The habits that build successful businesses in the bus industry

Eight out of 10 businesses fail within the first 18 months of operation and only 4% make it to the 10-year mark, according to studies.

What is the secret to longevity in business? Habits and routines that build success are a key factor, says Jim McCann, a well-known bus business consultant.

A trainer and facilitator for Spader Business Management since 2006, McCann facilitates 20 groups in the motorcoach industry.

On July 28, McCann led the third session of the three-part United Motorcoach Association (UMA) Town Hall Learning Session with a deep dive into essential ways to build habits that define success.

Improving business practices

Jim McCann

He was joined by UMA members Dan Martin, Karst Stage in Bozeman, Montana. Joe Gillis, of Northwest Navigator in Portland, Oregon. and Scott Riccio, of Northeast Charter & Tour, in Lewiston, Maine. The three are also part of a 20-person team led by McMann — made up of operators in different geographic markets — that worked together to improve their business practices.

“We have to understand economic changes and market changes and things that are out of control. But, certainly, as leaders of our organizations, we need to be able to plan ahead for them,” McMann said.

The key to success is identifying processes that, when done consistently, create high performance, he said.

“We see it as building an organization like this: Culture first, people second, processes third and strategy fourth. … If we build a strong culture within the organization, hire the right people, they will help create the processes to deliver on your strategy.”

He is not afraid to make changes

Dan Martin

During the pandemic, Karst Stage’s Martin says he learned the importance of not being afraid to make changes. Staff meetings held via video to protect people during the pandemic continue to help staff save time.

He also decided to delegate more responsibilities so he could pursue a better work-life balance.

“I will take the risk of owning a business where I owe more than I ever will. I need to go out and have some more fun. And so I’m really starting to work … on how to structure the people in my business to make sure I’m covering the bases with me working less,” Martin said. He added: “We’re working on our dashboards – which are our scores – so people know what’s most important in the business and where we need to improve.”

Focus on the customer experience

Joe Gillis
Joe Gillis

With sales down during the pandemic, Northwest Navigator continues to focus on its customer base.

“We were reaching out to customers – we weren’t asking them, ‘we can sell them a bus and they can take a trip.’ Instead, we asked, “how could we help get their company back up and running?” Gillis said.

Research into UV lights and sprays used to clean and disinfect vehicles from COVID-19 and other viruses created a new revenue stream and resulted in them opening a separate company to clean their vehicles and facilities, as well as vehicles for customers.

“Letting them know that we felt like we were all in the same boat was really beneficial for us. And when business came back, it was very fast.”

Gillis added that being part of the Spader Group has been helpful in staying on top of rising costs in the past year.

“We’re constantly evaluating what the cost of a mile is. What is the fixed cost that every bus has to have before it leaves the yard — before we even look at the cost of mileage, tires, gas, drivers and all that stuff,” Gillis said.

Monitoring costs

Scott Riccio

Northeast Charter is also keeping a close eye on rising costs.

“There’s not an invoice that comes into this building that doesn’t have my signature on it, and they’re not allowed to pay an invoice unless they have my signature on it,” Riccio said. “I want to know what it’s for and why we did it. I want to make sure I’m involved in the decision of why we’re spending it so we can manage our cash flow.”

Managing expenses is the key to increasing your profit margin.

“If you make 10% you’re basically surviving,” Riccio said. “High performers always do better than 10%.”

With some key personnel changes, Riccio was forced back into day-to-day operations on a temporary basis. This extra check helps him see where improvements can be made.

“Our company is busy enough that if you compare our revenue today to where we were in 2019, before the pandemic, I have 76% of that revenue on the books now and we’re only halfway through the busy season,” Riccio said. . “There are opportunities. Hopefully they will be very fruitful opportunities because we are working harder.”

UMA members can view the full Town Hall presentation here.


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