October/November 2018

Driving a successful family business

GM Business Connect recently visited Wesley Goodwin of Go Goodwins Coaches based in Eccles. As Director, Wesley is the 5th generation of a family business that has been trading since 1917. We asked Wesley to share his family’s history of the business and also his plans for the future:

How long has the company been in business and how did it start up?

Wesley Goodwin

“The family have been in the coach business for 5 generations now. My Great-Great-Grandfather started York Motors in 1917 based in Chorlton. In 1976 my Grandparents created Go Goodwins as a new business and started running it from a council house in Benchill, Wythenshawe.

“From there we started with a yard in Sharston, and by 1980 had moved to a much bigger site in Adswood in Stockport. There has been steady growth over the years with some fantastic high-profile contracts, including Manchester United Football Club (with Ron Atkinson as Manager), the Trafford Metros and in 1999 the English Cricket Board. We have also hosted many celebrities over the years on our luxury fleet, including Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears.

“I joined the business in 1994. By that time we had our own MOT station, and in the same year had bought out Erics Way Coaches. We also started our contracted bus services for GMPTE in 2010, which grew over the years as a very profitable part of our business. We sold the 19 buses and freehold depot in 2017 to Rotola, giving us extra capital to invest in our core offering of coaches and buses on corporate, sporting, private hire and school contracts. We currently have 20 vehicles and 25 staff.”

How important is Health & Safety to your business, and what type of training and monitoring do you have for your employees?
“Back in 1990 we opened our own MOT centre, and this was a facility that we invested in and expanded when we moved to a bigger site in Salford during the 90’s. As such we are a DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) centre that has DVSA staff on site so it’s really important to be on top of Health
& Safety. We are also audited by the DVSA.

“Looking at the maintenance of the vehicles, we have to have periodic 6 weekly checks, and as an MOT centre our vehicles are getting the full works every 6 weeks. We also have the Health & Safety of our passengers and staff to consider. Our safety and training policies are comprehensive, with risk assessments including daily inspections, ongoing qualifications, inductions and briefings for all our staff and drivers, plus detailed and structured safety management procedures. As for training, we were a DVSA training centre for driver CPC (Driver Certificate of Professional Competence), and although it has become more cost-effective to outsource this now, our culture has its’ roots very firmly in driver support, education and training.”

Tell us more about your MOT services?
“We can MOT anything from a car to a truck, motorhomes, private buses and vans. We do lots of large fleets such as Optare who have 130 hybrid vehicles that we maintain for Transport for Greater Manchester.”

What services do you offer to the corporate market, and how do you engage with businesses?
“On the coach side, we cover lots of contracts for sporting clubs looking after teams, for instance Accrington Stanley, Manchester Storm, Altrincham FC, plus many cricket clubs through our contacts with the Cricket sporting sector. For businesses the vehicles tend to get used for base days or for taking staff to and from teambuilding exercises. We have a great contract with Manchester City Football Club looking after the corporate side of their business.

“The vehicles are incredibly well equipped. You can do presentations over the screens, showing team or business logos, excellent wifi, Apple TV. So when people go on a teambuilding day they can do their presentation on the bus giving them more time to spend relaxing at their destination. Also, all our fleet are wheelchair friendly. It’s extremely important that the customer always comes first with us.”

What is your opinion on coach companies competing for business based on cost – is this possible where safety and reliability should come first?
“I think all coach companies take safety and reliability as paramount. Unfortunately this means that costs tend to be trimmed on wages, and I think this is unfair especially on drivers with the hours that they work. We try and be fair with our staff, as ultimately they are the face of our business when dealing with customers, and happy employees who are treated with respect will in turn deliver great customer service, resulting in those customers giving us favourable reviews and repeat business.”

You are Manchester-based – how far would or do your coaches travel?
“All over the UK. We look after an ice-hockey team in Dundee (Dundee Stars) and we look after them two or three times a year. We travel to pick them up and travel about the country with them for two or three days at a time.”

What are your expansion plans for the business?
“We have a major change coming within the sector with the introduction of low emission zones that are coming in throughout the country. We don’t seem to have any exact answers as to what’s coming in and where, and we are unfortunately sat waiting on the fence really until clearer ramifications of the changes become apparent.

“Most of our vehicles operate at Euro 5 standard emissions, as that was the latest standard available
when purchasing at the time. However, when upgrading individual vehicles we need to look at timings. To upgrade an exhaust system on a Euro 5 standard vehicle would cost in excess of £25,000, and if that vehicle
would then need to be changed anyway soon after, then the investment would not be worthwhile.

“When you appreciate the cost of some of these vehicles, which in most cases are hundreds of thousands of pounds, it’s like playing a game of chess – we have to put the pieces in the right place and wait and see what happens. A lot of companies are all doing the same thing. It also has a knock-on effect on the value of the vehicles.”

What separates Go Goodwins from other private hire coach businesses?
“We are one of the oldest family businesses in Manchester to run coaches. We have the vehicles that others
don’t have. We have the experience of supplying vehicles for all aspects of the commercial market place, and because our fleet cover a wide range of different types of vehicle we can offer a perfect choice for any specific need.

“I also think the attention to Health & Safety for our vehicles and staff training and support can be seen as second to none. We treat our staff incredibly well and this is very apparent when actually using our services. People remember us for our courteous and caring drivers.”