In the mid-1980s, as Oklahoma's oil bubble burst and the local economy tanked, Jeff Polzien, president and owner of Oklahoma City-based Red Carpet Charters, spotted a different type of prospect in a defunct travel agency and tour company.
Then a CPA, he started his own bus business with three old Prevost Champions and grew the operation into two companies — Red Carpet and Student Transportation Services LLC—now totaling more than 320 vehicles. This summer, Red Carpet will celebrate its 25th anniversary.
Polzien and his wife were running their own accounting practice in the mid-1980s while a nearby travel agency and tour company was suffering from Oklahoma's declining economy. "They were going broke and they owned three old buses. We worked out a deal, and I was in the bus business," Polzien recalls.
Red Carpet's fleet is almost exclusively comprised of Van Hools. The carrier mainly takes on charter work, with some contract jobs, including parking lot shuttles. Red Carpet serves the states of Oklahoma, Arkansas, and the West and North Central Texas areas, including the Dallas-Fort Worth market.
Polzien has been dedicated to the United Motorcoach Association (UMA), serving on the board since 2001; on the Executive and Legislative Regulatory Committees, as treasurer; and currently as the secretary as well as on the Finance Committee. The operator is also a member of the International Motorcoach Group.
To recognize his outstanding achievements in the industry, METRO Magazine selected Polzien as its 2010 Motorcoach Operator of the Year. METRO publisher Frank DiGiacomo presented the award to Polzien at the UMA's 2010 Motorcoach Expo in Las Vegas, in February.
Initially a coach operator himself, Max Paty, corp. director of sales and marketing, started chartering from Red Carpet in 1992, before he was invited by Polzien to join the operation's staff. "I remember he grew a lot during the 10 years I was a customer of his, and he really assembled a set of outstanding drivers over the years. I still think that's a big point for us," Paty explains. "Jeff recognizes the importance [of that] and does a lot to recruit and retain great drivers."
Polzien's biggest strength and, what has been critical to the company's success, Paty says, is his ability to surround himself with good people and believe in them. "That gives you a lot of confidence. He supports everybody really well."
While his CPA background may place Polzien's primary strength in finance, he believes he has been able to attract good people to his organization because of his commitment to treating them fairly and with respect. "Once you get people there they help you recruit other good people. I think it comes down to core values that you live by and run your company by that really aid in your success," he says.