Brice Adamson is executive vice president of Enterprise Fleet Management, a full-service vehicle management business and affiliate of Enterprise Holdings Inc.
Adamson, who has been with Enterprise for 32 years, has overall responsibility of the Enterprise Fleet Management business and collaborating with Enterprise Holdings to provide expanded total transportation solutions.
Enterprise Fleet Management operates a network of more than 50 fully staffed offices and manages a fleet of more than 630,000 vehicles, of which 498,000 are funded. The business provides full-service management for companies, government agencies, and organizations operating medium-sized fleets of 20 or more vehicles, as well as those seeking an alternative to employee reimbursement programs. Enterprise Fleet Management and its affiliate, Enterprise Holdings, together offer a total transportation solution, operating nearly 1.7 million vehicles throughout the world and accounting for nearly $22.5 billion in revenue in fiscal year 2020.
To get an update on Enterprise Fleet Management, AF interviewed Adamson to assess how the company has fared during the pandemic and its strategy for the 2021 calendar-year.
AF: What’s your assessment of today’s fleet market conditions and what are your strategies to maintain growth?
Adamson: When you think back to the March and April 2020 time frame when things were at their absolute worst, everyone hit a pause button. People were unsure about the extent of the pandemic. Many of our clients are primarily essential services and they weren’t allowed into their customers’ homes or businesses because people were concerned.
This caused our clients’ businesses to drop-off quite a bit, but then, they bounced back and have remained very stable over the course of the past several months. Our business has been really stable and steady as well since the peak of the pandemic. Probably the biggest impact for us was when the vehicle manufacturers were shut down, which had a huge impact on the availability of product, causing dealer inventory to dry up and supply chains to back up quite a bit.
AF: In terms of new-vehicle ordering, are your clients ordering the same volume of vehicles as they ordered same time last year?
Adamson: We’ve seen order volume return back to normal levels over the course of the last few months. There was a drop-off during the first three months of the pandemic, but everything seems to be back to normal.
What’s amazing is that our fleet management business has grown throughout this pandemic. We’re bigger today than we were when the pandemic started, and our forward-order volume remains robust and healthy at the same pace as it was this time last year.
AF: Has the growth in your company’s business portfolio been organic growth? Or is it because of signing new clients?
Adamson: It’s a little bit of both. We’re bringing on new clients the same way we have before. We continue to turn non-users of fleet management into users of fleet management. During these times, there’s been interest by companies in outsourcing fleet management to somebody else, so they can focus on managing their own businesses.
We have many clients who are willing to come onboard with us for that reason. It allows them to focus on the things they’re best at, while allowing us to focus on the things we’re best at.
AF: What are your strategies to continue your growth going forward into 2021?
Adamson: I think what we’ve tried to do throughout this pandemic is identify the positive things that have come out of it, and there have been a few. One positive thing is that it forced our employees to work from home, almost exclusively.
So, we’ve been surveying our employees to learn more about what they like and what they need. What we’ve learned is that our employees want to continue to work from home when the pandemic is over and we’re going to embrace that. Moving forward, some positions may work at home exclusively full-time, while other positions will work at home only part-time.
Our employees also told us they miss collaboration. We’ve got a really strong culture, and our employees love to be with each other, but they’ve proven that they can be productive and happy at home. That’s something we will absolutely embrace.
AF: Enterprise has such a broad range of clients that it gives you a good insight into the broader economy. Based on these insights, what trends are you noticing?
Adamson: Great question. You’re right, we do have clients that are in almost every industry. Most of our clients are in essential services and their businesses are needed to keep North America moving.
Initially, when the pandemic hit, there was a lot of confusion. All of a sudden, things just slowed down dramatically as everything came to a halt. We noticed that as we measured gallons of fuel purchased by our clients, it dropped by about 36%. Repair volume for clients’ vehicles dropped by about mid-30% as well. We could see our clients’ businesses slowing down.
During the next few months following that, recovery for us came pretty fast as we saw our clients’ businesses get back to normal. Indicators like gallons of fuel purchased are not yet back to normal, but what’s interesting is that miles per gallon is better because there’s not as much traffic.
People are able to drive more efficiently. We’re also seeing signs that our repair volume at the shops where we outsource our maintenance is back to levels of last year. It indicates that our clients’ businesses are nearly back to normal levels.
AF: One of the fleet segments that has grown as a result of the pandemic has been last-mile delivery. How involved is Enterprise Fleet Management in that segment?
Adamson: In terms of fleet management specifically, we have several clients that are in the last-mile segment. But it’s not a huge component of our business, and we haven’t experienced a ton of growth in fleet management for that area. We do have some long-standing partners that continue to do business with us.
Where business has grown in the last-mile delivery segment has been on the truck rental side with Enterprise Truck Rental, which is one of the transportation solutions offered by our affiliate Enterprise Holdings.
They’ve experienced a lot of growth here because there’s a lot of times where delivery service providers need to top off their fleets during peak times of the year. Business for them has also been really healthy and robust over the course of this pandemic because of the shift from buying at brick-and-mortar in stores to buying online.
AF: As you start your fifth year leading Enterprise Fleet Management, what do you feel are some of your key accomplishments to date?
Adamson: The first thing that comes to mind is that our business is healthy and strong, and our employees are happy. I’m really happy about that. We’ve got happy clients, happy employees, and we’re adapting really well to these very unique times.
We also have continued to make great progress in the area of customer service. We get great feedback from our client advisory board (CAB) to understand the areas where we need to make improvements. And they continue to give us really good feedback.
The new technology tools we’ve launched have been very popular and effective. Our fleet replacement analysis tool that launched in 2019 across our North American operations has been really well-received. This tool uses predictive technology and analytics to turn data into actual insights so we can help our clients make a variety of vehicle-related decisions. It also helps our clients save money and optimize their business operations. When we can help our clients become more efficient because we can manage their fleets better, it’s a win-win.
Since we spoke last time, our fleet business has grown substantially. In 2016 when I took over, we were at 350,000 funded vehicles in North America.
Today, we’re knocking on the door of half a million vehicles on lease. When you look at that growth over time, it’s pretty impressive. I’m proud of it, and it’s all come organically through growth within our existing client base, as well as acquisition of new clients. I’m pretty happy with where we are and where we’re going.
AF: What other new initiatives are you looking to implement in regard to expanding your fleet portfolio and where do you see the future growth opportunities being for Enterprise Fleet Management?
Adamson: There are still so many organizations that manage their own fleets. In fact, we have tens of thousands of prospects in our database that self-manage their fleets. It’s hard to do both things really well – to manage your own fleet and manage your business.
Continuing to focus on turning non-users of fleet management into users of fleet management will remain a huge priority for a long period of time, because the segment is so underpenetrated by fleet management companies.
We’ve gotten closer to our prospects through our affiliation with Enterprise Holdings, which gives us access to a large network. Enterprise Holdings has more than 5,500 offices throughout the U.S. and nearly 700 offices in Canada. A lot of our employees are also former Enterprise Rent-A-Car branch managers and have experience managing their own operation and fleet. That allows them to make fleet recommendations for clients that are intuitive because of the background they have from the daily rental side of the business, which is very appealing as we target prospects.
As we keep growing, we want to have a cup of coffee with prospects and current clients, and be there for them to have a discussion about their business needs. As one of the largest FMCs with a large network and presence in many markets, we can do that more easily than ever before.
AF: Not only is Enterprise Fleet Management involved in the commercial side of the fleet business, but also the government fleet side. How has your government business been doing during the pandemic?
Adamson: There has been a decline in tax revenue and without a doubt government fleets have been challenged by the pandemic. There have also been some budget cuts, but we’ve still experienced growth in the government sector throughout the pandemic.
A lot of that growth has come from referrals from other local governments that already work with us. We’re also getting referrals from Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Enterprise Truck Rental customers. We do a lot of rental business with state and local communities that leads to referrals to partner with new government fleets.
Government fleets tend to take their budget and buy a handful of vehicles. We’ve shown them, especially during the pandemic, that by leasing they can acquire more vehicles and run their fleet at a lower cost.
AF: What is your appetite for corporate acquisitions in the fleet management and leasing business?
Adamson: Obviously, our affiliate Enterprise Holdings has acquired several companies, including the recent acquisition of Discount Car and Truck Rentals in Canada. We’re completely open to exploring opportunities that come up from time to time that could benefit our clients and improve their experience with us. But as of today, it’s not something we’re specifically pursuing.
AF: In addition to the U.S. fleet market, Enterprise Fleet Management also does business in the Canadian fleet market. Could you provide an update on your Canadian fleet business?
Adamson: We manage thousands of vehicles across Canada, and there’s great potential for us to grow our business there. We’ve recently opened a third office for Enterprise Fleet Management in Vancouver to expand our footprint in Canada.
In addition to Vancouver, we also have offices in Calgary and Toronto. Our business in Canada is robust and healthy and we see continued growth and opportunities there.
AF: Enterprise employs metrics to measure its account managers to assess the value of the service they’re providing to their clients. Could you explain how this works?
Adamson: I’m really glad you asked this question. It’s probably one of the most important things we do and something we continue to try to improve as a business. First and foremost, it’s critical we have a great relationship with our clients so we can really understand their business objectives.
We really put a lot of emphasis on being a friend with our clients, not a vendor. We want to understand what’s important to them and their businesses. We also want to make recommendations that meet their business objectives. It’s easy for us to make recommendations that are based on what’s best for the vehicle, but we have to understand what the client is trying to achieve with their business, so we can make recommendations that are best for them.
We’re continually trying to make sure the measurements of our account managers align with the objectives of our clients. We survey our clients a couple of times a year to get a feel of their satisfaction levels with us. And we hold our people accountable to make sure they are maintaining high levels of satisfaction with our clients. Our client advisory board (CAB) tell us that we do a pretty good job. Ultimately, what matters most is how we’re performing in the eyes of our clients.
AF: What specific metrics do you use? Is it client satisfaction or does it go beyond that?
Adamson: Once we understand exactly what the business objectives are for clients, we apply that to their fleets. Maybe the client is trying to grow or maybe their business is contracting for whatever reason. We make recommendations to the client that are best for that situation.
Besides the ultimate measure of asking the client how satisfied they are with the service received from Enterprise Fleet Management, we take the recommendations made for the business and measure the account manager on how effective they are in implementing those recommendations. Once we know a client’s business objectives, then we know what is best for the fleet.
To help you visualize that a bit, Enterprise Rent-A-Car has huge peaks and valleys in our business in normal years. This year we’ve had bigger valleys than we would’ve liked, but that side of the business is recovering at an amazing pace. We’re taking the cycles of the business and buying or de-fleeting vehicles at the right time so we can meet the objectives of the business. We make sure we’ve got rental vehicles to meet the needs of our clients while minimizing the holding cost of vehicles overall.
Many of our clients go through the same cycle. The recommendation might not be just to lease vehicles. The recommendation might be to rent vehicles during peak times. We’ve found that before coming to us, many clients buy vehicles for their peak business only to have them sit for months when their business isn’t at peak.
Overall, we want to understand our clients, their businesses, and opportunities in order to help them to maximize their operations. Then we’re able to develop a fleet plan – which in some cases might include leasing and renting – that will meet a client’s business objectives and maximize the opportunities for their business