The Strategic Sourceror

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Fleet Management: Fleet Managers; Friend or Foe?
Friday, March 21, 2008
It is common practice in the business world to be highly suspicious of anyone selling a bill of goods; and rightfully so. On my way out of the brewpub this past weekend, I gave a cigarette to the last business flop who didn’t watch his money. But how suspicious is too suspicious? Sometimes paranoia and a rabid zeal to protect company resources means a true partner with a viable service is discarded like a bag of moldy tangerines.

When it comes to fleet management, most vendors fall into the friend, not foe category. Their interests are aligned with your interests. If for no other reason, it’s because setting you up with a cost-savings plan makes their lives easier. The best cost savings plan to the consumer is to replenish a fleet on a regular basis. At the same time, doing so automates the process for the fleet manager, which makes their lives much much easier. Otherwise, replenishment is based on spur-of-the-moment stock purchases when a vehicle kicks the bucket. This is not an enviable situation for the fleet manager. In that situation, the fleet manager is killing time online, checking last night’s lottery numbers to see if they can cash out of this god-forsaken industry, and they are interrupted by a call from you saying a truck cashed in its chips and they need a replacement RIGHT NOW! This throws the fleet manager’s life into disarray. So now, lack of preparation/apathy/stubbornness on your part necessitates an emergency on the fleet manager’s part. Now they have to go foraging the Joe’s Car Lot market for a vehicle you want. If you had been on a regular schedule of replenishment, a factory order would have been placed well before the vehicle flat-lined which would have saved you money and would have not interrupted the fleet manager from checking the lotto numbers.

This kind of situation makes fleet managers smack their foreheads and has them showing up for happy hour at 10:30am. It baffles the industry why you not only pay more money for a vehicle when a simple alternative is available, but also why you pay more in intangibles for a replacement situation which is no more enviable to you than it is the fleet manager. I’m not saying fleet managers are cute cherubs floating on a lofty cloud. Sure, there are bad apples out there. And sure, there are ways they can squeeze extra bucks out of you, like high management fees, but this is a rare business model where the objectives of the client are in synch with the objectives of the provider. This isn’t like telecom, where on its best day is still sleazier than Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras; this is different. And this is coming from a procurement service provider, whose job is to identify every possible savings opportunity in the supply chain. In my experience, most fleet management providers are more than happy to discuss your present situation and shift you to a better model of managing your fleet. I’ve had people deny participation in a bid because they thought I would be spinning their wheels. How much more honest can you get?

The moral of the story, children, is when a fleet manager speaks, listen. Give them the time of day. You just might learn something. Not only that, you may realize cost savings. This is a rare circumstance where your interests are aligned with theirs. Take advantage of it, or you might be spinning your wheels out of money.

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posted by Jazzy Sourcer @ 10:23 AM  
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