Jim Anselmi of Lorillard, Josie Sharp of Aventis, and Bob Brown of Xerox have one trait in common - they are fleet advocates at their companies. The three of them were recently honored as finalists for the 2002 Professional Fleet Manager Award by Automotive Fleet, along with Wheels Inc. and the Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association, which are co-sponsors of this prestigious industry award. This year's winner was Jim Anselmi.
Not only did this year's award honor professionalism in fleet management, it also provided an insight of the traits that will be required of tomorrow's fleet manager, said Jim Frank, president of Wheels Inc., a fleet management company headquartered in Des Plaines, IL.
"The fleet management industry is changing," said Frank. "Changes in the industry are changing the traits that will be required in the future to be a successful fleet management professional."
The successful fleet professional of tomorrow will evolve into a fleet advocate, predicts Frank. To grasp the concept of a fleet advocate, Frank says it is necessary to understand how the fleet management profession has evolved.
The original "fleet person" was a fleet administrator, who spent as much as 70 percent of his or her work hours manually processing new-vehicle orders, changing driver records, and handling routine phone calls from drivers in the field inquiring about vehicle order status or reporting maintenance problems.
"The majority of these jobs have vanished as a result of automation and the balance of them as a result of outsourcing," said Frank. "Since then, the fleet administrator has evolved into the fleet manager, who develops fleet policy, institutes safety programs, creates selectors based on lifecycle cost analyses, and, increasingly, manages vendors to whom their company has outsourced administrative fleet functions."
A powerful change agent, especially at larger fleets, is the increasing migration to strategic sourcing. These decisions are made by purchasing committees consisting of managers who are connected to fleet in a peripheral way such as sales, human resources, and finance. To work effectively in this environment, the fleet manager needs to be the fleet advocate.
There are several traits necessary to become a fleet advocate. First, a manager needs to hone his or her communication skills. Second, a manager needs to be courageous. "If you are advocating something, not everyone will agree with you. You need the courage of your convictions to stand on a position." The third and most important trait is the ability to develop a broader perspective beyond fleet. "You can't restrict yourself to just understanding fleet management," said Frank. "You need to truly understand your company's business and to step back and ask yourself, 'Why do we have a fleet?' And once you answer this, you need to ask if you are implementing the programs necessary to meet those corporate needs. "To gain this broader perspective, it is necessary for managers to expand their business knowledge through NAFA seminars, university courses, or by simply reading general business publications.
"It was these traits that were exemplified by Jim Anselmi when he won the 2002 Fleet Manager Award, and what made Josie Sharp and Bob Brown finalists for the award," concludes Frank.