Here are some sights and scenes from one wicked cool tradeshow.
LCT: You attend industry trade shows and events. What motivates you to give back to the industry?
Sparks: I believe through education we are all provided the tools to improve our businesses, especially when you have opportunities to participate in gatherings among top performers in your industry. I recall returning home from my first International LCT Show in Las Vegas, where I attended as an LCT-NLA Scholarship winner — an opportunity that made a difference. I came home, added two cars to my fleet, and was elected secretary of the KLA. I was motivated to play a larger part in something I am still passionate about to this day.
LCT: When and why did you get started in the business?
Sparks: In 1987, my father, who has since passed, had retired from Ford Motor Co. and noticed a classified ad, ‘Chauffeurs needed for first Breeders Cup Horse Race at Churchill Downs.’ He was hired and mentioned they needed more drivers. I said, “Pop, I’m only 17! They aren’t gonna hire me!” Well, we became a father/son chauffeur team. Back then the companies were self-insured, so my age was not an issue. How times have changed, right? I continued to chauffeur part time throughout college. Then, in 2009, I bought and renovated an old motor inn close to Lake Cumberland and needed a shuttle for the local airports. Through a dealer, I bought my first stretch, a 160-inch Lincoln TC Tuxedo, and Lake Cumberland Limousine was born.
LCT: How did you first get involved in advocacy for the industry and your association?
Sparks: After driving in Kentucky, I knew there were regulatory and insurance requirements for running a stretch limousine. I found the listing for the Kentucky Limousine Association, read its mission statement, and contacted then-President Carey Fieldhouse, who immediately invited me to attend their next meeting. I took more away from that single meeting than from any organization I had been involved with to that point in my life. I knew I wanted to be a part of something for the greater industry good!
LCT: How do you view the industry today?
Sparks: This industry has been through a complete transition. Today, we are challenged with illegal (TNCs), illegal operators, and more regulatory processes. Nationally, our fights will continue forever, I believe, whether on the regulatory front, TNCs and duty of care, or simply the costs of doing business.
LCT: And your outlook on the future of the industry?
Sparks: (TNCs are) here to stay, in some form, and the general public will eventually, over time, understand the consequences with unsafe, illegal ground transportation running rampant. We have to make sure they CARE about and pay attention to that! Education of the general public will be key.
LCT: What are some of the things you want to accomplish as president of the association?
Sparks: We are a small but active group of folks in Kentucky. My main goals have been to reach out to operators for membership; provide all tools necessary to our members to make informed decisions about their operations, participate in as many industry functions/sponsorships as financially possible; and continue building a cohesive group of operators willing to bring their experience and ideas to our table.
LCT. What keeps you competitive and motivated?
Sparks: Honestly, I can only refer to my upbringing. My father was a Korean War Veteran and a man I watched as a child leave for the same job every morning for 31 years — snow, ice, rain, not feeling 100% some days. He had the same commitments to family and his sons. Irresponsibility and laziness were not options, and education was a requirement. I remember him often saying when I came home from a run with a nice tip, “Son, you see what happens when you take care of people!” Those things instilled a sense of competition, and certainly motivation, to strive to be the best professional, productive person I can be.
LCT: Can you share your thoughts and maybe advice on the new generation of operators?
Sparks: I encourage everyone to hit the pavement and seek out ideas, attend shows and local business/work groups, and to educate themselves!
LCT: What do you like to do in your downtime?
Sparks: My family started coming to Lake Cumberland in 1964. I was on board our first family boat at four days old in a car seat stowed under the closed bow. I joke with folks that Cumberland water MUST be in my blood! I’ve been a slalom skier since age five and love power boating. I run a classic offshore styled 42-foot Chris Craft Stinger, 1986 vintage. When not behind the wheel, detailing vehicles, or going to KLA meetings, you will most certainly find me on the lake!
Tom Halligan is LCT East Coast editor, based in Marlton, N.J. He travels regularly to industry association meetings in the eastern U.S. Tom can be reached at [email protected]
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