In LCT’s second annual coolest operators round-up, we focus on industry members who have shown they aren’t afraid to try different things.
As times change, so do client’s desires. From tech to good old-fashioned customer service, these businesspeople know how to stay relevant while never sacrificing what it means to be a provider of luxury ground transportation. Some of them have been associated with the business since before they could walk, while others simply had a dream and took a chance. No matter how they ended up in the wonderful world of limos, they all have a wealth of knowledge to share.
Editor’s Note: The following operators are presented in no particular order.
Manager Of Change
Anuj Patel, director of strategic development, Pontarelli Worldwide Ground Transportation, Chicago, Ill.
With a degree in international business from George Washington University and fluency in three different languages, Anuj Patel is an educated, experienced cool guy who’s a great fit for an industry that’s becoming increasingly global.
“The bottom line is this: The core of all business is always people. Being able to relate to and motivate others in all areas of the workplace is my most important quality — getting them to buy in to the strategy. The people drive the business, period. You are only as good as your least talented employee.”
To increase market share in the world of premium car service amid TNC disruption, he believes you must hire top talent and implement creative strategies in all parts of your business.
“For example, if I’m used to hiring mechanics at $15 an hour and they are all more or less subpar, why not get a top diesel tech for $20 who has management experience and can help manage the fleet? Wouldn’t it cost you so much more in time and money to send out all your buses and vans to a diesel garage where you pay a lot more per hour and lose your vehicle for weeks at a time? It’s easier said than done, because you must be consistent and practice these strategies daily. It must become a part of your company culture. Work smart, not hard.”
Fun Fact: Anuj is a die-hard Chicago sports fan (“GO CUBS!”), and loves being a dad. Another area that interests him is social media and digital marketing.
Client Turned Operator
Richard Fertig, president, Brilliant Transportation, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Before he became a cool operator, Richard Fertig started out as a cool client. This is an experience that has given him a particularly interesting vantage point when it comes to improving the industry.
“We are constantly questioning ‘is there a better way to do this?,’” he says. “When we look at our business, we look at it forward-facing. What’s the industry going to look like five or 10 years down the road?” In fact, his company was one of the first operations that saw a market opportunity with the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van. Fertig spotted them a lot in Europe where he traveled for business, but hadn’t yet seen wide scale adoption in the U.S.
As an operator, he’s always looking for ways to better serve his clientele. “We’ve really analyzed our customers and examined where we add the most value, and are spending every minute of every day on scaling and automating whatever can be,” he explains. “We’re adding value through relationships with our clients by designing event transportation and solutions for them.”
Fun Fact: Richard enjoys skiing, working out, being with his kids, and thinking about his future.
Lifelong Limo Leader
Matt Assolin, vice president, Nikko’s Worldwide Chauffeured Services, Houston and Austin, Texas
Matt Assolin was reading LCT before it was cool…and before it was LCT. He remembers the publication by its previous title: Limousine and Chauffeur Magazine. Now an operator and treasurer of the Houston Area Livery and Charter Association, he’s no stranger to the world of luxury ground transportation.
Raised with a “service over all” mentality, he still ensures technology plays a role within his company. However, “at the end of the day, if your customer service isn’t top notch or above and beyond what your competitor can offer, than you don’t have much that sets you apart,” he says.
For those who spend time worrying about what new threat might be here tomorrow, Assolin has some advice: Stop thinking of TNCs as competitors and start thinking of them as introductory black car services.
“We’ve had a ton of new clients come through the door because they are fed up with the service provided by Uber and Lyft. When they get a little taste of having someone else be the driver, they might use the app for a while, and then something will go wrong. The driver doesn’t show up or they have a bad experience, and people are willing to trade up. They are willing to pay more for better service, better vehicles, and proper chauffeurs. TNCs are essentially our industry’s greatest marketing tool for new and potential customers.”
Fun Fact: Matt enjoys golfing and family time, and is trying to earn his private pilot license.
Sean Duval, CEO, Golden Limousine, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Sean Duval knows saying “no” to a customer isn’t cool, and avoids doing so at all costs. “We find ways to say ‘YES.’ My clients have a need, and my first, second, and third answer is almost always yes. I know they’ve identified a need, and the need doesn’t go away just because I don’t have availability. If they trust me, I need to engage my resources to ensure my clients’ need is taken care of and not leave them to fend for themselves.”
This mentality of helping others is the inspiration behind the advice he gives to fellow operators: Make strong partnerships. “Creating solid, positive, local, regional, and national relationships is vital to your success both now and in the future. Your hard work is supported greatly by surrounding yourself with encouraging, successful minded people who care about you,” he says.
Duval is also staying connected to the technology, systems, and organizations developing autonomous vehicles. “I serve on the advisory committee for the American Center for Mobility. We are also close to and monitor M-City, the Mobility Transformation Center at the University of Michigan’s test facility for evaluating the capabilities of connected and automated vehicles and systems.”
Fun Fact: Duval enjoys sports (particularly tennis, golf, soccer, and football), good food, and spending time with his friends and family.
Gregg Moulton, owner and president, Orlando Select Transportation, Orlando, Fla.
When it comes to cool jobs, Gregg Mouton learned there’s nothing close to the luxury ground transportation industry. He started in the business when a former colleague asked him to take a leap of faith and move to Orlando to start a shuttle and sedan business from the ground up. After five successful years with this company, he left and took some time to evaluate his career options. “At the end of the day, I loved what I did, the people I worked with, and the amazing clients we represented, so I decided to start my own company and do it all over again,” he recalls.
Moulton explains the steps he’s taken to ensure the most success in the future is surrounding himself with “energetic, hungry, and eager folks who are always looking for ways to be better and provide the most efficient way of doing business.”
His advice to other operators is never give up. “Although that may seem simple, it has always worked for me,” he says. Like most successful young operators, Moulton believes in taking a “never say no” approach, and always finds a way to make client requests happen. “I also learned you need to take time for yourself and your family to achieve the most success. This is not always easy to do, and I still struggle at it, but practice makes perfect!”
Fun Fact: Moutlon enjoys spending time with his family. “I could have the worst day, but seeing my kids’ faces and the love they have in their heart makes me a better person.”
If you believe you have what it takes to be listed among the cool operators, contact assistant editor Lexi Tucker ([email protected]) so she can file you away as a prospect for next year’s list.
Originally posted on LCT Magazine