First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID19 times?
Marc Hofmann: We have to be very thankful that no one in my family got Covid. Of course during lockdown, home-schooling kids and not seeing friends and family was a challenge. Luckily we were allowed to leave the house for activities (like hiking and biking), so we made the most of it. Going out and experiencing nature gave strength to the whole family and helped during these difficult times.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined CheckMyBus
Marc Hofmann: I felt it was time for change after working many years successfully in international marketing, mainly in the hearing instrument industry. The same year I became a father I also decided to make the jump to the digital world. When the German bus market liberalized, we took advantage of the opportunity and started small with a blog on the newly emerging business. Now CheckMyBus has become the leading global meta search for bus, with the German business reflecting only 4%.
I have a strong personal believe that bus will help solve the problems of pollution and congestion. Currently 85% of ticketing is offline, and shifting that online is the key to achieving this solution. Our mission is to make bus mobility simple and transparent for everyone.
How does CheckMyBus innovate?
Marc Hofmann: Technology plays a big role in every aspect of CheckMyBus. Change has been our daily mantra since the beginning, focusing on innovating every day in small steps. For me, innovation is very much driven by keeping eyes open, sharing responsibility in our team and communicating properly. The challenge is less to create new potentials but more to balance our growth properly with priorities and resources which are always limited.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Marc Hofmann: Bus has been hit very hard by Covid. Although many markets are in recovery right now, there are challenges especially when international travel is concerned or in markets where the Covid situation is not “in control.” Looking at this very dynamic environment, we have the clear strategy to come out stronger. For this reason, we kept the full team on board and only put up a small level of short-time work.
Independent of the difficult situation we are in right now, the mega-trend towards sustainable mobility remains. Bus markets will grow, especially online. Recession following the Covid crisis might also support a shift of mobility more towards domestic and shared modes of transportation. With this belief, the company has a strong spirit to get through this crisis successfully and with a positive attitude.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Marc Hofmann: We decided against laying off people, which of course would have been a very difficult decision due to our strong team. However it is also difficult to continue to invest in times with massive turnover drop. You need to be convincing and a strong believer while delivering results along the way.
A great lesson to learn is that during times of crisis there is more freedom to make larger changes to the product because future potential has a higher value than a revenue which is low in times of crisis anyway. Now is the time to say, “Let’s do it!”
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and CheckMyBus in the future?
Marc Hofmann: There is little I can do to influence the virus or the behavior of governments. What I know is this; CheckMyBus is absolutely doing the right thing from a business point of view. We are bringing people the option of shared mobility. This availability helps to solve the climate crisis. It is crystal clear to me that focusing my energy on improving what we do everyday and supporting the bus vertical by sharing knowledge is a much better solution than being anxious.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Marc Hofmann: We are thinking more in terms of partnerships than in terms of competition. We believe that giving a maximum transparency to the user to find the best bus trip will help the bus vertical and thus will help us. As a meta search, we work with all distribution levels successfully, including direct partnerships, online travel agencies (OTAs) booking technology platforms or global distribution systems (GDS).
Your final thoughts
Marc Hofmann: We are in truly tough times, but there is opportunity. Let’s focus on THAT.