September 2010

Women In Transportation: Edythe Harris

by Brittany Swanson, Assistant Editor

In November 2003, Harris and her husband Irving founded Pro-Tran LLC to provide luxury motorcoach travel. However, they didn't purchase their first motorcoach until February 2005.

Edythe Harris had a successful career as a human resources executive before a group of friends talked her into taking a trip to Cape Cod by motorcoach in 2002. At the time, Harris was the vice president of human resources for the Retail Markets group of a major communications company and was responsible for the human resources needs of 30,000 employees. Harris, who generally only traveled by airplane, was wary of the trip and, at first, refused to go.

But when Harris met the driver of the motorcoach, she and her friends would be traveling in, the rest, she says, "was a love story."

Edythe and Irving Harris III were married in 2004. The couple had merged not only their lives, but their talents as well.

 "My husband has 38 years of experience in the transportation industry," Harris says. "What we decided to do was to take my business experience and his industry experience and venture out to start our own business."

In November 2003, the couple founded Pro-Tran LLC to provide luxury motorcoach travel. However, they didn't purchase their first motorcoach until February 2005. "We had to take some time to really think about how we wanted to move forward," Harris explains. Taking the time to plan ahead, as it turned out, proved wise. "The company has been running steadily since then," Harris says. "It's been more than six years now."

Pro-Tran has a small fleet of coaches — four in total — but that hasn't stopped the company from being successful. In 2008, the company was chosen by METRO Magazine as one of its Top 10 Innovative Motoroach Operators. Each coach is equipped with handmade leather seats, which have reclining capabilities and individual arm rests. They also feature flat screen televisions; satellite radio; and personal vents, reading lights and arm rests. The company derives most of its profits from private charters, but Harris and her husband also arrange tours called "land cruises."

Pro-Tran's "land cruises" are extended motorcoach trips around 20 days in length. The appeal of a "land cruise" is that the trip will usually cover a large area — often across the country — and the motorcoach will make many stops at landmarks and various places of interest. Pro-Tran's land cruises include hotel accommodations, breakfasts and baggage handling in the trip price. Harris takes pride in these accommodations; as she says in a video on the Pro-Tran Website, "All our accommodations are at least three-diamond accommodations. We make sure that wherever we are staying is a place that we — my husband and I — would want to stay."

As president and CEO of Pro-Tran, Harris has faced many challenges. She is responsible for the overall successful operation of the company, which she says depends on her ability to manage finances, interact with customers and handle the day-to-day operations. Harris' husband Irving is the chief operations officer.

"Just the fact that this is not the type of company that has traditionally had a female running it makes things difficult," Harris says. "I am often reminded that this is a predominantly male-run type of business, so I have to always be alert and knowledgeable. It's an accomplishment to still be here, especially in these economic times."

Harris attributes much of Pro-Tran's success to her unrelenting dedication to customer service. Her background in human resources and natural people skills have allowed her to communicate with Pro-Tran's customers in an effective manner, and the company's devotion to a high-standard of luxury in its coaches has impressed customers time and time again.

"I have the ability to successfully interact with people," says Harris. "And, I have the ability to make people understand and believe that we really do care about them and about providing the service that they're looking for."

 

 


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