BY ROB SMENTEK
Peer group facilitator Driving Results concluded the 2019 schedule of their Spinning Wheels owner/general manager group with a three-day meeting in scenic Napa Valley. On November 20-22, the members headed to the Archer Hotel Napa, located in the heart of Northern California’s renowned winemaking region, for peer-to-peer discussion, business development sessions, guest speakers, and, yes, plenty of vino.
For the last meeting of 2019, the group tied up loose ends regarding the hot-button topics that were discussed throughout the year. To kick things off on Wednesday, Driving Results Managing Director Arthur Messina called upon the expertise of a few group members to present on business solutions that could help the operators back at the office. First, Athena Grimm of BAC Transportation presented on profitability tracking, then Sami Elotmani of Destination MCO offered a look at the most important KPIs that operators should be tracking in 2020.
The perennial challenge of recruiting and training chauffeurs and office staff was the topic of a roundtable discussion. Messina says that this is something that comes up at virtually every meeting of his Driving Results groups.
“Before each meeting, I always reach out to the members to gauge what they want to discuss. The one topic that we continually talk about is employee and chauffeur recruiting. It’s the biggest struggle, and we’re not the only industry with this problem—it’s cross platform. So we always bring this up in some capacity. It’s important that we hit what’s trending with the group.”
The first day concluded with a dinner at the Brix Restaurant, sponsored by Grech Motors. The group was joined by Grech Senior Sales Executive Larry Olivarez for a meal that included generous pours of Sire Estate Cabernet, a wine made by Beau Wine Tours President Thomas Buck.
Day two kicked off with a Q&A session with Jeff Brodsly from Chosen Payments, who offered his take on the credit card processing industry and ways operators can improve business relations by selecting the right processing partner. Next, the Spinning Wheels members headed to Beau Wine Tours for a site visit guided by Buck and Director of Affiliate Relations Christina Zanone. The group toured through each part of the operation, and had the chance to meet with department representatives to gain some perspective on how things are done at Beau. After a lunch at Bueno Vista Winery, the group convened around a fire pit for a conversation on employee retention, and the ways the operators are keeping the best of their best on staff. Thursday’s wine experience was followed by dinner at the freshly opened Bouchaine Vineyards with sponsors Temsa National Sales Manager Randy Angell and Trans Lease Business Development Manager Mark Lindell.
The Napa meeting concluded on Friday with two guest speakers. CD Publisher Chris Weiss took part in a Q&A session that addressed industry happenings and the first CD/NLA Show in Las Vegas. Then, the members welcomed noted service expert Bertine Hage of the Four Seasons Vancouver. In her role of Chef Concierge, Hage has become a much-consulted expert on client satisfaction. Her presentation, The Art of Apologizing, offered three approaches for requesting forgiveness via phone, email, or face-to-face meeting. Most importantly, her approach doesn’t call for operators to immediately comp a ride or offer a discount.
“Let’s face it,” says Messina. “Stuff happens every day, and most operators’ first instincts are to comp a ride. Bertine showed us that sometimes clients are just looking for acknowledgement of fault and some nice words. They don’t always want or need a comped ride.”
Spinning Wheels has three meetings scheduled for 2020: They head to Miami in March, Philadelphia in July, and San Diego in November. Based on their experience in Napa, the members are looking forward to what’s ahead in the new year.
“The Napa meeting was an invigorating experience,” says Stephanie McKeon of Joshua’s Limousine. “Having only attended two of the 2019 meetings, I was on the fence about returning in 2020. I had a change of heart based the warm hospitality we received from Beau Wine Tours and the knowledge I gained from our highly educated group members. I joined Spinning Wheels knowing I was going to be surrounded by heavy hitters in our industry. As a young female aspired operator from a family-owned business, I went in looking for a challenge. The Napa meeting surely had my wheels spinning.” [CD0220]