Peter Shelbo

Business: Tour West America

Main Office: Phoenix, AZ

Meet Peter Shelb0, a veteran of Spader 20 Groups and President/Co-Founder of Tour West America. His premier charter bus service is headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona. With over 30 years experience in the business, Shelbo emerged as an industry leader.

Shelbo’s achievements were highlighted at the 2013 UMA-NTA Travel Exchange. His team was awarded BusRide Magazine’s prestigious Motorcoach Industry Achievement Award, honoring Tour West America as a motorcoach company that has demonstrated drive, excellence and innovation in the industry.

Shelbo’s recognition didn’t end there. His company also received the UMA Vision Award for embodying excellence in the motorcoach and charter bus industry. This prestigious award is given each year to one of the over 900 member companies.

Like most prosperous businesses, success is not a one-stop destination. Shelbo’s path has been shaped by relationships nurtured and opportunities seized.

How did you come to start your business?

Peter Shelbo: Well, I was out of a job, actually. I was in the food service business and I literally was ending my job in about two weeks. A customer of mine dropped into the restaurant I was managing for the past three years. He asked what I was doing. I told him I didn’t know; I didn’t have a job. I told him the place was shutting down and I didn’t know what to do. He said, “Well why don’t you buy my bus business?” It’s crazy.

Long story short – that was the middle of May. By August we worked out a deal where he financed the purchase. I borrowed $4,000 from family and friends to get through the first month and B.J. and I moved to Yuma [Arizona]. There he taught me to drive a motorcoach.

We were lucky enough to stay out of bankruptcy for a long time and continue to grow the business. I started with Spader in 2006. That was the best thing that happened to my business. I was put on a straight path.

How did you form your relationship with Spader?

PS: I had heard that a friendly competitor in town had gotten some help from a consultant. It turned out to be Spader.

Our relationship began at the UMA. I had seen Duane [Spader] give a couple presentations for a few years and his material made sense. Then they announced the 20 Group, and it was available for UMA. I was one of the first guys to sign up. I made that decision rather quickly. The connection might have been in January, and by March we were off to South Dakota to have our first meeting.

What important lessons have you learned from Spader 20 Group?

PS: Well, knowing and understanding your numbers. Having metrics. Being able to develop successful processes that are available to you from either the facilitator or other group members.

There’s so much information that’s shared [at Spader 20 Groups]. If you take it and use it, you can really grow your business – and own your business – like you wouldn’t be able to, you know?

You cannot receive that kind of help elsewhere. Each of us in the group is there to better our business and learn from each other. Since we do not compete, there is no holding back. We are like a family working to improve. Sometimes we even have an intervention!

What is your relationship like with the other Spader 20 Group members?

PS: Some have become extremely close friends. My closest friends in the industry still.

What does it mean to your business to have those relationships? How does that really impact you?

PS: Well, to have somebody to talk to, you know?

When you’re having a really hard time with something, you can just talk to another owner. They have the same issues; they have the same feelings that you do. You can work it out, or have a listen, or get advice.

This particular group is very tight in that any time there’s a question that one might have about a process, or a product, or a service, an email goes out to everybody. Those that wish to respond can respond, and help, and assist. That’s very valuable.

You may go to the associations and have a little bit of time for a meeting at UMA or ABA or whatever it might be that you’re in. But you’re really going to get those kind of relationships built [at 20 Groups]. You don’t have that [bond] if you’re just in your backyard trying to get by. Who are you going to talk to?

We take each other to task. When we visit with a member we dare to really help that member. That’s really important.

The site review can become emotional because you know the owners and the business dynamics. Many members are second- and third- generation family businesses, each with their own struggles and tough decisions to make when planning for the future. The first generation upstarts have so much to learn from this history.

Our daughter has recently entered the business. We don’t have a longterm plan set yet, but I am better prepared to manage the new company dynamic successfully. You learn from the members’ challenges, successes, and failures. You do a lot of listening, but you also interject when you can help. It’s very professional.

Anytime somebody asks me, “How did you better your business? What can I do?” I tell them, “Join a 20 Group.” Some are scared to do it. They don’t want to share numbers, for whatever reason. There should be no fear. It’s a great tool. A great tool to have. I wouldn’t miss it [a Spader 20 group] for the world.