Richard Fertig – Founder of Brilliant Transportation

Think forward — visualize where you want to be and then make it happen. You have to learn to embrace risk if you want to innovate and create your own future and your own destiny.

Founder and President of Brilliant Transportation, Richard Fertig set out to redefine the ground transportation industry with passion and purpose. Not merely an idea, his concept of Private Motoring® grew from personal, firsthand experiences that outlined for him the absolute need for a revolutionary shift in what travelers should expect from their luxury travel.

Fertig graduated from Cornell University with a double major in economics and psychology. After traveling through Europe, alpine skiing in Colorado, and a career in finance as a trader for First Continental Trading, Fertig was accepted to his first-choice business school and received an MBA in finance from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Upon graduation, Fertig was recruited by the Blackstone Group and later went on to join as co-head of investments, as well as managing director with Ramius Fund of Funds Group, LLC.

At the height of his Wall Street career, Fertig managed a $4 billion-dollar portfolio of hedge funds and traveled the globe extensively. He quickly identified the frustrations and shortcomings characteristic of ground transportation. With these encounters in mind, Richard was inspired to create a new, unprecedented travel experience — one that allowed passengers to reclaim the time, productivity, comfort, and connectedness normally lost during travel. And with that basic, underlying philosophy, Brilliant Transportation was born in February 2010, satisfying Richard’s lifelong draw to entrepreneurship in the process.

As his business scaled, a massive opportunity was discovered — it became evident that his vision to Make Travel Great® was desperately needed by world-class planners (corporate event, weddings, and DMCs). Accordingly, his attention rapidly shifted from individuals to small and large groups. In less than five years, Brilliant Transportation has had the privilege of working on some of the most important corporate events (the Super Bowl, new product introductions, global board of directors meetings, fashion week, etc.) and the highest profile weddings around, all requiring exquisite design, attention to detail, and flawless execution. In short, his idea has become a global, multimillion-dollar business partnering with the best brands in the world and the most influential people on the planet.

Most importantly, Fertig is a happily married father of three amazing daughters. He is an avid skier and spin-cycling madman who loves to swim. Most days, however, Fertig is energizing and empowering the Brilliant team and solving the most complex design and production challenges for the most successful companies in the world.

Where did the idea for Brilliant Transportation come from?

In my prior life as a portfolio manager for a hedge fund firm, I traveled the world extensively, visiting both investors and investments. Although I lived in New York City, I traveled as much as three weeks a month, always returning home on the weekends from Europe or Asia or the West Coast. In January of 2009, after numerous rounds of downsizing, I was “relieved” of my post and decided to follow my entrepreneurial instincts. Being a global traveler, I found many of the experiences terrific — world-class, really. However, ground transportation was the exception (and in a bad way). I thought there must be tons of people, like me, who thought ground transportation was ripe for disruption. And, as they say, the rest is history.

What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?

I am focused and goal-oriented and, therefore, I plan ahead. I am very protective of my time, so I say “yes” to almost everything worthwhile but say “no” to many requests and opportunities. I find fitness and challenging my body to be extremely productive, as they enhance my state of mind and creativity. Accordingly, I set an exercise regimen, and I stick to it. I find routine comforting and repeatable. I currently spin four days, swim one or two and row one day a week.

I wake up without an alarm clock every morning between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m., work with my overseas teammates until about 7:30 a.m., walk my two dogs, and then I see my kids off to school every morning. Starting around 8 a.m., I check in with my domestic team and managers. I generally work out at 9 a.m. when my office is fully staffed and operational, given I have already put in three hours of work. I often work from home and have installed excellent video conferencing technology in my office, so I am constantly communicating with my team in real time. However, I find saving 45 minutes of time commuting each way to be invaluable. I also find allowing my management to handle all of the operating decisions empowers them and frees me up to think about our vision and to execute my unique value proposition. My family and I sit down every night with our cell phones off and enjoy dinner together. Afterward, depending on the day, I will either actively choose to work or to relax. It is a deliberate choice. Just like I take days off to rebuild physically, I am cognizant of mental recharging periods as well.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I’ve always had an innate desire to research and learn. I’m very curious. I am also confident and self-reliant. Both of those traits are very helpful in finding other “believers” to join the team and bring our ideas and vision to life.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

This whole autonomous, self-driving automobile technology is really interesting to me both personally and professionally. Technological advances and innovation are increasing at an even more rapid pace, and I love all of the opportunities it creates.

What is one habit that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

An insatiable drive to succeed and the persistence to make it happen.

What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?

I sold the coupons on the back of supermarket receipts (like the car wash offering $2 off a wash) to small business owners, door to door. I learned a ton — after listening to all of these so-called “sales professionals” three times my age talk about how effective they would be, I just went out and did it. I knocked on doors, I started early, I worked late, and I viewed every “no” as a step closer to a “yes.” I learned to manage my emotions and my embarrassment and to stay focused and committed to the goal without letting minor impediments alter my course. I finished first in my group among all of the so-called experts, won the prize, and retired. Working as a door-to-door salesman was invaluable. I high recommend everyone try it.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would focus much less on the assets (our unique fleet) and much more on the service (the way we think), which is where our business has been gaining massive traction. I would also focus less on key markets (New York City and Los Angeles) and more on global opportunities. We are a relationship business, and we’ve been self-limiting our relationships by focusing on our assets in our markets.

As an entrepreneur, what is one thing you do repeatedly and recommend others do, too?

Make time for yourself. As the owner of a small company and a family man, I can get pulled in thousands of directions constantly. I often find myself wanting to do everything for everyone, always. I’ve made a rule: Be sure to focus on myself daily (usually via exercise), and I prioritize it. That is my time, and while I used to consider it selfish, now I treasure it; focusing on myself gives me a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. I value and protect my 30 minutes of swimming or 45 minutes of spin class — it’s just me and my thoughts, no cell phone, texts, or distractions. It allows me to focus on myself.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Think forward — visualize where you want to be and then make it happen. You have to learn to embrace risk if you want to innovate and create your own future and your own destiny.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I’ve succumbed to hiring people just because the position is open due to a mindset that everyone, given the opportunity and mentoring, can handle increased responsibility. However, over time, I have changed my approach. Recognizing that the time it takes to find and recruit A-players is part of the challenge will lead to more successful, long-term solutions.

What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Make an API-based app that links all of the Ubers, Getts, Lyfts, and Vias together to find the best deals with the shortest wait — an aggregator platform of platforms.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I just went out and got a low-cost setup to film video using my iPhone for an ongoing weekly video series that my team and I are filming. This allows me to film while I travel versus pre-filming or delaying, and it still provides good quality audio and video.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them? ) allows team instant chat and helps us communicate in real time. Asana ) is a great cloud based “to-do” app to keep the entire team aligned and getting stuff done. HubSpot ) is good for marketing, and now for CRM intelligence, too.

What is one book you recommend our community read, and why?

Exponential Organizations” by Salim Ismail is incredibly thought-provoking and a must-read for all who contemplate the future and how we can thrive in this fast-changing landscape.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Jack Daly:
Gary Vaynerchuk:


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