Florida Operator Cuts Niche With VIP Service And Sharp Instincts

Michael Campos
Posted on December 8, 2011
Florida operator Tony Marino bought three buses when the economy turned down.
Florida operator Tony Marino bought three buses when the economy turned down.

Tony Marino started his Naples, Fla.-based operation with two things: a phone and a limousine. Eight years later, he has a fleet of 13 vehicles and a team of three employees and 15 contractors. One of his SUVs features a camel interior covered with autographs of the celebrities he’s transported, such as Henry Winkler, Judge Judy, Tony Bennett and Lauren Bacall, to name a few.

Exceed expectations
Before founding Regency Transportation in 2003, Marino spent 25 years on the opposite coast of Florida running a valet service in the Miami area, where he still has a satellite operation. He moved to Naples, noticed a need for a professional limousine service, and founded a company oriented to customer satisfaction.

“[I] hire people based on their customer service, and then teach them to chauffeur,” Marino says. “We take the Ritz-Carlton approach — anything to make a client happy. We’ve just added a client feedback survey to our reservation system so we can hear our clients’ compliments and concerns and follow up as appropriate.”

Celebrity autographs in Marino's SUV.
Celebrity autographs in Marino's SUV.

Regency’s client base is diverse, ranging from celebrities to church groups to corporate accounts. “We treat everyone like a VIP,” Marino says. “We want to exceed our clients’ expectations.”

Smart moves
To serve his clients, he’s grown his fleet by keeping his overhead low when the economy was strong, and took advantage of pricing and financing deals on new, larger equipment when the economy turned downward.

“People thought I was crazy for building my fleet when other companies were taking equipment out of rotation because of the cost of insurance and repairs, but I knew I wanted to go after more group work and needed my own buses. I bought three buses at the beginning of off season and it was one of the best things I’ve done for my fleet,” he says. Vehicles are stocked with water and Norman Love chocolates sporting the Marino Group logo.

Marino has embraced social media and Internet marketing as part of his regular business practices but still relies on word-of-mouth and face-to-face interaction to bring in clients. “Last year I rebranded with a new logo, new website, and an actual marketing plan rather than the random print ad,” he says. “We also do a lot of networking and guerilla marketing and have a big presence in our community. Face-to-face [interaction] works best in my town and for my personality.”

Regency Transportation stocks its vehicles with branded Norman Love chocolates.
Regency Transportation stocks its vehicles with branded Norman Love chocolates.

Marino participates in the NLA, sits on the board of the Florida Limousine Association, and is a certified Wishgranter for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, along with Marino Group team members Shannon Livingston and Jacqueline Glasgow.

Cooperative competition
Marino keeps healthy relationships with his competition, believing in “cooperative competition.” “There’s enough money out there for everyone. Badmouthing your competitor only makes you sound bad,” he says.

When challenges arise and tough decisions need to be made, Marino says operators should follow their instincts. “At the end of the day, you are the one that lives with the success or failure of your business.”

Tech Treats
Regency Transportation uses the FASTTRAK reservation system, Fleetmatics GPS tracking, and various business/productivity smartphone applications which allow Marino to oversee his operation from anywhere. The company also has added QR codes and Microsoft tags to its marketing materials to “communicate and interact with current and prospective clients in a whole new way.”

Name: Regency Transportation I Location: Naples, Fla. I Founded: 2003 I Owner: Tony Marino I Main service region: Florida I Types of vehicles: sedans, limousines, buses I Fleet size: 13 I Employees: 3 employees, 15 contractors I Annual revenues: $750,000 to $1 million I Website: I Information: (239) 596-2333

Related Topics: Branding, business management, customer service, Florida operators

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