You are on page 1of 8

COMPANY PROFILE PREMIER TRANSPORTATION

BIGGER IN

TEXAS

24 | LIMO DIGEST | FEBRUARY 2013

COMPANY PROFILE PREMIER TRANSPORTATION

Premier Transportation of Dallas has made southern hospitality part of a very successful business plan.
BY EVAN McCAULEY

The state itself is the largest in the continental U.S., and holds the second-largest population, after California. Personalities are bigger here, as is hospitality. Attitudes, history, and cities are bigger (Houston is the fourth-largest city in the U.S., and San Antonio is the seventh). Oil production is obviously huge, but so is the rest of Texas economy: the state leads the country in many industries, including agriculture, petrochemicals, energy, electronics, computers, aerospace, and biomedical sciences. Premier Transportation Services, LLC, was founded in Dallas in 1996, by president Eric Devlin and partner Jim Stowe. From that little two-car operation to the 65-vehicle superstar that it is today, Premier has certainly gotten bigger in Texas. Eric and I started out going door to door to law firms, business offices anybody that had a need for corporate transportation, says Stowe, who is still a Premier chauffeur (he sold his ownership to Devlin in 2001). We would hear that a guy just started a new business, with employees who traveled every day. We would reference the Dallas Business Journal, and would see who that company was, and start callingworking any angle to get a meeting or a phone call. I really enjoyed that part of my joband of course I enjoy continuing to chauffeur my clients who followed me to Premier.

hey say everything is bigger in Texas.

With an annual sales increase of over 15 percent for nearly every year since 1996, growth has been steady for the bustling Dallas company. Weve just grown, says Devlin, and one of the things that we like to tell people is that we walked before we ran. Its ready, aim, aim, aim, shoot. Its not ready, shoot, aim. You make sure that buying a new car or hiring a new employee really makes sense. You have two or three months of excessive farmout before you go and buy another car, because that might just be an anomaly. Along with that careful, strategic approach to everything Premier does, Devlin attributes the companys growth and success to four factors: attention to customer service; internal teamwork, including a great staff, trusted managers, and employee appreciation; unique marketing, such as sponsoring events (and donating approximately $50,000 in funds and services to charitable causes every year); and appreciation and steadfast work with affiliate partners. One of the biggest challenges Premier has faced, says Don Hammond, general manager, has been maintaining the companys top-notch level of service along with its constant growth. As you get larger, the level of service tends to drop off, he says. Weve been fortunate to avoid thatwe have some very good people, and weve worked very hard to maintain our level of service. So we have an excellent reputation not only here in Dallas, but also

FEBRUARY 2013 | LIMO DIGEST | 25

COMPANY PROFILE PREMIER TRANSPORTATION

[TOP LEFT] Premier Transportations Luxury Limo Bus was wrapped with special graphics for use during the Texas Rangers Winter Caravan. [TOP RIGHT] Eric Devlin, Nicki Beetar, and Ted Hernandez (from left), surrounded by some of Premiers many plaques, trophies, and other awards. [ABOVE] Premier chauffeur Brad Tozier stands with two Premier sedans at the new Omni Hotel in Downtown Dallas.

nationwide. And another indication of that service is that a lot of our business comes from referrals. Indeed, Premier Transportation won Large Operator of the Year at the 2011 Limo Digest Show, and is the highestrated Better Business Bureau limousine company in Dallas and in the nation, according to Devlin. Were probably in the top two or three [luxury transportation companies in Dallas], revenue-wise, he says. Ten percent growth a year is a great goal to have. Thats what I budget for each year. Weve beat it most years.

IT STARTS WITH GREAT EMPLOYEES.


These accolades and this kind of consistent growth havent come without hard work, and a lot of great personnel. We have 20 people in the office and about 60 full- and part-time chauffeurs, says Devlin. We man the phones 24/7. Christmas morning is the only time we [dont answer] the phones. We have a minimum of 4-6 people here from 7 a.m. until 6 or 7 at night. And then we have in-house dispatchers here from midnight to 5 a.m., before the day dispatchers come in at 7 a.m. Our clients have really come to appreciate that. Its a great selling tool, because competitors clients come to us when they get an answering service elsewhere. Premiers first-class service doesnt stop there. Attention to individual client needs and desires is paramount, as well. We have a fact sheet in each clients profile, says Devlin. People who work for Dr. Pepperwere not going to put Coke

About Premier

Whether you require a chauffeured vehicle for business or pleasure, close to home or in a new city, Premier Transportation is always there.
26 | LIMO DIGEST | FEBRUARY 2013

TOLL-FREE: (800) 789-4847 LOCAL: (214) 351-7000 WEB: www.premierofdallas.com

FOUNDED: 1996 LOCATION: Dallas, Texas SERVING: The Greater Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex FLEET: 65 Vehicles DRIVERS: 60 full- and part-time

COMPANY PROFILE PREMIER TRANSPORTATION

products in their car. We have clients who say, We want to be picked up in the alley, but dropped off in front of the house. I like to listen to channel 103.5. Client likes to talk, client doesnt like to talk. You can really customize these profiles: dates of birth and kids names and all kinds of different things that give the chauffeur that personal touch. I want our clients to know theyre going to get the exact same consistent, professional service of course with the chauffeurs personal touch, he continues. The clients know that we know where were going, the flight number, the gate and terminal, and if its on time. All the client has to do is sit back and relax and enjoy the ride and not worry about the chauffeur knowing what hes doing. Its all about communication and our presenting the company that way. Our chauffeur motto is that if youre not 15 minutes early, youre 10 minutes late.

FOR THIS INDUSTRY IN DALLAS, THERE IS NOTHING THAT CAN MATCH OUR FOCUS ON CREATIVITY, PROFESSIONALISM, NICE VEHICLES, AND TOP-OFTHE-LINE EVERYTHING.
Premier has made southern hospitality an integral part of a very successful business plan. Its clich, says Devlin, but I tell our chauffeurs and I tell our people, I dont care about the money. You get the client from point A to point B and well worry about all that stuff later. If theres ever an issue about a credit card or about a fee or anything, Im not worried about it at the point of sale. Weve gotten burned a couple of times with that, but Im not in the business of standing at a car with our hands out asking for money or tip or credit card. We just want to get the job done in the most professional, safe, and reliable fashion possible. This trickles down to everything we do. When it comes to taking quotes, we ask questions, we try to discount things, we try to put ourselves in the clients shoes. The relationship we have with our clientsits that dynamic that keeps them coming back, says Bryan Raley, operations coordinator. For this industry in Dallas, there is nothing that can match our focus on creativity, professionalism, nice vehicles, and top-of-the-line everything. The word Premier stands out, and is very fitting. Relationships are built loyalty-wise, because of the service we provide, says Devlin. Its because our chauffeurs do a wonderful job, and our reservationists answer the phones with smiles on their faces and with a service attitude. Chauffeurs, reservationists, and a world-class core office staff are really what make Premier tick in this clockwork fashion. Don Hammond, the general manageralso treasurer of the Dallas Fort Worth Limousine Association (DFWLA)is one of the leaders of this team, Don is a 14-year Premier veteran who handles online quoting, new web business, and office staffing, plus chauffeur training, and hiring, compliance, and permitting, with the assistance of fleet manager Todd Davis.

[LEFT] The Elite Custom Coach showroom. Eric Devlin, Laurie Johnson, Paula DeHaven, and Todd [LEFT, BOTTOM] Elite 2011 Operator of the Year Davis (from left) accept themotorcoach driver Keith award atBainbridge. [BELOW] The Pittsburgh skyline. the Limo Digest Show in Atlantic City.

PREMIER NAMED 2011 OPERATOR OF THE YEAR


Premier Transportation was named 2011 Operator of the Year, Large Fleet Category. The award was presented at the annual Limo Digest Show Awards Gala, held at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, N.J. Premier President Eric Devlin accepted the award. Premier Transportation has received numerous awards since it was founded by Devlin in 1996. Most recent awards include Best Wedding Transportation for 2011 and 2012 from the American Association of Certified Wedding Planners, Readers Choice Award from the Plano Star Courier, and Members' Circle Award for Best Transportation. This is the second time Premier has been recognized for outstanding industry achievement; Premier was named National Operator of the Year in 2009 by Limousine, Charter and Tour Magazine.

FEBRUARY 2013 | LIMO DIGEST | 27

COMPANY PROFILE PREMIER TRANSPORTATION

Davis does everything pertaining to vehicles from start to finish. From buying vehicles, to designing buses, to maintenance and upkeep, Davis does it all, as he has for 10 years with Premier. He also oversees the hiring and training of chauffeurs, anda long-time chauffeur himselfstill drives to this day. I have about five clients who request me specifically, he says. Laurie Johnson is Devlins assistant, as well as Premiers business development guru, resident prom and wedding specialist. I handle the bridal shows, and I manage our relationship with wedding planners, she says. I also manage the content and layout of our website (www.premierofdallas.com). I manage email, and snail mailings, plus our advertising budgeting. Operations coordinator Bryan Raley handles large DMC groups and in-house corporate groups. Our business is very corporate-oriented, he says. We dont do a lot of the party buses and things like that. I may work 15 programs in a day, and a lot of them are interconnected. Were very busy with this end of our business. Our phones are always on our hips, night and day. A native of South Africa, Nicki Beetar is the reservations supervisor, but she is quick to point out that everyone at Premier answers phones and takes reservations. She says that team effort is a huge part of Premiers success. I think were the best in Dallas, she says. Weve worked pretty hard to perfect this over the years. Were really big on customer service. Paula DeHaven, director of corporate sales, handles many of the local and national associations by attending various trade shows both in Dallas and around the nation. She has also been instrumental in Premiers ever-expanding social media presence. I really enjoy the networking opportunities that my job providesboth in person and via Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest etc. The person who keeps this all operating as a tight ship is the office manager, Sherry Wilson. Wilson is in charge of HR, payroll, customer service issues, and following up with service errors and the occasional complaint. She also works with some of the destination management companies and groups. Ive been in this industry for 10 years, and I love it here so much more than other places Ive worked, she says. The son of one of Premiers original chauffeurs when the company was founded, Ted Hernandez started out as a chauffeur himself, and is now the companys operations manager, and manager of the groups department. The previous two years, the groups department has done more business than weve ever done, he says. Hernandez is also one of Premiers technology experts.
[FROM TOP] Premier staff members: Ted Hernandez, operations manager; Corey Witzel, business manager; Laurie Johnson, business development; Marsha Goodwin, accounting assistant/reservations; Todd Davis, fleet manager (seated) and Donald Holland, chauffeur.

28 | LIMO DIGEST | FEBRUARY 2013

COMPANY PROFILE PREMIER TRANSPORTATION

[COUNTERCLOCKWISE, FROM TOP LEFT] Premier chauffeurs Daryl Hayes and Brad Tozier accompany Premier luxury sedans at the new Omni Hotel in downtown Dallas. Jim Stowe (left) and Eric Devlin founded Premier Transportation in 1996 with two cars. The Premier Blimpa limoshaped, remote-controlled dirigibleflies above the crowd at a recent Texas Legends game in Dallas. Derek Buckingham, dispatch manager, and Randi Brown, dispatch. Bryan Raley, operations coordinator. The Dallas skyline is one of the most distinctive in the Southwest.

FEBRUARY 2013 | LIMO DIGEST | 29

COMPANY PROFILE PREMIER TRANSPORTATION

The other tech wizard is Corey Witzel, the accounting manager. Working the accounts receivable and payable dutiesboth with local clients and our affiliatestakes up 90 percent of my time, he says, but Im also the firstlevel IT person.

TECHNOLOGY HELPS MAKE IT ALL WORK.


Technology is a huge factor in Premiers trajectory of success. Embracing what technology can do for them has paid dividends. The first thing we did when I came to Premier was the implementation of Livery Coach, Witzel says, referring to the companys reservations program. Its a great piece of software. Devlin concurs. Our clients have really come to enjoy [Livery Coach], and its one of our selling pointsonline booking, changing, and cancelling, he says. We show clients the bells and whistles of instant communication, instant confirmation, 24-hour confirmation, and 20-minute confirmation with the chauffeurs name, cell number, and vehicle tag number20 minutes before the run, we will email a client and say, Your chauffeurs name is John. Hes in sedan 12. His phone number is X. If the client is in a meeting, he can text the chauffeurs cell number and say, Hey, Im running late, or Im on the west side of the building instead of the east side of the building, which happens a lot.

[TOP] Premier Reservations Manager Nicki Beetar with the Premier beverage cart during a local charity golf tournament in the spring of 2012. [MIDDLE] Doug Grandon, DOT compliance and dispatch assistant.

TECHNOLOGY IS HUGE FACTOR IN PREMIERS TRAJECTORY OF SUCCESS. EMBRACING WHAT TECHNOLOGY CAN DO FOR THEM HAS PAID DIVIDENDS.
From there we moved to seveninch tablets for the chauffeurs, says Witzel. The great thing about that is if we have a trip changethe drivers have it immediately, instead of trying to relay it over the phone, or trying to get them a new piece of paperwork like we used to. Theyre able to track all the

[BOTTOM] Representatives of the Salvation Army bring in the game ball for a recent Texas Legends game. Premier is a sponsor and the official transportation provider for this D-League basketball team.

flights via the tablets, and theyre able to do all their time sheets, walkaroundsall that, all within the tablet. Its been a great tool. Premier drivers also use their tablets to display their airport greeting signs electronically. A week doesnt go by without a new client seeing one of our tablets at DFW, and citing that as the reason he or she is calling us, says Devlin. Finally, theres Premiers GPS fleettracking system. With the GPS, were able to know within seconds where everybody is, whos going to be the best response for this or that, says Witzel. Or if a problem comes up with a lastminute reservationinstead of calling 10 drivers to find out whos the closest, in a split second we can find out where everybody is. Also, when people call with disputes or questionsif they want to know when they were dropped off, or say they were dropped off two hours before they werewe can pull that up and see, and be able to provide that for them. Devlin agrees that GPS and fleettracking has been instrumental for the company. If a client says, Im ready to go now. How quickly can you get here? we can look and say, Well, hes just around the corner, he can be there in three minutes. Ill call him r i g ht n ow. T h e t e c h n o l o g y h a s changed our business. Limo companies are becoming savvy, and can handle more sophisticated and intricate group moves or multivehicle moves, he continues. Clients feel comfortable, knowing that we know what were doing and we have our ducks in a row, because they have their manifests, and their confirmations which have been sent to them electronically. Witzel is also Premiers affiliate manager, and affiliate relationships are extremely important to Premiers business. Corey has great relationships with all our affiliates, says Devlin. We do a pretty fair amount of farm-in business from those partners around the world. Approximately 20 to 30 percent of our business is farm-in work from our affiliates around the world. We farm out about 30 percent of our business to

30 | LIMO DIGEST | FEBRUARY 2013

COMPANY PROFILE PREMIER TRANSPORTATION

[LEFT] The Premier management team, from left: Eric Devlin, Sherry Wilson,

complex near Dallas Love Field.

[ABOVE] Premier's offices are located in Mockingbird Towers, an office

and Don Hammond, in Devlin's office.

those same affiliates who send us business. Naturally, we have really strong relationships with Houston and Austin, and we call ourselves The Texas Triad. I think we need to make T-Shirts or something! We have great success with those relationships. People pay their bills and theyre appreciative of our work, and were the same with them. We just get along really well and help each other out. That way we all grow and prosper. When you walk into Premiers headquarters, near Dallas Love Field, youre immediately struck by the scale and refinement of the facilityyou can tell its a highend, high-quality operation right away. Situated in a sprawling office suite on the ground floor of a golden corporate tower, this doesnt feel like your ordinary ground transportation companywhich, of course, it isnt. Weve heard many comments from destination management companies about the building were inthat our offices are some of the nicest youll ever see in a limousine service, says Devlin. We did that

purposefully: First, and most importantly, I wanted to create an atmosphere and work environment for our employees of which they would be proud. Secondly, our beautiful office space is another selling point when our clients visit to meet our staff, see our operation, and tour our vehicles. Weve got a great location; were on the first floor of an office building that has underground parking where we park all our sedans, SUVs, and limousines. Then we have a back corner of a massive parking lot where we park our buses and vans, some of which are under an awning. The traditional warehouse office setup is not what we have here. I think we hit a homerun with our office spacethe loca-

tion, with its proximity to DFW, Love Field, and downtown Dallas, how its set up, the interior, the flexibility, and, finally, the ease that the chauffeurs have coming in and out of the buildings. When you stand out in that parking lot, looking up at that big, golden tower, and gazing down upon Premiers sparkling, late-model fleet of 65 Town Cars, Cadillacs, SUVs, Mercedes, Lexus, Equus, executive vans, limo vans, limobuses and minibuses, you cant help but think, Wow, everything really is bigger in Texas.

Premier chauffeur Daryl Hayes with one of Premiers Equus sedans at Versailles Park, in the Highland Park neighborhood of Dallas.

FEBRUARY 2013 | LIMO DIGEST | 31