Relaunching will likely mean starting smaller, operator says 

For Joe and Roxanne Gillis, 2020 feels a bit like circa 2008, when they started Northwest Navigator Luxury Coaches.

With the coronavirus crisis bringing their Portland, Oregon, business to a standstill, they are preparing to relaunch as a smaller company.

“We’re back to doing everything ourselves at this point. We’ll only have two buses running — and actually we went to one this week,” said CEO Joe Gillis.

But the couple is finding inspiration in the eight-point strategy Jim McCann, with Spader Business Management, recently shared with United Motorcoach Association members during a Town Hall session. 

Joe and Roxanne Gillis

“I love what Jim put out there because the whole plan that he’s got put together is how we started, and it’s how we’re going to go back to it,” said Gillis, speaking at the April 30 UMA Town Hall.

Focus on attitude

One point he is embracing is No. 3 on the list: Watch your attitude.

“We’re only going to have positive people around. One of my mechanics keeps saying this — I just love it — whether you think you’re gonna make it through this or not, you’re right,” Gillis said. 

He has made time to reach out to all of his furloughed employees.

“I’m talking to every employee, that includes our staff and our drivers, every week,” Gillis said. “It’s been challenging but well worth it to see what they’re thinking. There’s just a lot of fear from the employees.”

A lifesaver

Roxanne Gillis, company founder and President, praised the UMA Town Hall sessions for being a lifesaver, by connecting the couple with the industry and addressing pressing issues.

“As we rebuild, we are going to adjust our budgets, our fleet size, accordingly, and then regrow one bus at a time,” she said. “We need support from the vendors, from the industry to help all the motorcoach carriers rebuild. We don’t want to get rid of the entire fleet, but we need to be operating with the demand side that we’re going to have.”

Northwest Navigator, The Northwest’s first Green-certified motorcoach company, has a fleet of 30 vehicles, ranging from 56-passenger coaches to 29-passenger luxury Executive mini-coaches, Mercedes Sprinters and SUV’s.

‘Reinventing ourselves’

Joe Gillis says the company may pivot in the short term to clean vehicles.

“We’re just kind of reinventing ourselves,” he said. “There’s going to be changes. We’re going to be washing trucks. We may end up turning into a decontamination company, where we’re doing trucks and buses and other things around here with the products and things that we’re trying to implement.”

The company is getting ready to invest in a Victory handheld electrostatic sprayer to clean the company’s vehicles of COVID-19 and other viruses. The plan is to branch out and offer the service to clients. 

“Electrostatic is way better than our pump sprayer or any other way of putting the material on,” said Gillis. “When you use electrostatic sprayers, they cover everything. It’s going to cost a lot of money, but it’ll be worth it.”

Join UMA for the next online Town Hall meeting this Thursday at 2 p.m. ET on the Zoom platform to discuss the most current issues that matter to operators.

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