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JOURNALISM: Badder Bus Operations [Download .doc version]

Company Profile: Badder Bus Operations
by Jeffrey Reed
Published by Ontario Motor Coach Association Road Explorer

Much has been said about how family traits of teamwork, trust and a good old-fashioned work ethic lend themselves to a successful business operation. Look no further than Badder Bus Operations for a perfect example of how family can thrive in the competitive industries of school bus and motor coach travel.

Currently with 380 employees across Ontario, Badder had modest beginnings in 1950 when founders Allan and Marianna Badder launched their school bus company. The couple started with just one school bus route, carrying high school students from Thamesville district to Florence, Ontario because the high school in Thamesville had been closed.

The company quickly expanded as the demand for charter trips grew, with the school bus fleet handling charters. Clients were requesting more luxurious buses, so in 1978 Badder Bus purchased its first highway coach: a two-year-old GMC 47-passenger coach equipped with a washroom, air conditioning, air ride and reclining seats - very luxurious at the time.

Today, the recently-renamed Badder Bus Operations, led by company president Doug Badder and his brother, secretary/treasurer and chair, Neil Badder, offers an extended menu of travel options. Over the years, the company has seen much expansion through purchases and amalgamations involving both school buses and coaches. In 2006, Badder split the school bus operations and the charter operations into two sister companies.

In February 2017, Badder purchased Airways Transit, an airport transportation specialist since 1975. Airport ground transportation serving the Greater Hamilton-Wentworth region, the cities of Burlington and Oakville and the Waterloo Region including Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge and surrounding areas is now part of Badder's expansive operations.

"We do serve every type of client imaginable, depending on the division of our company," explained Doug. "When you look at our areas served, we range from the Oshawa and Toronto area, right down to Windsor. That's a large area. We cover a huge populated area.

"But because we do have seven operating offices, the challenge is relatively minimal," Doug said. "The toughest area to serve is the northern portion of Grey and Bruce Counties, because of the travel involved and because we don't have a satellite office in that portion of the province. But with a Hamilton office, we easily cover Toronto, and all the way to Niagara. Plus our St. Thomas office makes it easier to cover the area from Woodstock down to West Lorne. Our Thamesville office covers the Chatham-Kent and Sarnia-Lambton areas. And our Essex office covers the Windsor-Essex area."

The Badder fleet is impressive, including 44 56-passenger coaches - MCI and Prevost; seven activity coaches - from 24- to 39-passenger capacities; 130 school buses; and now 50 vehicles - 44 vans and six automobiles - within the Airways Transit fleet.

With such a large offering, Badder finds strength not only from family values, but also within the industries it works. In addition to membership with the Ontario Motor Coach Association, the company is a member of the American Bus Association, Motor Coach Canada, United Motorcoach Association, Independent School Bus Operators Association and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. Doug is an OMCA board member, and a member of the association's coach operator council.

Badder also gives back to a long list of charities and groups within the communities it serves. In fact, its family values and philanthropy does not go unnoticed by its industry partners.

"Badder Bus has been our transportation partner since 2006. We couldn't ask for a better company to work with. Family-owned still means something in the industry, and the Badder family has shown that excellence, experience and friendship can be done in a business atmosphere," said Susan LeClair, Canadian Division Manager at Shoreline Charters & Tours in Leamington, Ontario.

From modest beginnings to industry leader, Badder Bus Operations has, indeed, cleared a path for future growth and success, all stemming from family values.

Doug Badder, President
Badder Bus Operations

The Road Explorer: Today's travellers are much more savvy than their predecessors. They have the world in their hands with the Internet, and they enjoy more independent adventures once they've reached their destinations. With Badder Bus Operations' coach division, do you recognize those trends?

Doug Badder: We do see that, to a point, despite the fact we don't do tours. Our travel agencies handle that area for us. But we are aware of what the groups are asking for today. They know what they want. They've done their research on the Internet. And they know where they want to go. So they are prepared, even before they come to us. And we don't need to make nearly as many suggestions to them as we have in the past.

Badder Bus Operations remains a family-owned and family-operated business, and continues to grow in a very controlled manner. How do these elements- and more - factor into your continued success?

I think first and foremost, we are successful because we are a family-run business. We try to treat all of our customers the same way we treat our family members. We treat them in a fair manner, offer them great customer service, including well-trained professional drivers, and provide well-maintained and clean equipment. Even within our offices, we maintain a family-oriented atmosphere, which we always hope keeps our employees happy.

Badder Bus Operations has already achieved much success, but what does the future hold for the company?

No expansion is planned for the immediate future, but we're not opposed to future growth. We'll always take a close look at what is presented to us. And if it's a good fit with what we're doing with our present operations, then we'll take a serious look at it.

The motor coach industry continues to evolve. Are there any industry challenges of note?

In general, one of the biggest challenges we're going to face in the proposed wage increase for minimum wage. There aren't very many of our own employees who are at minimum wage. But when you look at the 32 per cent the government has proposed, that could be a big issue with our drivers, because that puts the wages so much closer to what they make. And I'm sure they're going to want an increase also, in order to keep ahead of minimum wage. So I believe it's going to be a major issue for us. And our costs of everything we do will probably rise, as will our service costs.

Driver safety is always first in foremost in the minds of coach operators today. Badder has a comprehensive, in-house safety and training division. In terms of other advances in the industry, what else has caught your eye?

Technology. Going back a few years, we had electronic logs. Wi-Fi on coaches is another change. We have satellite TV on a few of our coaches, too, mostly for sports teams who request it. Also, emissions and coaches - that has changed a lot over the years. And yes, internally, we are Ministry-licensed to license our own drivers - that's something which stems from our school bus operations. But because of the size of our company, it's a great thing for us - licensing our drivers. And driver training, plus safety - those go hand in hand and are very important in terms of monitoring our drivers. Our maintenance staff keeps our buses in order, too.

Expand upon the employee experience at Badder Bus Operations. For example, how has the employee incentive experience played out within your company?

We have had a bonus system in the past, and it worked fairly well. But through our company expansions, it became harder to get employees into our company. Once they were hired, though, they produced, but getting them in the door was tough because our bonus system is really what drove wages higher than if they were working somewhere else. Until they reached the bonus level, they didn't realize that. So we've changed our employee incentives, and have gone into the wage system, making our wages a lot more competitive. We'll continue to monitor this system, but in the end we always treat our employees well. And that is what helps maintain a great work atmosphere.

From government liaison services to education, there are numerous benefits to being a member of the Ontario Motor Coach Association. What does Badder Bus Operations see as the most beneficial?

We receive great support from the OMCA, in so many ways. We're able to network with other companies who are really our competition, but we benefit from the networking. There are numerous OMCA functions to attend, and we're a pretty tight-knit group for being competitors! We all face the same challenges. If we have a bus break down and need help, and are far from home, we can receive help from our competitors, through that networking, that otherwise you wouldn't receive. On the coach side of things, they'll look after our bus and our passengers - get them to where they need to go. And yes, government lobbying, plus assistance in accessing products and services, all fall under OMCA membership.



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