As Jack Haugsland drove his Greyhound bus through his familiar routes of 1964 Montana, he never dreamt that 43 years later he would be retiring as the executive vice president and chief operating officer of Greyhound Lines Inc.
Haugsland, who retired from Greyhound on Jan. 31, held a wide range of responsibilities at the company — customer service, safety, real estate and facilities, driver operations, maintenance, food service, Greyhound PackageXpress, Greyhound Travel Services and charters, and industry relations.
Haugsland has also served on numerous boards, including the American Bus Association, Gray Line Worldwide, Greyhound Lines and the National Tour Foundation of the National Tour Association. In addition, he was recently appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to serve on the National Surface Transportation Policy & Revenue Study Commission.
To recognize his outstanding contributions to the industry, METRO Magazine selected Haugsland as its 2007 Motorcoach Operator of the Year. METRO Publisher Frank Di Giacomo presented the award to Haugsland at the United Motorcoach Association’s 2007 Motorcoach Expo in New Orleans in January.
Haugsland’s efforts have been especially valued by his colleagues at Greyhound. “In the 17 years I have been in the transportation business, I have never worked with anybody as dedicated, loyal and passionate as Jack,” said Stephen Gorman, who was named Greyhound’s president and CEO in 2003. “His contributions and accomplishments have earned him great respect and admiration in the travel industry. Many have known and worked with Jack over the years, and he will be sorely missed at Greyhound.”
Boosting the bottom line
One of Haugsland’s early contributions to the company came in 1985. Greyhound was in comfortable standing at the time, but Haugsland saw an opportunity that had yet to be tapped. As president of Greyhound Travel Services, a charter and tour division of Greyhound Lines, he saw that the sales division was being hampered by the fact that it was centralized in Des Moines, Iowa.
“All of our competition basically was in the individual markets throughout the country,” Haugsland said. “If we were going to grow our share of the business, and grow our share of the more profitable business, we were going to have to be more in touch with what was going on in the different markets.”
Haugsland saw to it that the sales division was decentralized. Thirty offices were established around the country, each with a sales manager who specialized in that region’s opportunities. “As a result, we saw nice growth in our business, both in volume of sales and in profitability,” he said.
Adventure in Arabia
Perhaps the most memorable moment in Haugsland’s career came in 1980, when he was asked to go to Saudi Arabia to oversee the company’s Middle East operations. He lived in the city of Al Khobar with his family for four years and oversaw the operation of 227 buses in the region. Haugsland had come a long way from his days as a young bus driver in his hometown of Madison, Wis., and in Montana.
Haugsland actually joined Greyhound while he was attending college at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh. He had heard that Greyhound was hiring drivers so he figured that he would give it a try.
During the summer he drove the routes in Montana, and during the school year he took history and economics courses with the intent of becoming a teacher. “I was going to teach school, but in that first summer I made more money in three months than I would have made all year teaching,” he said. “Plus, I got to see Glacier National Park, Yellowstone and a large part of the country.”
In the late 1960s, Haugsland took a three-year military leave to serve as the commanding officer of a military police company in Germany. Upon his return, he went back to driving for another eight years. Haugsland’s first management position came in June 1977, when he fell under the tutelage of Jim Nenow, a regional vice president. “Jim was very, very important in my career,” Haugsland said. “You need people that will take a chance on you, and he did. He mentored me and guided me in those first few years, and I think he did a great job.”
Key efforts in past few years
Haugsland remained a significant player at Greyhound even as he neared retirement. In 2003, Greyhound brought in Gorman, a former top executive at Krispy Kreme, to help restore the growth that the company had once enjoyed. Working with Gorman, Haugsland implemented the initial phases of a plan to eliminate unprofitable routes and to more effectively manage bus miles, which resulted in a 25% improvement in revenue per mile. Haugsland also had a hand in upgrading Greyhound’s public image and customer service functions.
Through Haugsland’s efforts, Greyhound is currently in the process of refurbishing its fleet of more than 1,200 buses, installing new carpeting, seating and windows, and re-painting the exteriors. The company is also renovating its bus terminals and stations.
As a recently retired Greyhound executive, Haugsland is happy with his decision to drive rather than teach. “It’s been so rewarding to work for a company that would offer the opportunity, as they do to many employees, to basically promote from within,” he said.
Reflecting on his career, Haugsland said: “I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would, in 1964, start out as a bus driver and end up in Saudi Arabia, and New York. It’s been a very rewarding experience.”