing, accounting…..yes, like most new owners, doing it all. In 1991, there was very little competition, if any. We actually waited for the phone to ring, and it did! Today, the competition is ruthless. Companies here, like everywhere in the country, are constantly undercutting the fair rate you offer. Everyone has the choice of either selling their service cheap, or “standing tall” and being proud of what you offer your clients. 1991 also happened to be the first year I was introduced to the “computer age.” I was still logging reservations into a huge daily binder, and color coding trips that were completed, handing drivers their trips on a handwritten sheet, typing bills on my Remington typewriter, and needing the best, newest calculator and beeper service money could buy. I met Jerry Henning at an LCT Show, saw what the rest of the country was doing, and immediately purchased my first software program, Limo Magic. Doing business and being automated obviously has never been the same since. Most important in today’s world of business, any successful business has good people, people who are much smarter than you. My son, Scott [Tinkler], who I brought into the business eight years ago, has taken so much off of my shoulders. It’s inconceivable what I would do without him. Our CFO, Ron Sorci, is without a doubt the best financial professional I have ever seen. If you’re happy with a smaller type operation, you can do it all, but if you must grow in size, it’s virtually impossible without great people like Scott and Ron.
Title: Owner/COO, Aventura
Residence: Aventura, Fla.
Family: wife, Toni; daughter, 34; son, 44; two grandsons, ages 13 and 11
Education: Fairleigh Dickinson University, Madison N.J.
Industry association roles: Vice Chairperson of LAG (Limousine Advisory Group of Dade County; Vice Chair of SFLA (South Florida Limo Association); Board of Directors of FRLA (Florida Restaurant Lodging Association)
Awards/accomplishments: LCT Operator of The Year Award, 51-plus fleet category, 2008.
Hobbies/interests: Golf (Pros play it, I play at it), time with my grandsons (my first loves) , shopping (shoes/watches), Miami Heat season ticket holder (same seats for 28 years, rarely miss a game).