The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

9 Ways to Increase Your Stature with Senior Management

September 2007, by David Ferm

Most fleet managers go unnoticed in their daily duties. The only time they are noticed is when something “goes wrong.” Successful managers do everything they can to ensure senior management recognizes the fleet department not only adds value to the company, but also that fleet’s value is increasing. Fleet managers can enhance their stature with senior management in the following areas:

1. Align with Corporate Goals
Fleet managers must mirror overall company goals in everyday decisions. They must be aware of the tone set at the top, knowledgeable of their company’s products or services, and mindful of how each element affects the bottom line. They must understand each user group’s needs and the company’s marketing objectives. Indispensable fleet managers keep the company’s interest foremost.

2. Follow Best Practices
Benchmarking and using best practices are two major tools proactive fleet managers employ to illustrate to management that fleet is responsive to the ever-changing world — obtaining the most cost-effective vehicles and utilizing them to achieve savings or maintain fixed and variable costs. Benchmarking current results versus past performances provides validation regarding how well a fleet manager does his or her job. Leasing companies can assist fleet lessors in benchmarking activities by providing specific management measuring reports and comparisons with industry averages.

Use of best practices is an ongoing process, refined as an organization, customers, and/or competition changes. An internal as well as external process, best practices can provide success stories and point out areas to improve.

3. Establish Measurable Goals
Establishing measurable fleet goals is one of the best ways to gauge progress and proactive initiatives throughout the year. Goals should be a combination of financial and functional targets consistent with company standards. Measurable goals must be clearly defined, verifiable, and acceptable to all relevant company departments. From established goals, an implementation plan is developed.

To be accurate, most measurements take time to reveal comparative results. Long-term goals, such as efficiencies and lifecycle costing, don’t happen overnight. These goals must be tailored to the company and require companyspecific metrics to determine if a process or program is a proven success. The metrics bar must be set high to adequately assess progress toward a fleet manager’s long-term goals. To be effective over the long term, fleet management activities must respond to ever-changing imperatives, such as cutting costs in some years, while making investments in others. At the same time, policies and practices that maximize fleet’s ongoing cost effectiveness must be promoted. Be prepared to pursue two different types of cost-cutting goals: cost elimination and cost deferral.

Cost elimination is accomplished by reducing fleet size and the resulting elimination of driver training with the expectation that drivers will use their personal vehicles. Significant fleet cost-cutting usually cannot be done quickly. Most fleet costs are fixed in the short term and unavoidable. True cost eliminations usually do not produce significant economic or fiscal benefits in the short term.

4. Communicate Often
Fleet managers must be great communicators, especially to senior management. Direct communication is critical. Don’t hide bad news. Before presenting unfavorable outcomes, formulate a plan to address the bad news and/or identify what can be done in the future to avoid similar situations.

The fleet manager is the liaison from the field to top management and must keep senior executives informed on new products and major cost issues. Communication between executives and the fleet manager is crucial to securing “buy-in” to the fleet process and increasing awareness of the fleet function.

Most senior executives must sift through vast amounts of information each day, and the fleet manager competes with this data overload. To “break through the clutter,” fleet must provide management clear and concise fleet information and how that fleet data affects the bottom line. Succinct, relevant reports encourage senior executives stay current on a regular basis with fleet issues. As a rule, the more senior level the manager, the more concise and strategic the information must be.

Since senior executives are concerned with the overall perspective, fleet data must be related to the bottom line and presented in an easily understood format. Charts and graphs summarize information best.

5. Fleet Manager Education
An overall understanding of all aspects of fleet management, including policies, procedures, and operating climates is essential for successful fleet managers. Keeping abreast of industry trends, getting involved in professional organizations and programs is strongly advised. Subscribe to industry publications. Network with fellow fleet managers.

6. Manager, Audit Thyself
Successful fleet managers audit their own fleet policies and themselves. They establish effective fleet policy with “teeth.” A fleet self-audit examines every aspect of the organization and dissects it from beginning to end and see if you can find ways to decrease or eliminate some costs and to increase the efficiency of your fleet.

7. Be Proactive
The fleet manager is no longer a day-to-day administrator but a strategic manager of company assets. You need to be more flexible and responsive in today’s world. Do you pay attention to your business and are you proactive instead of reactive? This separates the best fleet managers from the good fleet managers.

The best fleet managers are decisive, goal-oriented, focused, and aggressive. Being a great strategic planner couldn’t hurt either as senior executives look at the well-rounded employee who gets the job done. Be a visionary and don’t be afraid to look back for lessons learned, but remember to keep looking forward as well.

8. Be a Safety Advocate
Any type of periodic safety training for your drivers is a bonus that pays dividends in the long run. Look for free literature on safety from local, state or federal agencies to distribute to your drivers. Be proactive.

A strong and effective fleet policy and a culture where management reaffirms the tone from the top are also extremely important. Safety goals are of critical importance in minimizing your company’s exposure to liability and Workers’ Compensation claims.

9. Set Yourself Apart from Other Managers
You are competing against other managers at your company. Like you, they want management attention and the “rewards” that come with it. Setting yourself apart from other managers should be a goal.

Be part of the solution, not the problem. Keep the big picture in mind and avoid a tunnel vision that could derail your efforts. Consider your job a management project — coordinate, allocate resources, monitor, and manage all aspects. You, as fleet manager, must demonstrate the value of fleet management to the company’s bottom line and increased employee productivity..

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