Introducing Wenda Pitre, a woman in power and motivating force at Maritime Bus Company, a division of the Coach Atlantic Group. As VP of Human Resources and Customer Experience at Maritime, she has made a tremendous impact at the company, while being a bold yet compassionate leader.
Image from the Guardian
We wanted to know more about how she has built up a successful career, and what it’s taken to move Maritime bus from strength to strength. In this post, we chat to her about her journey to success, find out some of the hurdles she's tackled along the way, as well as uncover a bit on how Maritime Bus is looking to embrace the future.
The Story of Maritime Bus
It seems that Wenda and Maritime Bus are the perfect fit. They both had to step up to the plate pretty quickly after their introduction to the bus and coach industry.
“When our Regional line run bus company, Orleans Express, announced they were shutting down operations in Atlantic Canada, the Maritimes were left without a regional bus passenger and parcel service.
Mike Cassidy, the President of our company, Coach Atlantic Transportation Group, was approached to see if the group would consider taking over the busing in our region. He said yes, and Maritime Bus was born!
At that time, the only thing I knew about busing was the 2 times my grandmother and I took a bus from PEI to Grand Prairie, Alberta…I know! crazy but fun. So, with 19 days in my new career under my belt, we began operations on Maritime Bus.
The company I work for is the leader in the transportation industry in Atlantic Canada, and stepped up to the plate to continue to provide seamless bus service across the country. Currently, we have Line Run, Charter, School Bus, and Municipal transit and have operations facilities in PEI, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.”
Wenda’s Journey To Get to Where She Is Today
Speaking of stepping up to the plate, Wenda’s career in the bus industry began when she decided to make a change in her life. At 40, she went back to University to get a degree in Arts with a Psychology major and certificate in Human Resources.
She completed her degree after 8 years of part-time studying while working full time and raising her two children with her husband who is self-employed.
The opportunity with Coach Atlantic Transportation Group came up 7 years ago while she was working at her previous job, just 6 months before her graduation. She interviewed, accepted the offer, handed in her resignation, and never looked back.
When asked to describe herself in one word, Wenda mentioned, “I think ‘crazy’ is a bit harsh, so I will say ‘passionate’ instead.” Based on how she stepped up to her new position, we couldn’t agree more! It takes passion to throw yourself so wholeheartedly into a brand-new industry.
Peggy's Cove, Halifax
The Challenges She Faced On Her Way To The Top
We spoke to Wenda about some of the challenges she has faced in her working career. She shared that, as with any job, but more so in a male-dominated industry, the toughest challenge was finding comfort at her seat at the table.
“I am a ‘feet on the ground’ type of person, and I like to learn things from the ground up. Sometimes in doing things this way, others may have felt threatened or like their toes were being stepped on. However, it was important for me to keep my eye on the prize, be acutely aware of my strengths and what I was bringing to the company, and embrace every opportunity to learn as much as I could. Always trust my gut, stay positive, don’t allow “no” in your vocabulary.”
And it seems her approach is paying off. Her hands-on attitude to operations within the business has no doubt helped her to devise strategies for its success.
What Makes Maritime Bus Unique
Wenda believes that great customer service is Maritime Bus’ strongest asset. She mentioned that they receive a lot of positive feedback from customers about the friendly service their drivers and customer service representatives provide.
Customers also love their clean and newer fleet of buses which have wifi and plugs onboard. Of course, this exactly what they want to hear. “We are passionate about people and customer experience, so we love to know that we are getting it right.”
Maritime Bus is also unique in that it also does a large volume of freight business. Shipments vary from a parent sending hot cookies to their daughter/son at University, to the Canadian Blood Services shipping blood to save lives, to couriering forgotten car keys!
From an internal perspective, she thinks that Maritime Bus is unique in the fact that they do not have layers of management, and each one of the Senior Management team is only a call away. They are very much in touch with all staff and customers.
Technology in the Bus Industry
When asked what she thought about the rise of technology and how bus companies are being forced to rethink their operations as a result, Wenda had some insights as to how Maritime Bus will stay relevant to customers, as well as points on the challenges it’s facing.
“We feel that if we continue to provide excellent service and stay competitive in the marketplace, our customers will continue to be loyal to us.
The bus business is a very tough industry. Some of our challenges include; high operating costs, the shutdown of Greyhound West, the reduction in frequencies by Orleans Express, rising popularity of Ride Share companies, cheap car leasing prices, and a lack of knowledge and understanding in government about the importance of keeping buses on the road.
Our President, Mike Cassidy, is an advocate for public transportation and is passionate about the environment and strong communities. He is currently talking with all levels of government to provide support for public transportation to keep it viable for generations to come.”
Wenda mentioned that on the technology front, Maritime would like to see more sharing of API's so they can eliminate the manual process involved when booking tickets from one carrier to another.
They also think a mobile app and a "where's my bus" app would be a great feature for their customers.
Currently in their pipeline is the implementation of an electric bus fleet.
Lunenberg Nova Scotia, a Maritime Bus service location
To Other Aspiring Female Leaders About Business Ethics…
…“My advice is this; know what you are good at, present with confidence, never be afraid to take on new things, and never sell yourself short!”
We have to agree, being a fearless leader is believing in yourself at all times.
“It is very important to develop good relationships with staff and customers. People are our most important asset, treat them well, say please and thank you, be a good listener, and love what you do!”
Her Most Memorable Travel Experience
Although leading the Atlantic Canada bus industry is a full-time commitment, we all need a break from time to time and what better way to do this than to travel! When asked about her most memorable travel experience, Wenda had this to say,
“Oh my, I have travelled so much in my life. However, nothing will ever beat the family road trips across Canada or to Florida. It was always pure excitement to be on the road again in a station wagon, motor home, or car stuffed with siblings and pets!
Even today, my favourite trips are when my husband and I hop in the car and drive to the States for a weekend shopping trip.”
We couldn’t agree more! Thank you to Wenda for sharing her valuable insights with us. Maritime Bus is sure to keep excelling in customer service with a hands-on leader like herself at its helm.
This is the second part of our Most Inspirational Women in Bus & Coach series. You can read the first instalment featuring Florencia Cirigliano of RedCoach here.
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