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Careers: which fleet path should you take?

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Three fleet professionals with varied careers share their experiences – both good and bad – of working in different sectors. Sarah Tooze reports

From vehicle manufacturer to fleet management

Peter Jardine started his career in the automotive industry as claims handler for Velo Motor Accident Management before joining Vauxhall as corporate sales manager for its dealer-based rental programme in 2003. After two years he was promoted to operations manager. In January 2007, he progressed to selling
cars and vans to the rental industry. When the recession hit and Vauxhall decided to restrict supply to rental, Jardine felt it was a good time to move on, joining
Countrywide as its group fleet manager in 2010. He has had no formal fleet manager training, but has been through Vauxhall’s internal training programme at Vauxhall College and is a member of ACFO.

Top lessons working for a manufacturer: Speak to your customers early and often – it really helps. Be very organised. Know the process of manufacturing, logistics and the dealer.

Skills needed at a manufacturer: You need to be organised and highly motivated if you’re going to get on with a manufacturer role as it is a results-driven business.

What I miss about the manufacturer side: I miss the buzz at the end of a month when you see the numbers come in and you achieve your forecast. It makes all the negotiations and planning worth it, but the role is also not without focus and pressure.

How I found the move to fleet: Using my organisational skills helped me manage the processes, while my background in insurance and rental aided the switch. Changing industry and understanding a different structure was probably the hardest part.

Top lessons at Countrywide: A solid fleet policy is required. Be consistent in your approach.

Skills a fleet manager needs: Organisation, leadership and the ability to negotiate are essential. You also need to be fair and consistent.

Typical week at Countrywide: Every day is a little different, which is why I enjoy the job. You never know what kind of query or situation is going to arise. General things remain the same – monitoring short-term hire days, vehicle downtime and ensuring all vehicles are legal. I also consider what area needs reviewing next and plan my strategy and approach.

How it differs to working for a manufacturer: At Vauxhall I had only a certain number of customer contacts, plus internal and external. At Countrywide I still have dealer and manufacturer relationships as before, but also 4,600 customers in the form of our drivers.

Best thing about being in fleet management: Variety, together with the opportunity and ability to change policy should the situation arise.

And the worst: As long as you have an efficient policy and strategy there should be no ‘worst’, although drivers’ perception of what constitutes ‘fair wear and tear’ can be a challenge.

Advice for fleet managers considering a move to a manufacturer: You’ll need to be focused, good with numbers and passionate about the brand.

Advice for someone at a manufacturer considering a move to fleet management: Broadly, the same attributes apply. You also need to possess good leadership skills, an understanding of fleet and know what changes/actions will deliver the required results.

Best way for a fleet manager to progress their career: Work hard and deliver results. There are various organisations you can join to gain knowledge and insight as well as qualifications if you need them. However, the best way to learn fleet is to just get stuck in.

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