“You're only as good as your team.” This is a sentiment that stood out for us after speaking to multi-talented, team player Jamie Lesniak of C&J Bus Lines in this edition of our Most Inspirational Women in Bus & Coach series.
Jamie is passionate and involved, and all for empowering the people she works with. Nurturing an uplifting work environment for the team is top of her agenda.
“Your mistakes are there to shape you, not define you.”
As Jamie has built her career from the ground up with C&J, we’re sure she’s faced some defining moments along the way. We’re very impressed with her work ethics that have seen her rise to the top, and that’s why we wanted to do this interview with her.
It’s very clear that Jamie is a motivated and talented leader, eager to support her industry and her community.
In addition to being a member of the Massbus Board and Women in Buses Council, she’s also very involved with her home community. Jamie is a Leadership Seacoast 2018 alumni, and was previously Secretary on the Pope Memorial Humane Society board.
On the personal side, Jamie is a single mom of one child, runner by trade, and triathlete.
Her Career At C&J
Image from Facebook
C&J was founded in 1968. Today it is the second-largest provider of intercity bus transportation in Northern New England.
We asked Jamie to tell us about her career at the company. She’s been there since 1995 so we know it’s been quite the journey.
"My story is simple. I graduated from high-school and went on to study Psychology at University. During that time, I needed a job to put myself through school so I worked as a ticket agent at C&J. After graduating, I wanted to pursue psychology so I left C&J as I never considered it to be a place where I would spend the rest of my career. However, after walking into the real world, I quickly realized the reality of being a new grad with a psychology degree and started to rethink my career ambitions.”
Fortunately, the timing was right for Jamie as the owner of C&J was looking for someone to help grow the company. She told him she would give him three years and went into an operations role. Things went well, and she eventually landed the position of VP which she’s now held for over a decade.
Challenges Faced As A Female Leader
We wanted to know what challenges Jamie has experienced on her journey of being a female leader in the industry. She admits that the bus and coach industry is male-dominated,
“You see the difference when you go to industry meetings. I don’t think about it. It doesn’t phase me. I grew up playing hockey.”
She also says that C&J is diverse and has its own set of principles, designed to empower its employees.
“We don’t hire for age or gender. It’s based on attitude and what works with the team. A lot of the approaches we take are as a team, especially as it's a smaller one. Everyone is involved in making decisions. We align the attitudes, so we’re able to accomplish a lot.”
The Details That Matter
Image from Facebook
There’s something unique about every business, and we wanted to know what it is about C&J that their customers love so much.
“Our customers love our attention to detail which stems from the idea that it’s not just a bus ride our customers are taking. It’s an experience. We fold this into our mission statement so that we’re always thinking of providing the best experience.”
Jamie says the customer experience starts when a patron arrives at the facility. They get on the coach and are greeted by a clean interior. She admits that it’s details like these that get forgotten as companies grow in size, and at C&J, it’s something they acknowledge that you can’t lose sight of.
“We have a great team of drivers, agents, crew, and customer service representatives. Even though there’s an organizational chart which depicts duties, everyone works their hardest to contribute. Without their careful input, the company wouldn't be successful. It’s because everyone is involved that the customer gets taken care of.”
How Does C&J Plan To Stay Relevant in An Industry Being Swept Up By Technology
Director of Fleet Maintenance, Michael LaPoint; VP of Operations, Jamie Lesniak; Director of Operations, Joseph Malerba
With the rise of disruptive technology and new potential competitors like Flixbus entering the North American market in recent years, bus companies are now being forced to rethink how they operate. We asked what some of the challenges are that C&J have had to tackle, and how they plan on staying relevant to their customers going forward.
“Here we don’t call it a challenge. Here it’s a matter of constantly reinventing yourself. Regardless of Flixbus or other competitors, we have to reinvent ourselves to stay relevant.”
Jamie mentioned that their biggest competitor is personal vehicles. “We have to be efficient, we have to be safe, we have to be sustainable. It these factors that allow us to continue to grow.”
In terms of technology that the company is looking to embrace, they currently have some initiatives in the pipeline.
“We’re aligning with Hubspot. It’s been our big initiative to improve marketing, and this will allow us to market better to potential customers. We can now see how different behaviours are transformed into rides.”
Aside from that, Jamie says they’re constantly looking out for the next best thing. C&J considers what the airlines are doing, and has a look at what they can pull from them.
“We’re committed to investing and we understand the importance of that and will continue to do that.”
Insights For Other Female Leaders In The Industry
“Everyday habits form ourselves. Every day is a new day to reinvent yourself. Your mistakes are there to shape you not define you.”
This is the piece of advice Jamie wanted to share with other aspiring women making their way up the career ladder in the industry. She also had some sentiments to share on how she wants to impact C&J as a company.
“Everyday is a new day to reinvent yourself”
“At the end of the day, I want to be a motivator. More than just C&J, it’s the lives that we touch. The employees that leave and say, ‘that was a great day’. It’s the family aspect of it. Work culture is so important, and I want it to touch the lives of those I work with.”
A Memorable C&J Moment
C&J Softball team
We asked Jamie to share a memorable C&J travel moment with us as we were sure the two have done some exploring together!
“When I hit my 20 years here, C&J just started investing in double deckers. ABC, the supplier, reached out to our owner and said ‘we’d like to send you to Belgium’. He sent me instead!
So, off I went to Belgium on my own. During the trip, I met with people who I knew briefly, I met new people, as well as got closer to people I already knew in the industry. That was a really cool experience.”
We think so too! Thank you to Jamie for taking the time to speak with us for our Most Inspirational Women in Bus & Coach Series. We have also chatted to Florencia Cirigliano and Wenda Pitre if you missed those interviews.
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