As the global pandemic has brought most of his business to a halt, Alan Robinson has made a point of shifting out of the driver’s seat into the passenger seat as a leader. Saving his business, R&W Motorcoach of Atlanta, will be a team effort, he believes.
“I want to listen to their ideas,” Robinson says of his employees. “I can’t win if my team doesn’t win. I’m just the coach. My team are the players.”
Serving his employees is why Robinson has been willing to take work that isn’t profitable. The assignments mean his employees can earn a paycheck and he can keep his buses moving.
“Sometimes it’s not about making a profit,” Robinson told his drivers, “it’s about you.”
Robinson’s selfless leadership inspires loyalty, says Joe Calhoon, a leadership expert and keynote speaker of The UMA Virtual Summit: Ready. Aim. RESTART! The follow-up series to the initial summit in June wrapped up Sept. 9 with a pep talk by Calhoon and an inspiring panel of five motorcoach operators sharing what they have learned on their RESTART journeys.
Along with Robinson, the operator panel featured Jasmine Sayah of Best Tours & Travel of Fresno, California; Larry Hundt of Great Canadian Holidays & Coaches of Kitchener, Ontario; John Grzywacz of CIT Signature Transportation of Ames, Iowa; and Alan Thrasher of Thrasher Brothers Trailways of Birmingham, Alabama.
Calhoon discussed ways operators are “leaning into their value systems” to focus on what he calls ECO — Employees, Customers, Owners. Calhoon advocates that a successful business takes care of employees first (E), so they can serve customers (C), which ultimately benefits the owner (O).
Keeping people engaged
Grzywacz is hosting a drive-in movie night for staff in the CIT Signature Transportation bus yard, using a white garage door as the screen.
“It’s all about keeping my people engaged,” Grzywacz said, adding that his employees came up with the idea at a staff meeting and quickly put a plan together for the event.
Grzywacz shared that he has benefited emotionally from staying connected to the United Motorcoach Association network of operators and his Spader 20 Group. The latter he refers to as his unofficial board of directors. “I rely on them to pump me up.”
Sayah added that the weekly UMA Town Hall sessions and other industry events have been invaluable, not only for the information but moral support.
Best Tours has been reaching out to businesses it previously turned down because it was sold out. The operator is also making time to help people in need by gathering donations and providing free Wi-Fi during school runs.
“I believe it’s going to be our faith that carries us through this,” Sayah said, adding that many loyal customers have been sending the company notes with photos of locations they would like to travel on their buses.
“It reminds me that we will get through this.”