Magazine for the professional limousine, charter and tour industry.
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36 LIMOUSINE, CHARTER & TOUR SEPTEMBER 2016 WWW.LCTMAG.COM BUS/VAN: ILCT SEMINAR SERIES: MA MANAGEMENT & LEADERSHIP How To Step Up To Better Bus Operations A seasoned panel of op A seasoned panel of operators share tips, strategies and lessons tips, strategies and lessons learned to learned tips, strategies and lessons learned to to tips, strategies and lessons learned to succeed in the motorcoach business. By Tom Halligan, LCT East Coast editor A s operators enter the motorcoach business, or seek to increase bus market share, seasoned veterans can guide them on the basics of best practices, lessons learned, and new rules. At the International LCT Show in Las Vegas on March 2, a pan- el of expert limousine operators who run motorcoaches taught attendees how to run and maintain buses, and market them to clients. In fact, a record 11 motorcoaches were displayed on the ILCT show floor, proving how manufacturers want to connect with growing operator interest. Opportunities abound for professional, service-oriented motorcoach operations, the panel emphasized. "Years back, the guy who drove a motorcoach was dressed in jeans and a vest in a basic bus with cloth seats and he just sat there in his seat not offering any service at all," said Gary Bauer, chairman and CEO of San Francisco-based Bauer's Intelligent Transporta- tion, which runs 92 motorcoaches. "Today, the big difference for us is we have well-trained drivers in suits, leather interiors and amenities, and we provide professional transportation service for clients — that's the big difference." Traditional limousine operators need to look beyond their clients to find more groups needing transportation, Bauer said. "Opportunities exist with travel tours and sightseeing tours, but also conventions, church groups, corporate shuttle services and schools transporting students and sports teams, especially at the collegiate level." Tom Holden, director of operations with Charlotte, N.C.-based Rose Chauffeured Transportation, said his company has seen a spike in destination management companies (DMCs) working with Rose to provide quality group transportation services. "If you provide a quality product and service we have seen our business grow," said Holden, who runs 20 motorcoaches. "The secret recipe is to hire bus 'chauffeurs' — not drivers — who specifically work in the bus part of your business and are properly trained, licensed and provide great service that keeps DMCs coming back." Bedford Wynne Jr., who oversees Dallas-based Wynne Trans- portation's minibuses and 27 motorcoaches, said one of the big lessons learned when his company entered the motorcoach busi- ness was to focus on maintenance and operational costs. The company bought its first motorcoach in 2008 and soon saw its motorcoach share of company revenues grow to 30%. Today the business is 70%, with chauffeured vehicles at 30%. "Downtime is not an option in the motorcoach business," Wyn- ne said. "There are not enough quality farm-out or sub-contrac- tors who offer the same quality and service we do. We are lucky in that we are located a stone's throw away from a service center, and when I go to shows, such as the LCT shows, I find part sup- pliers where I can save 20-30% — that's huge." The panel advised new operators motorcoaches can run a million-plus miles generating revenue if well maintained, and can hold value as a trade-in for newer vehicles. All agreed to first buy a good used motorcoach to test the market. "Get in the game and try it out," Bauer said. "You can buy a quality used bus and learn the business and market that new service to your clients." The panelists cautioned: Make sure you do your homework and buy a used bus from a reputable source. "Don't buy junk. You pay for quality upfront and then get your return by selling it or trading it in to get your return on investment later." — Tom Holden MOTORCOACH PASSENGER TRIPS Students: 22% | Senior: 27% | All Other: 51% Source: Motorcoach Census, 2015, American Bus Association Foundation "Remember, great customer service and professional drivers will beat out the completion every time." — Gary Bauer