Trisha Fridrich has written more than 250 letters to U.S. senators and representatives, urging their support of the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) Act.
And she has heard back from a few people, including Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), who is now a co-sponsor, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Rep. David Price (D-NC).
Fridrich, co-owner of the tech firm The L&W Team, was inspired by another industry vendor, Tracy Fickett. The CPA and owner of Bus Books mentioned she was writing letters to all elected leaders in the states where she has clients.
“I thought that was a great idea; I could do that,” Fridrich said.
Along the way, two more vendors gave her advice on how to make her letter-writing more effective.
Vendors’ crucial role
Her story illustrates the crucial role vendors are playing as allies in building support in Washington, D.C., for the $10 billion CERTS Act, which, if approved, will provide emergency funding for thousands of motorcoach operators.
Ryan Kelly, owner of Terrapin Blue, gave Fridrich an important assist after seeing photos of stacks of envelopes on her LinkedIn post. Warning that the letters might get delayed due to anthrax screening, he recommended she also fax them so they would be received in a timely manner.
She picked up tips on how to craft a strong message from a video created by Kyle DeVivo, a DATTCO executive who launched tech startup The Bus Network in 2019. He is working behind the scenes with legislators and lobbyists on the passage of the CERTS Act.
“I completely retailored the letter to focus on the points that he had shared would be most impactful,” Fridrich said. “I wrote that my small business survives when the motorcoach industry survives. It’s important for everyone to remember that vendors are important. We’re a piece of this industry. We don’t have any business until the motorcoaches start rolling again.”
Return on investment
DeVivo’s argument is that if the private motorcoach industry disappears, organizations from the military to schools are going to have to buy their own buses and hire the staff to run them. So the $10 billion in CERTS Act spending is a fraction of what those organizations will have to spend to re-create this resource.
“It’s a small portion of the tax revenue that’s generated by this industry. This is a financially positive return on investment, it’s not just a handout. It’s really investing now to save money later on,” Fridrich said.
She describes herself as one of many people promoting the importance of the motorcoach industry, whether through letters or messages on social media.
And if she has a lesson to pass along to someone else, it would be that good letter-writing can be simplified with a tech toolbox.
She used a virtual assistant for data entry, and mail merge to put in paragraphs specific to the senator or representative in their district or detail the impact of the industry. The letters highlighted how buses are a piece of the transportation infrastructure that people forget about all too often.
Fridrich’s involvement in the wider transportation industry began about 16 years ago, when Ryan Johnson, a close college friend, convinced her to go to work for the Ride the Ducks of Seattle after graduating from the University of Washington. It was a good fit, and she worked for the operation for the next decade, learning about tourism and hospitality transportation.
She left in 2014 to attend Vanderbilt University, earning an MBA with a focus on finance and human and organizational performance.
The next year, the unthinkable happened to her previous employer when one of its amphibious vehicles was involved in a deadly crash that triggered investigations and lawsuits. She came back to consult in 2016, and worked with the business through its bankruptcy earlier this year.
“We had a ton of media scrutiny and compliance audits, and insurance and regulators, and a lot of people looking at our business very, very critically,” Fridrich said.
Turning to technology
After the incident, Johnson, the company’s vice president of operations, recognized that there was too much paperwork going through the business to manage. He turned to technology, taking the entire operations paperless in about 18 months and cutting costs by $150,000 annually.
Johnson, who lives in eastern Washington, and Fridrich, who resides in Raleigh, North Carolina, realized the transportation industry needed access to similar automation of paperwork and joined forces to create The L&W Team, short for land and water. They now help water and land operators to automate paperwork and integrate data so the right people have the right information at the right time.
“We understand transportation, compliance operations and that piece of hospitality industry,” Fridrich said. “Whether businesses are coming out of a terrible accident or recovering after the pandemic or running their operation during normal times, technology just makes all of that easier.”