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Kim Garner and Debbie Rudawsky with their 1960 vintage Bentley Rolls Royce.
ST. LOUIS, Mo. — BEST Transportation of St. Louis backs up its name with results that yield valuable lessons on how a limousine operation should run. The 13-year-old company has adapted to leading industry trends emerging over the last five years.
CEO Kim Garner and CFO Debbie Rudawsky, the third generation in a family that owns St. Louis County & Yellow Cab, and the first generation founders of BEST Transportation, can point to a clear five-year record of success:
- In 2009, BEST Transportation ran 41 vehicles with 49 employees and earned annual revenues of $2.6 million.
- In 2014, the company, a 2011 LCT Operator of the Year Award winner, ran 68 vehicles with 115 employees, and was on track to close out the year with more than $7 million in gross revenues.
In business, you can’t argue with numbers and results. So, naturally, a review of several key aspects of BEST’s operations shows how Garner and Rudawsky moved their company forward amid a recession, shifting client demands and evolving TNC regulations. Herewith, a textbook example of a family-owned transportation company in the American heartland, doing things right:
Chapter 1: Diverse Revenues
In 2014, 23% of annual revenues came from the GO BEST Express division and shared ride vans; 16% from contracted shuttle services in the BEST Shuttle Solutions division; 51% from chauffeured transportation, including 30% from mini-bus related business; and 10% farm-in/farm-out affiliate work, which the company plans to grow in 2015.
Overall revenues hit $5.1 million in 2012; $6.75 million in 2013; and more than $7 million in 2014.
A major boost occurred in 2013 when BEST landed its first contracted shuttle route for a parking company near St. Louis-Lambert International Airport. And while corporate clients are still its major source of revenue, BEST remains diversified with special events on weekends, such as wineries and weddings. That comprises about 15-20% of revenues.
“We try not to be too heavy in one segment,” says Garner, following a pillar of successful chauffeured transportation. Even within its corporate client base, BEST aims to diversify, serving such companies as: Monsanto, Express Scripts Holding Company, Medco, Boeing, Washington University, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and multiple major downtown hotels. “We said we never wanted to have too much in one specific sector. It’s a strategy we’ve used from the start.”
FAST FACTS: BEST Transportation of St. Louis/GO BEST Express
- Location: St. Louis, Mo.
- Founded: 2002
- Owners: Kim Garner, CEO; Debbie Rudawsky, CFO
- Total fleet vehicles: 68
- Vehicle types/brands: sedans, SUVS, vans, stretches, mini-buses, shuttles
- Total employees: 115
- Chauffeurs/drivers: 65
- Annual revenues: $7 million
- Major client sample: major league baseball, St. Louis Rams, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Federal Express, BostonCoach
- Websites: www.besttransportation.com; www.gobestexpress.com
- Contact: (866) 272-1200
Chapter 2: Tiered Service
The year the Great Recession decimated the limousine industry, BEST immediately adjusted to the more frugal climate and demand for group transportation. The company started its GO BEST Express shuttle and rideshare division serving the airport and hotels. It is branded as part of the GO Airport Shuttle franchise network marketing co-op. “We wanted to be a good partner for the airport, hotels, visitors and convention attendees coming to St. Louis,” Rudawsky says. “This fit nicely into our business model. We get very good feedback from visitors, who e-mail us and tell us of great experiences with agents at airports and online payments.”
GO BEST Express landed a five-year contract with the airport in 2009, and after a rebid analysis this year, re-upped it for another five years until 2019. The shared shuttle rides leave the airport every 15 minutes for downtown locations, with customers able to arrange rides at GO BEST counters in airport terminals.
When GO BEST launched, Garner and Rudawsky pursued sales aggressively, signing up conventions for contract work. The service went from a single digit percentage revenue component to 23% in just five years. GO BEST also can drive business to BEST Transportation, especially among visiting clients who may want a private vehicle to go out in the evenings once checked into hotels.