PHOENIX — From increased regulation to driver shortages, the motorcoach industry has seen its share of changes over the past few years. One of the more notable changes has been access to funding that hasn’t been available since before the Great Recession.
From coach purchases to Small Business Association loans, the accessibility of inexpensive money is causing more and more companies to evaluate their financial future and look at how they can leverage this money to grow their operations.
As a result, industry insiders Peter Shelbo and Tracy Fickett, who have a combined 55 years of experience in the bus business, have launched a new financial service company called BUSBooks (www.busbooks.co).
Shelbo owned and operated Tour West America in Phoenix and Fickett hails from H&L Charter, a family bus company in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
BUSBooks was created to help operators prepare and refine financial statements that are required for business expansion.
“We know this business, and we know that operations always come first,” Shelbo said. “When you spend so much of your time running the business, there is little time available for the owners to create what we, as experts, can provide them. And for most, our service is not what the business owner enjoys or is trained to do.”
Fickett, a longtime CPA and former CFO for H&L Charter, brings her financial expertise to the company.
“Over the years, we saw that a large percentage of this industry is comprised of small, family-owned-and-operated businesses that don’t have the luxury of a financial support team to manage and maintain the necessary financial reporting to help them grow,” she said.
“When these companies are ready to expand by adding additional coaches or making property improvements, or if they are looking for investment capital of any kind, it can be difficult to do so without solid credit approval, and getting that credit approval can depend on the company’s ability to produce accurate, well-presented financial statements.”
The process of raising capital can be complicated, and the fact that a company has an accounting system or bookkeeping service does not, by its existence alone, mean that the financial reporting is in a state that funding sources will be likely to approve and accept.
Most in-house accounting programs produce balance sheets and income statement reports. Those two reports, by themselves, do not tell the entire financial story of a company.
At Tour West America, Shelbo helped grow the operation from one bus in 1986 to 22 coaches when he sold the company in 2017.
“Every time we bought a new bus or needed to get a loan to refinish a parking lot or remodel a building, we had to go through the process of updating and cleaning up our financial statements,” Shelbo said. “I wished that there was some way to have someone do that for us, as we were always busy running the company and keeping the coaches on the road.
“That need was really the genesis of this project, and we are excited to be able to step in during those moments and help companies move their objectives forward.”