BY ROB SMENTEKIndustry consultant Driving Results brought its Wheels in Motion OWNER/GM peer group to the New Jersey/New York metro area for three days on July 10-12. Managing Director Arthur Messina planned and co-facilitated a jam-packed itinerary for each day, giving the owners and general managers the opportunity to learn, benchmark, foster relationships, and team-build.
Hosted at the Hyatt Regency Jersey City on the Hudson, overlooking the Freedom Tower and the Statue of Liberty, the beautiful view provided a memorable experience for the group, particularly those who have never been in NYC before. In addition to welcoming two new members, the event hosted several guest speakers and vendors, including representatives from Driver Schedule and Audi of America.
Wheels in Motion Co-facilitator Jim Luff kicked things off by reviewing and setting goals with the group, before spearheading a session called Preparing and Understanding Your P&L Statement. According to Messina, this was especially valuable for the membership, whose operations gross less than $2 million in sales.
“With this group of smaller operators, understanding a P&L statement is vital,” says Messina. “When you’re talking smaller revenue, there could be a big swing in profits and loss with a small change in either direction.”
Following a presentation from guest speaker Michael Lindsey of Driver Schedule, who demonstrated the time-saving advantages of his company’s scheduling and human resources software, Luff offered a session about hiring sales reps. Then the Wheels in Motion members took part in one of Messina’s trademark team-building exercises, which have become one of the most anticipated features of Driving Results meetings. This time, he took everyone to Hudson Table, a culinary school in Hoboken, N.J., where the operators cooked their three-course meal from scratch. The group broke into three teams, each handling a different part of the meal, which included fresh pasta, ravioli, and tiramisu. The activity provided a lot of laughs, and everyone left with a full stomach.
“We find the team-building activities, especially cooking, to be very effective, since it requires a mix of different people closely working together to follow directions,” says Messina. “I like to see people who don’t know each other work together. It definitely helps to forge a great relationship.”
On day two, Luff kicked things off with a session on business valuation, which is of great merit to smaller operators in the current business environment. With the industry facing a constant stream of changes (and uncertainty), Messina says that everyone should be aware of the value of their companies as well as the options owners have for the future, such as buying someone out or being acquired.
Next, NLA board member Douglas Schwartz of Executive Limousine fielded questions during two extensive Q&A sessions. First, Schwartz spoke about the ways he’s increased his business; after lunch, he provided insight into his role as an NLA board member and the benefits of being an active member of an association.
Before heading to dinner, the afternoon concluded with a presentation from an Audi of America team, which concluded with test-driving some cars. Representatives from Access Commercial Capital were also on hand. The group then ventured to Brooklyn for a meal at the world-famous Peter Luger Steak House, and capped off the night at a rooftop bar in Midtown Manhattan.
Day three of the meeting was devoted to a field trip (aka roadshow) to visit three prominent N.J. operators. First the group headed to Royal Coachman Worldwide, where company President Jon Epstein gave a tour of the facility, and then they visited Broadway Elite Worldwide, where they were welcomed by COO Jason Sharenow. They finished the day at Gem Limousine Worldwide, where Owner Barb Chirico and President Joe Gulino held a Q&A and demonstrated that it’s possible to have a traditional family-run business, even with 100+ cars in the fleet.
“It’s important for our group to see that these owners each started in the same way they did,” explains Messina. “Talking to Jon, Jason, Barb, and Joe was sort of like looking into a crystal ball and showing their future. It’s nice for them to see that if you build things correctly on a solid foundation, you will grow over time.”
The next Wheels in Motion meeting is scheduled for November 29-December 1 in Miami. Visit drivingresults.org for more information. [CD0917]