Since January 1993, the motor coach industry newspaper Busblickpunkt has been running a monthly feature called “Manager of the Month”. The managers who are honored with this title are directly or indirectly connected with the bus industry. They share ideas, innovations, and trends with readers, and ensure that the image of bus tourism is increasing and the number of bus travellers is growing. The Manager of the Month for September 2010 is Steven C. Klika, President of Global Passenger Network (GPN). This year, Steven C. Klika attended the RDA Workshop in Cologne for the first time. Now he will have a lot of work, because at the GPN stand, it was really busy. “I will take a lot of work right from here to America. All this will now take some weeks to process,” Klika said in an interview.
Global Passenger Network is an organization of medium-sized bus operators in 25 countries around the world. Steven C. Klika is president of GPN. The organization influences the market, not as a mere fusion of companies, but as a company in itself. It is registered as such in Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.A. The goal of GPN is to offer the benefits of globalization to its members: high quality medium-sized bus companies. The best example of this was the ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano Eyjafijallajökul , in April of this year, which brought global air traffic to a standstill. GPN members organized buses that drove stranded passengers across Europe. “It was a profitable business for us,” says Klika. Behind GPN is Klika’s experience as president of the International Motor Coach Group (IMG), covering the United States and Canada. Membership in this association is reserved only for the “best of the best “, Klika said. The bus companies that want to become members of IMG must meet the highest quality standards in all areas. Having modern coaches is not enough to be included in the elite circle of the best American and Canadian bus companies. The number of members shows that. Altogether, there are, in the United States and Canada, approximately 4500 medium-sized bus operators. IMG, however, has a limit of 60 members. Membership is open only to those who are invited by IMG. In fact , “Really only the top-level bus operators have the chance to become members of IMG,” says Klika. As examples, he cited IMG members Calco Travel in New Orleans and Eyre Bus Tour & Travel in Washington D.C. Calco Travel explains to customers on its website why the company is a member of IMG, and how it benefits the end users. Another member in the elite IMG circle is Western Pacific, a large bus company that operates between Toronto and Calgary, and will, in a few days, become “IMG Operator of the Year”, a prestigious award within the organization. “The quality of Pacific Western is unique,” says Klika, “and in a business that operates over 500 coaches and 1,500 school buses.” What IMG is to America and Canada GPN will be to the rest of the world.
Until now, the organization is represented in 25 countries, but soon more will follow, says Klika. The structure of GPN is moving on two tracks. Members can either be an elite business association in a member country, as, for example, IMG in the U.S and Canada, or it can be a bus operators’ association like Vivara Viaggi in Italy, or an individual coach company. Generally, the latter happens when, in a country, there is no association grouping together the best of the best, as in Germany. Since there is no network of elite bus operators, GPN has chosen the Eberhardt group from Pforzheim as its German representative, which is a high honor.
The owner of the company is Richard Eberhardt, president of the RDA. Peter Wagner, CEO of Eberhardt Group, explains how this came about: “In this case, we were simply in the right place at the right time.” Wagner had received an invitation to a GPN meeting, and thought, why not listen to what it is about? So he attended, was very impressed, and immediately became the organization’s German representative. Now Wagner helps other GPN members sending clients to Germany, by supplying them with transportation services through the Eberhardt group. At the RDA Workshop, Wagner stood with Klika with visitors and offered information on the services of the network. This is not the only task for which Wagner and the Eberhardt group are responsible within GPN. In order to strengthen the cohesion, each country has a specific task within GPN. Germany, for example, is responsible for matters of marketing and communications, U.S.A. for membership, and Spain for the finances , while the Finnish section takes care of issues of technology.
Klika is convinced that the trustworthiness of the GPN can only be built on trust between the members. “If I call Peter Wagner in Germany, I call not just a colleague, but a friend. I can fully trust his word, ” says Klika of the value of GPN. Stephen C. Klika is 55 years old, married and father of three children (29, 25 and 17 years old). To keep fit, he swims on a swim team and he also like to read. “I read one book per week,” he says. He prefers authors like Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy.