story by Jamie Smith
Editor’s note: The Supply Side section of The City Wire focuses on the companies, organizations, issues and individuals engaged in providing products and services to retailers. The Supply Side is managed by The City Wire and sponsored by Propak Logistics.
When Jeff Wright worked at Sam’s Club more than eight years ago, he traveled frequently to larger cities where Hummer stretch limos were a popular car and limo service solution.
“I thought that would work in Northwest Arkansas if we had one here,” he said. “The limos that were in the area at the time were older and not as luxurious.”
In 2005, he purchased a stretch Hummer limo and started Pinnacle Limo Services as a small side business. The concept caught on quickly and by November of that year, it was already necessary to purchase a second limo, in part so he could claim the niche on that market. In December 2005, his associates were telling him there was a need for a black car service in the area and he agreed.
“The best ideas come from associates,” he said. “I bought a couple of black Sedan Devilles and started Pinnacle Car Service.”
Hundreds of business professionals, political dignitaries and celebrities visit Northwest Arkansas each year making their way to Wal-Mart, the supplier community, Tyson Foods and The University of Arkansas.
Pinnacle Car Service has garnered much of that marketshare. But retaining it year-after-year is all about maintaining quality of service and complete discretion, which Wright said is core to their corporate mission. He said all employees must sign a confidentiality agreement each year.
“Under no circumstances is an associate allowed to share with family members the name (s) of any celebrities or ‘talent’ that they are about to drive. Additionally, they may not post things on Facebook, send out tweets, seek autographs or pictures from the clients,” Wright said in a statement. “Being discrete and maintaining a protective nature over the confidentiality of all our clients is part of our everyday business practice. Many of our clients needing transportation for ‘talent’ use us for this reason."
What started as a limo company and a side business “for fun” blossomed into a well-recognized and measurably successful full service car and limousine company.
The company employs 35 people: two full-time salaried positions, 12 full-time associates and 21 part-time associates. They include airport booth staff, the accounting department, sales and marketing, office staff and drivers. There are two offices. The main office is in Rogers and a satellite office at Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport.
Pinnacle went from that initial single vehicle to a 22-vehicle fleet that includes Cadillac DTS, Chevy Suburban, Ford 350 Passenger Van, Ford 450 Mini Coach, Ford 650 Coach, Chrysler 300 Stretch Limo, Escalade Stretch Limo, and Ford 450 Party Bus. Wright said he’s getting ready to get a new 2014 stretch limo, with all the bells and whistles.
“It will be amazing,” he said. “They custom make them.”
The limos are custom made by purchasing a standard Chrysler sedan then special tools are used to cut it in half, the “stretch” portion with the amenities placed in the middle and the car is transformed into a new type of vehicle, Wright explained.
The company has seen consistent growth since it opened. The goal is to grow by at least 20% each year. Decisions on how to manage the growth are made by looking at the individual business segments served, and how much purchasing is necessary to accommodate the planned growth.
The company’s primary definition is a black car service company, which means its open to serving many types of clients. Perhaps best known for serving Wal-Mart, the supplier community and other corporations for transporting celebrities, executives and visiting associates, Pinnacle also is a popular choice for many occasions.
“We do a lot of proms, wedding, birthday parties, bachelorette and bachelor parties, and Quinceaneras (coming of age party for Latin 15-year-old girls),” Wright said. “We also do a lot of work with the University of Arkansas.”
Sometimes the work with the UA is for the athletics department. Sometimes it’s as simple as a parent arranging a car to pick up their child from the airport and taking the student back to campus after a trip home.
A rapidly growing part of their business is “safe rides home,” Wright said. People who know they will be out consuming alcohol will either arrange ahead of time to be picked up, or they will hire a car to transport them and their friends around Dickson Street or other party locations for the entire evening.
Wright attributed the growth in this service to two things: more people are becoming aware of the dangers of drinking and driving, and it’s become well known that law enforcement in Northwest Arkansas have become even more vigilant in apprehending drivers who are under the influence.
He said improving the company’s infrastructure against growing consumer demand is an important balancing act.
“We grow at a steady rate to maintain the quality,” Wright said. “We grow at an aggressive rate that is also sustainable and deliverable.”
As he considered his company’s strengths and opportunities to improve, Wright was quick to say the employees and the company’s consistent brand are its biggest strengths.
“We have great people working for this company,” he said. “I’m proud of our team and that’s a piece that can’t be replicated. “Our brand is another huge strength. We’ve stayed consistent and stayed with the same philosophies. People recognize our logo, our drivers and our vehicles.”
Although he admits most on the outside wouldn’t see it, Wright said one perceived weakness is technology. While the company strives to stay on top of the latest technology, it’s a constant struggle.
“We continue to enhance our technology, but we have to do it intelligently,” Wright said. “We can’t just write a big check. We have to be able to afford it.”
When asked about potential threats, Wright said there are internal and external components to consider. The external threat is of course the constant need to monitor the growing competition and if that competition is moving in on Pinnacle’s market. The biggest potential threat comes from within, however. Wright said it’s important for everyone in the company to stay focused on client services and pay attention to the details that make them a choice for car service in the area.
“That’s what keeps me up at night,” he said.