The First 90 Days for a New Fleet Manager
May 23, 2022
In his bestselling book, "The First 90 Days," Michael D. Watkins describes the first three months on the job as a chance to build momentum that carries through the rest of your tenure. In this episode, we chat through the first 90 days of a fleet manager, and specific actions they can take to set themselves up for success.
Welcome to the Fleet Code, a podcast brought to you by Fleetio where we dive into the latest fleet trends, technologies, and best practices. I-m Zach Searcy, and believe it or not, I-m still pretty new to the Fleetio team. I-m coming up on my first “work-aversary,” if you will, and with how much we get done here, I have days where I feel like I-ve been here a week and also days when it feels like it-s been a decade.
But with that milestone approaching, it got me thinking a lot about those first 90 days on the job – all the new names and faces I have to learn, drinking from the fire hydrant of onboarding info, setting up plans for everything I hoped to accomplish – and since our minds are pretty much always on fleet at Fleetio, I wanted to know what those first 90 days look like for somebody in a new fleet management role.
The concept of the first 90 days — you can-t see it but I did air-quotes there — is an approach to job transitions that was popularized by a book of the same name by Michael D. Watkins. The book outlines the essential strategies for how to hit the ground running from day one, as well as how to sidestep some of the common issues and roadblocks that come with taking on a new role so that you can get up to speed as quickly as possible.
Luckily, in my first 90 days, I found out that we have a pretty sizable group of former fleet managers among our ranks at Fleetio, and two of them agreed to answer all my hard-hitting questions for this month-s episode. Mike Eldredge was a many-hatted man in his pre-Fleetio time, working in a leadership role that centered around logistics at a publicly-traded Fortune 500 company, and Jon Hinkle spent some time as a fleet manager for a prominent waste management company, in between customer success roles.
I got to sit down with Mike and Jon to walk through what those crucial first steps are when you take on a fleet-based position. Let-s dive into our conversation on how to navigate your first 90 days on the job in fleet.
So typically we focus on people in active fleet management positions, but today we've decided to go a slightly different route.
We have two of Fleetio-s own with us. Both of you are on the customer success team, so you're helping fleet managers navigate unique hurdles every day, but something that gets me even more excited is that both of you came from the fleet side to Fleetio, Jon and Mike, thanks for joining us today.
Yeah, happy to be here.
Awesome. So could each of you take a moment just to introduce yourself and tell us about the road that led you here, your background in fleet?
Yeah, absolutely. So yeah, so I started my career working in the SaaS environment for a healthcare IT company. But I switched gears when an opportunity presented itself to take on a leadership position at a large company, uh, managing their branch in Northern Maine here where I live, and part of that role was being the fleet manager. Um, now that. One of my many hats that I wore, uh, while I was there, I was also responsible for all of the employees, um, as well as all of the customers, um, logistics. Um, so there's a lot that went into that. Um, but obviously fleet played a major role in that considering, you know, we used our box trucks to run different routes. And we're on a very, um, I guess you would say very, um, inflexible schedule, if you could say with resources. So, you know, anytime anything went wrong with a truck, you know, having to recoordinate that those routes, um, was often difficult. Um, so we had to get a little bit creative there. Um, and as we kind of get into the conversation, that's what kind of led my predecessor out in the end. And there was definitely some things that had been missed along the way prior to me taking that over. So, um, yeah, that's a little bit about me before I came over to Fleetio. And then obviously, Fleetio was a great match for me, obviously with my fleet manager experience, as well as my previous customer success experience.
My name is Jon Hinkle. I spent 14 years in my career with a fleet management company and doing a variety of things, but mostly in the customer success space, I then transitioned out of there to go work for a large waste disposal company and spent a year and a half there. Um, and I realized on that time, my time there is, um, I really, I really was, you know, more well-suited overall for the customer success side of things, but obviously I love the fleet industry.
And so that's where Fleetio came in great. It kind of helped me take what I learned throughout my career prior to that point, but get back into my, where I'm my bread and butter, which is the customer success side of things.
Awesome. Yeah. So I know I've told you two we'd kind of be talking through the first 90 days of a fleet manager and I'm not sure if y'all are familiar with the book The First 90 Days. I've got my copy right here. Um, but what it all boils down to is that while transitions into a new position or a new company are a great time to start fresh and really make changes within an organization, it's also a critical time for determining the ongoing success of a manager.
I've earmarked a single page. I'm not going to read the whole book to you, but there's one little quote in it in the introduction that I think kind of summarizes the context behind why this book was written and its this:
“Opinions of your effectiveness begin to form surprisingly quickly. And once formed, they're very hard to change. If you're successful in building credibility and securing early wins, the momentum likely will propel you through the rest of your tenure. But if you dig yourself into a hole early on, you'll face an uphill battle from that point forward. And once formed, they're very hard to change. If you're successful in building credibility and securing early wins, the momentum likely will propel you through the rest of your tenure. But if you dig yourself into a hole early on, you'll face an uphill battle from that point forward.”
And that's kind of like the encapsulation of why I wanted to talk to you today because as people transition into new fleet management positions, I feel like it's similar within fleet.
Those first few months are really an opportunity for you to figure out what changes you need to make and start taking action to make those changes, because that's when things are kind of the most flexible.
We'll break this conversation down the same way that Michael breaks down this book here, and it's focusing on the first 30 days, and then the first 60 days and the first 90 days, and some actions that people can take within each of those time periods, uh, to really start setting themselves up for success.
In the first 30 days, something that kind of translates to fleet are: you should use that as an opportunity to try and understand the situation and communicate your findings for whatever the situation is with leadership. But it's also an opportunity for you to identify your key priorities and use those as an opportunity to set expectations for leadership. So you're showing them what changes you want to make — how you're planning to make those changes.
So starting with the first one, uh, try to understand the situation and communicate your findings with leadership.
I'd love to, you kind of touched on this Mike and maybe you start out, but what did your fleet look like when you arrived? What was the situation that led to your hiring?
Um, you know, there's also a lot of politics that went into it that were kind of around the, my predecessor leaving. Um, but the fleet was definitely in rough shape, both from a mechanical standpoint and, uh, both an appearance standpoint.
I think the best kind of highlight of where the fleet was when I took it over to the point where literally the diesel tank fell off of one of my vehicles inside of our warehouse where we should not have been storing it.
So, um, you know, it really was, in my opinion, it's the culture, right? Um, that the previous leadership had established when it comes to fleet. For me, fleet is all about the culture that you have with your operators and the trust that you have between each other. Right. And the culture prior to my arrival was, you know, we have a job to do, we have routes to run. Don't report that. Right. You know, that'll be fine. Right. So there were definitely some safety concerns. Um, definitely some, uh, dice rolls and risks that were taken that I wouldn't have done personally. Um, and the operators honestly were disengaged.
So really my focus, cause I didn't have a whole lot of, um, you know, fleet experience at that point or even mechanical experiences, you know, I needed them. I had to rely upon my operators to tell me what was going on. I had to rely upon my mechanics to be able to communicate with me, you know, what needed to be done to, to get my vehicles back when they needed it to be. So honestly it was a lot of listening and a lot of trying to get the point across that. It's no longer, like it was before I need you to tell me what's going on. I will fix it. We will figure out something else to continue to run our business. Right. Um, but we're not going to be unsafe and we're not going to not report the issues that are occurring on our fleet. Um, so it was definitely a, uh, it was definitely a crash course, that's for sure.
Now, did you try to open up those channels of communication on an individual basis? Or is it like just a general address to your operators as a whole?
I mean, I did, I did a, kind of an overall address when I first got there, but there was many other topics that we were covering outside of fleet. Um, so honestly I had my best success on an individual basis, either with the operators directly or with my supervisor, um, team that kind of oversaw them, um, to kind of start to change the culture, but really, it was a matter of not only listening, but then the followthrough right. Somebody reported an issue. You know, we followed the proper protocols to get it fixed. We made sure everybody was safe. So, you know, it took some time to build that trust with them. Um, you know what I mean? But once they started to see the results, things definitely started to shift in the right direction, which was definitely key to turning that fleet around.
Yeah. Yeah. Jon, was your experience similar? Did you go into a similar environment when you started out?
there's definitely some similarities. I took over two different locations. Um, the, one of the locations was very well run. The other one was, was a mess. It had older trucks. Um, the mechanics really didn't track anything that they did. So I didn't have really good lines. As to what our metrics were at that site, you know, the whole garbage in garbage out scenario. Um, and there was definitely at both sites, a us versus them mentality between operations and the fleet. So those were the two big things I had to tackle right away. Um, especially trying to open up that line of communication between the operations, you know, the drivers and the mechanics that are fixing it.
Cause it's, we're all in it together to accomplish one task, which in this case was to pick up trash. Um, and so that was the first thing to, you know, Mike's point about culture, the big thing, uh, we didn't have so much of the safety aspect, but there was definitely a lot of, um, culture issues that needed to be addressed around, more of mindsets of, you know, only doing certain things or, uh, assuming one side is always one side being the operation side is, is always in the wrong or the operation side. Assuming the mechanics are always in the wrong and, and trying to bring those teams together to realize if we just communicate better and realize we're all on the same team we can get to where we need to be quicker and more effectively.
So it sounds like both of you probably had a little bit of a trial by fire when you first get in. Was there any training that was available to you? I know you both kind of went into new fleet management roles. What, what kind of training existed for you or was it mostly just kind of a, here's the situation and try to figure out how to gain control?
Yeah, I mean, for me, here are your resources, right? So here's the, the vendor. So we had a third party vendor that did our, our fleet repairs. So, you know, their contact information. Um, I got a, I would say 15 minute overview of how they wanted me to enter maintenance into their system that they were utilizing. Um, but that was about it. And then everything else was trial by fire. My supervisor Corp at the time actually was really strong. Um, so I definitely leaned on them a lot for their experience as well as my team and, uh, the mechanics at the, uh, at the third party that I utilized to really help me understand. So it was a matter of admitting, I don't know what I'm doing here. I need all of your help. Let's figure this out together. Um, it's kind of the approach that I took that seem to work.
Yeah. I had about three weeks right off the bat where I job-shadowed a counterpart of mine at another location. Um, and then it was really, you know, trial by fire. Same situations as Mike, I had almost no mechanical background coming in. So I used that to my advantage and I pretty much started every conversation with my mechanics, It was, you know, I don't know anything about vehicles or trucks, so teach me, and that accomplished a couple of things. One, it got me, um, uh, quicker familiarity with what I was managing early on, but it also let the mechanics share with me their knowledge. Um, and early on kind of show me what they know.
And it kind of became a running joke. Um, I, one of, one of my guys, I don't know, I don't want, I don't want to swear on a podcast, but he would always just like his favorite line was that I didn't know S about trucks.
Um, and it's true, but it, it kind of became a term of endearment a little bit too. Um, but yeah, I just, you know, knocked down those walls. I'm yes, I'm a fleet manager, but that doesn't mean anything, you know, they're the ones who were really doing, doing the work. Um, and I tried to establish that early.
I love that.
Were there any other conversations that you had with people or intentional moments that, that you feel like really kind of helped you break through with your team?
I also, uh, reached out to the operations people at my, uh, my sites right away too. Like I said, it was operations and fleet. Um, and we all had the common goal of picking up trash. And so I, I latched onto them early on, um, our route managers, especially. To try to understand, you know, I had industry knowledge from a fleet perspective. I had no industry knowledge from a waste management perspective. Um, I didn't understand the different lines of business. I didn't understand the thing about trash other than I put it out in my curb once a week and it gets picked up.
Um, so I used them to really help me learn that side of the business. And I think that helped early on establish that rapport, that fleet is not this standalone entity, that operations can't trust. I tried to establish that trust between the two right away. And it helped me learn my job quicker as well.
I think John makes made a really good point is as far as, you know, not being afraid to admit what you don't know and asking a lot of questions along the way so that you can learn because people are very willing to share with you the knowledge that they have and, you know, the jobs that they do.
I would talk with the vendor that I used to fix the vehicles to get a better understanding of what was going on with the vehicles. Um, you know, my operators, my supervisors, um, I did reach out to a couple other branches to touch base with their fleet managers to try to get some ideas as far as what they were doing.
Um, so just really not being afraid to say, Hey, I don't really know what I'm doing, so let me figure it out. And then let me ask the questions that I have as they come up, um, to start to build that, that, that knowledge, um, to be.
Cool. Well, so, uh, moving on to the next section in the book. He says that it's all about determining the definition for success and creating long-term goals for your fleet, identifying the resources that you need to succeed, and then presenting your early assessments to the team.
So don't write all these things down and then keep them to yourself, share it with others and, and really let them know how they can help you achieve all of those goals. So when it comes to trying to figure out the definition for success and creating those long-term goals, how did you communicate your fleet successes with those outside of fleet? So if you're talking to people in operations, how did you kind of show them what you were measuring and, and what you were hoping to achieve?
For us, it was actually really easy. So we actually had a yearly audit, um, that actually came from our corporate head office. So we had someone that was outside of my ma my boss that would come in. And it was like a two day process of going through pretty much all of your records. Uh, they'd look over the vehicles, they'd watch the operators do their, their inspections. Right. So, you know, at the end, they, you actually get your audit score. Right. So out of a hundred, what did you get? And that's, what's published company-wide so anybody could see, you know, at each location, essentially how well the fleet was being run.
So as far as like, kind of. How we were doing well, they kind of have that covered and a cut figured out everything that they were going to judge us on. You know, for me, as far as, you know, what I consider to be successful, one is safety. Safety was always first for me, right.
Really just kind of keeping that focus on the safety and making sure. You know, we were 100% compliant with our preventive maintenance intervals. Cause that's goes a huge way of making sure that those vehicles are safe, double checking them. Right. But the other part for me was also right. We had our pre and post trips, the drivers, which anybody who's managed a fleet knows that it's a bit of a cat and mouse game where they don't want to do it.
It wasn't at a very granular level like they would do, but it was enough to say, Hey, if that looks like this, that vehicle is not safe. Right. So kind of, you know, taking their point and then challenging them to, to increase their knowledge on the matter so that their pre and post trips were valuable. And we were catching potential safety issues before we went out on the road.
Jon, did you have something similar?
We did not have a fleet audit, per se. I reviewed our work orders daily that my mechanics did or tried to daily.
I always had kind of an eye on what was going on, what my mechanics were working on. I could spot any trends. If all of a sudden I saw four or five trucks with the same issue. I could dig into that further versus waiting for a quarterly audit, for example, to, to identify that after the fact. Um, but then also if I saw a mechanic who might be having issues with, um, our specific fleet management information system and maybe not issuing parts correctly, I could address that right away, uh, after, you know, three days of, of seeing a repeat issue and get that behavior fixed. Versus if I waited until an audit, I might have three months of, uh, bad data from a parts standpoint that I have to fix. And now I have a three month habit that I have to correct with that mechanic versus a three-day mechanic. So from an audit standpoint, um, it was more of just kind of an ongoing, always keeping an eye on things.
Yeah. Yeah. So within that, you probably had what you knew was, uh, an acceptable metric or an acceptable percentage that you needed to be hitting. How did you communicate that with people above you? Or how did you talk through those successes or even the failures with people outside of you?
We had a daily huddle with our operations team at our sites. Uh, so it was the route managers or district manager myself. And, um, we went over a couple of things there from a fleet perspective. One was just our core metrics that we tracked. Things like, uh, PM compliance, downtime, um, a variety of other things. Uh, but because I was looking at our work orders every day, I could also bring to that huddle if I identified anything that any of my mechanics were doing that were out of line for, for lack of better terms, you know, maybe against policy or just even just a failure of understanding, a certain thing that we could address that would have implicated, impacted the operations team.
So it just kind of brought to that team again, that cohesiveness that we're all one group. And then I would also flip the script and bring the similar things to the operations team. You know, Mike referenced to the pre and post trip. Yeah. Spot on pencil.
Whipping is the name of the game there. But I, if, if I ever had a driver who was down on route with a blown steer tire or really any tire, I would go pull up that driver's last week of, of pre and post trips. Um, and I would look at them and then I would bring it to the route manager and say, Hey, this driver, uh, did not.
You could tell that he is just pencil whipping his air pressures every day. Cause somehow miraculously, all 10 tires on his truck have the same air pressure at the beginning of the day, on the end of the day. And I point out, you know, if he's actually taking accurate air pressures, there's a chance he's going to identify. One of those tires is not well, write it up, we're going to fix it. And he's never going to blow on route and have three hours of downtime, which directly impacts the operations metrics. So, um, you know, I would bring their, their issues to them. I'd also bring our issues.
So I've heard safety and efficiency and of course vehicle uptime. Was there anything else that you are always working towards within your fleets or something that you were working to try to improve and especially your first few months?
Getting hands on costs for sure. Uh, the company I was worth worked with, well, I'm sure every company is, you know, very cost focused. As I mentioned that one side, especially we had very poor tracking of anything, so I couldn't even really have a good grasp on what we were weren't spending. Um, so just trying to get hands on that, get everything going in so that I knew where we were at and I could figure out if we were on target or not from a budget standpoint.
I was like the opposite of that. So budget was not a concern for me when I first took over at all, actually. Quite a significant amount of money on my fleet, getting it back to baseline from where it had been kind of, um, left prior to me taking that over.
Really, I didn't start doing that until I had my vehicles back to the baseline. They were on their routine intervals for preventive maintenance. Um, so you know, her kind of back to that square one, right? And now we can start to track, uh, can we maintain this? Um, but for me the first 60 to 90 days, that was just a matter of, you know, catching up back to where we needed to be. Um, and I think that was important for the long-term success that I had there under the fleet management, you know, being willing to bite that bullet on the front end, um, so that we could be successful.
Yeah, that's kind of a perfect segue into the next takeaway for the first 60 days, which is identifying the resources that you need to succeed for your fleet to find success. So was there one thing Mike, that, that you think helped you improve your fleet the most?
It was just a willingness of everybody to come together as a team, um, change the culture.
There was a lot of moving pieces. Um, and I couldn't definitely couldn't do it alone. And everybody, you know, kind of came together to ensure that we could kind of hit that initial goal of let's get these trucks back to where they need to be. Um, And so it definitely took some time.
Um, but we, we got there. Um, when my fleet had actually came, came the first time I actually had five vehicles go down that were actually going to be part of the audit. Um, so the night before, it was pretty, pretty late at night, kind of scrambling around getting some kind of replacement vehicles in place for the audit itself.
Um, but you know, we kind of stuck stuck to stuck to our guns and it kind of held that line as far as, you know, um, that new culture of making sure that we address any issues that came up regardless of whether they were, when the audit was coming or not, it was not relevant. We just had to do, we had to do at that point.
ZACH Jon, on your end where you're having to be a little bit more budget conscious with, uh, the processes that you're implementing with. Something that you did, that you found to be extremely valuable or was there something that you wish you could have done that just wasn't quite an expense that you had the room for at that time? JON
You know, fleets are always a, uh, a direct reduction of revenue at pretty much any company. Um, but there is a fine line between not spending money and having your trucks break down. Um, and so I think, you know, any fleet manager would probably say if I could get a little more understanding from the people who write the checks that I need to spend some money, uh, to really get where we need to go, that would be ideal.
Um, even something as simple as just having a little more flexibility to farm work out to third parties, to balance the workload required for our in-house mechanics. You know, I mentioned when I first showed up, we had a truck literally sitting there with, with the, in the middle of a head replacement job. Um, And then I had to get a new mechanic up and running. You know, that's a, that's a 40 hour job then in a site that has three mechanics, it's pretty much consuming one person's time. Um, whereas if I could just send that out to a third party and have all my mechanics Woking focusing on other things that would've, uh, Ben, uh, you know, created a much better environment to allow for flexibility with handling breakdowns and road calls and things like that.
I feel like that's something that we kind of see a good bit where it's, uh, it's just people trying to communicate the needs that they have for their fleet. So people who really view fleet as kind of this cost center, um, and that's, uh, it's obviously a hurdle. Um, but yeah, that's interesting to hear.
So the, the last takeaway for the first 60 days is that, uh, now that you've taken in all this information and you've seen some opportunities within the fleet present these early assessments to the team. And, uh, I think it's important that there's a degree of sensitivity to this. You don't want to present these while talking down the previous structure or the previous, uh, people that were in your position, because there could be relationships that were strong before you got there and you could sour your relationship with people.
How do you communicate problems or opportunities that you see within this team while maintaining professionalism and, and not like possibly offending people who could be responsible for some of the current processes.
Well, like I mentioned earlier, I came in with zero industry experience and zero mechanical background.
So, uh, that, that benefited me in that type of situation too. You know, if you approach it, like, Hey, explain to me why we're doing this. Cause I don't even understand. Um, people will start explaining it to you. And, and naturally a lot of times your mechanics will, if they think a process is stupid, they're gonna mention it too while they're explaining something else.
So you could draw out from those conversations where things need to be addressed without even having to just point it out yourself. Not only can you then expand on that conversation where you didn't even bring it up in the first place then if you do act upon that it's a win for the mechanic because they brought it up and you, and it's a win for you because they've brought it up to you and you've done something about it.
So you show them that you're willing to make changes, uh, where maybe somebody else didn't. Uh, so, you know, I try to naturally draw those things out versus just coming in and being a, a bulldozer and saying, this is the way we're going to do it, because I say so, um, you know, if you can naturally draw out those, those, uh, those conversations where people just kind of tell you how they feel about things and just be willing to listen to those and act upon them.
Yeah. I would agree with that. Uh, what John said there, I think. You know, it's not a direct conversation that you have to have with the team or anything along those lines. You know, even if you have, you know, components within the team, um, that were part of the problem prior to you getting there, you know, you can't assume that was driven by them. Right. You know, in my opinion, a lot comes from the leader.
Um, but I think having your own leadership kinda come in and take that over over time and showing them by what you actually do and the actions that you take can draw, draw that out of them and in a different direction, right? Like, oh, the culture has changed. Now I can voice my concerns about this. I can, you know, bring this to Mike and something's actually going to change. Right. Um, so it's not necessarily. Anything that needs to be called out necessarily as far as just for me, it was leading by example, like, this is how we're going to do it. You know, having an open door policy, like if you disagree with me, let's have a conversation about it. Um, but for me it was a pretty smooth transition approaching it that way.
ZACH Yeah. And Jon, to kind of your point earlier, you come in and admit kind of this humility, this, this, you guys are the experts. You guys know how to do your job best. I'm here to help you and to provide you with the tools for that. And so I would assume that by coming in with that mentality, then guys are more willing to, to come to you and say, Hey, I think this new process that we're doing, it's not going to work and here-s why. JON
100%. Um, and you know, Mike hit the nail on the head. It, if, if the culture is what the culture is based on who said it, people are just going to figure out how to survive that. But if you give somebody a better culture, they will thrive in that in most cases.
There are situations where you do have to just say, this is the way it's going to be like with safety, you know, safety can't be compromised, but if you have established a culture of bringing people in and having the team approach, you gain credibility, For those moments where you have to say, this is the way it's going to be. And people are more likely to buy in on those times because you have allowed them to be so much more of a part of the conversation the rest of the time.
So now we're making it into the last section of these first 90 days from day 60 to 90. And two of the key takeaways that fleet manager fleet managers should be focusing on is finding opportunities for early wins in areas important to leadership.
And another thing that fleet managers should try to do in these first 90 days is develop leaders within your team and help accelerate their growth. And we've really already touched on a couple of those different things.
Um, but let's start with developing leaders within your team. Cause that feels kind of like an extension of what we were just talking about. How do you identify the people on your team who are going to help you move the needle?
I think there's natural leaders in any group and you don't have to be this master. You know, psychologists to figure out who those are, you just pay attention a little bit to, and you could see who the others listed to and, and respect. Um, and then from there, you know, you really just start to work with them and build them up, uh, into positions of leadership, either natural positions or actual positions, bring them into decision, making processes more frequently to help them give them sense of ownership things. Um, and if possible, even elevate them into actual positions, uh, leadership, uh, you know, give them a position like lead tech or senior tech, something that actually is symbolic and has value to it, both, you know, monetary and title. Um, and it shows them that you recognize their position and their value in the organization. And it only furthers that, um, that trust that you have with them and helps them come along with you.
I would agree with that. Um, you know, for me, you know, a leader to your point, John is somebody that has the, the personality and the respect to influence the rest of the team, right. Either in a, in a positive or a negative way. Um, but the leaders are the ones that, you know, understand the power that they have, right, to do that.
I promoted a supervisor after we had some changes, um, while he was still a driver, actually got back early from running his route, uh, one morning and I had a guy break down four hours away.
And we really didn't have a whole lot to cover that route if we were to call him back. So he actually did an eight hour turnaround run with me to trade that truck out. Um, even though he could've gone home. Right. Cause he understood, you know, that it helped the team overall and that we had a guy up there that was kind of stranded and we needed to figure that out.
Um, so he was willing to jump in and take care of that. So, you know, to me, that solidified in my mind, like he was going to be my next supervisor when that opportunity arose because he just kind of embodied all of those, um, all of those different attributes.
So outside of promotions and pay raises, which are obviously big incentives for people, are there any learning opportunities such as certifications or classes that you can offer to leaders on your team to help them grow as a tech or as an operator
Oh, there definitely is. We have that, um, requests come up quite a bit because these, these guys want to solidify their place in not just the company, but in their career. Um, you know, there's, you can become certified DOD inspectors. You could get, um, coming certifications to be able to do warranty work on Cummins engines. Mack has their own certifications, you know, all sorts of things that if a mechanic is willing to put in the time and, you know, you're willing to pay for it, that you can certainly put somebody through it.
Absolutely. And we had, um, so obviously didn't have to mechanic side, I, but we had, um, what we called the, uh, like a trainer certification. So that was for, you know, somebody that wasn't a supervisor, but they, you know, were kind of heading in that direction. Um, and they were certainly certified. Being able to train the new hires that came on. Right. So they'd actually ride with them, um, for a 10 week period to, to train them on not only the job, how to drive, um, you know, all the different things that basically encompass compass that role. Um, and we'd send them out for a week to go through that training and get that certification.
Was that something that you kind of let people know upfront, Hey, these certification opportunities exist or was it a, as people came to you, you let them...
We definitely kind of put that out there and be like, these are sort of available if you're interested in it. Right. If I didn't think they were ready, we would come, come up with a plan together on how to get them ready so that they would qualify for that.
Yeah. So the other part of what you should do within the first 90 days, and we've touched on this a good bit is find opportunities for early wins in areas important to leadership, knowing that if you can create a feel good moment for people who are, uh, who you report to, or who kind of work in tandem with your department, uh, then it's an opportunity to really create a positive experience for both of you.
And that will build upon itself as you move forward. I know we've talked about safety and costs. Are there anything else that that's really important to people who are outside of the fleet sphere or, or people who wouldn't typically be involved in your decision making processes?
The company I worked for, I mean, they, they could find a metric in anything.
There was a handful of core metrics that we tracked that, uh, safety or cost really didn't factor into it, but it showed kind of the health of the fleet and those got, those got reported on, on a weekly basis and we measured them on a 13 week trend and it got sent all the way up to the area leadership. So yeah, there was definitely things that had eyes on well, outside of fleet that weren't just specifically safety or cost.
For us, our third one that was very. That was very focused on outside of those two was appearance. Right? So it wasn', your truck didn-t just have to be safe. Right. It had to look good because we were, they were essentially rolling billboards, right? They were a representation of the image of the company. If you send a rusty, you know, paint, falling off the vehicle, down the road, That looks bad for everybody, whether they're in fleet or not. Right. So there was a very big emphasis put on that all the way from the CEO down that our vehicles were to maintain a high level of appearance.
So as far as cost was concerned, that was definitely an added cost, um, outside of the preventive maintenance and the kind of safety side of things. Um, which I'll be honest as a fleet manager was a lot harder to balance.
So it was kind of a whole, whole other element that we had to kind of work around as well.
So obviously that's the, that's the first 90 days, that's kind of some steps that you can take to help set your fleet on the right path to help you kind of figure out what you need to do to make your fleet better. But the job doesn't stop there. You're not a fleet manager for 90 days. It continues on.
I know we've talked about this a little bit, but how frequently should a fleet manager be communicating with their team after those first 90 days or after they first kind of onboard and have those preliminary meetings?
Is it scheduled meetings or is an open door policy sufficient?
Open door-s great. But get out, get out of your office, go walk into the shop. Um, talk to the mechanics, ask them what they're working on. You know, we talked about this earlier, ask them to explain what they're working on, their thought process on it, uh, offer to help them on a job. Like, you know, I said I was not mechanically sound, but I certainly could put some muscle into something. Um, get your hands dirty, show them that you are as much a part of this team as they are.
Uh, talk to them personally, ask them, you know, what they got planned for this weekend, what they did this last weekend. If they're going on vacation, ask them where they're going, you know, things like that. Just get to know them. Um, but that can't, that can't only be done if you're just sitting in your office and tell them, come find me if you need me because generally mechanics want to fix trucks. And if you're in your office, you're not anywhere near the trucks. So you have to go to where they are.
That-s a really good point, Jon. And I think that you have to think about your open door policy as a two-way door, right? Like it's yes, my, you can always come and talk to me in my office when you need to, but that's a really good point. You have to get out there and, you know, just check in with them, see how their day is going. I used to walk out, as my guys are getting back at the end of the day, I'm out in the parking lot. As they're cleaning their trucks out, check in with them, see how their day went. Um, you know, see how, if there's any issues, the vehicles, right?
So it's just like that natural conversation, um, that you have with your team and you absolutely have to get out of your office in order to get any sort of real value out of that. Um, and engage with them, you know, kind of where they're at.
Yeah. Yeah. It's, I mean, it's an ongoing relationship and it's an ongoing thing. I like the, uh, the idea of the door going both ways. That's a really solid, uh, analogy or metaphor. I never really learned the difference between the two.
Was there anything else that you wanted to include or, or words of advice or things that you wish you knew as a, as a new fleet manager that you want to want to send out to people?
Uh, something I wish I had known as a fleet manager or I, and I think I knew it, but just to add onto it, as, you know, you will never be able to make everyone happy. So. You know, if your costs go up, then finance is not happy. If your costs go down, then that means something might not be getting fixed like that.
So there's always going to be somebody who's not happy.
Um, and so you have to accept that and shift your focus towards other methods of being successful and figuring out what those are.
I mean, I guess all I would say from my end is just understanding that as the fleet manager, like the leadership, your leadership style, it's such an important component of that and of your team's success. Um, and to really kind of find what your leadership style is, um, and you know, kind of what your, your longterm goals are.
So it's not even necessarily about fleet management as a, as a role it's about your leadership style and how you, how successful are you at bringing people together? Ultimately, in my opinion, is going to result in how successful you aren't managing that fleet.
And that-s the Fleet Code, y-all. As always, a big shoutout to Mike and Jon for taking the time to get asked a thousand and one questions about their fleet management experiences. It-s always super fun connecting with other folks in the fleet industry, but getting to tap into all the knowledge we have right here at Fleetio is just a special little treat.
Here-s a quick rundown of the highlights from our conversation:
Listen to your people from the get-go to build trust and understand the issues they, and you, are up against.
Know what you don-t know. Take advantage of any resources and training you can get your hands on, and ask the right questions to the right people.
Get involved and stay involved. Start building processes and metrics you can dig into and stay on top of them so you can have consistent visibility into your team and operation.
Make sure that you maintain that visibility for everyone else to see as well. Present your findings as you go and work to create plans to address them in a positive, professional, and forward-thinking way.
And as you develop yourself as a leader, start finding other leaders on your team that you can develop and elevate into leadership positions.
We-ll be back next month with another episode full of tips and tricks from other fleet vets. In the meantime, check out the rest of season 2 if you haven-t already, and be sure to subscribe on your podcast service of choice so you don-t miss any Fleet Code goodness. Be sure to join our newsletter and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook to stay up to date on all things Fleetio and get access to all kinds of free tools and resources.