While many will reflect on 2020 as a challenging year, for Merchants 2020 was a year of OPPORTUNITY. As the nation grappled with a multitude of unknowns, fears, uncertainties, and doubts, Merchants Kept America Moving by providing essential businesses with the vehicles they needed to deliver crucial goods and services to Americans at a time when they needed them most.
2020 – PIVOT
There is one word above all others that defines 2020 – PIVOT.
Our goals were clear – to ACCELER8 our growth, to ELEV8 our performance and to INNOV8 our service to our clients – and to do it faster and more efficiently than ever!
We were committed to find new ways to add value to our clients, further engage our employees, continue to technology-enable the business, and scale our business operationally. We shared these goals passionately with all our employees in packed movie theaters across New Hampshire and Chicago – remember when you could sit next to someone in a movie theater?
Our first pivot was to focus on the health and safety of our EMPLOYEES. On March 17th, dressed from head-to-toe in a leprechaun outfit, I presented our Tough Times Playbook outlining the 7 plays that would guide us through this chaotic time. Within hours, we had employees working remotely from basements, bedrooms, and kitchen tables, and our technology team didn’t sleep until everything worked perfectly. From the outset, we were 100% operational and executed a flawless transition, something I quite honestly didn’t think was possible. We kept employees engaged and safe with weekly virtual hangouts, virtual talent shows, graduation gifts for our team members’ kids and even a back to school program to make the first day of school special this past fall. All in all, COVID made our culture STRONGER than EVER.
Our second pivot was serving our CLIENTS’ growing fleet needs in the face of the pandemic, by continuing to FUND vehicles and services – we were committed to STAYING OPEN for BUSINESS and funding client requests. In the first quarter, we selected Bain Capital Credit as our growth equity partner to fuel our growth and throughout the year we added new, marquee global banks to our funding team and raised nearly $400 million in capital in a year when capital was scarce. And I mentioned opportunity – Merchants set a company record with 40% growth which would not have been possible without all the funding our valued financial sponsors entrusted in us. We are thankful for their belief in our company, our strategy, and our clients.
Our third pivot was to service our CLIENTS in new and innovative ways. We focused on defining new COVID-specific services that supported essential businesses and allowed our clients to stay liquid and maintain flexibility. We also had to support a number of clients hardest hit by the pandemic by simply deferring their obligations due to their business being shut down or dramatically affected. We ramped up our communications with our clients daily, and technology-enabled several new functions for them along the way. Simultaneously, to keep all of our EMPLOYEES engaged, we pivoted to support our LAST MILE clients who were literally Keeping America Moving. As COVID thrust a decade of eCommerce growth onto us in a single year, we kept employees working by focusing on this segment of our business, and I am happy to report that Merchants cargo vans, box trucks and even pick-ups were out delivering 3 million packages a day throughout the holiday season – that is 300% growth over just last year.
2020 was a unique year for everyone, and Merchants seized the opportunity to do magical stuff!
2021 – ACCELER8…Even Faster
As we enter 2021 stronger, more resilient, and more focused than ever before, it is time to ACCELER8 even faster. We will channel this focused intensity on providing the best client experience on the planet, driving technology enablement throughout the business, scaling UP operationally and fueling UP our employee first culture. If you like metaphors, we are jumping behind the wheel of a hand-built Formula 1 supercar and driving on a new track like Lewis Hamilton or Michael Schumaker, the greatest drivers of all time, and enjoying the journey every inch of the way, so buckle-up for the best year ever.
Clients are our passion and providing great client experience coupled with new and innovative products and services are our touchstones. In the coming 12-months, we have some major leapfrog moves queued up to bring to market.
First will be our highly anticipated FleetConnect program – an integrated connected vehicle program. The program involves major OEMs, technology partners and Merchants pulling the data all together for our clients – exciting times ahead for data geeks like me.
Second is the road to Electrification – the future of fleet. In the coming days, weeks, and months you will be hearing early and often about our nation-wide electrification program with major partnerships with OEMs, EV (Electric Vehicle) commitments, infrastructure partners, education programs and more.
Third is our new Commercial Sales offering – economical alternatives to new commercial fleet vehicles. One of the takeaways from 2020 was how we could make every dollar count for our clients, and we saw an opportunity to launch a new business offering allowing for our clients and new prospects the opportunity to buy or lease high-quality pre-owned fleet vehicles still under factory warranty.
Fourth is our ongoing FleetTech Partner Ecosystem – bringing partners from every corner of the globe to our fleet clients’ doorstep. By continually pulsing the fleet industry, the technology industry and financial services industry we are unrelenting in our approach to bring new and diverse resources to our clients.
Employee culture is something we take very seriously at Merchants, and we continue to explore new and creative ways to expand on our award-winning work environment.
First we will kick off the new year by invigorating our commitment to employee enrichment, with a new initiative called the RESTORE program – a program based on the premise that an employee is at their best when they have the support they need to be their best self. Through the new RESTORE program, Merchants employees will be provided simple and easy access to specialist partners such as a nutritionist, therapist, personal trainer, and life coach, all with the goal of supporting employees to be their best selves—at work and in life.
Next our Diversity & Inclusion is another important initiative that we will continue to invest in – with a curated collection of articles, books, podcasts, events and websites, our Diversity & Inclusion program is aimed at accelerating rich, candid, and honest dialogue with our employees that promote our commitment to a truly inclusive work environment.
Additionally, Merchants is also broadening our investment in employee education with the expansion of our comprehensive LearniQ program – through this unique program, employees can advance their career growth by enrolling in a robust assortment of self-paced, micro-credential courses designed to provide job-relevant, timely and flexible professional development through a variety of ivy league level education partners.
Overall, we are ACCELER8ing how we engage with our team members in 2021, and fueling up our commitment to our strong value-based culture.
We will open the new year with advancements in technology designed to improve our clients’ experience with technology as well as enable our teams to move faster across the enterprise to support those clients.
First a full client rollout of our Custom Reporting capabilities in TotalView in early 2021. This exciting new upgrade integrates a powerful analytics solution from Microsoft, called Power BI. Power BI allows Merchants clients and employees to create impactful visualizations and perform analysis to answer questions based on the data captured within the TotalView interface. The result is coherent and visually immersive data with interactive insights that can be shared across your organization or embedded in your app or website.
Second, we are focused on a host of new client-facing Totalview Enhancements & Features – further accelerating the benefit of our technology platform for our clients both in our cloud-based platform and mobile app. These enhancements and features include vehicle replacement projection tools, vendor integration, delivery systems, preventative maintenance tools, vendor locate tools in the mobile app, accessing registrations in the mobile app, additional custom reporting options, and more.
Third we have kicked off and will continue to revolutionize our Enterprise Architecture – as our business has grown so rapidly, we have innovated to keep our platform healthy with an industry-leading Enterprise Architecture. Through domain-driven design and event storming, we developed the ideal architecture for our business and our clients.
Finally, it is not the most interesting part of our technology, but it is one of the most important: our Operational Systems & Security – we take our clients’ experience and data extremely seriously. We will be completing several upgrades of our internal systems to keep our clients operating seamlessly, safely and securely.
The Merchants team is geared up for an exciting new year, as we continue to scale and speed up to provide the service our clients need—scaling UP.
First, with the growth of our business, we have recognized more opportunities to optimize the Remarketing Experience for our clients – we now offer more options for remarketing than any company in the industry, leveraging our synergies in the retail & commercial sales and rental markets. All this scale brings value to our clients. Our remarketing function has really become ASSET MANAGEMENT.
Next, we will be enhancing our Fuel Program in 2021. With elevated partnerships, we will gain scale through better processes and aligning with our client needs. We are proud to offer consistent results and the most flexible terms.
Additionally, we are always looking to enhance our current product offerings and partnerships, while identifying new ones through our Innovation Department – where we are focused on improving current processes and identifying new opportunities. For example, through our Auto Integrate initiative, we will be able to scale products by integrating repair vendor point of sale with Merchants and by making it easier for clients by minimizing the need to call and reducing downtime.
Other Operational Scale initiatives involve improvements across our organization – the ones that clients may not necessarily see, but they will get to feel the improvements of. These include continued CRM enablement, elevating our OEM partnerships, further developing our ordering systems, aligning our business, and elevating our award-winning culture.
THE VIEW AHEAD
In 2021, we will further ACCELER8 the service we provide our clients, the environment we provide our employees while tech enabling the business to scale operationally. We remain committed to our core values of high-touch service and industry-leading flexibility, while INNOV8ing and ELEV8ing towards the fleet of the future. I often speak about the journey, and it has been a great one so far, with a lot of runway ahead of us. As we look forward, we express our sincere appreciation for our clients, for an opportunity to serve every day, and for the employees who make it all happen. Welcome to the new year, and wishing our clients, partners, employees, colleagues, and friends a safe, healthy, and prosperous new year.
Enjoy the JOURNEY!