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Small Business Spotlight: Advanced Auto Transport

Alerus | AUG 15, 2015

Knowing When to Take a Chance

In 1988, Debra and Scott Samuelson were newly-married and looking to the future. Scott wasn’t getting much satisfaction from his job at a window company, and the couple spent a lot of time thinking about becoming business owners one day. 

Their first taste of what it might be like came when Scott partnered with Debra’s brother to purchase a salon, and it soon became apparent that this was a step in the right direction. Ownership felt right – the combination of responsibility and freedom a seemingly contradictory yet intoxicating mix. 

Not yet parents and not saddled with a mortgage, Debra and Scott decided there would be no better time to jump into the small business world with both feet. So in 1991, they approached Scott’s father, who graciously loaned them the money they needed to start Advanced Auto Transport, a company that would focus on transporting vehicles from manufacturing facilities to destinations across the country.

A Business Evolves

Debra and Scott worked 12-hour days and weekends too, during those early years. They affiliated themselves with another vehicle transport company, learning as much as they could about the extremely challenging industry they had chosen.

After a few years, they decided they would best succeed by specializing. They ended their affiliation with the other company, and began to focus exclusively on transporting commercial vehicles – buses, cement trucks, and oversized vehicles of innumerable types – from manufacturing facilities straight to the buyer’s front door.

About 15 years ago, Debra became the sole owner of the company when Scott created a new business in a different industry. Debra is now one of a very small number of women in a heavily male-dominated industry famous for shady dealings and shoddy treatment of drivers. She has persevered, though, and Advanced Auto Transport is even certified as a Woman-Owned Business in Minnesota.

Photos by Bob Lewis of Pro Color Photography

A Unique Service from a Unique Company
Advanced Auto Transport provides a highly specialized service called “driveaway.” Just as the name implies, driveaway means vehicle manufacturers hire Advanced Auto Transport’s drivers to drive the commercial vehicle away from the manufacturing plant and right to the buyer’s location.  For example, the City of Los Angeles might order a fleet of buses. The bus manufacturer hires Advanced Auto Transport’s drivers to drive the buses safely from the plant to Los Angeles.

Debra says the main reason Advanced Auto Transport has managed to succeed is simply that they tell clients the truth. “Our priority is to protect our customers’ shipments and protect our drivers’ safety,” Debra says. “We will not jeopardize a driver’s safety or a shipment’s safety for the sake of deadline. If there is a delay, we own that and tell the truth.”

That kind of honesty is a rare commodity in the transport business, and it makes Advanced Auto Transport stand out. It’s a place where customers can get results, and drivers can work knowing that they won’t be pushed beyond their limits.

About the Alerus Relationship

Debra came to Alerus in 2014 in search of a long-term banking relationship. Advanced Auto Transport’s business had never been stronger, and she felt as though her previous bank wasn’t able to keep up with the needs of the company. Beyond that, her previous institution was out of step with the needs of small business owners in general, and it seemed far too difficult to accomplish even simple banking goals.

She met relationship manager Barb Sheldon and, in Debra’s words, “fell in love” with the way Barb talked about customer service. “She has the same morals and ethics that I do,” Debra says of Barb. “She doesn’t hide anything and doesn’t just tell me what I want to hear. I never felt like I had a personal relationship with anyone at a bank before, but I do feel that way about Barb,” adds Debra. 

Alerus’ focus on small business is a major reason why Debra believes she’ll be a customer for a long time. She notes how that focus is obvious in the way Alerus does business, and in the way Barb reaches out every few months just to see how things are going – a personal touch not found in many other places. 

That personal touch, along with Alerus’ common sense approach, is why Debra recommends Alerus to others in the transport industry, where financing is a frequent issue. “Common sense is hard to find in corporate America, but Alerus has it,” Debra concludes.

Getting in Touch With Advanced Auto Transport

Anyone interested in learning more about Advanced Auto Transport and the service it provides can visit the company’s website, or call their Lake Elmo office at 651.777.7780.  The site is also a great resource to drivers who are looking for new opportunities.

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