Managing the Financial Side of Commercial Fleets

How to Get Yourself Promoted

September 2010, by Staff

There are few more effective career-killers than being pigeonholed into a role at the company. Fleet managers have long been labeled as a "car guy," the "grease monkey" who spends weekends tinkering with a '48 DeSoto, whose vocation - fleet management - is an avocation as well.

For the most part, today's fleet managers are more likely to have a background in finance, accounting, or procurement. Experiences gained and skills required to successfully manage a fleet of company vehicles are exactly those needed for moving up the corporate ladder. Using those skills and avoiding the stereotype take time and effort, but are well worth it.

Breaking the Stereotype

When fleet management was in its infancy and most companies had no formal fleet manager, ideal candidates were those with experience at a dealership, as a mechanic, or in the military motor pool.

The problem arises when the stereotype of fleet manager as mechanic becomes entrenched. Breaking this stereotype was one of the early goals of the fleet management profession, and still raises its head on occasion.

A fleet manager must make certain he or she is well versed in skills underlying the fleet management position: finance, procurement/purchasing, accounting, and IT. A fleet manager should be able to read a balance sheet, understand the basics of a lease- versus-own analysis, know how various lease types are to be accounted for, and calculate lifecycle costs.

Exhibiting these skills and experience in the course of managing a fleet will help break the stereotype.

Know What's Going On

Part of the stereotype is that a fleet manager is not up on the "important stuff" going on in the company. That "important" stuff - new product development, financial management, manufacturing, human resources - should be left to the "real" managers, we're told, not someone who would be comfortable in a dealer showroom, or turning a wrench in a repair shop.

A fleet manager who wants to break that caricature must make sure he or she is knowledgeable. Know who was promoted, for example, in the executive suite. Send a congratulatory e-mail to the newly appointed CFO indicating you look forward to working together. Prepare quick memos on new product and how the fleet department will fit in.

If an acquisition is made, find out if they have vehicles and what the plan is to merge them into the corporate fleet program. Note anything that might be impacted by, or might impact, the fleet.

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