MIAMI — “Never trust happiness,” says Neil Goodman who reflects on the current state of the industry in a recent interview. Goodman owns Aventura Worldwide Transportation which is one of the largest transportation providers in the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale market. Goodman has been in the industry for 35 years. His hotel industry background has given him the ability to apply the hotel service mentality to his transportation business.
LCT: What are you seeing in your market?
Goodman: The market in Miami is slow, but it has been inching up in the past couple of months. I speak regularly to the owners and managers of the hotels in Miami. All of them have a better outlook than they did a couple months ago. The TARP info is better. There is still no clear path, but I see a light at the end of the tunnel. I believe that our industry will never be the same. I believe that many industries will never be the same.
LCT: What have you done to weather the storm?
Goodman: Cut a lot of excess payroll. We had a big sales force and cut back substantially. It was tough because we had to lay off a lot of good, loyal people that were here for many years. We changed our fleet make up tremendously. We are about 40 vehicles less than we were a year ago; the majority being Town Cars and specialty vehicles such as limo buses and stretch SUVs. Our bigger vehicles, vans, and mini buses seem to be holding their own.
LCT: You’ve also made some management changes?
Goodman: We have. My son, Scott Tinkler, was promoted to COO and also still handles his duties as general manager.
LCT: Are you finding it difficult to hand off the reins to Scott?
Goodman: In the past, I had a hard time giving up responsibility to anyone, but with Scott it is easier. He grew up in the business. He’s 40 now and he "gets it." As the company has grown, we had many people doing different things. Now, however, everyone wears many hats, including myself. Scott had a background in professional sports for 12 years and is also a former Marine having served in the first Gulf War. This, I believe, prepared him as a manager and I've never seen anyone better then Scott in managing people. He also likes working with the clients and does a great job with everything he does.
LCT: What are some of the other changes you have made recently?
Goodman: We’ve changed our marketing and advertising focus somewhat, moving to driving responsibly, drinking responsibly, and partying responsibly. Our slogan says it all: "Play Responsibly. When You Drink, Let Us Drive — End Your Night in the Back of One of Our Vehicles, Not a Police Car."
LCT: You are doing work with a number of charities recently. Tell us about what you are doing and how you select the charities you participate in.
Goodman: We have also increased our participation with foundations and charities. We get requests from many charities each year. We partner with those we work with and believe in. We do a lot of in-kind sponsorships. It gets our name out there and our people out there with our clients. We are doing work with our clients’ charities. We are very much involved with the Alonzo Mourning Charities and Zo and Dade's Summer Groove Event (my wife Toni Goodman and I are on the host committee and co-chair the auction committee), Anthony Shriver’s Best Buddies Foundation, Laurens Kids, the Dade County Schools Athletic Foundation, and most recently, DJ Ire's Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Dade County. These charities are all about the kids of the world. We are also major sponsors for The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis and have recently partnered with MADD. These are all foundations that benefit so many important issues.
LCT: What markets are still strong for you?
Goodman: Outbound affiliate business worldwide is keeping us working and still strong. Our out-of-state business represents 20% of our overall business. We have been doing national work for the past 20 of the 35 years I have been in business. This type of business leads me to believe people still have to travel, for business and for pleasure.
LCT: What would you like to see changed in our industry?
Goodman: Late night fees and other extra charges. We are in the service business. Would you pay extra at a restaurant after midnight, or if you check in late or early at a hotel, or decided to dine out or go to a hotel on a holiday? We are directly related to the hospitality industry and it appalls me when I receive affiliate bills that have surcharges for items like these. We work when people play; it's that simple!
LCT: What are some of the secrets of your success?
Goodman: Hire people that are smarter than me! Besides that, if you hire "nice" people, it will be contagious throughout your office. Ours is not a business that you can learn from books, or take a college course in; you either have a "knack" for it, or you don't. Our great people are a testament to our management. Success has two sides. If you've been around long enough, you will experience all the ups and downs. The coach with the most wins in NBA history also has the most losses in NBA history!
LCT: What are your predictions for the future of our industry?
Goodman: Our industry is very resilient. We survived the fallout from 9/11. Even the smaller companies here are making it. I give them credit. I can see it inching back but that is the key word, inching. It seems to be getting better. June was not anywhere near as bad as we thought it would be. If you ask me how long I think a recovery will take, I would say at least a couple of years. Our industry, Wall Street, the financial institutions will never be the same as we knew it before. . Owners in our industry will now have only enough cars for what we need. We won’t have vehicles sitting in the yard not being used. We will never again have the luxury of being overstaffed, over-fleeted, or even over insured. NEVER TRUST HAPPINESS!
Source: Linda Moore, LCT Magazine