Money

Operator Lays Out Financial Plan To Handle The Pain

Martin Romjue
Posted on March 18, 2020
Dan Goff, co-owner and general mangager of A. Goff Bus & Limousine Company in Charlottesville, Va. (LCT file photo)

Dan Goff, co-owner and general mangager of A. Goff Bus & Limousine Company in Charlottesville, Va. (LCT file photo)

The global COVID-19 pandemic is forcing businesses into difficult financial decisions with many coming at the same time.

From labor to loan payments, equipment, necessities, and all the components of a transportation business, operators in this distressed environment need a plan to proceed.

At A. Goff Limousine and Bus Company in Charlottesville, Va., co-owner and general manager Dan Goff already is repurposing staff and looking for new ways to replace revenue at his 72-employee company that runs all types of vehicles, from sedans to motorcoaches. He also owns SuperMax Motors, a bus and chauffeured vehicle dealership that is an authorized reseller of Prevost buses.

First up, while cutting the regular hours of mechanical and office staff, Goff has opened the doors of his shop for local repair work. “We’ve repurposed our cleaning staff to give them work we find for them instead of just tossing them out to fend for themselves,” he said.

Managers, meanwhile, get first dibs on driving while the best performing, capable, and available drivers are given first consideration for runs.

“You have to decide who gets fed and who gets none,” he said. “If everybody just gets a little, your best people leave.”

It’s all a matter of controlling attrition, Goff said. You give work to the best people, and the non-shiners will have to be replaced later.

Goff advises dividing expenses into tiers or categories of what you cut first, second, and last. As you reduce expenses, such as labor and fuel, you need to run on less revenue (see list of examples below).

Goff reports as of March 18, his company revenue is down 88% and he is in Tier 2 and Tier 3 expense cutting. He has mothballed 19 of his 26 fleet vehicles, taking them off insurance and parking them in a building. "They are down until we come back." His seven remaining vehicles are five motorcoaches and two SUVs. Remaining clients include hospitals, ports, the military, and the occasional affiliate. He also is down to about 15 employees.

"We intend to be here so we can give people their jobs back," Goff said.

For medium to larger operations, about 20% of core expenses can't be cut. If the bottom floor is 20% of overall expenses, those should be covered by either drawing on reserves, deferring payments, and/or arranging a loan.

"Only the smallest fleet operators can cut to zero," Goff said. "Some are closing up for a few weeks."

The goal is to reduce losses and increase cash flow, but an owner still has to earn a minimal profit to live. The key is to find other revenue streams or sources of income, Goff said.

In addition to opening for local vehicle repairs, Goff recently bought six buses that he plans to sell at a profit in the next few months. “There are equipment deals coming, and it will rebound.”

Goff emphasized a plan can provide strong leadership that lays out situations and solutions accurately to employees. “Once people think those in charge actually are and have a plan and will move in that direction, the staff can decide whether to follow the plan or look for something else.”

To help operators with P&L tracking, Goff has created a cash flow calculator here.

Expense Reductions

Tier 1 Expenses: Cut first

Advertising

Job boards

Contributions

Amenities and benefits for staff and office

Printing

Most dues and subscriptions

Non-essential travel

"Name out there" spending

"We have always" spending

Check "automatic renewal" arrangements and move to manual

Sell low volume vehicles quickly (even at a loss if need be)

Review all purchasing and non-essential vendors for pricing or product reductions

Cut everything that isn't a core function (employees need to see the company isn't being wasteful)

Tier 2 Expenses: Anticipate which expenses become less essential as volume drops

Answering services

Second and third employee shifts

Software products

Networking fixed costs

Memberships

Items that make large volume easier, but can be absorbed manually at lower volume

Lawn & building maintenance

As more vehicles become low volume, sell them

Extra phone lines/numbers

Consolidate multiple buildings into one to save on utilities and phone

Reduce the size of dumpster, such as replacing a five-yard with a two-yard.

Tier 3 Expenses: Items you can't cut but have to anyway

Cell phones

Health insurance

Review of all "valued" vendors for price reductions

Bring pest control in-house

Payments: What To Do

Lenders

Bank lenders: Six months interest only

Commercial lenders: Three months payments added to the end

Insurance

Liability: Mothball some fleet

Workers Comp: Review new payroll expectations with insurer

Staff/Labor

Managers: 40% reduction in pay and in time required at work. Offer first dibs on driving work.

Hourly: 40% reduction in hours. Look for other revenue opportunities (retail mechanical work, hiring out cleaning staff as labor, etc.)

Top chauffeurs/drivers: Pick out most flexible, capable, and stable drivers and give them second dibs on driving work.

Other chauffeurs/drivers: Concentrate work on best remaining staff. Don't “spread it around.” Instead, care for the best, expect to replace the rest later.

Related Topics: business loans, coronavirus, crisis management, Dan Goff, disasters, emergency planning, emergency preparedness, finance, financial planning, fleet management, operating expenses, revenues, Vehicle Loans, Virginia operators

Martin Romjue Editor
Comments ( 1 )
  • Chuck Cotton

     | about 3 months ago

    These are great suggestions.. remember my maxim, " Your creditors are your best friends."

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