Victoria Clark behind the wheel of a 2014 Ameritrans M2 35-passenger.
Victoria Clark grew up in the bus industry, with her grandparents, Morris and Margaret Clark, starting Clark Travel in 1981.
“I drove my first bus around the parking lot at age four and by six was helping my father repair buses. I went on my first multi-day motorcoach tour at age eight, and was doing sales at 12,” she recalls.
Clark joined Clark Travel of Taylor, Texas, permanently in 2009 during a rough period. Her father, who also worked at the company, had recently died and she was still a full-time college student. “It was an emotionally draining first year for me,” she says. “Although painful, it changed me. I started to improve my leadership skills, and develop a better grasp of the financial side of the business.”
Victoria and her father Mike Clark in an early family photo.
Clark was put into the leadership position though, far earlier than she anticipated when her grandfather passed away in 2013, and then her grandmother in 2014. She felt lucky to have three key family members in her life who taught her vital aspects of the bus industry. Victoria’s grandfather, grandmother, and father were all a part of Clark Travel in different departments.
Margaret and Morris Clark, founders of Clark Travel
. Morris began his career driving for Greyhound, then owned and ran a Kerrville bus station before starting Clark Travel. The Clarks planned 50+ tours per year and eventually moved into the charter world in between tours. Margaret also was a school bus driver.
Her grandfather was the financial and business planning part of Clark Travel, her father the maintenance and foreman and head of safety, and grandmother the specialist in customer service. “I grew up helping my grandfather with different financial projects and helping calculate payroll. I remember at age 11 I would sit on the floor of my grandparents’ home office with an adding machine adding up the mileage for IFTA reports.”
Victoria’s father Mike, was Morris and Margaret’s only child and Victoria’s sole parent, and as the head of maintenance and safety, Victoria remembers his flawless ability to diagnose mechanical problems. “One of my favorite memories was running tools and small parts to him across the parking lot during the evenings after school or during summer breaks.”
Clark says the combined input from her father and grandparents gave her the confidence and skills to succeed not only in the bus business, but in life.
The Clark Travel
office and maintenance staff during an employee night out. (L to R): Pammella Meadows, Victoria Clark, and Erin Colwell, director of records management. (Row two) Candace Miller, detailing crew supervisor, Jason Styczynski, Dustian Colwell, mechanic, and Nona Dewitt. (Row 3) Chance Taylor, mechanic, and Donnell Harrell, assistant detailing crew supervisor.
“Something I will never forget that my grandfather told me is to always give back and help others,” she says. “People reading this may think, ‘That doesn’t make you successful.’ But it does. Whenever you experience success, it should be a shared experience. For my team, Clark Travel’s success is not my success, it is our success as a company.”
“The team at Clark Travel is not just a team, we’re a family,” says Clark, who strives to create an open and relaxed work environment. “I use some of the ‘Google’-type leadership methods. I allow team members to bring children to work in an emergency, bring dogs to work, and allow two personal breaks a day to run errands or just relax. We have driven sales up dramatically in the past few years and I believe this is due to raising the quality of work environment.”
Clark says general manager Pammella Meadows, dispatcher and driver supervisor Nona Dewitt, maintenance foreman Jason Styczynski, and new finance manager Fred Waterman have been equally important and strive every day to ensure the shared vision of the company is met.
Clark Travek recently added a Sprinter Shuttle that became immediately popular due to Facebook marketing.
Testing Smaller Luxury Vehicles
Clark Travel has primarily been a motorcoach-only business, but in recent years a growing number of customers were looking for smaller vehicles but still not wanting to compromise the luxury they experienced in a Clark motorcoach. The company purchased a 13-passenger Mercedes-Benz Sprinter by First Class Customs in January. Clark says it adds value to the company “because we can now offer a ‘one stop’ shopping experience for group ground transportation.”
Upon arrival, the Sprinter was immediately in demand due to Facebook marketing. “The morning after we posted the Sprinter on our Facebook page we received 10 phone calls for quotes and booked 50% — and that was just the morning after. The power of social media is something everyone should take advantage of,” Clark says.
Clark Travel logs more than two million miles a year in motorcoach travel, hitting major cities across the U.S. including Elkins Ranch in Palo Duro Canyon, Texas.
Perceptions on Motorcoach Drivers
Clark observes that upcoming generations do not value the motorcoach industry like her elders did. “I am 26, and when my friends think of a motorcoach driver, they think of a person in their 60s, not a person in their 30s, and this is an issue. Making motorcoach driving a new-age, fun, and exciting career is something I try to instill.
Word of mouth, Facebook advertisements, and referrals are how we find most of our driving force. Some of our best hires have been school bus drivers previously. They are usually under age 40, looking for better financial opportunities and have patience, which we all need a little more of these days.”
New Fleet Tracking Technology
Clark Travel is testing a new product by AT&T for GPS tracking. Like others, it includes fuel consumption analysis along with other analytics. Clark values it so far for its simplicity. “Many other fleet tracking products are either too complex with more options than you’ll ever use, or too simple with only GPS tracking. We were looking for a true GPS tracking device that did not have an expensive price to start and with a low monthly monitoring fee per vehicle.”
Location: Taylor, Texas
Year founded: 1981
Vehicles: Van Hool CX, MCI J4500, Ameritrans
President: Victoria Clark
Info: www.clarktravel.net, (512) 365-1511