A company in Atlanta of 14 employees took a good idea—a platform for managing thousands of buses—and integrated it (knowingly or otherwise) with two of the most fundamental laws governing any organization. The result: a booming and viable company that not only provides a vital service but saves lives.
L. Ron Hubbard wrote in his landmark article “AN ESSAY ON MANAGEMENT”:
“He who holds the power of an organization is that person who holds its communication lines* and who is a crossroad of the communications. Therefore, in a true group, communications and communication lines should be and are sacred. They have been considered so instinctively since the oldest ages of man. Messengers, heralds and riders have been the object of the greatest care even between combatants . . .
. . .
“Communication lines are sacred.”
. . .
And in an article entitled “ROUTING,” Mr. Hubbard wrote:
“Strangely enough, a major duty of an executive is ROUTING. This means pointing out the channels on which bodies, materials, products or despatches and letters flow. Or making channels on which such things can flow and putting terminals there to handle or change them.”
. . .
“There is power in those lines.”
Shofur is a company that exemplifies the power of these principles.
“The Uber of . . .”
In venture capital and startup parlance, uttering the words “We’re the Uber of . . .” is enough to illicit a chorus of cynical scoffs. It’s been stated far too many times and looked upon as a hollow boast.
However, calling Shofur and its bus reservation platform the “Uber or Lyft of buses” is decidedly on point.
They’ve got the stats to prove it—and they did it with zero venture capital or angel funding.
Shofur, founded by Albanian immigrant Armir Harris, in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2013, ranked #21 on the Inc. 5000 list for 2017. They grossed $12.1 million for 2016, and have expanded by over 10,000 percent in the last three years. They service well over 100 cities across the U.S. and Canada, have more than 3,000 buses and vehicles (and growing) on their platform, and have logged in excess of five million miles with zero accidents to date.1
And they don’t own a single bus.
Shofur operates proprietary software to track their drivers’ locations and status in real time, with a wide range of options that includes Charter Buses, Mini Buses, Luxury Shuttles, Limo Buses and Entertainer Buses—with amenities such as charging ports, Wi-Fi, reclining leather seats and widescreen TVs.2
Their client list includes Facebook, Google, the NFL, PGA Tour, NCAA, Amazon, Apple, National Geographic, NBC, CBS and an array of Fortune 500 companies. They transport wedding parties, high school sports teams, and people looking to hop inter-city lines, while they expedite contracts for long-term routes.
Shofur has become a crucial component for evacuation in pending catastrophe zones. They transported an estimated 10,000 Floridians and Georgians, day and night, out of the path of Category 5 Hurricane Matthew in 2016. The company gets last-minute crisis calls from FEMA and other agencies once or twice a month, and their agents are available 24/7.
They’ve helped thousands from flood areas in Louisiana, chained their wheels and shuttled families out of northern blizzard zones, and carried people to safety all over the country.3
The story of its founder begins in a war zone.
Refugee to Entrepreneur
The founder of Shofur, Armir Harris, and his mother fled Albania in the wake of civil unrest and violence. They got out in 1996, shortly before a rebellion overthrew the government.4
“We arrived in St. Louis with $2,000 in our pockets. We went from one homeless shelter to another, sometimes sleeping in a park or an Amtrak station. My mom got under-the-table jobs cleaning restaurants, and my sister and I would sleep on the seats while she worked,” recalls Armir.
Armir’s uncle joined them two years later. He drove a taxi, and by the time Armir was 15, he was helping his uncle operate a limousine and party bus service in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“We’d clean the vehicles, and I’d help him with accounting, dispatching, and taking reservations. Once I got my driver’s license, I would fuel up the vehicles and get them ready for the drivers. I taught myself HTML and built him a website,” says Armir.
By high school, Armir was a highly-ranked singles tennis player, good enough to get a partial scholarship at Boston University. To pay bills and his student loan, he took up real estate, making as much as $5K per month while still attending college; but his student loans were considerable.
After relocating to UCLA, Armir made a sharp left turn: “Three credits shy of graduating, I dropped out. I had gotten my education; I didn’t want to borrow any more money.”
Back in Charlotte, he resumed building his uncle’s business, and an epiphany hit.
Brilliance in the Basics
“In 2012, the Democratic National Convention came to town,” recounts Armir. “A representative called my uncle’s company and said he needed 60 buses for two weeks. Every local provider was sold out, but I was able to source vehicles from surrounding states. It took a while for me to piece them together. . . . It was like a seven-step process that took two to three days with each company. But I realized I could start a marketplace that would aggregate buses from all over the country on one platform.”
Armir started Shofur with $800, and they’ve bootstrapped the whole way.
Thousands of buses are wrapped with their logo. They partner with bus operators and handle booking, logistics, customer contact and service. They maintain exceptional standards for safety with zero accidents.
“What really sets us apart is our technology,” explains Armir. “Every bus in our network has a tracking device with proprietary software that tells us exactly where it is and gathers data from more than 1,000 bus companies in real time.”
Without the heavy burden of debt, and with a business model attuned to rapid yet stable expansion, Shofur doesn’t seem to be putting on the brakes any time soon.
Recalling his journey from homeless refugee to dynamic entrepreneur, in a fitting tribute to the person who brought him to America, Armir bought his mother a house. “She made a sacrifice for us. It’s only fair that I repay her,” he says.
And as if to add an exclamation point, he became a U.S. citizen in 2015.
Shofur’s business model may seem simple, and it is—but therein lies its power.
Two core basics of any organization are COMMUNICATION and ROUTING, and that is essentially what Shofur does. Its success is based to a large degree upon maintaining the purity and integrity of COMMUNICATION lines combined with accurate and efficient ROUTING.
Shofur has proven that simplicity goes a long way—five million safe miles so far!
*Communication line: the route along which a communication travels from one person to another. Also communication channel.
**Terminal: a person, point or position which can receive, relay or send a communication. A man would be a terminal, but a post (position, job or duty to which a person is assigned) would also be a terminal.
- Inc., The Editors of. “The Complete Inc. 5000 List of America’s Fastest-Growing Companies of 2017.” Inc.com. Mansueto Ventures, 2018.
- “Rent a Charter Bus | Shofur Bus.” Shofur.com, n.d.
- Grasso, Samantha. “How Tech Startup Shofur Evacuated 10,000 People Ahead of Hurricane Matthew.” DailyDot.com, 24 Feb. 2017.
- Marikar, Sheila. “How This Once Homeless Refugee Built a Booming $12 Million Logistics Business—and Bought His Mom a House.” Inc.com. Mansueto Ventures, 16 Aug. 2017.