After 28 Years, a Family-Owned Business has Grown Along with The Woodlands
Tucked away in a quiet residential street in Spring lies a rapidly growing family-owned business. You may not have already heard of C&S Executive Transportation, and even if you have, you likely don’t know the full story. It’s a tale of hard work and commitment to top-quality service, and above all else, the promises of the American Dream.
Carlos walked into the company headquarters on Alana Lane with a warm smile and two large, friendly dogs (their names, I learned, are Rocky and Sasha). We settled in to talk at a conference table in what was once a living room, amid the quiet office bustle.
Carlos Calderon, along with his wife Rosy and their three sons, chose to make their home here in The Woodlands in 1989 when they emigrated from El Salvador. “It’s difficult to imagine how difficult it must have been for our parents to make the decision to move to another country and start all over, to leave friends and family behind, to start a new chapter full of unknowns,” said Roberto, one of Carlos’ sons. He says “they just knew coming to the US would give the kids a new life, an education, and opportunities we wouldn’t otherwise have had back in El Salvador.”
Those were the early days of The Woodlands, when there were only about 22,000 residents. “I started working at The Woodlands Resort, because of course I immediately needed a job,” says Calderon. In 1991, Carlos began driving on the side, as he had in El Salvador, where his small transportation company there had reliably transported everyone from local children to U.S. embassy staff. In those early days, Carlos took kids to sports practices and elderly folks living in Copperwood Apartments to doctor’s appointments in his Nissan Sentra.
But as The Woodlands grew, so did Calderon’s business. Soon he began taking people to and from the airport, and from there he managed to land a few corporate accounts. In the beginning, the biggest challenge for C&S was landing those corporate accounts in order to have a reliable sales volume. “It’s hard to get your foot in the door when you’re a small business,” Calderon says, “you have to create a name for yourself, and you have to knock on a lot of doors and visit customers.”
By 1994 the company had gotten its sea legs and Carlos and his family were able to devote their energy to a small but growing business full-time. Some of his children had graduated from college by then, and they too worked for the family business assisting with driving and operational tasks. The company incorporated in 2000.
As The Woodlands began attracting a growing business presence, C&S saw the opportunity to forge early relationships with those companies to meet their transportation needs. Devoted to cultivating a wide range of business relationships, they say they were blessed to gain the trust and the business of corporate, academic, and religious institutions, as well as community members impressed by the personal, trustworthy service provided by C&S.
With that growth came the expansion of the fleet, which now counts many more sprinters and busses among its ranks than sedans and SUVs, as large corporations often require the transportation of dozens of people between airports, events, and site visits in the greater Houston area.
When asked why clients choose C&S over its competitors, Calderon says the key is high-quality service and consistency. “We’ve never had an issue with being late or breaking down, those things are precious,” he says. “We are blessed to be able to assist our affiliates when they need an extra vehicle or driver, to be the largest transportation company in Montgomery County, to have the trust of the community, and to have been awarded #1 among the Best in The Woodlands for ten years in a row,” said Roberto.
Another key is personalized service, and in addition to 24/7 operations, C&S also arranges travel when clients arrive in other destinations, going so far as to travel internationally to ensure that travel arrangements from London to Mexico City are organized and up to C&S standards and establishing trusted affiliates around the world.
The quality of the drivers is also very important to Calderon: “I like to have an excellent relationship with my drivers, they are the face of the company, so they’re employees not independent contractors.” This, I learned, is not the standard practice with transportation companies like C&S, where most drivers are independent contractors. “We want to choose drivers properly and we have drivers who’ve been with us 10 years or more,” he says.
But above all else, reliable, personalized service is the hallmark of C&S. “I drove Bill Gates for about eight years, when he was in Houston dealing with Compaq,” says Calderon, “sometimes you’re driving with security or you’re driving high-powered executives who expect the best service.” But he maintains that they’re still committed to providing the highest quality of service to all clients, big or small, for parties of 2 or 200.
Technology, he says, has really added to the sense of security C&S seeks to provide its clients. Every vehicle is tracked to the minute so that clients know exactly when their ride will arrive. In the past few years, technological advances have allowed C&S to ensure that everything from reservations, to billing is as streamlined as possible for the best customer experience.
Nowadays Frank, Roberto, and Juan Carlos run the day-to-day management of the family business. Carlos became semi-retired about two years ago, though he still pops into the office two or three days a week to see how things are doing. When asked if stepping back from the company he built from the ground up, the answer of course is yes -- “It was very hard in the beginning, to let go and trust, because before I had my hands on everything,” he says, but within the space of a few months he became “reassured that my sons are doing exactly what they learned to do when working with me.”
Now, 28 years since the company started, it continues to grow rapidly. “Of course we will have to relocate. We already have, in addition to this property, three acres nearby for vehicles. We have to acquire three more busses by the end of the year and right now I have no place to park them,” says Calderon (this, I note, is not the worst problem to have!).
C&S stands for “Carlos and Sons,” and Carlos is confident that even as he steps back from the day-to-day operations of the company, he’s leaving it in the capable hands of those sons. Towards the end of our interview, a woman walks in. “That’s my daughter-in-law, Alejandra. She’s from Venezuela; she’s a lawyer, but she works with us too.” C&S, the Calderon family, and The Woodlands have all experienced growth and change over the years, but Carlos is proud and believes C&S Executive Transportation will continue to see continuous growth and serve the community for a long time to come.