What does a co-manager of a 4 billion USD hedge fund do if the financial market collapses and he suddenly finds himself unemployed? That’s exactly the question Richard Fertig was confronted with in 2009. Today, he is the founder and Managing Director of Brilliant Transportation. The company specialises in customised luxury passenger transportation, with really everything being tailored to the customers’ requirements. “The entire journey is YOUR TIME. You can do whatever you like without interruption and on your schedule. We pick you up at your doorstep and stay with you for the duration of your need whether it be all day, all week or longer,” he says.
To make literally every customer wish come true, the Brilliant fleet consists of 15 exclusive Mercedes-Benz Sprinters. The Brilliant Van, for example, offers equipment and amenities comparable to that of an executive jet. The four king-size armchairs are arranged in two rows facing each other; there are two flat-screens, 185 TV channels, stowaway desks, real wooden flooring, a refrigerator and a lot more. These Sprinters are far more than just a means of transport. Corporate customers appreciate them as fully equipped offices, while families appreciate them as temporary living rooms.
As a manager, Richard Fertig travelled the world for about ten years, spending countless hours in all sorts of transportation. And there was one thing he realised over and over again: “Irrespective of the continent or company we hired, I never wanted to be on the ground as ground transportation was painful and lacked the same comfort and hospitality as all of the other services we utilized routinely.” One of the major deficits back then, Fertig says, was the out-dated technology, as most service providers ignored technological advancements and did not cater to the customers’ needs, e.g. constant internet access. Furthermore, standard sedans are neither practical nor productive, says the head of Brilliant. It already takes several cars to transport a small group. Instead, all members of the Managing Board should travel together in one vehicle, so they can already discuss their investment plans on their way to the meeting. Another thing Fertig remembers very well is the poor service: “Most chauffeurs I ever encountered were only ‘drivers’. Some where better than others at driving but none of them viewed themselves as a hospitality / service provider like a waiter or bartender does.”
At Brilliant, however, service is a top priority. Only one in eight candidates successfully finishes the training and becomes a Brilliant chauffeur. Beside the standard driving and navigation lessons, the training also focuses on technical skills as well as hospitality. Brilliant chauffeurs pay attention to every single detail and cater to individual preferences like welcoming the customer with a glass of their favourite iced tea. In addition, the two personalities – chauffeur and customer – must match. Especially in the case of longer or multi-day journeys. And of course, Fertig adds, Brilliant makes even special wishes come true: “We do anything and everything – as long as it is legal – for our clients. We recently had a VIP Chinese delegation who requested that all of their chauffeurs wear white gloves at all times.”
There are Brilliant offices in Brooklyn and Los Angeles. However, they operate throughout North America as it is the customers who decide upon the destinations. Most of them book the vans for a period of several days. And money hardly ever matters as Brilliant has a highly influential clientele including many of the most successful US companies and celebrities, music stars, athletes and upper-class families. Companies book the service to make sure their business partners get to enjoy all the amenities Brilliant offers, but more and more often, they also turn to Brilliant Transportation when they organise works outings or team-building measures. Moneyed families book a Brilliant van to take their children to the summer camp or they have themselves chauffeured through each and every town in the northwest of the USA to find an adequate College for their children. Another occasion are weddings: “We have handled transportation for some of the highest profile weddings every year since our company founding. We often have to sign Non-Disclosure agreements and remove all cell phones from all involved to maintain the strictest levels of confidentiality.” There is one huge advantage that Fertig has over his competitors: they often do not understand their upper-class clientele. They just do not have the same social background. But Fertig does. And his customers really appreciate that.
Photos: Brilliant Transportation