June 10, 2012 | last updated June 12, 2012 3:28 pm

Living The Founder’s Dream

PHOTO/EDD COTE
Worcester Airport Limousine • 219 West Boylston St., West Boylston Pictured, from left to right, are: Maureen Raillo, office manager; Jim Hogan, president; Ken Hogan, founder, and his wife Bernadette, bookkeeper.

(Family Business Honoree | Category: Fewer than 25 full-time employees)

Kenneth Hogan didn't set out to run a family business. It just sort of happened.

When it came time to expand Worcester Airport Limousine, his son, daughter, and other family members were just there. No one was asked; they sincerely wanted to contribute and help the business grow.

And it has: Since its founding in 1978, the private transportation and airport shuttle service has expanded from just three vans and a handful of trips to and from Worcester Regional Airport to 20 vehicles and an average of 520 trips a week throughout New England and New York.

Hogan attributes that success to not only a critical need in the market, but to the dedication of his family members, and their values that permeate day-to-day operations.

"Everybody looks forward to having loyal employees, but there's nothing like family," he said.

His daughter, Maureen Raillo, 46, agrees. "Family values come in that we extend to our customers and employees."

Nearly 35 years ago, Hogan started the business with his brother, Joseph Hogan, who served as manager until his recent death at age 76. Today, Ken Hogan's 73-year-old wife, Bernadette, serves as bookkeeper; their 49-year-old son, Jim, is president and fleet manager, while Maureen oversees the office, sales and advertising. Jim's wife, Nancy, serves as vehicle operations manager. The company also has several longtime employees — many of them loyal to the business for more than a decade — who have essentially become extended family members.

Over the years the company has steadily expanded its services, coverage area and fleet, and in 1996 moved to West Boylston, just over the Worcester line. By van, town car, luxury sedan, or mini-coach, it now offers shared airport shuttling as well as private services such as weekend trips or evenings out.

SALES AND PAYROLL GROWTH

And accordingly, sales have grown: In 2010 and 2011, they increased 15 percent, according to Raillo. Meanwhile, between January 2010 and October 2011, payroll hours increased 21 percent. The company recently hired an office worker and hopes to take on another in the coming months.

But along with its gains, Worcester Airport Limousine has become ever more dedicated to the community. Raillo is vice chair of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce's Ambassador Group; in 2011 she was named the chamber's George F. and Sybil H. Fuller Chamber Advocate of the Year. She also sits on the board of directors of the Central Massachusetts Convention & Visitors Bureau and is active in Worcester Local First.

Meanwhile, the company volunteers with the Worcester County Food Bank, and provides free transportation in times of distress — such as when hundreds of firefighters flew to the area after the Cold Storage Warehouse fire in 1999. It also offers free rides to the polls for city voters.

"The more that are like them, the better," said Richard Kennedy, president and CEO of the Worcester chamber. "It's a caring company not just focused on business, but the quality of life here in the city."

Beyond this commitment, Raillo noted a steadfast dedication to success, and a shared family value in "never giving up." The company has had its downs — the biggest being the hit taken by the airline industry after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which trickled down to service businesses like theirs, and, more recently, the recession — but they strive to be flexible, and adapt and evolve.

"We're always trying to think outside the box," said Raillo, noting the company aims to revolve around customers' needs. And "go the extra mile," both figuratively and literally.

MOVING PARTS

"It's an intriguing business, because it's constant change," Raillo said.

For example, on a daily — or hourly — basis, flights will be delayed, or a client will have a change of plans, or will have to return home for a forgotten item. As she put it, the schedule in the morning will be drastically different than it is in the afternoon.

This customer focus doesn't go unnoticed.

"When they say they're going to come, they come," said Jeanne Dietel, executive administrative assistant at Webster Veterinary Supply, a Worcester Airport Limousine customer for eight years. "It's never 'I can't do it.' It's always 'We can do that.' ''

The deep dedication is affirmed by Raillo.

"You're working with a company that truly cares," she said. "I love the fact that we can take part in my father's dream. We're continuing on."

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