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The Great Recession caused global economic turmoil and led to the death of many a good business. Most companies that survived did it by downsizing staff and operations, and tightening their belts. But an elite few managed to adapt, evolve, and thrive during the economic drought; and an even smaller number did so with style, such as Lux Bus America in Anaheim, Calif.
The charter and tour operation started in June 2003. Six months later, CEO and owner Matt Brown — just out of college at the time — bought a small percentage of the company with his father, David Brown, and began the journey that would lead to the company’s complete overhaul and evolution into a premier luxury motorcoach service.
What kills good companies
The original owner of Lux Bus America saw 30 years in the bus industry before selling his former company to Coach America. After his non-compete was up, he attempted to revive his upscale per capita service that ran between Anaheim and Vegas but struggled. Brown came on board to help build the service, and as he started to figure things out, bought out the company principals and rebranded the operation.
In 2008, Lux Bus America expanded its charter side and had service running between Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas. The company is setting up a hub in the San Francisco Bay area after signing a contract with a Silicon Valley tech giant.
Brown attributes his company’s growth and success to several things, starting with the philosophy of staying aggressive and avoiding complacency at all costs, something Brown learned by closely following other bus companies.
“It’s a burning theme; I can never be complacent,” Brown says. “There were a million times before we started growing that I just wanted to walk away. It was tough. But my team and I kept on the grind; we had this sense of urgency every day. We stay as aggressive as we can be. Even on our busiest days we keep that sense of urgency, because if we stop, that’s complacency, and that’s what kills good companies.”
Lux Bus America's fleet of Prevost H3 motorcoaches.
If you’re not growing, you’re dying
Whenever there’s a business opportunity, Brown is the first to be on top of it. He admits to having taken some calculated business risks, but says sometimes “you have to spend money even if you don’t think you have a chance, because if you don’t try, you really don’t have a chance.” He finds it important to stay fluid and be open to different things because opportunity can exist in places one wouldn’t normally think of looking.
“An extremely smart man I met — Jim Galusha of Silverado Stages in San Luis Obispo — told me, ‘If you’re not growing, you’re dying.’ And I agree with him,” Brown says.
Brown looks at his operation as a pie that’s divided up into slices representing different markets, and his goal is to keep those slices as balanced as possible.
Lux Bus America's ABC M1235 minibus.
“We knew we needed to diversify our service and we wanted to create a charter fleet of motorcoaches that would back up our per capita coaches when we needed it,” Brown says. “I noticed that other companies, really good companies, weren’t diversifying. They were shoved into one market — corporate, schools, sports, or tour and travel — and they just got beat up [when the recession hit]. As we grew, I wanted to keep our business pie as even as it could be in all areas so when one market dried up, we didn’t get smoked.”