Tour operator staying afloat with essential personnel transportation

Dan Goff says he is learning to make lemonade out of the lemons. Goff, co-owner of A Goff Limousine & Bus Co., has switched from a tourism model to doing different kinds of charter work.

An A Goff bus during an early morning pickup.

He is focusing on providing transportation to essential personnel. The company has been hypervigilant on viral control. 

“Back in February, we pulled all of our advertising of any type, and began to work on vetting viral control and applying for different essential services opportunities,” Goff said. 

He describes those steps as a continuation of a trend that began in early 2019, when the Ruckersville, Virginia, company hired staff from Fun Tours after the Norfolk charter company shuttered.

“A lot of business came with that, but it was business that we didn’t prefer,” Goff said of per-seat ticketing for casino runs and other church events.

‘Appropriate income’

A significant amount of revenue was tied to WorldStrides, a large educational travel company based in Charlottesville, Virginia, that filed for reorganization bankruptcy in July. 

They do a lot of educational tours all over, but are particularly focused in Washington, D.C. The company is known for its driver ranking and reward system. Goff’s company started doing WorldStrides trips when it launched in 2003, but shifted to higher-paying work over the years.

“We’re not a huge company, so we focus on having appropriate income in the work that we do. We’re not gross-revenue-driven,” Goff said.

Multiyear contracts

Now, the company has contracts to do shuttle work for essential employees and military moves. The company recently signed multiyear contracts with Norfolk Naval Station, Fort Eustis, Naval Air Station Oceana and the Port of Virginia to transport contractors daily, and an “unnamed warehouse company” for employee shuttles. It is also doing some college transit.

Dan Goff

“These are our customers, with the exception of the college transit, that did not go away on March 13, when the world ended. So we have been embarrassingly fortunate to continue to have work every day,” Goff said. 

He describes his revenues as about half what they were a year ago, but his overhead is markedly less.

“A typical job for us last year was probably around 220 miles, garage to garage, and a typical job for us today is around 25 miles. It’s less wear and tear on the buses, less labor, less fuel, and less risk for the insurers,” Goff said. “So in the end, your margins are pretty similar. That’s not counting the support that the federal government has given to businesses in the form of PPP and EIDL, and we were successful in getting those.”

An early sense

But Goff also sensed things were changing a little faster than others in the industry. He credits that insight to a well-timed trip to Las Vegas to see two limousine shows. He attended as the owner of SuperMax Motors and the only U. S. contract holder with Volvo/Prevost for wholesale of trade-ins.

“I walked around those casinos and saw it completely different from the last 20 years I’ve been going,” Goff said. “I realized that that was probably what the whole country was going to look like.”

As a result, he gave his employees a heads up in February not to make any big expenditures because layoffs were likely coming.

“We started working on the things we thought would be important,” said Goff. “We think that we have best practices when it comes to viral control. We think that our ability to describe and implement those practices gives the remaining buyers comfort that we are doing everything possible.”

Safety investment

The company is investing $4,000 per coach in UV lights, electrostatic sprayers, and copper- and silver-infused HEPA filters, onboard thermal thermometers and supplying free masks for passengers.

Gina Goff

Much of that investment will be covered under the PPP funds, so he’s saving the receipts.

He credits the investment for helping him land a recent contract with Virginia’s School for the Deaf and Blind. 

His new business is coming from education and military contracts. His military work began with bids, but now he is benefitting from direct bookings.

“It will tide us over until tourism returns,” Goff said. “We like that kind of work, because the staff have an opportunity to learn the whole job and do it again and again and again, so there is a high success rate.”

Hiring frenzy

The work is easier to manage, so he has been able to downsize his office staff, although he notes the new business is paperwork-driven. 

The firm has also benefited from being a minority-owned business. His wife, Ana Regina Goff, is the majority stakeholder.

While the number of employees working in the office dropped by 80%, the company is now in a hiring frenzy for drivers.

“We’re turning down work now because we don’t have enough people to do it,” he said of his drivers, who are called bus captains.

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