6. Focus on costs
There is nothing more important to management than controlling and reducing costs. While an incremental increase in revenues returns only the percentage of net profit the company achieves, every pounds of cost reduction drops straight to the bottom line.
If, for example, the company’s net profit margin is 10 percent, £1 of cost reduction is worth £10 in new revenues.
Fleet managers oversee a cost centre — fleet vehicles are a (necessary) cost — and therefore often a target for savings-hungry executives. What is the best way to satisfy that hunger? Show them savings.
Focus on areas where the pounds are, starting with depreciation and fuel, which combined can account for 80 percent or more of total fleet costs. Track costs, note actions taken to control/reduce them, and regularly report results. Also, prepare for senior managers’ usual thoughts on how to save, such as “Why don’t we use subcompacts?” and “We can reimburse drivers for using their own cars,” as previously mentioned.
Don’t wait to be asked, or told, about cost reduction. Make it the key focus of your efforts, and there is no doubt it will engender appreciation for what you do.
7. Simplify communications
Much of what has been covered here involves relationships and communication with management, to ensure they understand not only what the fleet manager does, but how well you do it.
But, such communications must keep in mind that senior managers don’t have much time for detail, as their own responsibilities are varied and many. There, the key element of effective communication is simplicity, and fleet managers would do well to use it when dealing with management:
• Get rid of spreadsheets. They are great to use internally, but executives don’t have time to wade through columns and lines of numbers, and they won’t. Instead, use graphics and other visuals. A test: if one can take one look at a report and discern what it is about, use it. PowerPoint is a great tool for creating an effective report using visuals. Keep text to a minimum. Use bullet points for key results and points. Anything more than a sentence or two won’t be effective in getting the point across.
• Focus on trends. Executives are less interested in where you are, or where you were, than they are in where you’re (and fleet costs) going. Downward trends in costs shown graphically are most effective, as are flat trends where the costs contributing to fleet expense have risen (fuel, for example).
Dashboards and KPIs are highly effective for executive communication, use those as well. Keep all data up-to-date and handy. If you want to address those “pop quizzes” that management sometimes hits fleet managers with, this is key to ensure you are prepared.
Whenever possible, ask to present reports in person, to allow you to clarify the information presented, and answer questions on the spot. Management will appreciate any manager who is well informed, keeps them well informed, and whose communications are succinct and to the point.
8. Don’t hide problems
A fleet manager recalls a vice president in his company who told him “My managers don’t prove their skills when things are going smoothly; they do so when problems arise.” Truer words are seldom spoken.
Executives hate surprises. They hate them, especially when the surprise is bad news. When things are going along well — orders arriving on time, resale markets staying strong, fuel prices continuing to fall — managing is a lot easier than when buildout catches 50 orders unfilled, or the rental companies dump 10,000 of the model you use into the auctions, or fuel prices soar.
That vice president’s words carry with them the tacit warning: if there is a problem, make certain I know about it, and what you’re going to do to meet the challenge.
Don’t hide problems. Don’t drag them out, hoping that they’ll be solved before you have to tell management. Face them up front and make sure that, before you report “upstairs,” you have a solution ready to present along with them.
Remember, there are few better opportunities for a fleet manager to prove his or her mettle than confronting a challenge and overcoming it, and no better way to gain management’s appreciation and confidence, either.
9. Stay informed
One fast way to lose the appreciation and confidence of management is to have an executive ask about a fleet program, or a new model, and the fleet manager is unable to answer the inquiry.
Fleet managers must stay informed about the latest information (e.g. new-model plans, new fleet programs, or competitive lease rates and other fees) and bring to the attention of management anything that might help the company save money, or the fleet to run more efficiently.
And, if presented with something from them, you should be prepared to discuss it, and explain why you didn’t believe it relevant or important enough to pass along.
Know also what management, or particular managers with whom the fleet manager interacts, find interesting. Some managers are very “hands on,” and an area such as fleet management is of interest to most. To them, it’s about cars and trucks, and most everyone has very personal opinions about cars and trucks. And, the fleet manager is often the one an executive goes to with “ideas” on how to run the fleet.
Our new wired world allows fleet managers to keep up-to-date on any and all information related not only to the fleet, but to the automotive industry in general, and senior managers will always appreciate a fleet manager who is well informed.
10. Encourage participation
An excellent way to get management to appreciate not only what a fleet manager does, but how valuable those skills are to the company is to encourage participation in industry events.
This can range from attendance at a local Fleet Management Association meeting to a visit to a key fleet supplier, or even attendance at an industry conference. There, managers can meet and network with the fleet manager’s peers, and learn what others are doing.
A day spent with a fleet lessor, for example, where the value of fleet management is not only appreciated but encouraged, can open up the executive’s understanding of the complexities of the job, why the fleet manager does what he or she does, and how all of it comes together.
The more exposed management is to the industry, the better their appreciation and understanding of the efforts of the fleet manager.
Winflotte has an all encompassing approach and capabilities to help Fleet Managers to be effective in their jobs and gain attention from management. Please contact us to understand how we can help you through the use of Winflotte Enterprise a powerful, yet user-friendly fleet management cloud solution.