By Brendan P. Keegan, CEO
As one decade faded and a new decade came rushing in, Merchants Fleet finished strong and came into the new decade HOT. 2019 was an extremely rewarding year for Merchants Fleet with many firsts and new initiatives, coupled with our tried and true hallmarks of strong values and hi-touch service.
2019 – TRANSFORMATIONAL
When I reflect on 2019, one word comes to mind: TRANSFORMATIONAL.
We kicked off 2019 strong with a new fleet brand and a new logo that matched the vision Merchants Fleet had set for ourselves. We were in year two of our 123 Strategic Direction and we grew at a historic pace. In fact, in 2019 we became the fastest growing fleet management company nationally.
The high-grade octane fueling our transformational growth was our people, our culture and our INNOV8 theme. Our FleetIQ program focused on recruiting the best fleet talent from across the industry, was wildly successful, and we hired over 40 of the industry’s best and brightest. And speaking of best and brightest, we were named to this list in both New Hampshire and Chicago, along with being named to the Hall of Fame for Best Companies to Work for in New Hampshire. As a company and as individuals, we all committed to being more innovative – to think outside the fleet box. We defined innovation as the ability to think and act differently in a useful way. We launched an Innovation Department, trained all of our team members in how to develop small innovations, created an Innovation Coaching Academy and wrapped up the year with a take-off on Shark Tank that we called FleetTank. Our people were amazing, and our culture took another step forward on being the most comprehensive, flexible and innovative fleet management company on the planet. We won many awards in the area of Innovation in 2019 – Most Innovative New Initiative award, Digital Transformation Award, and Most Innovative Leader awards.
As the year marched on, so did our growth with our existing client base and new clients. We implemented growth strategies to increase our value to existing clients, to move upstream in the market, to focus on franchise systems and to enter both the last mile and truck rental business. Overall, we were hyper-focused on meeting the specialized needs of our clients with the most comprehensive offerings we could think of. The technology that runs our business is stronger than ever and our clients have recognized this transition. We embraced new approaches and methodologies to deliver to our clients faster and in smaller increments. We developed new technology solutions for our mobility business to make it even easier for our short-term clients to work with Merchants Fleet.
As the summer turned to fall, we moved into our new fleet headquarters just down the road from our auto headquarters. We celebrated this event with our first FleetSUMMIT and brought together our clients, OEMs, business partners, employees and their families – it was a really informative and fun event!
Our efforts throughout the year culminated by closing the decade out by reaching 45,000 leased units and 115,000 managed units, supported by 450 of the most dynamic and value-driven team members in the world. And heck, we even brought in our first robot to start to explore what the new decade would bring us.
2020 – ACCELER8
Moving into 2020, our focus will be to ACCELER8 – we will continue to ELEV8 our performance and INNOV8 to meet our client’s needs, but we are going to do this faster and more efficiently than ever! As always, we will stay true to our history, vision, and core values while fostering a culture of innovation in everything we do. In 2020, we simply want to drive more value for our clients, further engage our employees, continue to technology enable the business and be more efficient with operational scalability.
We strive every day to create the most comprehensive, flexible and innovative experience for our clients. We define comprehensive as offering the broadest set of capabilities to our clients in the industry – from closed and open-end leases, to variable and convertible leases as well. From our remarketing programs GuaranteeTRAC to our newest offering CargoTRAC. With new vehicles from virtually any OEM to our new Merchants Commercial Truck Center for pre-owned commercial vehicles. We define flexible as first and foremost listening to our clients’ needs, understanding how to add value, and then developing a solution. We never approach our clients with a canned or “in-the-box” solution. We believe each client is different, and we must specialize to meet their needs. And lastly, we really strive to be “out-of-the-fleetbox” for our clients and bring innovation to the partnership – sometimes the innovation might be a “BIG I” like our new mobility offerings and other times innovation is simply a “Small i” that takes one thing off our clients to-do list, but means a lot to them.
There is only one way to drive truly great client experience and that is to have the best and brightest employees that are aligned by a vision and super-glued by core values. At Merchants Fleet, we strive every day to create a motivating environment and rewarding culture that ELEV8’s our employees’ success. We continue to offer above market benefits, recognizing that taking care of our employees and their families is paramount. We continue to develop our employees through coaching, mentoring and leadership programs. And most recently, we have launched a new LearnIQ program that is offered to all employees to develop relevant job-specific skills from top-flight universities like Columbia, Harvard, MIT, Dartmouth, SNHU and UC Berkeley. Our employees have thanked us again and again through their dedication, service to our clients, loyalty to the company, and by continuing to tell the outside world how great a place Merchants is to work, as we continue to be recognized with awards for our company and many individuals as well. But guess what? In 2020, we are awaiting our Employee Engagement Committee’s recommendations of how we can be even better. We are off to a fast start through our ACCELR8 Your Journey in Life & Business program and can’t wait to see where this takes us all.
As a fleet partner, we bring technology to everything we do. Technology enablement is not just the client facing fleet management platform, TotalView, although that is a headliner for sure. From my experience, many people confuse technology with software platforms. Technology enablement in our business is pervasive in our everyday lives with our clients and our team members, and we are accelerating the use of it even greater. Let’s start with a new 2020 vehicle. The average vehicle produces 2 GB of data per hour, and we are looking for new ways to harness that data and turn it into useful information for our clients and service teams. When we think of our national presence and large global clients, we think of new collaboration tools to work interactively and seamlessly across geographies. When we think of ordering, registering, maintaining and fueling our client’s vehicles, we are constantly looking for new tools and technology modalities to make drivers’ lives easier. Technology continues to be one of our company’s biggest investments, and I am more convinced today than any day before that the auto and fleet industries will witness more disruption due to societal and technology shifts in the next five years than we have all witnessed in the last 50 – stay tuned America.
As a growing company, one of the keys to our success will be to continue to provide the same level of high-touch service or BETTER to our clients and to work diligently to turn our growth into value-added service and services. Our growth is allowing us to invest in more technology, as discussed above in Technology Enablement, and also invest more in our people, as also discussed above, in Employee Engagement. By attracting new talent to our company, developing our existing team members’ skills and providing new enablement tools to them, we will be able to do things faster for our clients – and that is at the heart of our ACCELER8 theme – getting better for our clients, faster. And we are on a mission to make this happen.
THE VIEW AHEAD
In 2020, we will continue to build on our strong foundation, remaining faithful to our history and our values as we ACCELER8 forward as the fastest growing fleet company in the industry. I speak often about enjoying the journey, and what an amazing journey for us to be on as a team. As we look ahead, we are grateful to our clients for providing us the opportunity every day to do something special for them, and we thank our employees for their engagement beyond anything we could expect. Welcome to a new decade and all the possibilities it brings.
Enjoy the JOURNEY!