Jimmy Hall, owner of Hampton Roads, Va.-based Venture Bus Tours, has buses in his blood. He began working for his grandfather’s bus company, Gallop Tours, when he was just a child. “I was cleaning buses and driving them around the yard when I was eight years old,” says Hall.
After many years as Gallop’s shop manager, a change in company ownership prompted Hall to blaze his own trail in the bus market. Armed with only the knowledge he received from his late grandfather, Hall launched Venture Bus Tours in 1993.
“Jimmy started this business on his own. He took that experience and started from scratch,” says Sebastian Scott, Venture’s dispatch and operations manager.
Fifteen years later, the company is setting the standard for innovation in the bus charter industry.
Venture’s great success has come from its word-of-mouth reputation for consistent attention to little details that make a huge difference to riders. The company, which caters to the area’s athletic teams and military personnel, makes sure its clients are more than just satisfied with the ride.
“We’ve had some of our clients say they’re more comfortable in our buses than they are at home,” says fleet manager Danny Langemeier.
In order to offer this level of comfort, Venture dedicates two of its shop personnel strictly to fine-tuning the interior of its vehicles on a regular basis. Most of Venture’s buses are equipped with wireless Internet, LCD televisions, state-of-the-art sound systems and plug-ins at each seat.
The company has even removed the seats in some of its luxury buses to provide more legroom to its supersized athletic clients.
In addition to regular maintenance, Scott credits the installation of DriveCam and GPS monitoring systems in all of the company’s vehicles with keeping its drivers and passengers safe and buses operating efficiently.
Venture Bus Tours recently purchased two new 81-passenger Van Hool double-decker buses. Although Hall agrees that the slowing economy has affected ridership, he believes the new buses offer a great value not only for riders but the environment as well.
“With its increased passenger capacity, it takes another bus off of the road and increases revenue at the same time,” says Hall. “It’s a win-win situation.”
In addition, Venture has increased fuel mileage by frequently tuning up its vehicles and paying attention to braking mechanisms and how they affect tire wear and tear.
“Our use of Jake Brakes has increased bus mileage from 5 mpg to 5 1/2 to 6 mpg,” adds Scott.
Above everything, Hall, Scott and Langemeier credit Venture Bus Tours’ success to a shared philosophy of teamwork and by making themselves accessible to their customers and employees 24 hours a day. “We don’t have an ivory tower here,” says Scott. “Any time you call this office you can get one of us on the phone.”
The Venture team is thankful for their ability to evenly disperse the burden of running a company efficiently among the three of them, especially in a 24/7 industry.
“I am very fortunate to have these two people with me,” says Langemeier.
“And, if one of us gets weak,” adds Hall, “there is always someone there to pick you up.”
MOTORCOACHES: 23, 15 passenger vans
FLEET MIX: Prevost, MCI, Van Hool and Krystal
SERVICE AREA: Virginia, including Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Newport News, as well as Northeastern North Carolina
SERVICES OFFERED: military, athletic, school and casino
YEAR STARTED: 1993
AVERAGE ANNUAL MILEAGE: 754,224 (2007)
OWNER: Jimmy Hall