This week, we’re speaking to Peter Rosenfeld from BusyBus, who has 17 years experience providing multi award-winning, minibus and coach sightseeing trips and tours as well as 3-Peak Challenge logistics, cruise excursions, holidays, mini-breaks and general minibus private hire services.
Tell us about your life’s journey
I was born in Sale, Cheshire but moved to Vienna, Austria as a child. I was then expelled from home and sentenced to 3 years in boarding school in Knutsford from which I ran away in 1980 to join the merchant navy in Liverpool. I became a marine engineer and fell in love with a scouser who liked the uniform and ended up marrying her. I started my own engineering business in 1994 that was acquired in 1999 paving the way for my mid-life crisis and the birth of BusyBus in 2003. What better way to satisfy a crisis than entertaining a new set of daily tourists? My entrepreneurial spirit was unleashed in 2004 when I invented an online ticketing system to fill my BusyBus seats. Initially it hardly sold a ticket; but raised unprecedented interest in the software that was clearly the future! 17 years on, BusyBus is very, erm, busy and my ticketing solution is about to explode globally.
How did Coronavirus impact your businesses?
All my businesses are linked by a common denominator, tourism. Tourism (travel) was massively impacted by Corona Virus. It was the first to bear witness and probably the last to recover. I saw £250,000 of refunds leave the BusyBus bank account by the end of April with a simultaneous deafening future order book. My net business value (pension plan) was slashed and the prospect of having to rebuild from the ashes was simply not enticing or motivating at all. I quickly recognised we would need to diversify to survive.
So, what did you do?
Rather than start a brand new business I spent a few weeks analysing what I already had. Staff, assets, infrastructure, legislation, compliance, etc. The only thing missing was customers / buyers. With that motivating knowledge I decided to focus on a strategy of recovery that would include a focussed and unambiguous roadmap. It started with a Corona Virus risk assessment. In order to get the BusyBus wheels turning again I would need to at least operate at break even. Make sure my staff were paid, the overhead covered and my own personal net living expenses disbursed. This involved a 2-pronged sales approach: 1: Seeking out new markets and 2: Assuring confidence in those markets that BusyBus was a safe and desirable thing to do.
The first was relatively easy. It was blatantly obvious that our product could be tailored to the British “staycation” market – so be it the narration, script and (most importantly) humour needed to be honed.
The second needed every managerial skill I had that including the creation of a new company altogether to deliver to BusyBus a dedicated PPE pack to clients that included a face shield, face mask, sanitiser and general travel hygiene accessories. Welcome TravSafe (Ltd). What a life-saver! Our clients love them. They feel safe, secure and decisive in their decision to engage with BusyBus. Another attribute is the WebTicketManager online ticketing facility that has developed a Covid-Secure booking system. This captures the necessary data at source for track & trace security as well as a clever “bubble” facility that allows family bubbles to be created at booking stage to optimise coach loading. Basically, using bubbles we are able to get as many as 75% occupancy into the confined area of a coach whilst still utilising social distancing. The difference is the distances are between bubbles, not individuals in accordance with full Government guidelines and legislation.
… And the impact?
BusyBus is recovering beyond expectation. We are already back to 40% operational turnover with 70% of the workforce un-furloughed. We have happy staff, fulfilled customers and a healthy business. We are optimistic there will be no redundancies and we will be able to ride and survive the third “winter” in a run (winter 2019, Summer 2020, winter 2020). Yes, our entire financial reserves are depleted and yes, we have a mountain to climb to get back to where we were but seeing the market recover and the delight of the staff and clients makes it all worthwhile.
Finally, what will you tell your grandkids about this world chapter?
I feel privileged and humbled to have not only lived through, but survived this unprecedented period of global history. I say this because it has made me realise there is far more than money and lifestyle to life. Human empathy and compassion along with a desire to survive and prosper has changed my entire outlook on life generally. I believe the World will not go back. I think we lived in great times and never realised it. They say you don’t know what you’ve lost until it’s gone. These words will resonate and future generations will have never known those times. However, new times will become great times too for our kids to live through. We will see technological changes, cultural swings, working principles evolve. There will be more working from home, online engagement, slickening procedures, etc. and it will be different; but only for us, this generation. To our children it will be the norm and to our grandchildren we will be considered a mystical, inefficient generation for sure.
The fact remains though, we strived, survived and have the Blue Peter Badge to prove it!