Automotive Fleet

SEP 2013

Magazine for the car and truck fleet and leasing industry

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EXECUTIVE FLEET PHOTO: ©ISTOCKPHOTO.COM/ KITTISAK_TARAMAS Building C-Level Relationships Dealing with authority-minded egos among senior managers is one of the biggest challenges to running a smooth operation in executive vehicle management. Managers don't achieve the highest levels of their profession due to humility. C-level managers are rife with strong, confdent personalities — which leadership requires — and this can be intimidating for a department manager trying to both serve them and execute company policies. Tis is where relationship building becomes an important frst step. It isn't likely that a feet manager will have a close relationship with the CEO or any other senior manager; there are simply too many layers and levels of responsibility between the two. Tat said, some contact is inevitable, and taking advantage of that contact can provide a foundation upon which a successful executive feet program can be built. Everyone, no matter what they do, likes to be asked for their opinion, and this is particularly true with executives. Fleet managers should develop a level of comfort and familiarity with senior leadership to manage executives' vehicles with ease. It is a natural reaction to be intimidated by a C-level executive — sometimes it's warranted; ofen it isn't. Most senior executives will be cooperative and respect the feet manager's time and expertise; however, there are occasions when they don't require immediate, personal attention, yet still bully their subordinates simply because they can. Tis kind of behavior can be alleviated when the feet manager has had some level of casual, personal communication. Finding common ground such as pastimes, hobbies, family activities, or sports may be used as leverage when an uncomfortable situation occurs. Another challenge is time constraints, both for the executive and for the feet 52 AUTOMOTIVE FLEET I SEPTEMBER 2013 manager. It works in both directions. For example, when the feet manager sees that the executive's vehicle is due for service, he or she isn't available. Conversely, when the executive sees his or her vehicle is due for service, the feet manager isn't available. Delegation is key (by both parties) to addressing this challenge. Most senior executives have an administrative assistant who handles (or can handle) scheduling. Build a relationship with him or her. No matter how loyal and protective a secretary might be, he or she will always be more accessible than the executive. Work on the same kind of relationship building — stop by the ofce with a dozen donuts or fresh cofee now and then. Ask about family or common interests, and make certain that he or she knows how important access to an executive's schedule is. At some point, you may request that the executive's administrators provide you with a weekly schedule. This will help a fleet manager schedule maintenance, cleaning/detailing, and repairs around an executive's schedule. Tese relationships might take a number of forms. For example, most feet lessors have their own "selling" dealer networks, which they use to order a customer's vehicle to be drop shipped to the driver. Tis relationship should be used to both sell and deliver an executivelevel vehicle for a faster turnaround time with an executive. It is also a good idea to have routine service performed at that local dealer, even if the feet is under a maintenance management program. A local dealer will provide high, touch service that a typical maintenance shop cannot, including pickup and delivery and courtesy cars. In addition, if the executive's home is a long distance from a local dealer, consider seeking out another shop closer to his or her home. Tis shop should be used as an additional option to the one near the company ofce. And, in most areas, there are mobile detailers who will wash, clean, and detail executive vehicles onsite (either at the ofce or at home). Scheduling regular upkeep on an executive's car, on their time, shows executives that the feet manager can be accommodating. It may also persuade the executive to take proper care of his or her vehicle. Keep in mind that these relationships may need to be in more than one location because some executive vehicles are not located at or near the corporate ofce and others may be in use by family members, if personal use is permitted (which, for executive vehicles, is almost always the case). Local shops and other vehicle services used for an executive feet can be enhanced by sending additional business their way. Make sure all of the employees at the company's facilities and ofces know who is providing feet services as well as how, when, and where they may use those additional service shops. Know the Local Network Making Vehicle Selections As much as a feet manager needs to have the vehicle program applied at all levels, the fact is executive vehicles must necessarily take precedence. Whatever a typical feet driver's downtime is worth, the executive's is worth more. Tis is where having a local network becomes important. Tere are a number of ways the compensatory vehicles that executives drive can be chosen: ● Traditional selector: A choice of vehicles with diferent levels if necessary (e.g., C-level, executive/senior VP, and director). Colo Cho r ice? management (president, senior, or executive vice president), and then senior divisional or business unit level management tend to receive these executive level, compensatory vehicles. B M rand od el? ? Op tio ns ? The frst step in managing executive feets is to defne exactly what vehicles qualify.

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