As I entered the elevator from the 11th floor (city manager’s office), Marcus Jones, city manager for the city of Norfolk, Virginia, approached stating, “I’ll ride down with you; I need to get some things out of the car.”
I guess I had him right where I wanted him, an opportunity for my elevator pitch to let him know why the city of Norfolk fleet was worthy of not only his attention, but his support to accomplish our mission. It was a great opportunity, but I never envisioned my shot for my elevator pitch would come in…you guessed it, an elevator.
To provide a little context, soon after I arrived at the city of Norfolk, I learned that there was little if any relationship between fleet management and city hall. I needed city hall to know that fleet management was no longer going to be a burden for them and should be thought of as a department of innovation and good stewards of city resources and taxpayer dollars.
My commitment as a fleet manager was simple, when anyone inside the city manager’s office needed something from fleet, I’d be there for personalized service. In fact, I was in the city manager’s office that day because fleet had recently started testing different electric vehicles as part of our alternative fuels initiative.
I wanted to create buzz immediately, so I asked my local Nissan representative to let us evaluate a Nissan Leaf. As part of the review process, I let the city manager’s office test it out for a while…with the hope of getting these vehicles into a shared automated motor pool I would soon propose, based out of city hall (another trick fleet had up its sleeve).
Before we get to the elevator pitch, I’d like to give some credit to my good friend Bill Griffiths, current fleet manager at the city of Chesapeake. Chesapeake is a neighbor to the city of Norfolk, but at the time, Bill was with Montgomery County, Maryland, as fleet management division chief.
Bill shared a thought with me in 2014 that I will never forget, and it’s something I often repeat.
He said, “It’s the basic knowledge, actually the lack of basic knowledge that fleet managers don’t have of their own fleets that often gets them in trouble.”
Bill explained that at any given time you could be faced with questions regarding your fleet, and at the very least, you need to know the basics…such as number of assets on road versus off, annual gallons of fuel consumed and cost, average cost of a PM and what a PM involves, number of fleet staff, and overall fleet needs.
Well, I had done my homework and knew all the basics and more as I found myself inside the elevator with City Manager Marcus Jones.
None of those questions came up, but my pitch went something like this, “Mr. Jones, we have lots of work to do, but we are taking small steps every day to improve fleet management. We are working on everything from staff training to Fleet’s transition to alternative fuels for the right application. Which is the reason I am here today as you know, to pick up the EV you drove around for a few days. So, what did you think?”
He went on to share his thoughts and he expressed his interest in contributing to fleet’s success. Bingo! Support, from the top!
As many of you may know, I am a big soccer fan. I played soccer growing up and continue to play, in addition to coaching a couple of teams. One of the main messages to my teams is this, “if we don’t shoot, we can’t score…and if we don’t score, we can’t win.”
It wasn’t too much different during those couple of minutes I had with Marcus Jones. I had an opportunity to take a shot, and I did.
I could have missed, but at least I would have tried. I was prepared, and the shot went in…it got fleet management noticed at the highest levels of the organization. Fleet was here to be an asset to the rest of the team, and we were all pulling in the same direction to provide the best possible service to the organization and the citizens.
I challenge you to know the basic facts about your fleet and make sure others on your team know them to:
- Ensure you don’t get caught flatfooted and are always on your toes.
- Be ready to share your challenges and what you are doing to overcome them.
- Know your goals and your plan for achieving them.
- Know your elevator pitch. Make sure it’s less than 60 seconds and includes some basic fleet facts including what fleet is currently working on and recent achievements.
- Last….if you haven’t already, go take your shot!
This article was authored and edited according to Government Fleet editorial standards and style. Opinions expressed may not reflect that of Government Fleet.