Mike Fine, a trailblazer in offsite airport parking, has used his innovations to become the undisputed leader in service at Tulsa International Airport.
Fine knows air travel can be stressful. It’s what this businessman, with a keen eye for detail, has done for the air traveler that has made him successful.
If Fine is about anything, it is to make the travel experience easier, said Phil Mahoney, a Farmer’s Insurance agent.
“He is the best at ‘ease-of-use,’ bar none,” Maloney said.
Since everyone’s trip begins and ends with airport parking, Fine has made sure that his company is the way to reduce travel stress.
“What has made Mike the best from Day One is the professionalism among the staff — it has never wavered,” Maloney said. “I compare them to QuikTrip. You know the staff is No. 1, and they will get it done.”
Nationwide, off-site airport parking has mushroomed over the past decade. A cheaper and more convenient way to park, off-site parking has become a secure alterative.
“I feel good about leaving my car there,” said Barry Bothein, executive vice president of Holliday American Mortgage Co. “I never worry about leaving stuff in my car.”
In Tulsa, it’s the high level of service that sets Fine apart.
Driving easy-to-spot shuttles, a courteous staff offering luggage assistance, the door-to-terminal service is unmatched in Tulsa and the state.
“Time after time after time — it is the consistent level of service that gives people the confidence that they will be picked up on time, every time,” he said.
“Sometimes I am running late and I always know they can get me over there quick,” he said.
Fine’s vision of airport parking was to make the service faster than any other ground transportation.
He has achieved that goal.
“Unless you have someone to drop you off — of course you have no way to get back. There is nothing faster,” he said.
“He has not wavered from his mission to offer first-class service,” Maloney said. “He’s achieved his vision of quick turnarounds.”
His ambition drives him and his staff to look for ways to tweak the service, constantly looking to improve, Maloney said.
“Mike has always staffed the operation with young professionals from ORU and TU. They bend over backwards to ensure your exit goes as well as can be.”
Fine is always open to suggestions.
“But, we try to keep it in the real of realism, too. You cannot have so many options that it spoils the service and causes delays,” he said.
Attention to Detail
The secret to Fine’s success is his attention to detail.
Fine’s strong organizational skills and attention to detail pays off in a number of ways.
Rather than using pre-fabricated concrete pieces, the five-story, $15 million indoor parking garage was poured. That decision eliminated nooks, ledges and spaces that birds could occupy once construction was complete. Any crevices were filled with foam to keep birds away.
The result: cleaner cars.
Fine created extra-wide parking spaces, allowing plenty of room for opening car doors. That move cost him about 100 spaces, but the result is fewer dings.
Employees drive golf carts, steering customers to available spaces.
The golf carts are equipped with air tanks to fill low tires and batteries to jump any stalled cars.
“We leave them notes if we aired their tire, to alert them that it needs their attention,” Fine said.
Customers parking outside are often followed by the vans, and drivers often meet the customers before they have a chance to unload their bags from the vehicle.
All in the Family
The businessman blessed with a marketer’s dream for a name comes from an entrepreneurial family.
“It started with my grandparents — my grandparents instilled in me that spirit. All my family has been in business,” he said. “They have all been independent. I grew up around that kind of background.”
Fine’s grandfather, Red Shelton, was in the grocery business in Sallisaw. Using a truck, he drove around town selling items off of it — like a mobile QuikTrip,” Fine said. “He would drive around and was like a mini-convenience store. He sold all these different things.”
Shelton, a gifted salesman, was immensely popular and the assumed leader of the family.
He later became a grocer, rancher and all-around businessman.
“I watched how he operated, how he offered better service,” Fine said. “And, he was good at new ideas.”
Fine lost his grandfather when he was 18.
“He was a definite influence. His business ethics, his high standard of service,” he said.
Fine inherited his salesmanship skills from Shelton. His first job was mowing lawns. He also sold greeting cards.
He was successful at selling mistletoe door-to-door at Christmas, too.
“I’d cut it off the tree and people actually bought the stuff in plastic bags,” he said.
While attending Hale High School, Fine earned cash by painting numbers on curbs. “It was really clean and easy. It was a good way to make money. We did that quite a bit around Tulsa.”
Even when the job was painting curbs, the lesson Fine learned was to give good service and people respect it.
“Sometimes they would give a tip,” he said. “They would come out and look at the job and sometimes they would pay (an extra) $5. People respect hard work.”
His work ethic paid off later when he had an opportunity to work at the Wonder Bread Bakery. Handling hot pans was hard work, but the money was good.
“It paid better than other summer jobs, and you had to know someone to get a job,” he said. “Hundreds of pans would be coming out and would be super hot. We had to take the pans off the rack and stack them.
“There would be all these different size pans and sometimes they were not stacked quite like they should but have been — but the pans kept coming,” he said.
“If you could not make it on that job, they would not move you to other jobs,” Fine said. “There was a lot of pressure on the guys to perform.”
A big advantage of working in a bakery was breathing the aroma of hot bread, he said.
Fine attended Northeastern State University, earning a double major in business and economics.
He didn’t stop there. He went on to earn a real estate license.
An interest in automobiles led him to launch a used car dealership — Fine Used Cars at 21st Street and Sheridan Road, in what had been Griff’s Burger Bar.
Fine is sentimental about the spot. He recalls the 15-cent burgers and “10 burgers for a buck” sales each Tuesday.
Fine began his used car rental business, renting cars for $4.95 a day and 10 cents a mile.
Fine introduced several innovations to the Tulsa car rental business, like renting cars with cash deposits or credit cards.
He also learned the importance of car insurance.
“We spent time analyzing the business model and realized our insurance was secondary while theirs was primary,” he said. “A person had to have car insurance; otherwise, it was a risk. You would be surprised how many people did not have insurance — we always called to verify.”
The experience taught Fine a lot about the car business. Even more importantly, it raised his awareness of the potential at the airport.
He also learned he needed to have an airport location.
“We did not look for customers that would drive the car to another state. There was a need for people to get around town while in Tulsa,” he said.
Moving Next Door to the Airport
During a four-year search for a location to expand his car rental business, Fine saw a business opportunity that offered safe, dependable parking near the airport.
As he studied the area around Tulsa International Airport, Fine saw the potential at 2010 N. Memorial Drive.
“You could pull in, the valet service is right there. There is not a place you can park anywhere that is as fast,” he said.
Fine bought the property and in November 1983 launched Fine Airport Parking. His initial investment was about $900,000.
The business offered 450 parking spaces, and he employed 15.
He built his customer base by continually upgrading his service to meet the needs of his many patrons.
TIA Director Jeff Mulder praises the role of off-airport parking operators like Fine Airport Parking.
“Our off-airport parking operators help to meet the parking requirements of our patrons and provide them with additional parking options when they use the Tulsa International Airport,” Mulder said.
Word of Mouth
In 2000, Fine launched his biggest expansion ever. He built the 2,100-space parking facility with state-of-the art amenities and unprecedented security with a $15 million investment.
“I knew I needed a five-star facility to complement our existing five-star service,” Fine said. “I think we accomplished that.”
Pat Selcer, general manager of Lamar Outdoor, agreed.
“It is the ‘Best,’” he said. “I moved here from previous stays in Denver, Seattle and Phoenix, and Fine has the best service and facilities, period.”
Selcer praises Fine Airport Parking for the ease of parking, loading and unloading at the airport terminal.
“After my initial use of the facilities, I was hooked,” he said.
Fine credits word-of-mouth advertising like Selcer’s for the success of the facility.
When he travels, he scrutinizes the airport parking in every city he visits.
“We look at how the facility operates, what it looks like. Usually I stop and give them my card,” Fine said. “We are always looking for something we can pick up on.”
One marketing idea he picked was installing turf for a miniature golf green outside the parking office. Customers were offered free parking if they could sink the putt.
“I had never seen it in parking. It has worked great. We have had tons of compliments,” Fine said. “We see people on the putting green all the time, practicing.”
From golf carts to putting greens, Fine has scored a hole-in-one when it comes to providing a top-notch facility and over-the-top service. ?