The habits that build successful businesses in the motorcoach industry 

Eight out of 10 businesses fail in the first 18 months of operations, and only 4% make it to the 10-year mark, according to studies.

What’s the secret of longevity in business? Habits and routines that build success are a key factor, says Jim McCann, a well-known business consultant in the motorcoach industry.

A trainer and facilitator for Spader Business Management since 2006, McCann facilitates 20 groups in the motorcoach industry. 

On July 28, McCann led the third session of the three-part United Motorcoach Association (UMA) Town Hall Learning Session with a deep dive into meaningful ways to create habits that determine success. 

Improving business practices

Jim McCann
Jim McCann

He was joined by UMA Members Dan Martin, of Karst Stage in Bozeman, Montana; Joe Gillis, of Northwest Navigator in Portland, Oregon; and Scott Riccio, of Northeast Charter & Tour, in Lewiston, Maine. The three are also part of a 20-person group led by McMann — made up of operators in different geographical markets — that worked together to improve their business practices.

“We have to understand the economic shifts and the market changes, and the things that are out of control. But, certainly, as the leaders of our organizations, we need to be able to plan ahead for them,” McMann said. 

A key to success is identifying processes that, when done consistently, create high performance, he said.

“We look at it like building an organization this way: Culture first, people second, processes third and strategy fourth. … If we build a strong culture within the organization, we hire the right people, they’ll help create the processes to fulfill your strategy.”

Not afraid to make changes

Dan Martin

During the pandemic, Karst Stage’s Martin says he learned the importance of not being afraid to make changes. The staff meetings held via video to keep people safe during the pandemic continue to help staff save time. 

He has also decided to delegate more responsibilities so he can pursue a better work-life balance.

“I’m going to take on the risk of owning a business where I owe more than I’ll ever make. I need to get out and enjoy myself a bit more. And so I’m really starting to work … on how to structure people within my business to make sure I cover the bases with me working less,” said Martin. He added: “We’re working on our dashboards — which are our scorecards — so that people know what’s most important within the business and where we need to improve.”

Focus on client experience

Joe Gillis
Joe Gillis

As sales fell during the pandemic, Northwest Navigator continue to focus on its customer base. 

“We were reaching out to clients — not asking them, ‘can we sell them a bus and can they do a trip.’ Instead, we asked, ‘how could we help get their company back up and running?’” Gillis said. 

Research into UV lights and sprays used to clean and disinfect vehicles of COVID-19 and other viruses created a new revenue stream and resulted in them opening a separate company to clean their vehicles and facilities, as well as vehicles for clients.

“Letting them know we felt like we’re all in the same boat was really advantageous to us. And when business came back, it was really quick.”

Gillis added that being part of the Spader Group was helpful in staying on top of rising costs in the past year.

“We’re constantly evaluating what the cost of a mile is. What are the fixed costs every bus has to have on it before it pulls out of the yard — before we even look at the cost of mileage, tires, gas, drivers and all those things,” Gillis said. 

Monitoring expenses

Scott Riccio

Northeast Charter is also closely monitoring rising expenses.

“There isn’t an invoice that comes into this building that doesn’t have my signature on it, and they’re not allowed to pay an invoice unless my signature on it,” said Riccio. “I want to know what it’s for and why we did it. I want to make sure that I’m involved in the decision on why we spend it so that we can manage our cash flow.”

Managing expenses is key to growing the profit margin.

“If you’re making 10% you’re basically surviving,” said Riccio. “High performers are always doing better than 10%.”

With some key personnel changes, Riccio has been forced to get back into day-to-day operations on a temporary basis. That extra scrutiny is helping him see where improvements can be made.

“Our company is busy enough that if you compare our revenue today to where we were in 2019, prior to the pandemic, I have  76% of that revenue on the books now and we’re only halfway through the busy season,” Riccio said. “There are opportunities. Let’s hope they’re very fruitful opportunities because we are working harder.”

The full Town Hall presentation can be viewed by UMA members here.


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