Stear Clear was an organization devoted to keeping the streets and highways safe for everyone. They have a particular emphasis on keeping drunk drivers off the road.
Dan Glover who founded Stear Clear spoke with us about his organization.
Q – Dan, did you buy into this franchise called Steer Clear?
A – We actually are the parent company. Where the franchisor. We have franchise and corporate owned locations throughout the US.
Q – Did you start the company?
A – I was involved with the group. There were original owners out of New jersey and since I’ve bought those fellows out. So, at this point it’s all myself. We have a little bit of investment money a couple of different angel funds.
Q – Angel funds?
A – Like venture capital money.
Q – I’ve never heard of that term before. Back in 2008, I’m smart went out of business. I believe they were charging $50 to drive someone home who had too much to drink. You charge $20, + $2.25 a mile how does it work, when someone calls you from a bar or nightclub and needs a ride home? What happens next?
A – Yeah, it’s a good question. So there’s essentially three different ways that you can request service from us. The number one way and probably used by 85% of our rides is our Smart Phone App. Pretty self-explanatory. A couple of clicks of a button and that connects you directly to your driver team. Whether that’s from a bar or restaurant or it’s from the Lasik surgery, whether it’s some of our active elderly community, it doesn’t matter what the reason, you requested, we come and drive you and your car.
Q – An awful lot of people are being picked up for D. W. I. Why aren’t more people using Stear Clear? Are bar owners promoting your service? Are you advertising? How are you getting the word out?
A – Yeah, they are. I’ll give credit to the bar and restaurant industry in Syracuse. They’ve done a nice job helping us promote it. Some of them where we see the high usage they actually pick up a portion of the call. So, that works really well for us. Some of our really, really nice partners are folks like the Turning Stone Casino. They actually pick up a significant portion of the ride cost for anybody that needs it from the casino. So, they do a nice job of helping us promote it, but, I’ll also take blame on our end. I think as a small start-up business we can always do a better job of promoting it and getting the word out. As you know firsthand that stuff is expensive. We try to keep our costs relatively reasonable but yeah, it’s probably something we could do a better job of as well.
Q- What I’ve noticed is a greater number of social events that promote drinking. Now, the police are going all out to tell the public what will happen if there arrested for D. W. I. And organizations turn around and offer events where drinking is promoted. This is a sad commentary when the only way you can get adults to come together is to offer alcoholic beverages.
A – I understand what you’re saying my approach and my look at it might be slightly different. I give a lot of those folks credit whether it’s a charity golf outing or a Beer At The Zoo, most of those folks are contracting us out. What they’re saying is, if you decide to have a good time, a personal choice of yours, all of us on this side of the fence are hoping that someone will make a wise decision. We don’t care if it’s to walk home or to take a bike or call a cab. The nice part about Stear Clear is that if my wife and I are going out on Saturday night our system allows you to book your ride whenever you want, a week in advance, two weeks in advance. Where trying to take those excuses off the table. So, if you as a person decide to partake in the social activities, whatever your choice may be, there is no longer any excuse not to take one of those following options to make everybody safe.
Q – Do you personally go out to bars, introduce yourself and make the pitch for the company?
A – I don’t know if you know this but I’m originally born and raised in Syracuse, New York. I spent the first 18 years of my life on the west side, my mother and father and extended family still all call Syracuse home. So, I am there quite a bit and many of the relationships we have are ones that I helped early on as we started up. With that said, our local owner, the gentleman that runs the Syracuse Stear Clear operation deserves all the credit for growing the business there locally.
Q – So, you just happen to be in Syracuse a few years ago when a local TV station interviewed you about New Year’s Eve?
A – Well, keep in mind I was instrumental in the beginning, I spent a lot of time in Syracuse and I still do. We’re in Syracuse at least a few months out of the year, not just for personal reasons but for this business as well. I’m still around but, this is not where my kids are growing up at this point.
Q – What were you doing before Stear Clear?
A – I graduated from Villanova University in 2001 and I entered into the insurance industry. I had a couple different projects there. I retired from that career in 2013 and that was just as Stear Clear was getting started and have called this my primary occupation ever since.
Q – So you did have that business background.
A – I did. I don’t want to over hype it. It wasn’t anything vast. In the insurance business we did have an operation. It was a substantial one. We did well by it, but, I didn’t come out of school with a business degree. I played baseball at Villanova and had a communications degree. I tell folks my stories. The reason I got involved in this business was in Syracuse years and years ago and we were certainly familiar with I’m Smart, my mother was hit head-on by a drunk driver. She’s perfectly fine today, thank God. You’d never know it if you met her. I tell people that had an impact on all of us at a very young age. Fast-forward, in my first professional career we would do a lot of entertaining, golf outings and client dinners. I had an office in Las Vegas. We spent a lot of time there. There was just no real good solution if that activity was going on to be safe. So, between those two different events I think that’s kind of puts this whole thing together.
Q – I know there had to be a special reason behind your decision to advance Stear Clear besides a financial motive.
A – We make no bones about it, were not a non-profit. We are in business to make money, but, with that said everybody on this team has a personal reason for being involved. We all, to be quite blunt. Could be doing other things probably and making more money but this feels good. It’s impossible for us to quantify how many lives saved or how many accidents avoided but again our team wakes up and feels pretty good about the difference were making in each of the communities were in.
Q – How many cities is Stear Clear in?
A – We have a couple major hubs. Syracuse. Las Vegas. South Carolina. New Jersey and Pennsylvania are two of our larger states. Then we have other franchise owners. Denver, Colorado. Naples, Florida. We have a few franchise locations scattered in little pockets around the country as well.
Q – Sounds like the company has a lot of room to grow.
A – Oh, without a doubt. We’ve tried to do it the right way. I could spend two days with you telling all the mistakes I’ve made in trying to learn this business and figure it out. By no way do we feel like were completely buttoned up but, there is one thing I’m crystal clear on and that’s we’ve received driver applications and app downloads and write requests from every state in the country. There is a clear latest demand for service like this. You hit it on the head. The ceiling is pretty high. It’s just a matter of doing it the right way and rolling out at the right pace.
Q – When someone calls for your service, does the Stear Clear driver show up in unmarked car or are they using her own car?
A – They use their own car to get there. Each area is a little bit different. So, I’ll make a generic statement about it. In Syracuse for example most of our drivers work in a team setting. So, if you and I were a driver team we would show up. I would use my car for the evening, show up down at Armory Square. You would help out and keep in mind we always drive the customers home in their own car. So, we through the GPS system find out where our customers car is located and hop out and meet them at their car and they’re ready to go.
Q – How do you get back to your car?
A – Great question. Again, it varies a little bit by area, but in Syracuse it’s a team approach. So if you and I were the team and you were driving the customer, I would be the chase car. I would follow, pick you up and bring you to the next appointment. Now, in some of our larger cities. Las Vegas in Florida, South Carolina, with the advent of Uber and Lyft asn some of those other ridesharing companies and even the taxicab market, it’s been hurt quite badly for the companies I’ve mentioned. We will utilize those options as chase cars as well.
Q – I still have to make the point; people are not taking this whole D. W. I. Issue seriously. I don’t know what patrons are thinking when they leave a place where alcohol is served and get in their car and drive drunk.
A – Its tough. I’ve been fortunate enough to see the other side of it as well. Do I think there are cases where you just mentioned? Without a doubt. We see that every day in my city in this country. But, I’ve also seen the other side of it. When you get guys like the Conig family and Mike Zieman down at Swallows witch is on the west side of town or Kelly’s up on the hill or some of the folks at downtown Armory, I have to tell you not only are they responsible in their tips training, their responsibility training of their bartenders and servers, but I can’t tell you how many calls we’ve personally got from them saying hey, this gentleman came in or something happened I’ll pick up the cost of the ride. Please come and get this person. We’ve all read the papers and seen some of the stories recently in Syracuse on what happens when that doesn’t occur. I’d make the case to you that every real business owner who owns a bar even if they are purchased or have purchased liquor liability insurance, there are so many sleepless nights about that concern.