Operations

Merging Fleets And Vision To Grow Together

Tom Halligan
Posted on September 16, 2016

Stephen Ward COO, (L), Brett Barenholtz, CEO, (center), and President Kevin Cronin combined companies to expand their services to more corporate and retail customers.
Stephen Ward COO, (L), Brett Barenholtz, CEO, (center), and President Kevin Cronin combined companies to expand their services to more corporate and retail customers.
CANTON, Mass. — More than a year ago, Brett Barenholtz, owner of Boston Car Service, and Kevin Cronin, owner of Above All Transportation, got together and realized both had distinct strengths and business models.

Combined, those assets could create a more powerful full-service ground transportation company. Boston Car specialized in high-end sedan service, while Above All Transportation was an experienced executive van, shuttle and limo bus business.

One Company, Two Brands

The June 2015 merger created one parent company that maintains the two brands, but shares fleet vehicles, staff, and back-office operations. In fact, the merged company just relocated to new office space in Canton, about 12 miles from Boston.

Together, the company runs a fleet of 75 chauffeured vehicles that includes every type of vehicle except large motorcoaches. The new company ranks No. 44 on the LCT annual 50 Largest Fleets List (July 2016 issue).

Fast Facts

Location: Canton, Mass.

Founded: Boston Car Service, 1997; Above All Transportation 1988; merged June 2015

Owners: Brett Barenholtz and Kevin Cronin

Fleet: 75 vehicles

Employees: 92

Websites: www.bostoncar.com; www.abovealltrans.com

“Kevin and I have been working together for years, so it made sense to combine our strengths together to offer a full end-to-end transportation company,” says Barenholtz, who started his company in 1997. “The merger gave us the diversification that neither of us had individually. Kevin had experience in limousines, party buses and shuttles, while I was focused on luxury car service. Now we are a full service operation that can meet the needs of any corporate or retail client.”

Common Vision

The duo shares the same drive and vision to become a larger full-service private transportation company. “We are both in this together to grow the company and we both have a short and long-term plan,” Barenholtz says. “If we didn’t have the same goals, it wouldn’t work — and we both know what we are good at running the company.”

Another factor that can often derail a merger is when partners, especially entrepreneurs, can’t let go of some duties because they controlled every aspect of operations. Fortunately, Barenholtz and Cronin realized from working together over the years each had skills the other did not.

Dual Roles

Specifically, as CEO of the company, Barenholtz specializes in sales, marketing and affiliate relations where he can drum up new business by offering a new larger and more diverse fleet. Cronin, who once worked as a bus mechanic, has expertise in managing a successful bus business, maintenance, and operations. He serves as company President.

“We play off of each other’s strengths,” says Cronin, who launched his company in 1988. ”For example, Brett is a great spokesman for the company, and I am good at keep ing our maintenance costs low and keeping our fleet up and running.”

Dispatcher Renard Bellamy and staff at the new headquarters in Canton. Mass. The merger raises the fleet size to 75 vehicles, jumping the company to No. 44 on the LCT annual 50 Largest Fleets List rankings.
Dispatcher Renard Bellamy and staff at the new headquarters in Canton. Mass. The merger raises the fleet size to 75 vehicles, jumping the company to No. 44 on the LCT annual 50 Largest Fleets List rankings.

Fleet Complements

Boston Car and Above All now run a fleet of 32 sedans, nine SUVs and 23 vans, limo buses, and shuttles accommodating any seating requirement up to 42 passengers. The ability to

provide multiple buses for corporate and retail work gives the company an advantage by having multiple vehicles available in the yard to handle client requests. It also has enhanced the company’s vibrant farm-in and farm-out business that serves more than 550 cities and airports.

The combined companies are stocked with an array of late-model, multi-purpose vehicles. Boston Car uses the BMW 535 GT as its primary corporate vehicle, while Above All runs the Lincoln MKT Town Car and Lincoln MKS sedan. The fleet includes Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Vans, Cadillac Escalades and Chevrolet Suburbans, Hummer stretches, Lincoln MKT Town Car stretch limousines, executive vans, shuttle buses, limo buses, and one trolley.

“We are somewhat unique because we have the large bus fleet that enables us to get farm-in work not just from Massachusetts operators, but business from operators around the world,” Cronin says. “Most local operators in Massachusetts do not have our equipment, so we are trying to work together.”

Adds Barenholtz: “There are operators who just won’t talk to each other, but we are seeing most people try to work together for the good of our industry. I think TNC issues have brought operators together in a common cause, and that is carrying over to working together more. That’s good for our industry.”

Client Books

The company’s client book breaks down to about 85% corporate and 15% retail/leisure.

Adding Above All’s vans, limo buses and shuttles to Boston Car’s sedans and SUV fleet provides a full fleet menu of luxury transportation. (L to R): Stephen Ward COO, President Kevin Cronin, and CEO Brett Barenholtz.
Adding Above All’s vans, limo buses and shuttles to Boston Car’s sedans and SUV fleet provides a full fleet menu of luxury transportation. (L to R): Stephen Ward COO, President Kevin Cronin, and CEO Brett Barenholtz.

“We have forward-facing shuttle buses and our limo buses have conservative interiors that corporate clients love,” Cronin says. “They also work for nights out and weddings on weekends with perimeter seating and are equipped with nice amenities that work for corporate clients during the week and retail ones on the weekends.”

The company not only serves the Boston metro region but covers a wide swath of New England stretching from southern New Hampshire through Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York City area airports.

One lesson Barenholtz learned from adding buses to his sedan fleet was the higher cost of operations. “A lot of people don’t understand the bus business is expensive. It’s a different animal than sedans. There are higher costs for repairs, general maintenance, and licensing costs.”

Adds Cronin: “You need to keep your buses properly maintained to reduce downtime. Finding a good mechanic rather than sending buses out for service is cost effective because you are not spending time transporting the bus for repairs and then picking it up again, which is time consuming and keeps it out of operation longer — plus you are paying premium costs for repairs.”

He also advises that “everything on four wheels breaks down,” so keeping parts in stock is a good investment in quick repairs. “For example, buy a second set of tires and wheels so you have the parts on hand, and make a change in 15 minutes rather than sending it out for half a day.”

Both agree the upside to the bus businesses is you can generate new steady shuttle business where you know your fixed costs and your profit margins, as well as provide sedan clients a wide range of services for events, meetings, outings, conventions, tours and any special needs.

 “A long time ago, I saw the bus business as a good opportunity to get dual usage out of the vehicles for corporate and retail — keeping the fleet on the road weekdays and weekends,” Cronin says.

Fleet Combo

Stretch limousines: 5
Sedans: 32
SUVs: 9
Vans/Sprinters: 8
Limo buses: 7
Shuttles: 8
Other: 1 (Old Style Trolley)
Total: 75
Source: 50 Largest Fleets List, July 2016

“What I like is when you have shuttle contracts, you know exactly what you are doing every day and every week,” Barenholtz says. “We know what our drivers get paid, what it costs to operate the bus for each run, overall operating expenses, cash flow, and return on investment.”

Service Matters

Another common trait Barenholtz and Cronin share is their commitment to professional service. “It’s amazing some bus companies I discovered think it’s just a 9 to 5 business,” Barenholtz says. “Their drivers are not wearing suits, don’t open doors for passengers, and just sit in the bus.”

When Barenholtz makes presentations to clients, prospects and affiliates, he’s armed with a wide range of vehicles and professional chauffeurs for all types of runs and events. “Kevin and I have a commitment to grow the company and moving into new offices is a step up to making that happen, and so far so good.” 

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Related Topics: business management, business partnerships, customer service, largest fleets, mergers & acquisitions, Top 50 Largest Fleets

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