Fleet managers are notorious for not making their senior management fully aware of the value they bring to the company’s bottom line or why their efforts are important to the company. The following is a primer to assist fleet managers in gaining senior management appreciation for these efforts. Where is the Fleet Manager?
In performing their routine daily duties, most fleet managers go unnoticed by senior management. The only time that they are noticed is when something “goes wrong.” More often than not, the positive contributions fleet managers make to the company remain unnoticed. Successful managers must do everything possible to make sure senior management recognizes that the fleet department not only adds value to the company, but also is a vital company asset on a daily basis. Often, a fleet manager must react to situations that arise on a day-to-day basis. These can be distracting and take away from the focus of what the fleet manager should concentrate on: reduce cost, promote safety, and contribute to the company’s mission. If fleet managers are given the right tools and support from upper management, then they can perform professionally and effectively. The following are areas in which fleet managers can make management aware of the value the fleet function brings to the table. Communicate Often and Clearly
Fleet managers must be great communicators, especially to senior management. Likewise, senior executives must keep the fleet manager informed of current company developments. While communication between both parties is crucial, fleet managers must always deal directly and frankly with senior managers. Don’t hide bad news. Before presenting such, formulate a plan to address the bad news and/or identify what you will do to avoid similar situations in the future. The fleet manager interacts with senior executives and is the liaison from the field to the top. What must be communicated is both parties’ expectations to adequately do their jobs. The fleet manager must keep senior executives informed on new products, major cost issues, and other critical data. Senior management needs to know what the fleet manager is doing and why his/her efforts are important to the company. Communication between executives and the fleet manager is crucial to obtain senior management buy-in to the fleet process. The fleet manager must compete with the barrage of information senior executives receive on a daily basis. To gain attention to fleet business, give management clear and concise information and demonstrate how it affects the bottom line. This process encourages senior executives to stay involved on a regular basis. As a rule of thumb, the higher the manager, the more concise the information must be. Strategic, rather than tactical, details are what they need. Senior management looks at the big picture and the bottom line. Information they receive must be clearly linked to those two perspectives. Whenever possible, using charts and graphs, summarize the information. Remember, they aren’t “fleet people,” so the data must be presented in a form that they can understand from their viewpoint. Presented in that way, fleet information will demonstrate to senior executives the importance of the fleet function. That function is to make certain that company vehicles are appropriate for the job and that those same vehicles are acquired and maintained at the lowest possible cost and sold for the highest value. {+PAGEBREAK+} Educate Yourself and Management
To adequately report to senior management, fleet managers must develop an overall understanding and knowledge of all aspects of fleet management, including policies and procedures and the operating climate. Keeping abreast of industry trends through personal involvement in industry associations and programs is strongly advised. Remember, you need to educate your company executives about the most important factors of fleet management. Don’t be reticent in describing your responsibilities for all the functions that affect the bottom line: acquisition and remarketing, accident management, safety, repair and maintenance, and legal issues that vary by state. Realizing that the fleet manager’s job requires flexibility, senior executives must be patient and remain supportive over the long term in achieving certain results. While most fleet managers concentrate on the day-to-day details, senior management should understand that you are the company’s fleet expert and that you recognize the big picture as it relates to your company. Making common-sense decisions will gain support. Asking your supervisor or peers for advice or to review ideas are also good ways to gain support of your peers and make you part of the company team. Respond to Today’s Challenges
Fleets today are operating in a more focused and controlled environment. In this high-speed world, the fleet manager must take an active role in communicating how the fleet operates and controls costs. Benchmarking and using best practices are just two major tools that can be used to demonstrate to management that the fleet manager is responsive to the ever-changing business conditions. Benchmarking results against past performance provides evidence of the fleet manager’s competence and skill. If you work with a leasing company, its staff can assist benchmarking activities by providing specific management reports for your company, including comparisons to industry averages. If you have “sold” your value to senior management at the highest levels, you can meet the challenge presented by outsourced fleet management vendors. In-house fleet managers offer the advantage of an intimate knowledge of the company’s culture, mission, organization, and goals. Most companies have internally developed mission statements. Fleet managers should develop their own mission statements, which can be posted for management review. This fleet statement also should be internally developed to reflect your business needs and goals. The fleet manager is no longer a day-to-day administrator, but a strategic manager of company assets. He or she must be flexible and responsive in today’s world. Demonstrating these skills, as well as sustaining a flow of relevant information to senior management and educating yourself and those executives, will establish recognition of fleet’s value and importance to the company’s overall success. David Fern has more than 15 years of fleet management experience. He currently works as a consultant for Resources Global Professionals and can be reached at dfern1957@charter.net/