New initiative gives voice to next generation of motorcoach leaders
For years, Jason Cupp has been in the background as his father, Randy, handled networking and greeted longtime friends at annual industry gatherings.
Now, the younger Cupp is taking a higher profile role with motorcoach leaders and executives his own age. He is taking part in the newly launched UMA 40 under 45 Initiative, which is drawing together up-and-coming decision-makers in the industry.
“It seems like the tide is shifting a little bit. Maybe it’s just because I’m getting older,” said Cupp.
The 35-year-old is the general manager and the third generation leader of the family business, Blue Lakes Charters & Tours in Clio, Michigan.
As the next generation of industry leaders comes of age, there has been a need to bring them together. Cupp was among a mix of millennial operators and managers who gathered for the first time at the UMA Motorcoach EXPO 2019 in Fort Lauderdale in January.
“The goal for us is to make sure the next generation of leaders are finding a home within UMA and making sure that they’re connecting with each other, because part of the value in the association and the organization is the connections that are made,” said Stacy Tetschner, president and CEO of United Motorcoach Association.
The strategy is to reunite the group every year at EXPO. Between those annual gatherings, the group plans to stay connected through a private Facebook group and possibly with video conferencing.
Despite coming to EXPO since 2005, Jodi Merritt was surprised to see so many new faces.
“I actually knew probably six or seven of the other people in the room, and the rest were all brand new to me so it was really exciting getting to meet other people,” said Merritt, president of the Rancho Cucamonga, California-based H & L Charter Co.
Cupp has stepped up to create the group’s Facebook page. He sees it as an opportunity for the under-45 set to discuss management and ownership issues and share suggestions.
“At the end of the day we’re all competitors, but what we do for a living is drive people around, and that’s about the most precious cargo there is. We owe it to ourselves in the industry to take these proactive measures to make sure that the best ideas win and the companies are better for it,” Cupp said.
Bringing this younger group together is long overdue, says Matthew Dance, director of safety & risk management for his second-generation family-owned business, Champion Coach in Greenville, South Carolina.
“It’s desperately needed because there are not a lot of young people in this industry. In my state alone, I don’t know anybody my age in the motorcoach industry, so you kind of feel disconnected from the industry because of the age difference,” Dance said.
Changing the conversation
Dance, who was recently elected to the UMA board of directors, sees the effort to unite the next generation as an opportunity to also change the conversation. Unlike older members, Dance and his generation consider technology like ELDs as a way to boost efficiency rather than as an obstacle to complain about.
“We can begin to move away from the legacy problems and look forward instead of looking back,” said Dance, adding, “I hope we can bridge the gap between my generation and the legacy operators.”
For those who would like to participate in the 40 under 45 Initiative, contact Stacy Tetschner at email@example.com.