Name: Belinda Grace-Leonard, CTIS
Company: New England Coach
City, State: Raymond, NH
Years in the Industry: 15
How did you first get involved in the industry?
Don Leonard, who started New England Coach in 2001, met me at a restaurant I was managing and thought that I would be the perfect person to start up a tour department. I had the right skills. I could multi-task, communicate well, be a leader and most of all I have a positive attitude. Prior to joining New England Coach, I had no idea that bus tours existed. I jumped in with both feet and never looked back.
Who has inspired your career?
I've always had a love of travel and I think I got that from my dad. The inspiration to be a business owner and the drive to be better comes from being a mom. I want to be the best role model that I can be for them.
What has been the greatest challenge/opportunity in your career?
The greatest challenge has been keeping balance in my life. When your entire life is on a calendar with tour dates, deadlines and meetings, it's easy to get caught up in the fast pace of it all and before you know it another year passes by. Building New England Coach's tour department from the ground up has taken time and sacrifices have been made, but the rewards have been worth it all. The opportunities that this business has afforded me have been incredible. We are now over 100 tours a year and still going strong. We have five employees, four of which are women (two mother/daughters). It's wonderful to see the growth of our team and be able to mentor these amazing women.
What advice would you give to others about working in this industry?
The advice that I would give to others is that you are in charge of your success. As much as you put in is what you can expect in return. When I started out, I knew nothing of putting tours together. I listened to other operators, took some advice, but what made us successful was keeping true to who we are. I didn't try to be like anyone else. I put tours together that I thought would be interesting and fun. I didn't copy anyone else. Sure, there will be trips to popular destinations that others will do, but it's the hidden gems that get included that will keep your guests talking and coming back. As far as working with suppliers I would say, you are only as good as those you do business with. It's important to build strong relationships with your suppliers. Make your expectations clear and likewise know what their expectations are of you.
Why is it important for you to belong to Women in Buses Council?
I believe in the mission of Women in Buses. It is important to help each other as much as we can in any roll that we can. The networking opportunities are wonderful. During 2020 & 2021 I found the leaders in WIB to be amazing and really kept us informed on what was happening in our industry. Although my schedule doesn't allow much time for me to participate in the webinars, they are a great tool to go back on and watch when I have time. One of the perks of owning our own motorcoach is that we can do what we want with it. In my case I have the Women in Buses logo proudly placed on my door. There isn't a day that goes by that someone doesn't ask us about it or wants a picture with it. It's a great opportunity for me to spread the word of this great organization that we belong to.