Hav­ing notched up half a cen­tury in op­er­a­tion,

Hav­ing notched up half a cen­tury in op­er­a­tion, Crown Coaches’ in­nings has been built on foun­da­tions of fam­ily, main­tain­ing good re­la­tion­ships, and in­no­va­tive ser­vices

ABC (Australia) - - CONTENTS - WORDS RAN­DALL JOHNSTON

Crown Coaches’ in­nings has been built on foun­da­tions of fam­ily, main­tain­ing good re­la­tion­ships, and in­no­va­tive ser­vices. ABC at­tended the 50th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion of this Vic­to­rian op­er­a­tor and find that even af­ter half a cen­tury its core values have not changed

ABC at­tended the 50th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion of Vic­to­rian op­er­a­tor, Crown Coaches, and found that even af­ter half a cen­tury its core values have not changed.

Past and present em­ploy­ees, in­dus­try part­ners and sup­pli­ers gath­ered to mark the oc­ca­sion with a black tie din­ner on a balmy night in Vic­to­ria’s Yarra Val­ley.

Even Mayor of the City of White­horse Denise Mas­soud was present, along with hus­band Mark and at least 100 other guests.

All at­ten­dees at the cel­e­bra­tory din­ner were sup­plied with a copy of the sec­ond edi­tion of the Crown Coaches story, Driven by Pas­sion, which was filled with some su­perb pho­tos and rec­ol­lec­tions from the past 50 years in busi­ness.

Com­pany di­rec­tor Julie Haoust was  rst to speak at the event.

“It has taken guts, courage and a lot of men­tal tough­ness, not to men­tion long hours,” she says.

“It’s taken a lot of hard work from so many good peo­ple, like our gen­eral man­ager Ian McKean, who has been with us for over 35 years now.

“We have taken on the op­por­tu­ni­ties and pos­si­bil­i­ties as they arose in or­der to get us to where we are to­day”.

“It is our pas­sion for life and pas­sion for the busi­ness that has seen us through. Our suc­cess in busi­ness is due to mak­ing great de­ci­sions. We needed good ad­vice and the very best in­for­ma­tion to progress.

“We have as­signed Mercedes and BCI to pro­vide the very best and safest coaches avail­able to us. All our sup­pli­ers and busi­ness part­ners have played a mas­sive part in our suc­cess.”

Man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Vic Haoust says that af­ter 50 years in busi­ness there are a lot of sto­ries to be told and much to be thank­ful for.

“The se­cret is to have good man­agers, and have good peo­ple around you,” he says. “I’m just so proud of my chil­dren Renee and Jerome for com­ing on board to be part of the busi­ness.

“I have so much love for my fam­ily and I’m so ap­pre­cia­tive of the work they put in at Crown. My wife Julie has been with me the whole way through all the highs and lows.

“I made a choice in 1981 to build a new Mercedes on a 1617 chas­sis and

at that point we de­cided to have Mercedes in our char­ter eet.

“Nowa­days we only op­er­ate the 0500RF range of Mercedes-Benz, which is the best that they have and we value this part­ner­ship.

“To­day Crown Coaches op­er­ates 10 en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly Euro 6 coaches that are wheel­chair ca­pa­ble.

“A lot of our work is with the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion, con­tracted school runs that run in and out of spe­cial de­vel­op­ment schools, and we take a lot of pride in that work.

“The bus in­dus­try is one where you’re quot­ing against your com­peti­tor, but when the chips are down you help each other out.

“If you’ve got too many jobs you give one to the com­pany you are quot­ing against and that is very rare in any in­dus­try.”

Gen­eral man­ager Ian McKean says it’s been a plea­sure to work for Vic and Julie and to

When the chips are down you help each other out

see how the com­pany has grown, par­tic­u­larly over the last three decades.

“I’ve worked with some real char­ac­ters over the years,” he says. “The whole fam­ily’s pas­sion and ded­i­ca­tion to the busi­ness is un­wa­ver­ing.

“Vic­tor is one of my best mates and al­ways has been. Own­ing and op­er­at­ing a com­pany of our size isn’t easy and it’s in­cred­i­ble how well our sys­tem works.

“Our sched­ulers and book­ing staff are fan­tas­tic. Ob­vi­ously our driv­ers and work­shop staff are the back­bone of the busi­ness.

“I’m look­ing for­ward to the next gen­er­a­tion of the Haoust fam­ily and the fu­ture with Jerome and Renee.

“I’ve been with Vic and Julie for more than 35 years and they re­ally have been great em­ploy­ers to work for – it’s like be­ing part of a fam­ily. We have driv­ers who have been with us for 20 years and more and we have husbands and wives, sons and daugh­ters work­ing side by side.”

EQUAL AC­CESS

Crown Coaches has a num­ber of Vic­to­rian Gov­ern­ment De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion con­tracts, which are ser­vices that re­quire both a driver and a su­per­vi­sor on board. In meet­ing the re­quire­ments of spe­cial needs schools, quite a num­ber of th­ese ve­hi­cles have wheel­chair ac­cess.

The eet size is cur­rently sit­ting at 141 with a to­tal of ap­prox­i­mately 250 em­ploy­ees, in­clud­ing dis­abil­ity su­per­vi­sors.

The large coaches are all

Mercedes-Benz, along with some Hino ve­hi­cles (wheel­chair ac­ces­si­ble) and the mini-buses are pre­dom­i­nately Mit­subishi Rosas.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion also spe­cialises in char­ter, tours and pri­vate school trans­fers and runs, plus in­bound and cor­po­rate events and tours.

“The De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion con­tracts and the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor for char­ters are our core busi­ness,” Crown Coaches busi­ness de­vel­op­ment man­ager Ivan Furlan­etto says.

“We are seek­ing growth with the schools and we are con dent this will con­tinue by iden­ti­fy­ing speci c needs and ful  lling them. The school clients de­mand good ser­vice and re­li­a­bil­ity.

“I be­lieve the qual­ity of our ser­vice, our sys­tems, poli­cies and pro­ce­dures along with our pas­sion is what sets us apart.”

The or­gan­i­sa­tion also pro­vides a num­ber of school ser­vices for sec­ondary col­leges in Mel­bourne’s in­ner east, in­clud­ing a num­ber which have a his­tory of more than 35 years.

Crown Coaches has its own work­shop with eight me­chan­ics, an up­hol­sterer, two paint and panel per­son­nel, and its very own spray paint­ing booth.

“We do ev­ery­thing in-house now, ex­cept for glass and air­con­di­tion­ing. Do­ing it that way is just a lot more ef cient.”

FAM­ILY FEEL

Vic­tor’s son and daugh­ter, Jerome and Renee Haoust, are strongly in­volved in Crown Coaches. As ex­ec­u­tive of cer, Jerome says the com­pany sup­ports a lot of com­mu­nity pro­jects and he feels help­ing out for a good cause is im­por­tant as a bus op­er­a­tor.

“We do the White­lion Three Peaks event and we do­nated a bus to the or­gan­i­sa­tion last year to help them de­liver their youth outreach ini­tia­tives,” he says.

“The bus comes back here for ser­vic­ing ev­ery now and again, so it’s an on­go­ing com­mit­ment that we’ve made to them.”

The White­lion Chat­ter­box Bus op­er­ates out­side Flin­ders Street Sta­tion in Mel­bourne’s CBD as a ser­vice for home­less youth. It is es­sen­tially a mo­bile drop-in cen­tre, of­fer­ing ma­te­rial aid such as food, clothes, in­ter­net ac­cess, or just a hot drink for peo­ple liv­ing on the streets.

White­lion also works with peo­ple in the youth jus­tice sys­tem to open doors to op­por­tu­ni­ties, pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ships and com­mu­nity con­nec­tions.

“The Three Peak event is great,” Jerome says. “Par­tic­i­pants climb all three of the high­est moun­tains in Aus­tralia in one week as a fundraiser.

“We also sup­port the Mel­bourne Week­end to End

I be­lieve the qual­ity of our ser­vice, our sys­tems ... along with our pas­sion is what sets us apart

Women’s Can­cer, which is a 60km two- day fundrais­ing walk. Crown Coaches pro­vides mini-buses to pick up those who run out of puff.

“We have had a team of co-work­ers par­tic­i­pate for the past two years, fundrais­ing more than $31,000.

“We also sup­port the Swin­burne Uni­ver­sity for­mula SAE elec­tric race car team.”

HUM­BLE BE­GIN­NINGS

The story of Vic­to­rian school and char­ter op­er­a­tor Crown Coaches shows how one bat­tling fam­ily half a cen­tury ago started work­ing with its loyal co-work­ers to pro­duce what has grown into suc­cess­ful busi­ness to­day.

In Jan­uary 1967, Vic­tor se­nior and his wife Joyce put down their life sav­ings as a small deposit and pur­chased route 608 from the Hoare broth­ers, for whom he had been driv­ing route ser­vices since 1960. He was 46 years old.

His 21-year- old son, Vic­tor ju­nior, then re­turned from a work­ing hol­i­day in New Zealand to as­sist his father in run­ning the busi­ness.

That same year, Vic­tor se­nior and Joyce of cially reg­is­tered their bus op­er­a­tion as Hawthorn Bus Ser­vice.

At that time they had just three old Bed­ford buses to ser­vice the busy route.

Sadly, Vic­tor se­nior passed away in 1968, just one week af­ter his son Vic­tor ju­nior and his part­ner Julie got en­gaged.

Af­ter his father’s tragic death, Vic­tor ju­nior, aged 22, took the reins and be­came the youngest bus op­er­a­tor in Vic­to­ria, which was a lot of re­spon­si­bil­ity for such a young man.

Joyce con­tin­ued to do the cler­i­cal work. For near two years, Vic’s cousin Stan came to help with driv­ing and main­tain­ing the ve­hi­cles. More buses were ac­quired and the busi­ness grew from there.

Vic­tor and Julie were mar­ried in March 1970 and later had two chil­dren, Jerome and Renee, both of whom grew up fully im­mersed in the bus busi­ness and to­day are now dy­namic and in­no­va­tive ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cers of Crown Coaches.

They are also the direc­tors of a pro­gres­sive, cus­tomised trans­port soft­ware com­pany, Ev­i­dent So­lu­tions, which is a sep­a­rate en­ter­prise that con­trols Crown’s im­pres­sive IT ca­pa­bil­i­ties and is build­ing a strong rep­u­ta­tion within the Aus­tralian bus and coach in­dus­try.

In 1972, Julie left her job as a sec­re­tary to help her hus­band with the busi­ness and, at age 22, be­came only the sec­ond woman in Mel­bourne to be­come a li­censed bus driver.

From there she moved into the ad­min­is­tra­tion side of the busi­ness.

Al­ways the in­no­va­tor, Vic­tor had two-way ra­dios in­stalled in all his buses by 1971 and was re­port­edly among the first bus op­er­a­tors to do so in Vic­to­ria. This has al­ways been Vic­tor’s modus operandi.

The busi­ness op­er­ated out of a BP ser­vice sta­tion in Cam­ber­well ini­tially un­til mov­ing to Cal­tex up the road and then for two years at un­ser­viced land at the Hawthorn Tip.

In 1976, at last they could pur­chase their first and fully fledged de­pot on Bur­wood Road, Hawthorn.

The years that fol­lowed saw ma­jor ex­pan­sion as the or­gan­i­sa­tion pur­chased bus com­pa­nies in Mel­bourne’s east and started run­ning ser­vices in Box Hill, Don­caster and Bal­wyn.

SCHOOL CON­TRACT FO­CUS

A turn­ing point came in 1987 when Vic­tor modi ed a bus to carry pas­sen­gers with dis­abil­i­ties, com­plete with a rear-side mounted wheel­chair lift. From this point on, dis­abled school con­tracts and spe­cial char­ter jobs be­came a ma­jor fo­cus for the com­pany and it gained a large num­ber of con­tracts from spe­cial needs schools.

The boom in this as­pect of the busi­ness, and changes in the way the Vic­to­rian Gov­ern­ment wanted route ser­vices de­liv­ered, led to a de­ci­sion to sell off all the route ser­vices – to con­cen­trate pri­mar­ily on school and char­ter work.

In 1987, Ven­tura pur­chased all of Vic­tor’s route ser­vices and the com­pany took own­er­ship of Ven­tura’s de­pot in East Bur­wood. At that same time, the Crown Coaches name was adopted. The or­gan­i­sa­tion moved to the East Bur­wood de­pot in 1989.

The eet of wheel­chair-ac­ces­si­ble buses grew rapidly and the ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ment con­tracts kept owing in.

The Bur­wood de­pot served the com­pany well for a long time, but was jam- packed to­wards the end, so the or­gan­i­sa­tion moved to its much larger cur­rent de­pot in Nu­nawad­ing in Au­gust 2005.

Its cur­rent de­pot is well po­si­tioned but it, too, has nearly reached its full ca­pac­ity as the busi­ness con­tin­ues to ex­pand.

Crown Coaches is now 100 per cent fo­cused on school, char­ter and tour work, and spe­cialises in trans­port for spe­cial needs schools.

Cor­po­rate char­ter and tour work for some of Mel­bourne’s ma­jor and most fa­mous events is also a key part of the com­pany’s op­er­a­tion.

Crown Coaches’ 50-year an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion was well at­tended and the Haoust fam­ily is clearly pas­sion­ate about the Aus­tralian bus in­dus­try.

The mile­stone serves as a re­minder of just how far you can get in busi­ness with the right at­ti­tude, re­spect for oth­ers, and a whole lot of de­ter­mi­na­tion and in­no­va­tion.

Above: The Crown Coaches team

Left: Bus in­dus­try sup­pli­ers, staff and op­er­a­tors gath­ered to cel­e­brate

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