Holman Enterprises appointed Bob White as president of its fleet management company ARI in late April. White took over the top leadership position of the Mount Laurel, N.J.-based company and now reports to Chris Conroy, president and chief executive of Holman Business Services. White is an ARI veteran, having spent nearly 30 years in various roles with the company.
White comes to the role with an operational background, having served as chief operating officer and before that vice president of operations. Shortly before his appointment, White spoke about disruptive trends in the automotive industry at the International Automotive Remarketers Alliance's Spring Roundtable. Automotive Fleet spoke with White after he settled in to his new role about the ways mobility and other trends may reshape the fleet management industry.
Automotive Fleet: How have you adjusted to the new role? Was it what you expected?
Bob White: I feel extremely fortunate to step into this role, and I'm humbled when I think about the leaders that came before me. Through and through, I’m an ARI guy, a Holman guy, and I’m proud of that. To represent this company, all of the people and all that we stand for, it's an honor. From top to bottom, we as an organization are passionate about our business and that passion translates to how we serve our customers.
I’m excited to take the reins of the company I love, but I also believe that you don’t change what's currently working simply for the sake of change. Our 90-plus-year commitment to the things that matter most won't change — our employees, community, and customers. We can't stand still, and I want to focus on how ARI evolves for those future challenges. As the landscape of our industry continues to change, our customers are going to expect more, and we always expect more of ourselves. We'll remain agile and continue to push ourselves to anticipate what comes next.
AF: Holman Strategic Ventures has begun exploring how mobility will come into play with commercial fleets. How do you view the mobility trend as a service offering?
White: In terms of mobility as a service, companies will need to determine if their drivers need a vehicle or simply a ride. We’re working closely with our customers to help them answer that question with their specific needs in mind. Fleet, particularly in North America, remains truck-centric — with an emphasis on moving people and equipment. This puts mobility solutions such as ride sharing still very much on the horizon, whereas subscription models are likely more imminent and may be a natural progression to replace pool vehicles.
This is where our investment in Holman Strategic Ventures is already paying dividends. It provides us a glimpse of the technology in the pipeline and how it may evolve to solve the challenges of traditional fleets. Consumer demand will continue to be the main driver of innovation, but fleet is well positioned to follow quickly. Holman Strategic Ventures gives us optics into where this technology is headed and allows ARI to get ahead of the curve. If we can anticipate changes and trends, it will help us prepare our customers and give them an advantage.
AF: Where do you see the growth in your core fleet management business? Are you pursuing growth with mega-fleets or smaller fleets?
White: I think most companies strive for growth, and ARI is no exception. New partnerships mean we’re learning new things and getting even better as a company, but I want to accomplish this without compromising our efforts with our current clients. There are always areas where we can improve. To achieve that improvement, those areas require the same emphasis and attention as pursuing growth.
When I look down the road, I see us continuing to focus on complex vocational fleets. I believe we can provide the most value to customers in that segment of the market, and we still see significant growth potential across those verticals.
On a broader scale, we’re also focused on smart growth globally. We’re prioritizing the U.K. and German markets and our unique approach to fleet has been extremely well received in those regions. We continue to disrupt the industry by offering the only truly transparent fleet management solution. There’s a significant appetite for this flexible approach as savvy companies demand increased visibility and greater control over operating expenses to reduce their total cost of ownership.
AF: Do you see any special advantage of having access to Holman’s network of dealers?
White: I think working with ARI does offer the unique benefit of our wide automotive expertise. That includes Holman’s dealership network but also our other sister companies, including Auto Truck Group and Holman Parts Distribution. Vehicles are in our DNA. We have customers that have already leveraged the value of working with multiple Holman businesses, and there's more on the horizon.
We don't just fund and manage vehicles. We're involved in multiple supply chains within the automotive industry for both retail and commercial markets. And our customers really benefit from this insight much sooner than organizations that are more isolated to one particular sector. It helps the entire business prepare for potential disruptions on the horizon and develop solutions that can be deployed in a variety of ways.
Some changes are more impactful on the retail side of the business or vice versa. Together, we're better positioned to understand and prepare ourselves and our respective clients for those disruptions and opportunities.
AF: What do you see at the top trend with truck fleets in 2018?
White: For vocational fleets, we continue to see significant emphasis on leveraging data analytics to optimize operations. Big data offers big potential, but many truck fleet managers are challenged to sift through the millions of data points a typical fleet generates each day. With the immense volume of data available to fleet managers, data overload isn't probable, it's inevitable. This is an area where we’re really working closely with our customers to help them effectively leverage their data.
Fleet managers want more than information; they need knowledge and insight to leverage that information. It's important to target data that shows not only which vehicles are costing you the most, by also why they are costing you so much. And then helping them understand what they can do to positively impact their business. Many truck fleets can do this with just a handful of key metrics the fleet manager can use to develop tangible action items. Our role as a fleet management provider is to help customers understand what these key metrics should be and make them easy to understand to empower them to drive meaningful business improvements.
AF: Any updates on ARI's Technology and Innovation Center that opened in 2016? What improvements have you made based on real-world operational feedback?
White: The Technology and Innovation Center continues to cultivate a vibrant workplace that encourages teamwork, collaboration, and creativity. It's been the ideal environment for our IT professionals and fleet management experts to brainstorm solutions for real-world business challenges using the latest technology. And we're now starting to see the fruits of that labor come to fruition on a large scale as we introduce technology products such as our Amazon Alexa integration to an increasing number of clients. Combining the opportunities of tomorrow with the challenges of today helps fuel real innovation.