Ready for Takeoff

Sound strategies and high risks boost entrepreneurs to the other side of sacrifice—better known as success

coming year.”

Over the next three years, Simmons hopes to grow Trio into a $100 million business by enlarging its intermodal division. With smarter cost ratios, which are currently a little better than average, and timely deliveries, Trio has every intention of meeting its goals. “These are aggressive goals,” admits Simmons. “But my philosophy on that is, nothing ventured is nothing gained. I think you have to be like the turtle. The turtle makes no progress until he sticks his neck out. You have to have stick-to-it-ness. I realize that’s not a Webster’s word, but you must hang in there if it’s something you believe in to achieve the end result that you’re looking for. You just have to have faith.”

THE TURNAROUND GUY
Successful entrepreneurs must not only have faith but often must also make great sacrifices, says Art Allen, owner and general manager of Coastal Motorcars (No. 93 on the BE AUTO DEALER 100 list with $25.6 million in sales). The Houston native and veteran car salesman purchased a new and pre-owned BMW, Porsche, and Volkswagen service dealership in 1999, and Coastal Motorcars was born. As the only single partner, Allen was willing to relocate the 222 miles from Houston to Corpus Christi, Texas, to run the business, while his five partners, all family men who weren’t willing to make the sacrifice, were reluctant to move. He agreed on two conditions. “Number one, I run it the way I want to run it; and, number two, that I have a right to buy you guys out at a certain point in time,” Allen, 49, stipulated to his partners.

The deal was cut and Allen was off to turn around a floundering dealership. The previous owner, an Italian national, had not mastered the art of running an American auto dealership, though he was a skilled international corporate executive, Allen explains. Allen’s goal was to figure out what internal stresses were holding back the company’s growth.

“Every day I would go to lunch with an employee and [assess what] I perceived their value was to the organization,” says Allen. After a few months, all 40 employees had attended at least one free lunch to exchange information on the state of current business operations. “If you were the general manager here, who is the one guy you’d want out of here and who is the one person you’d absolutely keep?” Allen asked the employees. “When the same variety of names come up, then you start to identify who the keepers are, as opposed to the people who are not part of the solution,” says Allen.

By 2001, revenues were on an upswing and Allen had built up

While operating his own insurance agency, which often insured truck drivers, Simmons saw a niche business opportunity: starting his own trucking company employing minority truckers.

enough equity in the company to exercise his buyout option. The company, which generated $13 million in revenues in 1999, grossed $20.5 million by 2001. Coastal Motorcars also grew to 50 talented employees, says Allen, whom

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