Winning operators claim they get a lot more attention from their peers than before. Industry members are more interested in their opinions on how to solve problems and get ahead. So after the gala glow wore off and everyone went home, LCT asked the winners what now, what next?
CATEGORY: 51+ VEHICLES Company: Aventura Worldwide Transportation Service Headquarters: Aventura, Fla. (Miami area) Accepted the Award: Scott Tinkler and Ron Sorci Aventura VP Scott Tinkler and CFO Ron Sorci had mixed feelings during the award night: ecstatic to win, but worried about owners Neil and Toni Goodman, whose Miami house burned down in March. They had to stay in Miami and could not make it to Las Vegas. CEO Neil Goodman, along with Sorci, was later able to give LCT his feedback on what the award meant to the company.
LCT: How has your team reacted to winning the Operator of the Year award? GOODMAN: After 32 years of being in the industry, accolades that have come my way were only because of the team that I had behind me. Everyone in my office is thrilled about being chosen, and the sense of pride they feel is indescribable. This award is meant to be shared with every employee, every client, and every single affiliate.
LCT: How has your company changed since its start-up? GOODMAN: The biggest change I’ve installed since inception is the incredible amount of high-tech equipment available to our industry through the years. Every new mechanism that I feel will put us at an advantage with our competition, I will give the go-ahead to purchase.
LCT: What makes your company stand out significantly these days? GOODMAN: I know it’s an old cliche, but “personal service” is still a priority in our day-to-day operations. I have tried to run our company as though we still have 10 vehicles, and have tried to instill that philosophy in each and every manager. SORCI: We believe that we stand out primarily due to our attention to detail in every aspect of the business. Each department is held accountable for its portion of each transaction, and we believe that we have our arms around each detail.
LCT: What’s your company’s next growth step? GOODMAN: To continue to educate myself and all our managers on every new mechanism that will help us to continue to grow, and to never forget that “we are only as good as our last trip.” SORCI: The next step for our growth is in the area of affiliate business going outbound. We have a strong client base and believe that we can generate additional revenue through a stronger push in the affiliate area of our business in the years ahead.
CATEGORY: 31-50 VEHICLES Company: Rose Chauffeured Transportation Ltd. Headquarters: Charlotte, N.C. Accepted the Award: H.A. Thompson The Rose team was grateful to win this award – both during the awards ceremony and when they got back to Charlotte. The team was happy to see its leader accept the award so gracefully. President H.A. Thompson’s years spent as a successful radio broadcaster came across nicely during his acceptance speech up on the stage, and while answering some LCT questions.
LCT: What happened after you won the award? THOMPSON: We arrived back from the flight late Wednesday night. We all picked up our cars at the office. The place was decorated with “Congratulations” signs hanging everywhere and balloons with the same, and some streamers, too. The next day, they had a big cake cutting decorated with “Rose Limousine — Operator of the Year.” Pretty special.
LCT: What benefits has your company gained from winning? THOMPSON: I am very careful to communicate to all employees that this award is a team victory. They know it, and I make it known. Of course, we send out press releases to newspapers, etc. Our flyers, brochures, and business cards will be so notated. This award helps to cement our relations with our affiliates and gain new ones from the publicity.
LCT: What has changed since your start-up? THOMPSON: We started with one car in 1985 and for 16 years we did everything, just like most operators. It took that long to grow the revenue to $1 million a year. I wanted to do things better and faster so I hired consultants — three different ones at different times, and they were exceptional. The last one said we needed a CFO... we hired one and the rest is history. In six years, we grew from $1.2 million to $4.7 million in 2007.
CATEGORY: 11-30 VEHICLES Company: Sterling Rose Limousines Headquarters: Temecula, Calif. Accepted the Award: Steve and Heidi Levin In less than three years since its startup, Sterling Rose Limousines has won Operator of the Year. Steve and Heidi Levin were more than surprised, and excited, to accept the award. Steve put it across nicely: “We were initially surprised, after people had told us why we wouldn’t win.” Boy, were they wrong.
LCT: What have you gained from winning? LEVIN: Camaraderie. It gave our entire team a boost and created a greater sense of cohesiveness. It gave us more credibility in the industry. It’s hard to separate from the masses – this is a good way to do it. We’ll be working with an ad agency to do PR. We’ll do an email blast and send out (one) through chambers of commerce that we belong to, and put an announcement on our phone system, and on emails, letterhead, and business cards.
LCT: How have things changed since you started up in 2005? LEVIN: The company that we took over was hitting rock bottom – we had to get rid of seven out of nine vehicles after buying it. We added sedans, limo coaches, and regular SUVs. This made things more attractive to clientele. At first, we focused mostly on retail business – in Temecula, wine tours are major. We’ve also been focusing on expanding our corporate business. Our management team (made up of Steve, Heidi, and Wendy and Rudy Adame) have covered this area and expanded out into San Diego County, attending Chamber of Commerce and travel industry group meetings throughout the area. We’ve created the Sterling Rose brand – people now identify and recognize us, and know our service.
LCT: What’s the next step? LEVIN: We’re still early in the process and will be getting more corporate and hotel business. The cities of Escondido and Carlsbad have gone through much growth – we’ll be expanding through the North County. We’ve grown about 50% in revenue per year during the past two years. That may go on for the next two-to-three years, but it won’t go on forever. We’re working on spreading our network broadly and covering lots of events.
CATEGORY: 1-10 VEHICLES Company: A Candies Production Inc. Headquarters: Gainesville, Fla. Accepted the Award: Sander Kaplan For Sander Kaplan and his wife LynCherie, this year’s awards dinner was tense. This was the third year in a row that his company was nominated for Operator of the Year, but had not yet won. He’s come a long way: Sander Kaplan has built up his company for 21 years in a midsize market and started another transportation company, A Candies Coachworks, that provides large buses to clients. And he’s finally won this award.
LCT: How did you react to winning? KAPLAN: While we were still at the awards dinner, I texted my marketing person and said: “We’ve won. You need to help me market this.” It’s been great to get professional advice on how to market this award. Immediately after I got back to the office, I worked on figuring out how to incorporate the award into our daily activities. It’s been very good for our team – it solidifies what we’re doing. I was able to thank my staff and my wife LynCherie up on the stage – I would not have been up on the stage without them. My team has reacted with a renewed spirit of excitement for the industry.
LCT: What has your company gone through trying to win this award for three years? KAPLAN: Applying for an award makes you look at yourself without fooling yourself that you’re better than you think you are. We had to look at ourselves with a magnifying glass – how we deal with clients and treat our employees. It’s been a very satisfying journey to complete these applications and finally win the award.
LCT: What have you done lately? KAPLAN: We’ve expanded our office, separating sales and dispatching. We’re planning on buying more new vehicles to stay fresh in our market. We’re constantly working on our infrastructure so that we can handle more phone calls, communicate better with drivers, handle clients, and build our sales.
LCT Recognizes Association, Marketing, and Achievement Award Winners
It wasn’t just Operators of the Year. The audience cheered for other winners in the following categories:
MARKETING AWARD CATEGORIES
BEST BUSINESS CARDS: • Atlantic Limousine, Virginia Beach, Va.
BEST BROCHURES/INFORMATION PACKETS: • Music Express, Burbank, Calif.
BEST DIRECT-MAIL PIECES: • Atlantic Limousine
BEST PRINT ADVERTISEMENTS: • Music Express
BEST PROMOTIONAL ITEMS: • Music Express
BEST WEBSITE HOME PAGE: • Clique Limousine, Olathe, Kan.
NLA LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: • Scott Solombrino, CEO and president of Dav El Chauffeured Transportation of Boston
ASSOCIATION OF THE YEAR: • Philadelphia Regional Limousine Association