They always say the motorcoach industry gets in your blood, and for the Goebel family that is definitely the case. After selling his original company, Lakefront Lines, several years before, Thomas Goebel joined up with his son John to launch Cleveland’s Barons Bus in 2012. The combination ties together Thomas’ 30-plus years of transportation knowledge with John’s millennial foresight. Making it a true family affair, they are also joined by son Patrick.
“[My father] just realized that he still had a passion for the business, because he loved his customers and who he was working with,” explains John, who serves as VP of Barons Bus. “So, when we saw an opportunity in our area, we decided to launch a new venture.”
After getting its start in 2012 with five buses, Barons now features a fleet of 48 vehicles and opened a second location in Columbus, Ohio. The company prides itself on its fleet of new MCI coaches with all of the latest technology, as well as its impeccable safety record and always treating customers the way they would want to be treated.
“Since I’ve been in the business, it’s been a fast-evolving industry, beginning with e-logs, which we implemented right from the moment we opened,” John says. “From then on, we have definitely tried to use technology anytime it can help enhance our offerings and grow our business. We really feel you can’t stay stagnant in this industry right now, you have to continue to improve what you are offering.”
John adds that some of Barons’ technological evolution also comes from its relationship with MCI.
“With their vehicles, they have added some new technologies that have really enhanced our business,” he says. “We also utilize more modern software that allows us to do a better job tracking our buses and has helped us improve our preventative maintenance program.”
Patrick adds that he believes the operation’s newer fleet is one of the real keys to its success because customers are never surprised when a Barons Bus arrives.
“Having new buses on all of our trips I think really sets us apart, because a repeat customer knows what they are getting each and every time,” he says. “It also helps our mechanics and drivers as well, I think, because they are always working or driving the same type of bus and have really built a familiarity with the vehicle.”
To share that familiarity with its customers, Barons recently refreshed its website, which features a one-of-a-kind rider’s guide that outlines the company’s procedures for passengers, including how to buy tickets online, over the phone, or at terminal locations; boarding and seating procedures; and what to expect in the way of in-cabin amenities. The guide also explains onboard restrictions to assure everyone’s safety and comfort, policies on traveling with children, and even exactly what happens in the event of inclement weather.
“We wanted to set a policy and let our customers know what to expect each trip as a customer, but also what we expect as a company,” says John, who also explains that the company has also recently added bus tracking for its line runs and charter services, which is available on its website at the click of a button.
“It’s a really nice feature and we get a lot of compliments on it,” he says. “For example, parents like it because they are able to know where their child is at when they are on one of our trips, and so it helps really give them piece of mind knowing where they are and when they will be arriving home or to their destination.”
Safety and customer service
■ The knowledge of both its mechanics and drivers has helped contribute to Barons excellent safety record. In fact, according to the company’s profile on the FMCSA website, Barons currently passes roadside inspections at a rate of 99.4, which ranks in the top 1 % nationally.
“We have an unbelievable group of mechanics with us and they are definitely the ones that deserve the credit for our safety record,” John says. “We have an excellent preventative maintenance program and our team is very proactive — if they see something wrong, they will jump on it and fix the situation right away. If they see a persistent issue, they will monitor the fleet and make changes on every one of our coaches so it won’t be a problem down the road.”
John adds that many of his maintenance staff has been with Barons for the duration and take great pride in making sure the vehicles they send out on the road are going to also come back to the depot with no challenges or issues.
On the frontline, Barons Bus prides itself on putting in a lot of hours training its drivers and ensuring they are delivering a safe traveling experience along with excellent customer service.
“For us, one premium we really try to offer is customer service that goes above and beyond,” John says. “If we hear a complaint, we take that extremely seriously and follow up on it to make sure the issue is solved, and hopefully, never happens again.”
He adds Barons’ drivers have definitely stepped up to the task, and though its sounds cliché, always provides “service with a smile” on each and every trip. John attributes their ability to do so to the culture he and his family have created at Barons.
“We have a cross on the back of all of our buses that says ‘God Bless,’ and we are very entrenched in our faith,” he explains. “We try to bring that faith into our business, and I think, our drivers do as well in the sense that they treat people the way they would like to be treated.”
“And that really goes for everything and everybody,” adds Patrick. “We show and treat our whole team with respect. We are a small family-owned business, and so we have to remember that we are all part of the same team, essentially.”
■ For their safety, customer service, and more, Barons Bus was named METRO Magazine’s Operator of the Year. Patrick Goebel recently received the award during a ceremony at this year’s United Motorcoach Association Expo, which was held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in January.
“As for the award, we like to first thank God, then we’d like to thank our employees, because without them we wouldn’t be in the position we are in,” John says. “We also have a great group of vendors that we work with, including MCI.”
He also says the experience of working with his father and brothers every day has been “awesome” and rewarding as well.
“We all have different ideas, but really share a common goal to do what’s best for the company,” John says. “We are truly blessed to work with each other every day.”