Luxury Coach & Transportation

November 2018

Magazine for the professional limousine, charter and tour industry.

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Page 41 of 75

40 LUXURY COACH & TRANSPORTATION NOVEMBER 2018 WWW.LCTMAG.COM MOTORCOACHES / OPERATIONS DENNIS STREIF How bad is the driver shortage right now? e employee/driver force is decaying every year. Having a varying schedule in lieu of a fixed schedule makes our ability to retain employees more challeng- ing. e motorcoach industry workforce that used to be available to us as a second income, in which they would possibly receive a pension from an earlier career, is swiftly dwindling. e driver shortage is certainly impacting our operation, as well as many other opera- tors across the country. I'd be surprised if any company could say they have a line of people at the door waiting to get hired. What have you done to attract/retain drivers? We have all the things like pension plans, medical insur- ance, bonus plans, uniforms, flexible schedules — these are the things most companies are providing these days. We are either a leader or equal to in this industry as far as pay goes. Over the last several years, we have had to elevate our beginning pay to try to attract more people, which also required us to increase our pay across the board to all current drivers. I don't know if pay is the actual issue for all people as much as it is scheduling times, though. How important is it to be involved in both local and national associations? It is very important to network with fellow operators in your areas, as well as across the country. You never know when you may need to reach out for assis- tance and/or provide assistance to a good operator. Also, while each operator has some similarities, each of them also has something unique to share with one another; whether it's how to deal with a maintenance-related issue, safety/ insurance, purchasing, marketing, technology, or sales, the knowledge shared is invaluable. What is key to maintaining customers while continuing growth? Our growth has primarily been through increase in rate and volume at low utiliza- tion times. Our rate increase, I believe, is a direct correlation to doing the best job you can, which results in your customers not minding paying a little more to get a better quality of service. We have customers that are a good distance away from us that could use other operators, but they continue to want to use us. We are OK with that because we get our full rates. How are you able to sell to customers who are primarily worried about price? Honestly, we don't get a lot of pushback from people on rates. We do a little bit, but it is so insignificant it's not where we feel like we have to sell ourselves on our service or safety rating compared to company X, Y, or Z. e culture of putting the driver first — that is really the culture I'm pushing. Also, it's a 24/7 business and it can really be a grind sometimes, but we also like to have fun. We are respectful to each other and profes- sional, but we also have a good time. Work doesn't have to be drudgery. We have nine different locations, but we are pretty tight knit. We talk often, and during meetings we will recognize birthdays, anniversaries, and employees who provide excellent service. We really try to create a fam- ily atmosphere as much as possible. at has always worked for me. It's a people business all the way through. You have to like people, enjoy being around them, and socialize and build relationships. It's a very important part of a culture I have always tried to foster wherever I have worked. Where do you see your operation in five years? We have grown fairly quickly in the last few years, mainly through acquisitions. We are still digesting and finishing our strategy for bringing those companies together under one brand, which is Sil- verado Stages, and everything that goes with that. We are pretty close to being finished doing that. en we will have to see where we go next. ere's some consolidation going on, regionally, and we keep our eyes out for anything going on, but we are not aggressively looking to continue to grow. We are an ESOP company, with the employees owning about 14% of the business right now. We need to continue to push that and move more of the ownership of the business to the employees to help our owners Jim and Sharon Galusha execute their strategy, which is to leave the business to em- ployees since they don't have any heirs. We are not on any self-imposed dead- line and remain on a steady pace. So in the next five years, I anticipate we will be able to continue to grow. We might do some smaller acquisitions here or there, if that makes sense, and just continue to try to focus on trying to shift the ownership over to the employees over the next five years as best we can, which is based on profits we can generate through the business. In five years, hopefully, we will have more than half the company owned by the employees. Dennis Streif VP, Vandalia Bus Lines Inc., Caseyville, Ill. VP Dennis Streif says Vandalia successfully sells based solely on its reputation.

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