STRAT­EGY

Queens­land op­er­a­tor shows what can be achieved when staff put the growth of the busi­ness first, writes

ABC (Australia) - - CONTENTS - Ran­dall John­ston

When GlasshouseGl Coun­try Coaches ( GCC) de­pot su­per­vi­sor Sam Pear­son first joined the Cavbus Group about a year ago, he had to con­vince a few staff that more flex­i­bil­ity from them was needed in order to help GCC move ahead, par­tic­u­larly when it came to char­ter work

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, they say. This, how­ever, is a no­tion that has been proven wrong in hu­man his­tory. Wher­ever there have been peo­ple re­sis­tant to the idea of change, or the need to nd a bet­ter way of do­ing some­thing, there too have been peo­ple will­ing to challenge the sta­tus quo – no mat­ter how un­com­fort­able or ill-re­ceived this was.

Ideas that seem for­eign at rst may be the per­fect so­lu­tion; it just takes a lit­tle faith and a lot of hard work to bring them to life. When Glasshouse Coun­try Coaches (GCC) de­pot su­per­vi­sor Sam Pear­son rst joined the Cavbus Group about a year ago, he had to con­vince a few staff that more ex­i­bil­ity from them was needed in order to help GCC move ahead, par­tic­u­larly when it came to char­ter work.

A lot of Pear­son’s day is taken up with ros­ter­ing be­cause things are con­stantly chang­ing as they take on char­ter work, which ob­vi­ously af­fects other sched­uled jobs.

“It would be great to do the ros­ter­ing a week in ad­vance, but you just can’t do that when you’re do­ing char­ter work, tak­ing on jobs and try­ing to ac­com­mo­date peo­ple at short no­tice as well,” Pear­son says.

“There’s no point do­ing the ros­ter days in ad­vance, be­cause all you end up do­ing is go­ing back and chang­ing it sev­eral times over, and that’s no good for any­one.

“I try and do it so our driv­ers know what their sched­ule is for the next day by the time they get back from their school runs.”

Char­ter driv­ers need to ac­cept that jobs may be booked at short no­tice, and nat­u­rally the more work com­ing in, the bet­ter off ev­ery­one is.

“Driv­ers have to be ex­i­ble when they’re work­ing for some­one who does char­ter – it’s just the na­ture of the beast,” Pear­son says. “Glasshouse is go­ing to move ahead over the next few years, it’s al­ready start­ing to hap­pen with the amount of new work we’re get­ting from our lo­cal schools.”

A TIGHT SCHED­ULE

A small-to-medium eet size means the team has to be very care­ful with sched­ul­ing.

“With 28 in the eet you start push­ing it a bit, you have to be re­ally smart with your sched­ul­ing, oth­er­wise you’re go­ing to run into prob­lems,” Pear­son says.

“It helps to have a great team of driv­ers that are ex­pe­ri­enced and pro­fes­sional, GCC is lucky in that re­spect.”

“Char­ter cus­tomers ap­pre­ci­ate the time and care taken and our will­ing­ness to meet their speci c needs, rather than hav­ing the at­ti­tude that one shoe ts all. Not just from the of ce, but from the whole GCC team.

“We try to be very ex­i­ble when it comes to char­ter work, even if we are su­per busy, we’ll try to nd a way to make it hap­pen.” GCC is owned by the Cavbus Group, which has two other Queens­land based bus and coach busi­nesses ( Lo­gan Coaches and Beaudesert Bus Ser­vice) so on busy days, GCC is able to call upon their re­sources to as­sist.

The key to school char­ter suc­cess is a com­bi­na­tion of ex­i­bil­ity, re­li­a­bil­ity and hav­ing friendly and ac­com­mo­dat­ing driv­ers.

“We have a good re­la­tion­ship with the schools around here and we strive to meet their ex­pec­ta­tions,” Pear­son says.

“You’ve just got to work with them, and not turn down work just be­cause you’ve got a few other char­ters on that week.”

The com­pany hasn’t drawn a line on how far it will go to for a char­ter in re­gard to dis­tance.

“I’m not go­ing to turn down jobs that aren’t lo­cal, be­cause at the end of the day a char­ter is priced on dis­tance trav­elled and time taken, but I’d much rather con­cen­trate on the cus­tomers in our lo­cal area and pro­vide the best ser­vice we can,” Pear­son says.

There is a lot of com­pe­ti­tion for char­ter work on the Sun­shine Coast, and par­tic­u­larly in the Hin­ter­land area, but the or­gan­i­sa­tion prefers to com­pete on ser­vice de­liv­ery, which is the core fo­cus, rather than price alone.

“We don’t try to be the cheap­est,” Pear­son says. “Our fo­cus is to pro­vide the best ser­vice pos­si­ble while re­main­ing ex­i­ble enough to cope with last minute changes. That’s why our cus­tomers stick with us.”

The sim­ple phi­los­o­phy of mak­ing the process easy for clients has helped keep Glasshouse on the right path.

NEW ROUTE SER­VICE

The Nam­bour Sta­tion to Maleny via Montville ser­vice was on trial for eight years be­fore be­ing in­tro­duced as a per­ma­nent ser­vice in April this year, and is now a Q- Con­nect ser­vice sup­ported by the Queens­land Gov­ern­ment, with no changes to the trial route, stops or timetable.

There has been a slight in­crease in fares, which rose about 30 cents for adults to match the ex­ist­ing 891 Maleny to Lands­bor­ough and 892 Lands­bor­ough to Beer­wah ser­vices.

Trans­port and Main Roads ( TMR) staff had a com­mu­nity in­for­ma­tion event at the Maleny IGA in late March and also rode the Nam­bour Sta­tion to Maleny bus to in­form the trav­el­ling public of the up­com­ing changes.

Eight years is a long time for a bus ser­vice to be tri­alled, but ac­cord­ing to Pear­son, Translink likes to be sure a ser­vice will be well pa­tro­n­ised be­fore it is per­ma­nently adopted, es­pe­cially in re­gional ar­eas.

Pear­son was raised in Gin Gin, Queens­land, where his fa­ther ran a school and char­ter busi­ness in Bund­aberg.

“Dad’s rst bus we re­fur­bished from the ground-up in the back yard. Its rst job was the Syd­ney 2000 Olympics,” Pear­son says.

“I re­mem­ber when I was in pre-

school, mum used to drop me off and dad would come and pick me up and take me with him on tour.

“He’d drop me off out­side the preschool in the af­ter­noon and mum would pick me up, think­ing I’d been at school all day.

“Most peo­ple learnt about the bus in­dus­try when they left school and rst started a job, I learnt through­out my child­hood. I’m only young, but I’ve been do­ing this all my life.”

Pear­son, who is also a quali ed diesel me­chanic, left his fa­ther’s busi­ness to start his of cial bus ca­reer at Bris­bane Bus Lines.

He then went on to work for Red and White Coaches and then Cross County Tours – prior to land­ing his cur­rent job at Glasshouse Coun­try Coaches, in the mid­dle of 2015.

He also worked as a driver at Martyrs Bus Ser­vice on Mel­bourne’s outer- east­ern fringe for a while, a job he says he thor­oughly en­joyed de­spite the dis­tance from his fam­ily in Queens­land.

“It was a shame to have to leave, but I needed to move back to be closer to my fam­ily for per­sonal rea­sons at that time,” he says.

Be­ing a re­gional op­er­a­tor, the old fash­ioned value of help­ing out your mates hasn’t been lost.

“We work closely with a few op­er­a­tors, not only here on the Sun­shine Coast, but in Bris­bane and the Gold Coast as well,” he says.

“That’s the bus in­dus­try – we are all in the same boat, re­ally. It doesn’t mat­ter who it is, if they’re hav­ing prob­lems we will al­ways do our best to help, be­cause we’ve all been there.

“If you don’t help peo­ple, peo­ple won’t help you. I be­lieve ev­ery good busi­ness is built on re­la­tion­ships, not just with cus­tomers but other bus op­er­a­tors as well – what goes around comes around.”

The or­gan­i­sa­tion has started do­ing a lot more event trans­port work this year.

“We spon­sor the lo­cal Ro­tary Club ev­ery year and pro­vide them with buses to do a road safety pro­gram for stu­dents, which they con­duct a few times a year at

“We’re sup­port­ing our com­mu­nity and we like to be in­volved”

Cor­bould Park Race­course in Caloun­dra,” Pear­son says.

“It’s ba­si­cally all about driver aware­ness for P-platers, with all schools on the Sun­shine Coast par­tic­i­pat­ing. It costs us money, but at the end of the day we’re sup­port­ing our com­mu­nity and we like to be in­volved.

“It’s a re­ally good pro­gram and they’ve shown that the road toll on the Sun­shine Coast has dropped since its in­tro­duc­tion.”

A GROW­ING FLEET

Glasshouse Coun­try Coaches was the rst Aus­tralian bus op­er­a­tor to re­ceive a newly re- en­gi­neered Cus­tom Coaches CB80 Se­ries II lo- oor route bus in March this year.

The new bus han­dles the hills and tight cor­ners that char­ac­terise the Sun­shine Coast Hin­ter­land very well, and it has proven to be pop­u­lar with the driv­ers and pa­trons alike.

The new ad­di­tion brings the to­tal eet to 28, in­clud­ing three minibuses and three midis.

“We have one with the McCon­nell bench seats that can legally carry 79 pri­mary school stu­dents, and aside from the midis and minis, the rest carry be­tween 53 and 67 pas­sen­gers,” Pear­son says.

The eet is a mix of Iveco, Hino, BCI and MAN buses and coaches, with an av­er­age eet age of 12 years. GCC cur­rently has 25 school bus and char­ter driv­ers em­ployed, plus two driv­ers each day to op­er­ate the two Q- Con­nect ser­vices to and from Maleny.

“We also em­ploy one full-time me­chanic, who I as­sist when time al­lows,” Pear­son says.

“The su­per­vi­sor role in a bus com­pany means you get to call the shots, but you are also the back-up when a driver or me­chanic is needed”.

GCC has 15 school runs and two route ser­vices, and in com­bi­na­tion with the char­ter work, it keeps the team very busy.

“It is some­times a challenge to bal­ance route ser­vices, school runs and char­ter work, but we al­ways seem to nd a way,” Pear­son says.

This busi­ness is well po­si­tioned to take ad­van­tage of the mas­sive hous­ing growth on the Sun­shine Coast.

“All the new hous­ing de­vel­op­ments that are go­ing up south of Caloun­dra, and here in the Hin­ter­land from Steve Ir­win Way through to Roys Road, ex­cites me as to what the fu­ture holds,” Pear­son says.

Not only will there be new hous­ing but also new schools and, as the pop­u­la­tion grows, GCC plans to grow with it.

The de­sire to branch out into new ven­tures, cou­pled with the up­swing in char­ter work, means things are look­ing good for the fu­ture Glasshouse Coun­try Coaches.

Get­ting the staff to work to­gether and em­brace change has yielded good re­sults over the past year, and what was once seen as a small op­er­a­tor in the Sunny Coast Hills, is now well and truly on the map.

Left: The GCC de­pot is prob­a­bly one of the most scenic in all of Australia; Top and above: The fa­mous Glasshouse Moun­tains set the scenery; Glasshouse Coun­try Coaches (GCC) de­pot su­per­vi­sor Sam Pear­son

Above: There’s still plenty of room for growth at the de­pot Right: Route 890 is now a per­ma­nent ser­vice; Below: Char­ter driver Tony Long likes to keep his nose clean

The de­pot has a few in­ter­est­ing land­scape fea­tures

Above: Pear­son takes the new CB80 II for a spin; Below: Just a few in the grow­ing Glasshouse fleet

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