As the clock struck midnight on January 1st, I officially wrapped up my first full year as CEO at Merchants Fleet. It has been a rewarding experience to look back on 2018 and see how much Merchants has grown, and I can see how 2018 was just a starting point for us. 2018 was a record-setting year in more ways than one, and we are set to make history again in 2019.
First, I’d like to reflect on a historic year with an incredible company, and then build on our existing strategic direction for Merchants Fleet – the New Face of Fleet.
2018 – HISTORIC
When I reflect on 2018, two words come to mind: GROWTH and CULTURE.
When it comes to growth, our proof points are endless. We embarked on a new and exciting strategic direction that we called our “123 strategic direction”. We launched our FleetIQ program, focused on hiring the best talent in the fleet industry, and brought in 20 experienced fleet leaders. We drove technology innovation by doubling the size of our Innovation Center in Chicago, Illinois, and hiring our first Chief Technology Officer to lead our vision of using technology to disrupt the fleet industry. And we did all of this while building upon our strong relationships with top OEM partners such as Ford, GM, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Nissan and more.
In addition to expanding our talent pool and bolstering our OEM relationships, we created even more innovative service offerings to support our clients under a single brand known as Merchants Fleet. Our fleet management technology platform, TotalView, received its largest feature enhancement to date, making it an even more valuable resource for our clients. We launched GuaranteeTRAC®, an easy way for companies to get the best market value when disposing of their fleets. We created CampusShare, a new way of vehicle sharing that increased convenience and reduced costs for colleges and universities. We also launched a new short-term truck rental program and created a model for national franchises, ensuring every industry has the right vehicles for the right terms. The end result? We put over 12,000 new units on the road, increased our lease count by over 5,000, and onboarded some of the largest accounts our company has seen.
None of these growth initiatives would have been possible without the CULTURE that makes Merchants Fleet a special company to work for and a valuable fleet management partner. We ELEV8ed all aspects of our culture. It is the people of Merchants who elevate results for our clients and for our teams, so we invested in our culture with over 140 new hires, 70 employee promotions, three women recruited and promoted to the leadership team, and a continued commitment to above-market benefits for our employees. We instituted new peer-to-peer and nomination-based employee recognition programs, as well as a Leadership Academy for over 60 of the company’s leaders. We are proud to be Great Place to Work certified, a NH Best Company to Work For, and most recently, a Best and Brightest Company to Work For®.
After a year of intensive market and cultural growth, I’m excited to say that even more great things are in store for us as we head into 2019 with a focus on innovation & technology, attracting & retaining the brightest minds in fleet, and finding even better ways to deliver on flexibility for our clients.
2019 – INNOV8
At Merchants Fleet, we are focused on staying true to our history, vision, and core values while fostering a culture of innovation in everything we do as the New Face of Fleet. In 2019, our guiding theme is innovation. Innovation means thinking and acting differently in a useful way. That doesn’t mean everything will change – not at all. Merchants is successful because of our commitment to exceptional, high-touch service and flexibility, and that commitment remains the same. However, we recognize that in order to deliver the best value to our clients in a dynamically changing market, we must continue to innovate.
Our innovation spreads across the company, from our brand to our clients to our technology and more. I’m excited to share with you our innovation outlook for 2019 and our 6-point plan.
In 2019, we have already started the company’s first Innovation Office. By bringing in resources from one of the nation’s most innovative companies, Merchants Fleet will have the tools and people to drive growth and focus on innovation, propelling us into one phenomenal 2020. We have created the concepts of “BIG I” for larger, disruptive innovations that the market will see and “Little i” innovations that we will focus on internally on a daily basis to serve our clients even better.
Our client-centric approach allows us to support clients from 1 to over 5,000 units, a wide range that virtually no one else in the industry can support. We also are flexible with our clients, with leases that range from 3 months to long-term, traditional leases. In the midst of all the changes that 2019 will bring, we will stay nimble, listen to our clients’ needs, and service them the way they want to be serviced. For 2019, our goal is to continue to think outside of the fleet box so our clients are not forced into any prescribed “box” of pre-packaged fleet services.
Our commitment to our employees is one of the hallmarks of Merchants. We will continue to offer world-class benefits, above-market tuition reimbursement, and training opportunities to fuel our employees’ growth. We also will continue to build upon our FleetIQ momentum from 2018 and continue to attract the brightest minds in the industry. As our employees grow, so will our business.
With industry-leading Chief Technology Officer Jeanine Charlton at the helm, 2019 is poised as a year of tremendous technology innovation. As we build upon and support our fleet technology offerings, we will hire and bring in house more technically-minded talent so we can continue to optimize and grow our systems. With this comes more productivity and results for our clients and for our teams.
Last year we recognized that our brand had not caught up to who we are today. It was important for us to showcase our diverse capabilities and represent who we have become – the New Face of Fleet. That’s why we started 2019 by launching a new, more progressive brand for Merchants Fleet. We dropped the word “management” from our name, introduced a new logo, updated our color scheme and messaging, and launched a more progressive website as part of the company’s first Employee Summit.
Recognizing that we had also outgrown our current headquarters, we knew that in order to ask our employees to be more innovative and collaborative we needed to create a more conducive environment for that to happen. So we will be moving to a world-class, state-of-the-art headquarters this year. This new space is being designed to represent our evolving employee demographic, with more collaborative spaces, more open workspace, and better workflow management. With a new wellness center, amenities, and employee-focused features, it will support our desire to attract and retain the best of the best.
Our growth plans are bigger and bolder for 2019. Our growth starts with serving our existing clients and continuing to provide them more value and services on a daily basis. As we look beyond our incredible roster of clients, we are hyper-focused on specific industries, verticals, and segments that we believe are a perfect match for the Merchants commitment of flexibility, service, and innovation. Merchants Fleet has multiple business segments and specialized, knowledgeable fleet teams that support traditional fleet needs as well as the unique needs presented by today’s shift toward mobility. Through “BIG I” and “Little i” innovations, we truly believe our possibilities to support our clients are endless.
The View Ahead
In 2019, we are focused on staying true to our history and values, while becoming more innovative in everything we do as the New Face of Fleet. I am excited to go on this journey with our team and our existing clients, as well as to make new connections and welcome new faces to the Merchants fold along the way. Here’s to an exciting and innovative 2019.
Brendan P. Keegan serves as Chief Executive Officer [CEO] at Merchants Fleet and was recently named the world’s Most Innovative CEO by CEO World Awards®; Executive of the Year, silver winner by Best in Biz Awards; and a Stevie Awards® bronze winner by American Business Awards®. He has been involved with Merchants since 2009—as a client, board member, and strategic advisor. Brendan is focused on transforming the company’s business model and creating a new category within the fleet industry known as FleetTech. Brendan’s innovative leadership has fueled the company’s strategic direction and positioned Merchants as the fastest-growing fleet management company in North America.