Moving to the chief operating officer position, former LeasePlan USA CEO David Dahm has handed off top management responsibilities to five-year company veteran Mike Pitcher. Newly promoted Senior Vice President Jon Toups joins the LeasePlan USA executive management team. Automotive Fleet recently spoke with all three.
AF: As you assume the CEO post, what has been your message to LeasePlan USA employees?
Mike Pitcher: The key message has been about the company’s stability and growth at Employee Town Hall meetings. Employees read the newspapers. They see layoffs and economic downturns. However, LeasePlan is in a growth mode. Vehicle and fleet management growth has been significant, especially in view of the current economy.
In the past five years, LeasePlan experienced 60-percent funded unit growth. Fleet management sales and services experienced 18 percent growth.
We’ve been examining our operations/processes to improve efficiencies. One example of a cost-reduction initiative has been the eRepair, an electronic invoice solution for our maintenance vendors. Implementing a digital system to perform this kind of paperwork over the Internet has enabled LeasePlan to redeploy six employees to other profit-making functions. We’ve launched eRepair to all independent vendors and are now working with national vendors on the system.
AF: What have been key factors behind LeasePlan USA’s growth?
Pitcher: As part of the company’s growth strategy, LeasePlan is developing and introducing innovative and creative products, such as vehicle insurance, which we have been offering in Europe. We’re introducing other new products that have roots overseas, such as a closed-end lease product with open calculation.
We also have a new dealer service loaner program that reflects our out-of-the-box thinking and creativity.
AF: What is LeasePlan USA’s long-term strategy?
Pitcher: LeasePlan has a five-year plan. Two years into the plan, we’re validating it.
Our product roadmap includes being the first to market with a closed-end lease product with open calculation. Another is a safety and driver care product. In Europe, a huge emphasis has been placed on driver training that changes driving habits to impact fuel consumption. They have shown eco-driver training can improve fuel efficiency by 6 percent to 10 percent.
The range of LeasePlan products begins with simple vehicle towing and grows to full leasing with fleet management, accident management, and maintenance services.
AF: What are your goals as the new CEO of LeasePlan USA?
Pitcher: The previous executive management team has left a legacy of innovation, out-of-the-box solutions, and flexibility with clients. I don’t see any big changes in strategy. We’ll continue our existing strategic five-year plan, with small tweaks to respond to client events and needs.
In LeasePlan’s view, fleet management is not about cars or individual fleet components, but about full total cost of ownership (TCO) — looking from a strategic view at what you need the vehicle for and its overall costs.
Another goal is people development. LeasePlan has invested in incentivizing employees to further their education and training through certification programs, college and university courses, and other programs. We’re investing funds in leadership training as well. Employees have undergone the Oz Accountability training program, for instilling accountability in employees.
We don’t mandate employees pursue this. But we do ask each employee to set an annual individual goal of 40 accumulated hours of further training/education per year and have set a training schedule for all employees The goal is having employees who do their job better on December 31 than they did the previous January 1.
New COO Dahm to Focus on Process
During his tenure at LeasePlan USA, David Dahm has served on the Executive Management Team as CFO and CEO, and now takes his new position as COO. He spoke with Automotive Fleet about his new role and goal to improve organizational processes.
AF: Why did you step down from the CEO post at LeasePlan USA?
David Dahm: After eight years of leading LeasePlan USA through some fantastic growth and improved shareholder return, I wanted to step back and concentrate my efforts in leading the organization through a process re-engineering phase to position our great organization for the next generation of product innovation and profitable growth. Working alongside Mike Pitcher gave me comfort that a seamless transition would take place. With Mike’s leadership strengths and strong industry presence, he can focus on continued profitable growth, allowing me to focus my efforts as the business champion on quality and process improvements.
After nine years as CFO and eight years as CEO, I look forward to this new challenge and having the opportunity to work closely with our business excellence group along with our CIO and the rest of our Executive Management Team. I am excited about this great opportunity as we continue to strengthen LeasePlan’s position within the fleet management industry.
AF: One of your new goals is researching and implementing a new IT platform. What type of IT platform are you investigating and do you have an anticipated roll-out date?
Dahm: While I have not yet determined an estimated date on the completion of this initiative, part of our five year strategic plan calls for continuous process improvement in conjunction with designing effective and efficient processes that not only improve customer satisfaction, but also enable LeasePlan USA to maintain a highly competitive cost structure.
Once the new processes have been fully designed, we will then turn our attention towards what type of IT platform bests supports these improved processes. We are closely watching our efforts in one of the larger LeasePlan countries as they implement an entirely new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to support their process re-engineering efforts that have taken place over the past few years.
New Senior VP Toups Sahres Perspective
In his new position as senior vice-president, Jon Toups directs LeasePlan USA sales, marketing, client relations, and business development. He shared his perspective on the company’s strengths with Automotive Fleet.
AF: When talking with prospective clients, how do you differentiate LeasePlan USA from other fleet management companies?
Jon Toups: People, creativity, and agility. At LeasePlan, our Executive Management Team truly believes in empowering client-facing personnel to make decisions and respond quickly to address day-to-day needs. The incredible tenure and skill set of our people give us the confidence to trust in their ability to know firsthand the best solution for our customers. Client surveys and our high rate of client retention underscore the fact that our employees are LeasePlan’s most valuable asset.
The depth of experience within our client relations and management teams adds both creativity and agility to our approach to fleet management. At LeasePlan, we call this highly consultative approach to account management, Partnership Development Plan or PDP. Putting innovative ideas into action helps our clients tackle the fluctuating economic elements that challenge efficient fleet management in today’s world.
AF: What are your strategies for growth at LeasePlan USA?
Toups: First and foremost, we value our loyal client base and we are always looking for new ways to enhance their fleet management experience with LeasePlan. Additionally, we actively seek to expand our customer base by using one of the most experienced sales teams in the industry to tell our unique story. When you add our international strength, innovative service offerings, and alternative sales channels to the mix, I believe we have a solid strategy for continued success.