Enterprise Fleet Management's Retired President Looks Back on Growth
(L to R) Don Ross, Carolyn Kindle Betz, Bob Schurwan, Steve Bloom, Pam Nicholson, and Christine Taylor celebrate the opening of the former Fleet Operations facility in 2004. Photo: Enterprise Fleet Management
Steve Bloom, retired president of Enterprise Fleet Management and past president of the American Automotive Leasing Association, was inducted into the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2017 at an award ceremony held at the Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association annual conference. Bloom’s induction into the Fleet Hall of Fame was primarily based on his leadership in helping to transform Enterprise Fleet Management into one of the largest fleet management companies in the U.S. over a span of 15 years.
Bloom began his career in 1983 as a management trainee at an Enterprise Rent-A-Car branch in Southern California. After working his way up through the company’s rental operations in Southern California, Bloom moved over to the retail leasing division in 1987. By 1993, Bloom had been promoted to vice president of fleet management in Southern California. In 2001, Bloom was named senior vice president overseeing Enterprise Fleet Management, and in 2011, he was promoted to president of Enterprise Fleet Management. Bloom retired in 2016.
Under Bloom’s leadership, Enterprise Fleet Management grew into a network of more than 50 fully staffed offices across the United States and Canada. At the time of his retirement, the portfolio of Enterprise Fleet Management consisted of more than 470,000 vehicles from 9,000-plus customers.
A key milestone in the transformation of Enterprise Fleet Management into an industry powerhouse was its creation into a standalone company in 2011. The primary reason to create a separate company was to obtain more competitive funding. Prior to this, Enterprise Fleet Management was a service of Enterprise Holdings. Other key milestones were creating its own IT department, maintaining a total transportation solution with its affiliate, and changing the metrics it used to measure success by focusing on profitable growth rather than just growth for the sake of growth.
AF interviewed Bloom to learn more about the milestones that were the catalysts to the meteoric rise of Enterprise Fleet Management. Below are excerpts from our interview:
AF: Looking back on your career, what were the key milestones that allowed Enterprise Fleet Management to grow into the company it is today?
Bloom: Enterprise is a family business that has developed a culture of thinking long-term, of doing the right thing for its customers, and empowering employees. Almost all of the senior-level managers at Enterprise started at the bottom and worked their way up. We learned all the nuances and pitfalls of the business, what were the right decisions, and what were the wrong decisions. We learned how to grow the business, to take care of our customers, and to take care of our employees.
When it came time for the person who was running the fleet management business to retire, the Taylor family in 2001 asked me to accept the position.
One month after I took over, we had the terrorist attacks of 9/11. My first big decision was to cancel a national sales meeting. That had never been done before and was a big deal for our organization since it’s the one time of year we get everyone together. After 9/11, the industry had a really bad used-vehicle market, but we navigated through it and learned a lot. Then, several years later, we had the financial meltdown in 2007 and 2008.
As we were growing, it became clear that our financing wasn’t competitive. We started deliberating on that, and tried to find ways to obtain more competitive financing. We needed the right type of funding to maintain the most competitive financing, which would enable us to continue to grow. In 2011, we separated fleet management into a standalone corporation. That was a huge milestone because it was a cultural break and a departure from 50-plus years of it being structured the way it was.
Most of the people who worked with me came from rental and we understood the cultural aspects and the delicate balance of making changes to our reporting structure. We had to be careful not to upset our unique employee-focused culture. If we had, the financing wouldn’t have made the impact we intended. Fortunately, we handled it correctly, and it turned out to be the right thing.
It was critical that the separation maintained continuity for our total transportation solution. We can give customers a fleet management solution for their long-term needs. We can also give them a rent-a-car solution for their short-term needs. We can give them a rent-a-truck solution for their short- and medium-term rental truck needs. The ultimate vision of the Taylors and the senior team is to be able to help everybody with their transportation needs.
(L to R) Don Ross, Jack Taylor, Steve Bloom, and Pam Nicholson celebrate Bloom’s 25 years of service at Enterprise in 2008. Photo: Enterprise Fleet Management
AF: What were other key milestones that helped Enterprise Fleet Management grow?
Bloom: The other big milestone after we separated was the creation of our own IT department. Before we separated completely from rental, we used to negotiate for IT resources, and obviously, rental – being so significant in size and scope and needs and success – would be the first to get the resources. Fleet might have to wait for resources. Out of this occurred another big milestone when we more than doubled Fleet’s IT budget.
AF: When you created your own IT department for Enterprise Fleet Management, did you start from scratch or did you simply take the existing infrastructure and modify it to fleet management?
Bloom: We had to make it a clean cut on the day we became a separate corporation because of federal accounting changes. Therefore, we had to have it be separate. What we did was a cut and paste of what we had and said, “Ready, start, go.” Afterwards, we immediately started to change the IT system and created a whole new infrastructure. After a few years, we pulled the plug on what we inherited, and started to develop our own custom, fully integrated fleet-management-focused environment.
When we were done, we had a platform that was state of the art for years to come.
AF: What was the target market for Enterprise Fleet Management in its early years as a standalone company?
Bloom: This was one other significant milestone. We used to focus on smaller fleets. As nice as it was, it never created much effectiveness for the smaller fleets. We used to say it was 10 or more. Then we went up to 15 or more. Now we’re at 20 or more. When you have a company with 10 or 12 vehicles, you’re working your tail off just to keep the doors open and run the business. When we focused on companies with 20 or more units in operation, we were dealing with businesses that need to cycle four or five vehicles a year. It’s a more deliberate thought process and level of decision making that requires discipline. We continue to have several departments within fleet that support the smaller fleets that want and take advantage of our services.
But for our 50-plus locations, they are focused exclusively on companies that operate 20 or more vehicles. This is a really important distinction because we can now afford to dedicate an account manager and a customer rep. If they’re not acquiring several vehicles a year, it’s hard to dedicate a person to visit them several times a year, and do fleet-planning and all the other services.
Following the separation, we changed our success metrics. Using our new metrics, we recognized our field operations for successful growth, not just growth.
Steve Bloom outside the Enterprise corporate headquarters in Clayton, Mo., in 1999. Photo: Enterprise Fleet Management
AF: Another milestone was the creation of the client advisory board in 2008. Could you elaborate on its creation?
Bloom: I view the creation of our client advisory board (CAB) as an important milestone. We asked our CAB members what they really wanted from an IT standpoint and we started to work on them. I think today we have one of the best arrays of IT solutions for our customers. That wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t separate Enterprise Fleet Management into a standalone company.
We were committed to having decision-makers on the CAB, namely owners, presidents, and CFOs. You have to remember that 99% of our customers don’t have a dedicated fleet manager. That’s what made Enterprise Fleet Management bring value to these decision-makers.
When a company has 20 to 80 vehicles, it usually doesn’t have a dedicated fleet manager. Instead, you have an assistant managing the vehicles or someone doing it as one of their jobs. Enterprise Fleet Management eliminated the need for these customers to have to hire a fleet manager.
We really want our CAB members to challenge us to make our thoughts better before we go to market on an idea or an IT investment.
AF: How are out-of-service fleet vehicles remarketed by Enterprise Fleet Management?
Bloom: The remarketing manager for fleet management is in the field at the local level. They report to the director of fleet management for that market. They have a dotted line to the rental remarketing team. They work very closely with those teams, but again, because of the requirements of separation, the remarketing manager for fleet management in the field operations at every location has to report to the director of fleet management. We have some internal financial arrangements that allow us to utilize the services of our affiliate, Enterprise Holdings Inc. – both of which are owned by the Taylor family.