BY ROB SMENTEKBelieve. Achieve. Community.
When Charlie Grimm, CEO and founder of BAC Transportation, decided to enter the chauffeured ground transportation industry in the “last frontier” of Anchorage, Alaska, he used these three tenets not only as a way to brand his company, but also as a foundation on which to build. Now, 17 years later, BAC has emerged as one of the largest transportation companies in the region, catering to a diverse set of clients with an equally expansive set of services.
“Alaska is a unique market,” says COO Athena Grimm, Charlie’s wife. “Because we’re kind of out of the way from everyone else, there is a true sense of community here with a lot of relationship-based opportunities. If you’re a person who’s willing to partner, you’re going to do well here.”
Consisting of more than 40 percent of the state’s entire population, Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city where some of the biggest names in petroleum have locations—and provide BAC with the majority of its black car work.
“If you threw out the name of a business or oil company in the region, they’re likely a customer of ours You really must be able to deliver on the safety factors to work with those big businesses. Oil companies especially champion best practices for transporting their teams and will audit you on key performances indicators. The contracts and processes we have had to implement feels like you’re signing your life away at times,” laughs Athena. “As far as chauffeured transportation goes, groups and corporate are the bulk of our work.”
“We get to work with and around really amazing people and situations. One day we could be moving a president from a foreign country traveling by motorcade with secret service, and providing transportation for a famous entertainer or wealthy business icon the next day. BAC has the reputation of being the experts in Alaska for professional chauffeured services.”
However, the dense population and high-rises in Anchorage are liable to make one forget that Alaska is a much different market than the rest of the country. For starters, the state is enormous—more than four times the size of California—but doesn’t have an extensive web of intersecting thoroughfares and highways that those in the contiguous 48 are accustomed to. In the glaciers and mountain ranges that make up much of the state’s topography, there’s one major route in and one route out. The majority of the state is accessible by plane—even the state’s capital of Juneau can only be reached by air or sea. Because of the tilt of the Earth, the state has short winter days (it can be dark for more than a month in the northernmost regions) and extended daylight hours during the summer, which results in 80 consecutive days of sunlight with only brief sunsets.
“Visitors are often in awe of the long days, but in the summer, it’s a benefit for us. We tend get a lot more done because the body is tricked into thinking it is 6 p.m. when it’s really midnight. Our chauffeurs actually have special hours of service consideration with the DOT because of our vast landscape and visibility hours. In other states, they have tighter restrictions.”
This difference in atmosphere and environment, when paired with the area’s overwhelming natural beauty, has made Alaska an increasingly popular vacation destination. BAC has diversified to take full advantage of everything the tourism market has to offer.
“We have direct-bill accounts with cruise ships, and also do airline divert logistics. For instance, if there’s a distressed plane that comes into the airport, they call us. We will book the 200-400 passengers into hotel rooms, provide transportation, arrange their food, and support the move with logistics agents,” says Athena.
“We don’t just do group transportation and black car service; we also have a baggage delivery division. So, if you fly into the airport, and the bag doesn’t arrive, you submit a claim to the baggage service, and a chauffeur will deliver it to your hotel. That’s something different that we offer that many limousine companies don’t always do.”
BAC has also expanded into non-emergency medical work, as well as crew transport, which has become a major part of the company’s business. Since Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is the world’s third busiest airport for cargo traffic—due to the city’s location along “great circle” routes between Asia and the lower 48—it’s created a steady stream of work for the company. During the summer and fall months, Athena says that they do more than 125 trips a day of just crews servicing the cargo and military flights.
Despite the wide expansion of BAC’s service offerings, Charlie remains active in the day-to-day aspects of running the business. His drive and devotion to the company has garnered him a great deal of respect in the Anchorage market. This became evident when Ted Stevens Anchorage Airport wanted to offer a high-class jetway service that would allow chauffeurs to pick up a client just outside the aircraft door in the jetway, and then escort the passenger to a waiting car on the tarmac. They turned to BAC to make it happen.
“We’re known for being willing to partner in unique ways,” says Athena. “A lot of opportunities we’ve gotten involved with are the result of a partner coming to us and asking if we’d be willing to help them when someone else wasn’t able to come through. We decided a while ago that if it’s in our wheelhouse, we’ll try it. So, when Alaska Airlines came to us and said ‘We want to bring this level of service up, would you be willing to bid on baggage delivery?’ we jumped right on it.”
In addition to fostering excellent relationships with their clients, Charlie and Athena have worked hard to develop a strong company culture among their employees. To motivate their staff, the Grimms built BAC’s core values around the slogan “Raise Up:” Responsibility, Accountability, Integrity, Service, Engagement through Understanding and Perseverance.
Anchorage Points of Interest
It is Alaska’s most populous city and contains more than 40 percent of the state’s total population; among the 50 states, only New York has a higher percentage of residents who live in its most populous city.
Alaska is very tax friendly, thanks to its lack of state income tax. Additionally, residents are eligible to receive a Permanent Fund Dividend based on oil revenues flowing from the state. The amount varies, but often ranges from a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars.
The Ted Stevens Anchorage Airport is the world’s third busiest airport for cargo traffic due to its location between Asia and the rest of the U.S., surpassed only by Memphis and Hong Kong. The state obviously has an abundant supply of jet fuel. Petroleum and tourism are Alaska’s most visible and strongest industries.
The Iditarod is real: The famous dogsled race kicks off each March on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage. Billed as “The Last Great Race on Earth,” this 1,000-mile competition with only mushers and a team of incredible working dogs transverses some of the most rugged and beautiful parts of the state.
Moreover, they established a goal-setting system based around the acronym GOAT, which stands for Great customer service, On-time pick up, Accurate documentation, and Team spirit. The Grimms said that these principles increase transparency and create a positive environment, which has paid off.
“Our company is full of individuals who work hard and do their best. They’re loyal. Even for the young employees who are just learning our values, they’re incredibly receptive to learning new ideas. You must have a growth mindset in this industry. There’s constant change here—minute by minute. Not only do you have to pass all the security checks to get into the airport or military base, you have to be able to deal with frequent change and overcome and adapt well. I am especially proud of the Millennials here who tend to roll with change and learn from it,” says Athena.
While it’s been a long journey for the Grimms since they drove their first two limousines from Vegas to Anchorage—a 3,400-mile journey on the Alaska Highway through some of the most desolate places in North America—they have no intent to slow down. Their immediate plans for the future include building up their existing departments and expanding their medical division. In the meantime, the couple is pleased with the direction they’ve taken.
“I think there is a notion that people are in search of the work they will love. What nobody tells you is if you persevere through the ups and downs and really learn your craft that’s when you start to understand and appreciate what you have. You see the opportunities and the possibilities.” [CD1017]