-  Photo: iStockphoto

Photo: iStockphoto

I would like to share a simple “hack” that has served me well on both the buyer and seller side of the table.

There is a Chinese proverb that says: “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan”  that applies to this methodology. Let’s say you are considering a product, service, or even a new process.

Run the concept through the following filter: 

  1. Economic Impact: Consider the way your organization recognizes cost.  Some consider straight dollar outlay, and others break it down to a per unit, or per hour basis.  Typically, this key performance indicator (KPI) is managed by a controller, or CFO.
  2. Productivity Impact: What effect will the change have on your organization’s ability to get the most valuable work done?  Again, this can be measured using dollars or rate of production.  Operations and sales managers are usually evaluated on this KPI.
  3. Brand Impact: What impact will a change have to your organization’s reputation — both external (clients, the public) and internal (employees, investors?)  All organizations have an image to cultivate, and this job is not just more marketing.  CEOs and other top managers lose sleep over this stuff.  Never forget to make this a key point of consideration, no matter which side of the deal you represent.

If you sense tension between stakeholders of these competing KPIs, a gold star to you for being observant. Strive for the optimal balance in the organization.  For lack of a better moniker, I’ve referred to this dynamic as the “Four Circles.”

For an organization that relies on vehicles to get important work done, there are four constituencies, each with its own set of sensitivities:

  • Drivers crave convenience, and vehicle features to get their jobs done.  They want simple processes that offer maximum convenience.
  • Their managers (operations and sales managers) demand order. They want a sense of control. They want the fleet to support the productivity of their teams.
  • Controllers and CFOs are looking for financial efficiencies, and to balance financial efficiency with field productivity. This group often plays the role of “Heavy.”
  • Owners value harmony within the organization over other attributes.  

An important aspect to consider is the dynamic nature of the Four Circles.  For example, drivers and their managers may find that the balance of power has shifted between the time before COVID-19 and today. With unemployment currently in the teens, the C-Suite will find itself with significantly better leverage. 

To illustrate this point, consider the tepid reception telematics has received at many large fleets. The ROI case looks solid economically, and productivity may well be enhanced, so what is the holdup?  It’s simple – owners are concerned about the effect the devices will have on employee recruiting and retention.  But is that still the case today? I’ve sat in meetings in recent years with fleet managers of huge fleets, who simply shrugged when the subject of telematics came up, the showstopper being that top managers were simply not open to the idea of ruffling feathers.  Think of the Four Circles on a teeter-totter – the gravity may have been squarely on the driver side, but it is now moving rapidly in the opposite direction.

Effective fleet managers develop a keen sense of timing, and solid communication with value-added salespeople is a great way to achieve win-win outcomes. Here’s wishing my industry colleagues the very best as we forge our way into the new normal.