BY ROB SMENTEKSince the early 20th century, Scottsdale, Arizona, has been something of a desert oasis for a thriving artists’ and writers’ culture. In recent years, the city has become a popular travel destination for young professionals looking to get a taste of the city’s trendy nightlife and renowned arts community. In fact, The New York Times described the town as one of the country’s “hippest and most happening” places, likening it to “a desert version of Miami’s South Beach.” In addition to its upscale dining and shopping, Scottsdale also boasts the highest number of destination spas per capita of any city in the United States.
In the first week of December, industry consultants Driving Results returned to Scottsdale to close out the year for two of its peer groups, Going Global and Spinning Wheels. Each meeting offered attendees unique opportunities for networking, team building, and education.
The Going Global affiliate managers group was the first gather on December 1. The 16 members in attendance began their two-day meeting, hosted by The Driver Provider, with basic housekeeping and a review of the objectives they set for the third and fourth quarters of 2016. Then, they collaborated on setting new objectives for the coming year as well as determining best practices for success.
The meeting’s first speaker, Tami Saccoccio of Commonwealth Worldwide Chauffeured Transportation in Boston, provided some insight into her role as the company’s global affiliate manager and shared some of her expertise from her years in the industry.
“Tami’s talk about being an affiliate manager for a large company like hers was outstanding,” raved Margaret Day, relationship manager of Reston Limousine in Dulles, Va. “What was so great about it was her totally honesty about working with Commonwealth. She gave us all relevant information about affiliate agreements, certificate of insurance, and protecting your company.”
Next, Tricia Wilcoxin, director of affiliate relations for Windy City Limousine in Chicago, gave a presentation on handling transportation for large group events, and cited her recent experience with the World Series as an example. Arthur Messina, Driving Results’ managing director, next shared some breaking news with the group. In 2017, the consultant firm will be partnering with The LMC Group to develop educational content and workshops for each of Driving Results’ peer groups.
“We’re very excited to be working with The LMC Group in 2017. Currently, we’re in the process of polling our group members so we can tailor the education specifically to each group based on their suggestions,” Messina says. “We provided the members with a list of 10 or 12 topics, and they’re narrowing it down to the ones that are most important.”
It goes without saying that a full day of networking and education requires a night filled with fun. For their dinner and team-building event, the Going Global members headed to Topgolf, a sports and entertainment complex. There, the group enjoyed some tapas and broke into teams to play a little virtual golf, which was enjoyed by both the Phil Mickelson wannabes in the group as well as the folks whose only golfing experience involves a windmill.
“This was more than just an evening of relaxing and hitting golf balls—this was also about teamwork,” points out Messina. “You could see that those who never played golf were being helped by others with more experience. And, after a while, there were some teams being formed and friendly contests popping up among golfers in each of the groups.”
Sami Elotnami, vice president of operations and director of global partnerships at Destination MCO in Orlando, is one of the founding members of Going Global but still finds value in team building. “I have attended 12 meetings so far and our Scottsdale get-together was the best one yet! The team-building activities continue to get better at each meeting. As is the case with everything in life, you get out of it what you put into it. So, I am always happy to see that our members are fully committed to the learning objectives of our group.”
Day two of the event began with a discussion about technology and the various software and equipment that is available to the ground transportation industry. The group gave feedback about what’s working best for their companies, along with what isn’t. The tech with the biggest buzz among Going Global members was Zipwhip, a new application that can set up texting from an existing business phone number.
After a round table discussion of the hot button issues affecting the affiliate managers, the group took a site visit to The Driver Provider, where newlywed Mary Johnson (formerly Beall), the company’s affiliate manager, gave the Going Global members a tour of the operations.
Going Global’s plans for 2017 are in place, with meetings scheduled for April in Raleigh, N.C.; August in Washington, D.C.; and December in Los Angeles to coincide with the Greater California Livery Association’s holiday party.
On Sunday, December 3, Spinning Wheels, Driving Results’ owners group, got their meeting off to an unofficial start with a golf outing in Scottsdale. Ten members who arrived early enjoyed a relaxing day on the links in anticipation for a packed three-day meeting starting the following day.
Spinning Wheels kicked off strong on Monday with two back-to-back technology-themed presentations. First, Bruce Heinrich and James Blain from PAX Chauffeur Training gave a spirited talk about their platform. Heinrich, who is not only PAX’s founder but also the CEO at LEADER Worldwide Chauffeur Services in Kansas City, Mo., spoke about the economic importance of chauffeur training and driver retention. Blain, PAX’s vice president, then offered a demonstration of the training system. They were followed by David Hirsch and Chip Bowman from Livery Coach, who spoke about the diverse product line offered by their company as well as their plans for 2017.
Day two began with Messina sharing news about The LMC Group partnership followed by an educational session from Joe Guinn of Limo & Bus Compliance. With so many operators adding buses and coaches to their fleets, Guinn’s overview on DOT regulations and recordkeeping was prudent and met with enthusiasm.
Arizona’s warm December weather allowed the group to meet in an outdoor atrium where Chauffeur Driven Publisher Chris Weiss provided updates on industry happenings and upcoming CD events. Chief among the topics at hand was the 2017 Executive Retreat to be held in San Francisco and the Napa Valley from June 25-28. After encouraging attendees to check out the new CD website and hosting an open Q&A session, Weiss raffled off a pass to the retreat, which was won by Tony Asaro of Desert Rose Worldwide Transportation.
Tuesday’s sessions concluded with Jaffet Juan and Krystle Riggi from Advantage Funding offering tips for successfully acquiring a loan. Their advice focused on fully preparing a “financial story” before even entering a bank, and emphasized the importance of building a relationship with the lender. Later, even after a substantial meal at Scottsdale’s Roaring Fork and drinks at the hotel lounge, nothing could prevent the Spinning Wheels group from indulging in the finest fast food the West has to offer, In-N-Out Burger.
Michael Campos from Grech started things off on the meeting’s final day with a presentation and Q&A about the builder’s different vehicles, advantages of buses, and changing landscape of the luxury ground transportation industry. Next came more technology discussion, with Steve Levin of CLI Worldwide Transportation in Irvine, Calif., instructing the members on the benefit of working with Google Docs, and how to work and share information using the software.
The meeting concluded with an open brainstorming session and a site visit to meeting host, Desert Rose Transportation, where Asaro gave the group a tour of the facility. Spinning Wheels’ meeting plans for 2017 are just about finalized with a return to Atlanta and a trip Alaska in the pipeline. [CD0117]