In our newest series, we’re highlighting the most integral members of the Urgent.ly community - our service providers! Our network of over 50,000 trucks nationwide and their drivers work around the clock and across the nation to help our customers access superior roadside assistance service. Come meet the heroes who make our wheels turn!
Rick Blair Gentry and his family operate Blair’s Towing and Recovery, which he opened in 1995 and has since nurtured into a versatile fleet of 23 trucks and a team of about 30 people. With 2 locations - one in Falls Church, VA and one in Sterling, VA - Blair’s provides service from Leesburg to Alexandria and throughout the surrounding areas. Rick and his team provide jump starts, tire changes, lockout services, fuel delivery, and towing services for Urgent.ly customers.
How did you get started in roadside assistance? Tell us a little about your history and the history of Blair’s.
I got into roadside when I was 18. I started driving a truck for a local gas station and really enjoyed providing a service people needed. I left the industry for a few years and worked at a dealership but preferred being out in the field rather than behind the desk. My girlfriend at the time (now wife) saw how unhappy I was and suggested starting my own company. I sold my car and was able to come up with enough to put down on a new truck. The name Blair's come from my family. It is my middle name and my mom's maiden name. I also used a very small bond my grandfather had left to me for my startup money. Back then people actually used the phone book and called information to find businesses, so it also helped that Blair's would be closers to the front. Blair's Towing opened in 1995 and has consistently grown to the point we are at today. We service approximately 36,000 customers a year.
What is your favorite part of the work that you do?
My favorite part of the job is helping someone who will appreciate my service. I enjoy helping people get back to their busy day and try to make their roadside experience the best it can be. Understanding that the customer is frustrated and unhappy because of their issue I try to turn it around for them and point out the positive such as "at least it's not raining" or "good thing you were not on the highway when this happened". Even if they don't come around to a better mood I just do my job and kill them with kindness. They seem to appreciate it as I know I would.
Can you tell us about your most memorable roadside service experience?
One of my most memorable roadside experiences was one that I didn't perform. A call came in and I passed it on to one of the other employees. It turned out it was Linda Carter who played Wonder Women on the old TV show. I knew she lived local but have never met her. The driver said she was very nice and a great tipper. Just my luck!
As someone for whom driving is a big part of your job, what advice do you have for drivers?
Drivers should take advantage of all the technology they can. Using options like Bluetooth, real time mapping and pictures to show their work can really help production and protect themselves against damage claims. It only takes a small incident to cost a lot of money. The equipment also makes a difference. If you take pride in your equipment then the customer will appreciate that and feel confident you will take the same care of their car. New equipment helps but even older trucks can be kept clean and orderly. Trucks are very pricey these days and should be thought of as your mobile office and how you present that makes a difference to the public and your customers. Also please make sure to wear your reflective vest or jacket. 20 years ago drivers were not as distracted as today. Cell phones, texting, 400 satellite radio stations etc. all factor into accidents and unfortunately roadside drivers are being struck on the side of the road. Be seen be safe, be safe be seen is a motto I use daily. Looking back I should have listed this first. You will never be able to help someone if you are not around.
How do you spend your free time - when you’re not towing cars or providing roadside assistance?
Free time? What's that. I joke but it's true. Running a small company these days does not leave much time for myself. Being in a 24/7 industry takes a bit out of your personal life but I do carve out some time to ride motorcycles. I love the freedom it gives me (until my cell phone rings). I also enjoy watching my kids grow and my seeing my granddaughter who is 2. I just can't say no to her and those walks we take really help calm me down. Family life is important and as I get older I realize that the days go by very fast.
Thanks so much for talking with us, Rick! And thanks to you and everyone at Blair’s who works so hard to provide our customers with excellent roadside assistance.
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