By: Shawna Laird-Brush and Bob Laird, Business Services
Are you thinking of becoming a Fleet Manager? Are you sure?
Just kidding. Moving into a management position requires more than just developing your leadership skills. So what do you need to know about Fleet Management? To put it as simply as possible: something about everything.
Don’t panic! We’re here to help break that down and give you some insight into the basics of fleet management. Fleet management includes aspects of accounting, procurement, maintenance, personnel, inventory management, legal, risk management, and corporate operations/administration. We’re going to look at the top five categories of the basics here.
Cost of Capital: The actual cost of rolling stock versus the capital available.
Cost of Operations: First, you have your Personnel costs which include actual salaries as well as all benefits and corporate costs of your employees. Next is your Vehicle Asset Costs such as fuel, maintenance, and depreciation. The third main area is Plant and Supporting Asset costs. This includes repair facilities, location, layout, support equipment, and tools.
Cost of Maintenance: We mentioned this above, but now we’re going to break it down into three categories. Program costs include Preventive Maintenance (PM), make-ready and retrofit, green initiatives, and disposal programs to name a few. You also have Unavoidable and Unplanned costs which are natural disasters and accident repairs. Finally, there are Direct v. Indirect costs. This is the actual cost of following program procedures versus the failure to adhere to procedure.
Performance: You will need to be aware of how your equipment and personnel are performing. You can use tools and reports provided by your fleet management software (FMS).
Productivity: Again, utilizing your tools and reports, analyze the productivity of your operations. This can include Work Assignments, Repair Times, In-house v. Outsourced repairs, equipment utilization, and downtime.
Actual v. Planned: You will need to regularly audit your expenditures of time and money – what was actually spent versus what you budgeted to spend.
Procedural Effectiveness: Auditing isn’t always about numbers. Review and update your procedures to remain relevant making sure to include new technologies and safety programs.
Capital Purchase v. Lease v. Rental: Learn to identify your initial outlay, operational need, and availability to determine the best method of acquisition of an asset. You should also learn how to create vehicle specifications to acquire the right piece of equipment to best satisfy operational needs and be effective and efficient.
Inventory and Supplies: Knowing which parts to keep in stock for needed repairs versus which can be obtained “just in time” is important for warehouse procurement.
Vendor Reliability: When awarding a contract, lowest bid is not always best. Research the vendor submitting the bid for quality and reliability.
Equipment Disposal: The return on your investment is tantamount. Knowing whether direct sales or auctions for specific equipment types can boost the return.
Scheduling: Understand the different types of maintenance and how they should be scheduled. Preventive maintenance are planned minimum maintenance at scheduled intervals. Predictive maintenance is planned rehabilitation to avoid future major repairs. Then you have unscheduled repairs which are breakdowns and drop in maintenance.
In-House v. Out-source: Determine which repairs are best done in house or sent to an outside vendor by looking at hours of equipment and personnel availability as well as vendor turnaround times.
Personnel Relations: Understand the laws and the policies of your organization for recruitment, hiring and corrective actions. Also know the best ways to motivate your employees.
Administrative Services: Review and refine your organizational structure and paper flow for a more efficient operation. This area could also include insurance, registration, and, in some instances, billing, revenue, and taxes.
Training and Education: Identify and fund the best training opportunities for your staff – from technicians to management. Also make sure that your safety programs and training are current and followed.
Policies and Procedures: You will need to review and update your policies and procedures at least annually and have ensure that they cover, not only your normal operations, but also emergency and contingency plans.
Above all else, you, the Fleet Manager, must be capable of conveying your message to all levels of the organization. This includes, but is not limited to, your superiors, your peers in other departments, and to all the personnel that supports you and the fleet operation.
Still want to be a Fleet Manager? Great! Get started today! You can look for a mentor in your own organization as well as in a network of fleet managers available to you. Join a fleet industry association, such as FleetPros, and expand your network through meetings, educational sessions, and industry conferences. Once you become a Fleet Manager and find you need some help, look to your peers, consulting firms, or online forums.
Is there something you feel we missed? Comment below with your own insights into The Basics of Fleet Management.
By: Shawna Laird-Brush, Business Manager
Sometimes, the best thing about being a part of FleetPros is the ability to request advice from current Leaders in the fleet industry. I asked more than two dozen current Fleet Managers (in all types of fleets and all ages) to share their insights for those that are considering moving into a fleet management position.
I posed to them three questions and these Fleet Managers were gracious in sending in their responses! I promised all of the anonymity, but THANK YOU to everyone who helped. I chose the top answers to share with you.
Q: What is the biggest challenge you had to overcome when you became a fleet manager?
Top Answer: Trying to get funding – from acquisition or replacement of assets and tools to better pay and benefits for employees
Q: What is one thing you wish you knew at the beginning that you know now?
Top Answer: If your user departments are happy, you are happy.
Q: What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to become a fleet manager?
Top Answer: Continue to learn and allow your staff to do the same.
Do you have any tips for upcoming fleet managers? Comment here to share your insights.
By: Shawna Laird-Brush, Business Manager
Whether you're looking for a promotion at your agency or looking to change companies, chances are you will need to interview for the new position. This is the first of a three part series on best interviewing practices.
You always want to make a good impression when interviewing. Using the tips below could be the difference between landing that promotion and dream job or staying where you are.
Before you walk in to interview, prepare yourself. Research is your friend. Learn about the company and position. Even if you work there now and are looking to move up, do your research. You will minimize the chances for lulls in conversation.
Organize your résumé and and any other documents you plan on taking. Having all your materials together and in order will show you can be detail oriented and prepared. Make sure to update your résumé to highlight the skills that the company is looking for and arranged to make them easy to see at glance.
Being on time for your interview is a must. Give yourself an extra 20 minutes in case of traffic or if you are unsure of where exactly you need to be. Also be sure to turn off your cell phone so there are no distractions. Don't just put it on vibrate - turn it off.
When you first meet your interviewer, first impressions go a long way. Remember to smile, even if you are nervous. Be polite and use your manners. Wait for the interviewer to offer their hand, and give a firm hand shake.
Your posture can say a lot about you. You won't want to slouch or cross your legs and be sure to sit up straight. Body language is crucial and lets the interviewer know that you are not wasting their time. Be conversational but not a chatterbox. Don't take over the interview - it shouldn't be a one sided conversation.
I know it is tempting, but don't ask about money first. If the interviewer doesn't bring it up, then wait until the end before asking about salary and compensation. And remember not to let your emotions get the best of you.
This may sound silly, but send a thank you note to your interviewer. It doesn't have to be long and remember handwritten is usually the best. If they will be making a decision sooner than snail mail will get it there, send an email. Keep it simple with just the thank you.
And no matter how much you may want to, don't post about your interview on social media. Your potential employer may be checking up on you online too. If you want to tell your nearest and dearest, then do so in a phone call.
A combination of great preparation and excellent interview skills can help you ace your interview. Although most of these seem basic, it never hurts to brush up. If you have a suggestion for this post, leave it in the comments and I will update the post.
By: Shawna Laird-Brush, Business Manager
As a Director, Manager, Supervisor, or Team Lead, part of our duties include evaluating and providing feedback to employees. No one wants to alienate an employee when giving critiques because it can lead to problems in the short and long term. Follow these simple rules to provide helpful and constructive criticism.
Do Not Focus Solely on the Improvements
Use the Feedback Sandwich method: 1) Talk about their strengths; 2) Share areas of improvement; and 3) Share positive results if areas have been previously addressed. Before you start on the "bad things," let them know you appreciate their good. Everyone likes to be acknowledged for the hard work or as a great team player instead going straight to the negative. Always end on a positive note, if possible. Show them you appreciate the progress they have made on earlier suggestions of improvements.
Do Not Let It Become Personal
You don't want to attack the person and put them on the defensive. Doing so will only make matters worse and compromise any chance you have of them listening to you. Focus more on the situation, and not the person.
Do Not Be Vague in Your Feedback
You will want to be specific in your feedback. And the more specific the better. Instead of saying "you need to be nicer," speak to them about a specific problem - i.e. tone of voice when talking to a customer, or being impatient with the parts department. The better understanding they have of the issue, the more they will be likely to improve upon it.
Do Not Talk About Things Which Can't Be Changed
Comment on things which can be actioned upon. If something is taking too long, but they are following policy or procedure, then there isn't anything they can do immediately to improve. If it is taking too long because of another reason, then suggest they cut down on the number of trips to parts department or IT by combining trips and requests.
Do Not Just Critique
You need to be helpful as well. Give recommendations on how to improve instead of just telling them to improve. They may need gentle guidance because they may not know they are doing it or how to improve upon what they are doing.
Do Not Make Assumptions
Focus on what you see and not what you think you know. Perceptions and assumptions are formed from rumors or complaints, but may not necessarily be the truth. Review their work and interactions before commenting on it.
By: Shawna Laird-Brush, Business Manager
Does this seem familiar?
Boss: Shawna, do you blah, blah, contract, blah…
Me: Uh-huh (while searching for that darn piece of paper I KNOW I had 2 minutes ago)
Boss: Blah, blah, fuel report, blah…
Me: Hmmmmm…. (opening a desk drawer)
Boss: You’re hearing me, but are you listening?
Me: What?!? Yes! I heard you!
Boss: Then what did I ask for?
This used to happen to me in my first days of working (and I will neither confirm nor deny whether it still might). It would always be remarked upon in my evaluations. It took me awhile to figure out the difference between hearing someone and listening to them.
Hearing refers to the sounds you hear and listening requires focus. Listening is a commitment and a compliment to the speaker. It is a model for respect and understanding. A person will spend more than half of their time engaged in some sort of communication – with listening being the biggest percentage of that communication. People respond to great listeners – both by liking and appreciating them.
Great listening skills can lead to a multitude of positives – both personally and professionally. They can lead to better customer satisfaction and greater productivity with fewer mistakes. You have to pay attention to the “story” being told – how it’s told, the language being used, even non-verbal cues. Effective listening is the foundation of all positive human relationships.
So, how do you become a great and effective listener?
Stop Talking. This is number one for a reason. You can’t listen if your mouth is open. This is good rule and should be a poster on your wall. You will be respected more (and liked) if you don’t interrupt or talk over another person.
Prepare Yourself. Make sure you relax and focus on the speaker. Sometimes that means picking up the phone and holding it to your ear instead of using the speakerphone function.
Remove distractions. Don’t doodle or shuffle papers. Don’t surf the web or daydream about tiny toy soldiers shooting raisins at your boss to see if they land in his mouth. Though fun, it sends a message to the speaker that you are bored or don’t want to listen (sometimes you don’t but do it anyway).
Be patient. A pause by the speaker does not necessarily mean you can jump right in. They may just be taking a breath so they can continue (for the next 5 minutes, right?). Just remember – don’t interrupt.
Avoid personal prejudice. Sometimes this one is the hardest. We don’t always like our boss or colleague that is speaking. Try not to let that get in the way. You can miss important information by thinking more about the fact that you know they are the one who keeps stealing your desk drawer candy (no evidence though, so HR won’t DO anything) instead of what is being imparted.
Don’t attack the speaker. Even if you aren’t particularly fond of what the person is saying, don’t come at them with fangs bared. This is NOT effective listening.
It’s their ideas and not just the words. Some people may not as eloquent (as you think you are) in expressing their ideas. So look at the whole picture and link together pieces of information to reveal their ideas.
Provide feedback. Reflect on what the speaker said and summarize their comments periodically. Feedback can also be imparting your own ideas or building on what they may have said. Just remember – don’t attack (see rule above).
You should always be deliberate with your listening. People who don’t listen rarely figure out where or why things went wrong. It can also be dangerous. You may be “hearing” the safety guy and end up with your arm being cut off – and no one wants that.
The FleetPros Blog is written and moderated by the Business Manager with contributions from the membership and Business Services Team.