James River Bus Lines/Carey Transportation-Richmond, Va.

Posted on December 22, 2010 by Jennifer Washington, Assistant Editor

Starting with just one 1926 Studebaker bus on a route alongside Virginia's James River 80 years ago, James River Bus Lines has grown to almost 90 vehicles since changing ownership to Woody Story, company chairman, and his son Stephen Story, current company president.  

"It's been in our family since the mid-1970s," Stephen Story says. "I think we lived and dreamed and breathed our values, which were integrity, honesty and high ethics."

Almost 15 years ago, the Storys decided to diversify the fleet and service offerings to avoid drastic seasonal revenue swings and foster stabilization when a segment declined. The Storys started contracting services with Amtrak Thruway Service and, eventually, ventured into convention services.

They now own a Carey Transportation franchise as well.

"We bill ourselves as Our website has both names, but we sell ourself as one organization," Story says. "We have also become the go-to company for complicated and high-profile transportation events."

Measuring performance on each of the segments has been paramount to the operation's success, so detailed statistics on customer service, maintenance issues and finances are always kept and evaluated, Story says. "We've been doing that for over 10 years."

Attention to employee relations has also been one of the biggest focal points for the company under Woody Story's leadership. Before becoming chairman, Woody was the GM and went to great lengths to make sure employees were well taken care of.

From loaning money out of his own pocket to ensuring everyone was paid correctly, Woody's focus on making employees No. 1 still echoes in the company's principles.

"Nowadays, we call them our internal customers, which in turn take care of your external customers," Story says. "We have always said, if we can't have great internal customer service, we'll never have great external customer service for our passengers and our clientele."

Some of the ways that the company shows its appreciation for employees include weekly handwritten thank you notes from managers, a paid day off on their company anniversary date, and a variety of company-paid events throughout the year for employees and their families.

The company has invested in and developed a number of different interactive training programs to address various aspects of the company. Courses are held multiple times a year to ensure that employees are always refreshed and updated.

Avoiding lecture-style programs and training drivers from "scratch" over the years has also been especially helpful in breaking bad habits and leading drivers to meet the company's expectations of performance.

The programs have led to impeccable results, Story says, but social skills were the next area he wanted to focus on. After hiring a professional teacher, motivational speaker and group facilitator, Story had the trainers introduce the mission statement and corporate values in the way that the company defines them.

Group sessions on problem solving are also conducted throughout the year, the results of which are published in problem-solving booklets for the entire company.

Purchasing a driving simulator three years ago has also made a great impact on drivers' preparedness and safety skills. Inspired by a news story about a Jet Blue pilot that landed a plane to safety thanks to simulator training, Story decided to purchase the simulator and train drivers multiple times a year on it.

"The TranSim VS IV provides numerous driving scenarios that prepare our drivers for situations that we could never duplicate on the road, including adverse weather, brake failure, tire failure, erratic pedestrian actions and identifying drivers under the influence," Story says. "It's in a trailer, has wraparound plasma screens and you can set up different scenarios so that we can teach drivers how to react without thinking about it."


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