Brian Whitaker – Chicago Hospitality Professional of the Month (February 2016)February 11th, 2016 | hereschicago
Here’s our interview with Brian Whitaker, Vice President of Chicago Transportation Solutions, Inc. and this month’s Chicago Hospitality Professional of the Month (February 2016).
Where did your hospitality career begin? In Chicago at Colonial Coach Lines as a motorcoach driver
How many years have you been in the hospitality business? 25
Why do you feel you are hospitality professional of the month? I guess because I have worked hard to be professional and dedicated to my clients as well as lending helping hands to my colleagues where I can.
What would your friends say about you if they were nominating you? I would hope they would say I was hard working, honest, helpful, caring, and fun to work with.
What qualities to you feel a person needs to excel in as a hospitality professional? A dedication to doing the best job possible even if that means you work outside of your comfort zone or do something that is not your job to ensure that all goes well.
How did you get into hospitality field? I started as a motorcoach driver until about 1997 when I switched over to the operations side of the business.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life? The O’Connor Family. JoAnne O’Connor was the first DMC owner if town who took a chance on a ‘bus driver’ that wanted to become a staff person. Jerry O’Connor helped me learn tours and was always available for a quick question. And now Michael continues that as being a friend more than a competitor; I know I can ask him industry questions and not worry about his integrity.
What kinds of things really make you laugh? A good joke, an unexpected event (as long as it is not bad), or a something funny visually.
What’s your favorite place in the entire world? Anyone who remotely knows me knows I will say Walt Disney World. I become a kid when I drive through those gates and forget about everything.
Who is your best friend? What do you like about him/her? I have many best friends and not just one. I like them because they are genuine and fun to be around.
What is your favorite movie of all time? Why so? I would say Blues Brothers or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Both are hilarious and can be watched over and over and still entertain you. It helps that both were filmed in Chicago and have great Chicago sites in them.
What’s your biggest goal in life right now? To continue growing my business while spending time with my daughters before they head off to college.
What is your favorite way to spend a Saturday? Doing something fun with my daughters or just catching up around the house.
Do you have any pet peeves? Punctuality. If you are not early, you are late.
What was your family like growing up? I was raised by a single Mom so she worked a lot but always made time to do something with me on the weekend. I also counted the days until I would spend time with my father on his weekends.
What were you like as a kid? I grew up in Chicago and was very inquisitive. I would explore beyond our neighborhood every chance I got. I rode my bike up and down the Lake shore a lot and through the neighborhoods.
What should I know about you that I’d never think to ask about? I was partially raised in Georgia. My Grandmother was from a small town called Cordele. Once I was out for Summer break, I would be on a Greyhound heading South and would spend the entire Summer there with me relatives and working on the family farm.
Did you—or do you—have a nickname? What’s the story behind it? My nickname was Redneck and that was created here. When I would return from Georgia, I would have a pretty good Sothern drawl going along with I usually picked up some new boots and belt buckles so my friends in Chicago started calling me Redneck. I even got my first license plate with that nickname on it.
Have you received any praise or accolades recently? Just good comments from clients but nothing official.
What type of events you plan? I plan transportation programs for any size meeting or event. I also work on group tours and receptive services for inbound groups.
What type of music do you love? I listen to all kinds. I have satellite radio in my car and am constantly switching stations. The favorites are country and some folk rock.
What don’t people know about you? Hard to say. I am pretty open about me.
What do you love about planning events in Chicago? The challenges; in planning transportation programs, there is never a dull moment.
What is your favorite restaurant or bar (Personally)? I go for the less travelled less classy (for lack of a better term) route. I love Ricobenes on the South Side. Nothing beats a breaded steak sandwich with fries and a coke in my opinion.
When not working, what do you love to do? Besides my daughters, I love to collect sports memorabilia and Chicago or Bus related collectables. I also have a hobby that many have not heard of called Geocaching; I call it a giant treasure hunt. Google it and let me know if you try it.
Besides your professional talent, do you have any personal talents? (Play guitar, etc.) No real talents to speak of.
Have you ever sung karaoke? If so, what song? Yes I have. I did The Devil Went Down to Georgia by Charlie Daniels Band.
Future trends in event planning? Hard to say as it keeps changing so quickly. The one trend I see is unique. Everyone wants something new, not something everyone else has done.
What does it take to be a successful even planner? Patience and the willingness to do any job necessary.
What is your favorite color? Blue
What are you passionate about? Doing the best you can do no matter what the area you are working in
What do you recommend for others who want to get into the hospitality profession? Talk to those that have been in the industry for years. Read the interviews in trade magazines and contact them; most are very nice and will answer you back.
Do you have any Association affiliations? Yes, long list. MPI (membership committee member), Chicago Tour Professionals Association. Midwest Bus and Motorcoach Association (board member), Illinois Limousine Association (board member), GBTA, PCMA, American Bus Association, National Tour Association
Are you a Cubs or Sox fan? Silver and Black all the way
What’s your go-to meal when you’re home alone? Chili
What’s your favorite thing about your hometown? Chicago is such a incredible city with something to do always.
Which book(s) have you read multiple times? Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (for pleasure) and all the Jeffrey Gitomer books (for business)
What’s on your bucket list? Lots of stuff but what I have been working on lately is visiting every national park
What’s the most embarrassing moment you’ve had? Probably when I worked for an International meetings company. One of our sales guys asked that I have our best greeter meet a prospective client at O’Hare, I said I would do it myself. He told me the client was a joker. I went to the gate (back when we could) and waited. The gentleman came out nodded at my sign but was talking to someone else so I waited. He finished talking and said he was Mr. Jones; I said we will walk down to his claim and get his bags but he said he had none. I thought he is here for 5 days so he must be joking. We got down to bag claim and he asked if we were waiting for someone else as he had no bags, he was only here for the day for his job interview. I asked if he was Sam Jones, nope, he was Clyde Jones. Crap! I polity told him I was wrong and scrambled to find my person. I saw only one bag left on the carousel, a duffel bag but an executive would not have a duffel bag. Just then Sam Jones walked up grabbed the duffel bag and said ‘you must be here for me’; I smiled and said yes, got him in his car and told the sales guy later what happened. He joked that from now on if they wanted it done correctly, not to send me.
What was your First concert? Alabama when it was Chicago Fest and the concerts were held in Soldier Field.
If you had to go back to school or learn a new skill, what would you want to learn? A Foreign language. Not sure which one but it would be cool to know another language.
What are your thoughts about Hereschicago.com? I have known Jim for many years and have learned that when he does something, he does it right. And that is true of HeresChicago, it is first class and we are happy to be a part of it. It has brought us many referrals, more than other sites that we belong to.
Chicagoland Transportation Solutions, Inc. is a full service ground transportation company. We offer charters, meet & greet services, special events, small to city-wide shuttles, scheduled service, tour services, and group activities. Our customers enjoy the fact that we focus on a few core services and perfect them to excellence instead of trying to do everything average.