Bright Ideas: Leadership

Government Fleet’s Public Sector Fleet Managers of the Year represent a valuable resource of industry expertise, best practices, and front-line skills. Four recognized leaders share recommendations and advice in meeting the challenges government fleet managers face today.

June 2010, Government Fleet - Feature

by McCorkhill, Alley, Weichman, and Hunt

The growing community of Government Fleet Public Sector Fleet Manager of the Year award winners is building a treasury of industry expertise, best practices, and front-line skills and insights. These recognized leaders were nominated by industry peers and selected through a rigorous qualification process (See "Recognizing Public Sector Fleet Management Leadership" on the last page).

In the spirit of the industry's hallmark generosity in knowledge and experience sharing, four Public Sector Fleet Managers of the Year offer their personal recommendations and advice to help industry colleagues overcome the particular challenges government fleet operations face today.

2006: John McCorkhill, CFM, CAFM, CEM, CPFP, fleet director, City of Lynchburg, Va.

A nearly 30-year management veteran, McCorkhill joined the City of Lynchburg fleet department in 1999. He directs operations for a more than 700-unit fleet. Fleet customers include most city departments, such as public works, police and fire, assessor's office, social services, parks and recreation, and the sheriff's office, as well as the City airport and city utilities. When serving as City of Indianapolis fleet manager in the early '90s, McCorkhill led a successful effort to forestall a privatization of the City's fleet operations.

By John McCorkhill

'Believe Me, It's All About Relationships'

One can be the most technically savvy person in the universe or the Donald Trump of the fleet management world, but if you lack the talent of building interpersonal relationships, your success will be very limited.

I recommend spending considerable time each week honing relationship skills with the boss, employees, customers, and vendors. Know your employees well, and if possible, personally meet with each at least once a year even if they're not a direct report. Get personal with each employee because folks like to talk about their spouses, hobbies, kids, the home run they hit in softball the other night.

Foster the same relationship with customers. "Don't make it a business-only relationship when it comes to conversing with suppliers. Take a moment to chat when they drop off a vehicle and show a genuine interest in what they tell you. Send birthday cards if you know their birthdays, a get-well card if they are sick, a sympathy card if they lose a loved one.

Vendors can make or break you when you need a special price, quick delivery, hard to find part, etc. I personally spend as much time conversing with dealers as with customers.

Remember, it's not all about the paperwork and business meetings that take so much of our time each working day. It's people who make things happen, and it's your job to make sure you have the best employees, customers, and vendors possible. You'll accomplish much more if all work with you as a friend rather than as a tool.

Don't Wait for the Wolf to Show Up at Your Door

Three of the seven seats on our common council were up for grabs at our recent May 4 election. Eight candidates vied for the positions with three running as a package group with a privatization platform. Invariably, fleet maintenance is a municipal function that falls under the privatization microscope.

The week after the election, one successful pro-outsourcing candidate contacted our City Manager asking, "Has the City ever done a study to see if we should contract out fleet maintenance?"

Our fleet management team has always tried to stay ahead of the curve by diligently studying costs and efficiencies, and outsourcing those functions in which we compete poorly. We contract total management of our parts operation, oil changes, all small apparatus repairs, body work, towing, etc. Fuel requirements are competitively bid and contracted out.

Within a half-hour of the new Councilman's inquiry, we were able to prepare a report that demonstrated 77 percent of our budget is already outsourced, leaving just 23 percent up for grabs. I've heard nothing further since the report was published and hopefully the new Councilman is happy with our answer.

The bottom line is to be proactive by constantly studying costs, contract out when it makes sense, and keep excellent records that allow quick demonstration of the extent of outsourcing already taking place in your operation.

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