[IMAGE]MET2UMA-Ramblin-2.jpg[/IMAGE]Todd Holland, president of Denver-based Ramblin Express, is a unique member of the motorcoach industry. He has not taken over the reins of a family business. He was not even working in the transportation field when, at the age of 25, he bought out Pueblo Shuttle Express in 1993. Holland founded Ramblin in Colorado Springs and now runs the headquarters out of Denver.
Spotting the opportunity to run a casino shuttle service to Cripple Creek, Colo., just after Colorado had approved state gaming, Holland sold the apartment finding business, Housing Helpers, that he had started while in college. "There were a number of carriers that fizzled out. There was one guy standing, and he was ready to throw in the towel, so I acquired his license," Holland recalls. His goal of taking 30 people up to the casinos each day has since evolved into the successful 50-vehicle carrier the business is today, with 85 employees, providing services all across the U.S. and Canada.
To this day, Ramblin still runs a robust casino shuttle program, comprising about one-third of its business. The operator also has increasingly taken on more charter business, runs a limousine division and handles transportation for the Broadmoor, a five-star, five-diamond hotel, located in Colorado Springs. Approximately seven years ago, the luxury resort outsourced its airport, sightseeing and convention transportation to Ramblin, providing the carrier with about 15 percent of its business.
Ramblin's fleet is made up entirely of Motor Coach Industries J4500 motorcoaches, with a handful of Krystal Enterprises and ElDorado minibuses. The carrier's annual mileage averages 2.6 million, with ridership quickly approaching 500,000 annually.
Holland serves on the International Motorcoach Group (IMG) board of directors, served on the United Motorcoach Association (UMA) board of directors from 2001 to 2007, won IMG's "Operator of the Year" award in 2009, and co-founded the Motorcoach Council, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about the benefits of motorcoach transportation.
To honor his outstanding achievements in the industry, METRO Magazine selected Holland as its 2011 Motorcoach Operator of the Year. METRO publisher Frank DiGiacomo presented the award to Holland at the UMA's 2011 Motorcoach Expo in Tampa, Fla., in January.
Growing a diverse operation
Whether it's finding ways to make the motorcoach industry better or improving the daily operations in his business, many have observed that Holland handles both exceptionally well.
Victor Parra, president/CEO, UMA, is one of those who attest to Holland's versatility. The two worked together on UMA's board of directors. "There are people who are good big picture thinkers and there are people who are very hands on, who really work in the business, and Todd has the ability to do both. I think that's an extraordinary talent," Parra says.
What Holland enjoys most about running Ramblin is not only the people he works with, but those in the industry in general. "There are a lot of relationships that get built through participating in industry events. You get to know people over the years, and business gets traded back and forth. It seems like not a day goes by that I don't get a call from somebody in some other part of the country," he explains.
Holland considers one of his biggest achievements is to be growing a diversified operation. "It enabled us to weather the storm of the last two and a half years, while still retaining and keeping intact our key people, most of [whom] have been with me since day one," Holland says.
Succeeding in what has typically been a tough industry is a daily challenge, one that Holland admits he enjoys. "When one segment of our business slows down or goes stagnant, other areas grow. We're always shifting to keep up with it, and not putting all our eggs in one basket," he says.
Juggling different segments, such as Ramblin's casino shuttle program, keeps Holland on his toes. "It had been somewhat flat up until that last couple of years, when our charter program had tremendous growth and then declined. Now, though, it's coming back," he says. Ramblin has since added six refurbished transit style buses with an eye on more event shuttle business.
While many operators pride themselves on having experienced drivers and clean equipment, Ramblin's affiliation with the Broadmoor and its top-notch professional staff sets it apart, Holland says. To ensure its staff provides exceptional service, Ramblin equips all its drivers with in-house training, Broadmoor's "Keeping the Stars" training program and IMG's online driver certification program.
Taking over the Broadmoor transportation department brought the carrier to an even higher level of expectations. Holland says the hotel was initially reluctant to outsource its service, not because of a lack of equipment or ability, but due to concerns with service level expectations.
"Being a five star, five diamond property, they're held to a much higher standard. [With] the airport shuttle, [drivers are] the first and the last people the [customer] sees," Holland points out. Ramblin worked with the Broadmoor to put its drivers through the hotel's training program, so that they could see its culture and what it expects of its employees. "That level of service has permeated to the other things we do, whether it's taking [adults] to casinos or kids on a field trip," Holland says.
[PAGEBREAK][IMAGE]MET2Operator-ToddHolland-2.jpg[/IMAGE]Motorcoach Council founder
Holland has provided a significant contribution to the transportation industry's big picture by co-founding the Motorcoach Council in 2008 and bringing other operators on board.
Holland played an integral role in recruiting many of the organization's founding partners and raising the initial seed money to develop the campaign, says Heather Horton, executive director, Motorcoach Council. For three and a half years, Holland served as the founding president and chairman of the Council, formerly known as The Green Operators. "Holland was instrumental in the launch of this start-up...and took a personal interest in its initial success," Horton says.
Holland always found extra time to promote the Council's "Get Motorcoachified" campaign, encouraging involvement from motorcoach operators, suppliers, vendors and associate partners while running his own company, Horton adds. "Holland has a contagious spirit for the vitality of the industry and an unwavering enthusiasm for the Council's mission. He is an innovator and known for his forward thinking."
UMA's Parra says Holland's leadership on the Council and pushing the "Get Motorcoachified" campaign were crucial to getting the program off the ground. "Todd comes across quiet, unassuming, but in meetings he really brought synergy," Parra says. "Everybody has their own ideas about what the industry should do. Todd was so effective in managing that process. We've had a lot of fits and starts with industry campaigns. This didn't come off the ground until Todd took the reigns and became chairman of the council."
Steve Klika, IMG's president, agrees. "He's had to rally an industry that has been pretty focused internally and bring a lot of parties to the table, from vendors to associations to trade groups as well as individual members," he says. "He invests a lot of his own personal time and energy and works to get consensus and groups to come together."
Holland currently serves the Motorcoach Council as an ex-officio member of the board, lending insight to the Council's new Chairman, Brian Annett of Sebring, Fla.-based Annett Bus Lines. Holland continues to participate in several Council committees, attends all Council events and supports campaign initiatives in place, as well as those in development, according to Horton.
Holland foresees the Council having long-term benefits for the industry. "I feel very strongly that we need to be able to look to 10 years from now and say, 'How do we want this industry to be viewed by the public?' There isn't a real concerted effort - it's fragmented at best - to put our industry on the map in a positive way. The Motorcoach Council has all kinds of challenges for it regarding funding and participation, but it's gaining traction," Holland says.
Agent of change
At one time, Holland's employees joked that his middle name was "change." He concurs, viewing the label as a positive. "I'm not afraid to question everything on a daily basis, to change systems, formats, programs, for the better. If you're not evolving, then you get stuck...because what definitely worked for us five years ago [may not] work today."
Klika attributes what he calls Holland's unique perspective on the motorcoach industry to not having years of experience in a family business. "He tends to look at things with more of an entrepreneurial spirit," Klika says.
Starting as a young gun in the industry also worked to his advantage, Holland believes. "I have a fresh set of eyes on things, [and am] a little more seasoned now," he says, "but I'm still excited about the industry."
Part of what spurs Holland's quest for change is his constant search for the most up-to-date knowledge and technology. Holland is very active in a 20 Group, run by Spader Business Management, with 14 to 20 other IMG operators working in non-competing markets, who meet a few times a year. With the help of a mediator, the carriers provide each other with feedback, share best practices, financial and statistical data, and discuss trends. "It's been one of the smartest things I've done, because I've been able to associate with a number of companies that are larger and smarter than me in many areas," Holland explains. "I've been able to learn from that and, hopefully, share things that others have learned."
Applying what he learned from the group enabled Holland to implement a major undertaking that changed his operation for the better. In September 2009, Ramblin completely changed its driver compensation program, based on modeling the best parts of the programs of three or four other companies. "It's allowed us to become much more competitive by moving away from hourly pay and into a percentage pay and flat rate program," Holland says. "It has benefits both for the company and the driver."