[IMAGE]ATT-.jpg[/IMAGE]What started as an annual family vacation to Nashville ended up becoming a successful tour company — A&B Tours — that would eventually grow into a thriving motorcoach operation— AT&T Charter Service Inc.
"My parents used to watch this show called Nashville Now, and they would always talk about Fan Fair in Nashville," says Denny House, AT&T's president, of the event now known as CMA Music Fest. "We started going for our family vacation every year when I was about eight. Mom thought it was the best thing, but nobody had ever heard of it."
Around 1986, House's mom chartered a bus and conducted her first tour group to the event, and the business soon flourished to become a full-fledged motorcoach operation in 1989.
When House came aboard, AT&T expanded from exclusively providing tours and began adding charters to the mix, particularly for schools; however, then came 9/11.
"Following 9/11, they put a freeze on public school trips, so then we started doing some work for private schools. I had five new buses at the time and didn't know what to do with them," explains House, who soon began calling colleges and universities in an attempt to fill those buses.
"We picked up our first school - North Carolina Wesleyan College — and then the other schools in the conference just started calling, and it went from there," says House. "You meet somebody at one school, you provide good service and then from one you kind of pick up the people that fly in to play them, as well."
With a growing list of university athletic teams, the work has been steady, explains House, who says he goes from football, soccer and volleyball seasons in the fall right into basketball through the beginning of winter to baseball, softball and lacrosse throughout the spring.
To help keep his athletic teams comfortable and to provide a higher-end vehicle for corporate clients in Research Triangle, AT&T recently added two Daimler Buses North America Setra S 417s.
The coaches comfortably fit groups of up to 56 people and feature laptop connections, wireless Internet and satellite television, as well as Setra's exclusive TopSky glass roof. Leather seats, center armrests, wood floors, wood accents, rear window, card tables and rear galleys complete the luxury experience for the operation's customers. AT&T will also add three more coaches equipped with 2010 engine technology in the near future.
"I try to work a little harder than anybody else, but it's also important to have new equipment and put all the frills on them that people don't even know they want," says House.
House isn't lying when he says that he tries to work harder. He not only owns the operation, but also "does it all," including answering phone calls, giving price quotes, typing contracts, and driving and monitoring the maintenance of his vehicles, just to name a few things.
"Not much happens around here that I don't know about," says House.
Being out on the road and meeting as many people as possible, helps House increase his business and find excellent drivers and employees. He explains that the recession has indeed hit his business, but only in the sense that clients who once used two or three coaches are consolidating, saving money and using one coach instead. The slight decrease has only helped Denny maintain a more solid driving staff, he believes.
"When you're not as busy, you just have your top drivers driving," he says. "Right now, I've got 10 or 12 guys that are the best at what they do, and it makes your life a lot simpler."