Ray Fisher has served as president and COO of Donlen Corporation since November 2006. He joined Donlen after retiring from DaimlerChrysler with 32 years of service with the automaker. He left DCX as vice president of sales, service, and parts operations, responsible for all revenue-producing activities in the United States, in addition to the sales and incentive planning roles. Fisher and his wife, Gigi, have been married for 30 years and have three sons. Automotive Fleet sat down with Fisher recently to discuss his new position.

AF: What attracted you to Donlen?

Fisher: After 32 years at Chrysler, I was looking for a change of pace. Donlen’s size and the fact that it is a privately held company were essential elements in my decision. Donlen is a company with great people who are seeing firsthand the tremendous growth opportunities possible. Add to that the culture of delivering great customer service, coupled with a strong commitment to investing in the future, and it’s all good.

AF: How has your factory fleet experience helped in the transition to a fleet management company?

Fisher: Well, if you start with a commitment of trust in establishing relationships, it helps in any transition. The principles that guided me at DaimlerChrysler — approaches such as trying to be the easiest company to do business with, treating each customer as if they were your only customer, and providing creative sales solutions — are all applicable to a fleet management company. In the end, you have to count on a team of individuals equally committed towards the same end. We are fortunate to have that here at Donlen.

AF: What differences have you noticed?

Fisher: I think the biggest difference is going from a public to a private company. Decisions are made quicker, and the focus is more long term. It allows you to invest in doing what is truly right for the customer and the employees without short-term pressures hanging over your head. It is just so much easier to respond to customers in a privately held company.

AF: What are your goals as Donlen’s president and COO?

Fisher: My first goal is to not get in the way of all the unbelievable growth they have had! It may sound trite, but I recognize there is a lot going on here that is working very well. My goal is to build on that, to make sure we have a team whose members complement one another and which is focused on a common measurement of customer satisfaction. I want to make sure employees derive satisfaction from working here and they have an opportunity to benefit from our growth. On a more immediate basis, my goals are to make sure our new FleetWeb technology is launched effectively and our customers realize the efficiencies from using it right away. Donlen’s technology helps our customers become amazingly productive, and that is very satisfying.

Finally, of course, it would be nice to make sure that our lease portfolio continues to grow.
Donlen Corporation’s 2006 headquarters expansion in Northbrook, Ill., added nearly 8,000 square fleet to the facility and included a 2,500-sq.-ft. employee training center.

AF: Any surprises so far?

Fisher: I have to admit that I am continually motivated by the number of opportunities I get every day to prove myself to a customer. With so much going on, it’s only natural there’s a tremendous amount of detail to absorb when you come into a new situation. Also, I am very pleased with the capabilities of our new FleetWeb. It sets the benchmark for technology that empowers our customers to be more productive and make better decisions, to be more responsive — in short, to be more profitable.

AF: What do you see as the key issues facing the fleet management industry in the future?

Fisher: We are fortunate to be in a fairly stable industry. Those are big words from someone who spent 32 years on the manufacturing side! Differentiating yourself is key. Our business will only continue to become more and more competitive. In order to prosper, you have to deliver high levels of customer satisfaction, commit to innovation, and continually reinvest in your business.

AF: Are you enjoying it?

Fisher: I am. It’s a great work environment, and I learn something new everyday, which is empowering. A side benefit is the chance to maintain relationships with some of my customer contacts. That means a lot to me.