‘Running coaches: No right way or wrong way – just your way’

Running coaches

Somewhere near Watford Gap is the town of Coachville. It sits in the county of Coachandbusshire and has three very different operators. 

Phil runs Company A. He like to keep things simple. He has a fleet of Volvo B10Ms and operates school contracts, swimming baths runs and local private hires. He does his own maintenance and keeps his eye firmly on costs. He doesn’t venture to big cities where an operator needs Euro VI and highly skilled drivers. 

One way of running coaches…

Websites, social media, vehicle tracking and coaches with wi-fi aren’t for him. Phil is a savvy chap who is not interested in being well known or in the Coachville branch of the Round Table. He sponsors the local cricket team because the players hire his coaches, but that is about it. He only wants to make a good living for himself and his family. 

At the end of the year, Phil looks at his accounts and has done nicely for himself. 

Two miles down the road in a purpose-built depot is Jane and Company B. It couldn’t be more different to Company A. Jane’s branding is crisp, the company’s website is regularly updated, and her social media is on message. 

Jane is well known in the area. She regularly gives talks in schools and sits on various business committees. She thrives on high-profile corporate work and has a good in-house holiday programme, as well as working for tour companies. Her coaches are top-spec models paid for over three years, because she has the work to justify them. 

At the end of the year, Jane pours herself a nice gin and tonic. Like Phil, she has done nicely for herself. 

…and another that delivers ‘a trendy IPA’

At the end of the road is Arjun and Company C. His fleet is mixed, with everything from 16 to 94 seats. He also runs a couple of bus services. Company C is good at last-minute rail replacement and short-notice spot hire. Arjun doesn’t like all his eggs in one basket. He is always looking to diversify where he thinks opportunities lie. 

At the end of the year Arjun pours himself a trendy IPA. He has also done nicely for himself. 

The only thing that these operators have in common is that they have all worked very hard to get where they are. It has always struck me that the companies within our industry can be so incredibly different: From one-person businesses to third-generation family companies, to huge PLCs. Organisations that are poles apart in how they function and do business, all badged up as coach and bus operators. 

‘My way of running coaches is mine; your way is yours’

Many years ago when I got married, my occupation on the wedding certificate said ‘Coach Operator’. When I eventually roll an untimely six, on my death certificate it will hopefully say ‘Retired Coach Operator’. My version of coach operator is completely different to that of the person down the road, but on the two certificates it will say the same thing. 

In an industry that can be so diverse, providing you remain profitable and compliant there is no right or wrong way of doing things – just different ways. What works for one company would horrify another. As the old saying goes, there is a lid for every saucepan, just as there is a coach or bus for every customer. Just try to get the right money from your particular client! 

A donation to charity has been made in return for this column.