The habits that successful companies build in the coach industry

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

What is the secret of longevity in business? Habits and routines that create success are a key factor, says Jim McCann, a well-known management consultant in the coach industry.

McCann has been a trainer and facilitator for Spader Business Management since 2006 and oversees 20 groups in the coach 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 the habits that determine success.

improve business practices

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-strong group led by McMann – made up of operators in different geographic markets – who have been working together to improve their business practices.

“We need to understand the economic shifts and market changes and the things that are spiraling out of control. But of course, as 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 executed consistently, produce high performance, he said.

“We see it as building an organization like this: culture first, people second, processes third and strategy fourth. … When we build a strong culture within the organization, we hire the right people to help create the processes to execute your strategy.”

Don’t be afraid of change

Dan Martin

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

He has also decided to delegate more responsibilities to achieve a better work-life balance.

“I will take the risk of owning a business where I owe more than I will ever earn. I need to get out and enjoy myself a little more. And that’s really how I’m starting to work… on how I structure the people in my company to make sure I’m covering the bases by working less,” Martin said. He added, “We’re working on our dashboards — our scorecards — so people know what’s most important in the business and where we need to improve.”

Focus on the customer experience

Joe Gillis
Joe Gillis

With sales falling during the pandemic, Northwest Navigator remains focused on its customer base.

“We reached out to customers and didn’t ask them, ‘Can we sell them a bus and can they take a trip?’ Instead, we asked, ‘How can we help get your business up and running again?’” Gillis said.

Research into UV lights and sprays used to clean and disinfect vehicles from COVID-19 and other viruses created a new revenue stream and led to them starting a separate company to take care of their vehicles and facilities and vehicles for to clean customers.

“Letting them know that we felt like we were all in the same boat was really to our advantage. And when business came back, it was really fast.”

Gillis added that being part of the Spader group helped keep rising costs under control over the past year.

“We constantly evaluate what a mile costs. What’s the fixed cost that every bus has to have before it leaves the yard – before we even get into the cost of mileage, tires, gas, drivers and all those things,” Gillis said.

spending monitoring

Scott Riccio

Northeast Charter is also closely monitoring the increase in spending.

“There isn’t a bill that comes into this building that doesn’t have my signature on it, and they’re only allowed to pay a bill with my signature,” Riccio said. “I want to know what it is for and why we did it. I want to make sure I’m involved in deciding why we’re spending it so we can manage our cash flow.”

Managing expenses is key to increasing profit margin.

“If you earn 10%, you basically survive,” Riccio said. “High performers always do better than 10%.”

Due to some important personnel changes, Riccio was forced to temporarily get back into day-to-day operations. This extra check helps him see where improvements can be made.

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

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


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