Motorlease is a family-run company, which, for the past 25 years, had been managed by the brother-and-sister team of President Jack Leary and CFO Beth Kandrysawtz.
As a new chapter in the history of Motorlease begins, AF interviewed Kandrysawtz to learn more about her strategic vision for the company and how she plans to lead it into the future.
Here’s what she told us:
AF: Everyone who knew Motorlease knew Jack, but many might not be aware he had a sister involved in the business. How long have you been working for Motorlease, and in what capacity?
Kandrysawtz: I had been working alongside Jack at Motorlease for nearly as long as he was here. I started in 1985 as treasurer, after spending five years as a financial analyst at Ford Motor Company and completing my MBA at Wharton. I was named vice president in 1986, and became CFO in 1992, when our father, Daniel Leary, retired. I took over the financial and operational management of the company, while Jack, as president, handled sales and traveled extensively, managing client relationships.
In running the operational side of the business, I initiated our team philosophy and lean-thinking approach to our corporate processes in 1998, and it still guides our company today. In addition, I’ve been responsible for hiring all employees, overseeing employee benefits, training and corporate culture, marketing, technology, facilities, and real estate.
Motorlease truly is a family business. Jack and I worked together for nearly 30 years — first with our father, and, later, as partners. For the past 20-plus years, we made every major decision together. Over the past several months, together, we took the steps needed to ensure our leadership was solid, and transition the clients Jack worked with to our senior leadership team. While it goes without saying that I will miss Jack greatly, I feel well-positioned to continue running the company with the same philosophy and commitment that has made Motorlease unique since it was founded nearly 70 years ago.
AF: Not only did you lose your brother, but you also lost a business partner of nearly 30 years. Looking forward, what are your plans to grow the company?
Kandrysawtz: As always, I expect to apply the philosophy and strategy that has made Motorlease successful historically, while adapting the business to meet the needs of an evolving marketplace. This means we’ll be undertaking some new projects — such as an updated logo and upgrading our technology infrastructure — but both are initiatives that have been underway since the middle of 2014. Later this year, we’ll be rolling out a new website, followed by an updated client portal that will give our clients even better access to the information they need.
Motorlease has served the small to mid-sized market for nearly 70 years.We understand our ongoing success lies in staying true to our core client base. Clients come to Motorlease because they want to be able to focus on their own business, and have Motorlease take over the risk and day-to-day management of their fleet. Motorlease has been successful because we do whatever it takes to keep our clients on the road. This approach has enabled us to weather the down markets, and enjoy steady growth over the years. So, while I expect we will always be challenged to evolve in order to accommodate market demands, my immediate growth plans will focus on doing what I need to do to meet our clients’ needs.
AF: You recently had some major promotions within Motorlease. Tell us about the management team at Motorlease.
Kandrysawtz: One way to ensure a business can adapt to change is to have a seasoned management team that is trained with the goal of operating relatively independently. Our core management team and the longevity of our sales and operational employees is one area I am particularly proud of the business Jack and I have run. Our five key managers, combined, have more than 110 years in the business, which means we have strength and experience in every area of the organization.
I’ve been with Motorlease for 30 years, and Joe Pelehach has been with Motorlease for 28. Over the past several months, Joe has transitioned to manage the largest clients that Jack previously handled, while overseeing a team of experienced sales people and administrators. Our clients loved Jack, and they, too, will miss him, but they are in excellent — and experienced — hands. In January, we promoted Justin Mesick to controller and Jeff Perkins to general manager, fleet operations. Justin has been with Motorlease for 15 years and Jeff for 13. As I have transitioned into the role of CEO, Justin and Jeff have taken a larger role in the financial and operational areas. Brad Lutz is our director of information technology.
Brad’s father worked for Motorlease for 42 years, so, like Jack and me, Brad literally grew up in the company. As technology becomes increasingly important and complex, we know our technology infrastructure is sound. Finally, two-thirds of our employees have been with Motorlease for 10 years or more. So, together with our seasoned management team, I believe the depth of experience across the company is unmatched in the industry.
AF: What ideals and business philosophy drive you and Motorlease?
Kandrysawtz: Really, there are two core ideals that drive us: First, our brand promises to do whatever our clients need to stay on the road.
Our clients turn to us not just to manage the process by providing them with rules and passwords, but rather to give them a guaranteed cost solution. Second, we remain true to our family business ideals — relationships are important — and that means relationships with our employees and our customers. We treat our employees as part of the family, and, for our clients, we value the long-term relationships that have remained solid not for years, but for decades.
AF: Where do you see the fleet industry going, and what role do you see Motorlease filling?
Kandrysawtz: The fleet leasing industry has experienced some turmoil in recent years — with some companies getting out of the business altogether, and others shifting their focus to go after larger-sized clients. But, the industry “mega-companies” don’t enjoy the personal relationships we do — they’re simply too big. It’s in the underserved small to mid-sized niche that Motorlease has a proven track record at being extremely successful.
We will continue to focus on growing the close personal relationships with our clients that have been the foundation of our business since it began. We’ll invest in technology to be able to better accommodate our clients — but technology will never take the place of the personal relationship, the phone call, the site visit. We are truly unique in the industry, and we become more unique as the industry continues to change.
AF: Motorlease continues as one of the oldest family-run fleet leasing companies in the industry, and is now a woman-owned fleet management company. Do you have any advice for other women who are contemplating a career in the fleet industry?
Kandrysawtz: We all know this is a historically male-dominated industry — but it’s one in which I’ve spent my entire career. In fact, I became a part-owner at the young age of 16 and, as such, I have had the opportunity to do every job in the business! My advice: I believe women bring a unique perspective about the importance of building relationships with customers and employees. Women are flexible. We are problem solvers. And, in many ways, we understand how to be more responsive to our customers’ needs.
What excites me about working in a small business, and makes it so rewarding, is that it allows me to do something different every day. At Motorlease, every employee has the opportunity to learn multiple jobs and understands the impact on our customers. After 30 years, I still look forward to coming to work each day, and continuing to shape the company moving forward. Male or female, that’s exciting.