Paul Condran, fleet services manager for the City of Culver City, Calif., has had plenty to be proud of over his near 30-year career — from national recognition for being an environmental leader to heading up a staff deemed the No. 1 Fleet in the country; and the list goes on. But, it's his latest achievement of being named 2014 Public Sector Fleet Manager of the Year that really takes the cake — or, as Condran likes to put it, is "the candle on the cake."
Condran, who expressed his genuine surprise when he accepted the award June 4 during a ceremony at the Government Fleet Expo and Conference in San Diego, said the experience is still kind of surreal.
"You really never expect to hear your name," he later explained. "And the fact that this is peer-driven is just so humbling."
That humility, along with a work ethic of continuous improvement and an attitude of "team over me," are just a couple reasons the victory is even sweeter for the four-time finalist. "My name may be on the trophy, but you don't get to be on stage for any of those recognitions if you don't have a great team," he said.
During his acceptance speech, Condran had a chance to turn the audience's attention to one of his fleet supervisors, Scott Newton, who had accompanied him to the event. "It was great for him to be there and to see what this award means to the team. I said, 'That's the guy that deserves the applause,' and they gave him a standing ovation. It was just great. It was really awesome."
Condran was up against 14 other qualified nominees for this year's award, which was sponsored by GM Fleet & Commercial and Lytx, formerly DriveCam. Pete Scarafiotti, director and automotive engineer for the City of Mesa, Ariz., and Roger Weaver, fleet management director for San Bernardino County, Calif., were also finalists for 2014.
A panel of judges consisting of working fleet managers reviewed each of the candidates in 10 categories: business plan, technology implementation, productivity, policies, preventive maintenance program, utilization management, replacement program, customer service, fuel management, and safety.
With 530 units in service, about 90 small pieces of equipment, and a shop open 7 days a week, being strong in all 10 categories requires solid leadership, a hardworking and loyal staff, and supportive upper management. Condran has all those bases covered.
Keeping His Eyes on the Prize
Striving for success seems to be a resounding theme for Condran and the 44-member fleet staff at Culver City. Both he and his team have worked hard to earn their well-deserved honors through continuous improvement.
Case in point — these career highlights didn't happen overnight: Condran was a finalist for Public Sector Fleet Manager of the Year for four years before this year, and the city worked its way up to become the No. 1 fleet last year. On top of that, the city was also just recognized at GFX as an "Elite Fleet," an award presented to former No. 1 fleets awarded by Government Fleet magazine that continue to perform at a high level.
The policies and programs developed and implemented by Condran and staff have yielded a number of benefits. Highlights include:
Annual Fleet Business Plan
Serves as the blueprint for current and future years and has been adopted by the city.
Fleet Utilization Plan
Core of fleet management and is the conduit for acquisitions, replacements, and planning. In FY2013, fleet was able to save $124,715 in acquisition costs with progressive utilization.
Excellence in Service Plan
Promotes and sets expectation of professionalism, excellent customer service, and teamwork, resulting in reduced absences by 800 hours. For FY2013, the department received a commendation from the fire department chief for outstanding rates of service.
Fleet Safety Plan
Defines responsibilities, mitigates risk, requires compressed natural gas (CNG) and other safety training, collaborative with Risk Management, and has reduced injuries on duty (IODs) by 97%. The plan has even been adopted by the city. In addition, the fleet accident policy has resulted in a 91% drop in city accidents since 2011.
Employee Incentive Program
The updated program has become the city model, reducing 1,000 hours of absences and providing more than $1,700 in incentives.
Standards of Maintenance Plan
Serves as the road map for all maintenance activities and is a resource guide for all employees.[PAGEBREAK]
Facility Maintenance Plan and Policy
Ensures compliance to the federally funded state-of-the-art facility. It has even been emulated by other entities because of its pioneering attributes, including the fleet's CNG station preventive maintenance plan, and is used by the Federal Transit Administration.
So what motivates Condran and his team to continue to excel and perform at a high level? Accountability is one driving factor.
"You have to have continuous improvement so you can strive to achieve your goals. You're not going to hit the mark every single time," Condran said. "What we never lose sight of is that we hold ourselves accountable for the actions and services we provide to the city. No complacency, no mediocrity — just good solid forward thinking and good solid work."
The team takes its responsibilities as a public servant very seriously and knows the importance of its role and its impact on the rest of the city operations. "When citizens call and they need something, whether it's a 911 call or to have their tree uprooted, or the sidewalk was damaged, or the trash wasn't picked up…that belongs to Equipment Maintenance. Fleet Services provides the vehicle both in a metaphorical sense and a literal sense to make that possible," Condran explained. "That police officer can't get to the crime scene without us. That sanitation truck can't pick up that trash without us. That responder can't get to that 911 call if we didn't do our part to make sure that vehicle is a safe mode of transportation. That's the message of accountability to my staff."
Communicating Every Step of the Way
Celebrating the hard work the team puts in is also crucial to keeping performance levels high. Condran is a huge believer in making sure his staff gets credit where credit is due.
"When we achieve milestones and when they do good work and a goal is reached, you've got to celebrate that. That way they know that you know and it's important," he said. Even more important, though, is making sure the people at the top know as well.
"Elected officials, the city manager…they recognize me as a division manager. What they never see are the people below you, the people who make it happen. It's so important for them to know that there are hundreds of people carrying the mission of the organization every day," Condran said. "Everyone's on the same page when it comes to our policies and programs, and we work very hard to complete all of these tasks and to do what we have to do. We've developed so many different objectives that we must follow statutorily and they do a great job."
Condran also makes it a point to articulate to upper management and elected officials the staff's great attitude and performance, and his wonderful relationship with his staff. The team often accompanies him to city council meetings, especially to announce significant accomplishments.
When the operation was named the No. 1 fleet in 2013, Condran and about 10 staff members held up a banner at the city council meeting when they announced the news. The city council was full of praise and accolades, and the citizens and city employees at the meeting gave the team a standing ovation. Condran also put the announcement in the local city newspaper, and a large photo of the group appeared.
"I made sure everyone got a copy. We [made] new t-shirts and had a huge barbecue lunch. All the city council members and city manager attended. It was just a wonderful celebration," Condran recalled. He is also planning another big barbecue to celebrate the recent Elite Fleet honor.
Condran's success can also be attributed to his emphasis on relationships and networking. From relationships with his staff, to his boss, elected officials, and industry peers — they've all played a part. Earning that trust and credibility with officials is especially important.
"I cherish our relationships with our elected officials. It's very important. They have to be a part of the process. I feel very fortunate to have that kind of relationship from the top of the city organization," Condran said.
Condran provides them a high-level executive summary of what the department is doing and, more importantly, why so that they can have that "30,000-mile view" looking down. "They want to know all the things that are happening so that if they're asked by their colleagues, they're in a position to respond," Condran said.
Staying on Top of the Game
Looking back on his nearly three decades with the City, Condran has definitely seen changes. "Back when I started, no one was really greatly concerned with all of the metrics we use now. We were more concerned with the budget, providing a safe vehicle, and just doing the normal routine tasks of maintaining a fleet — cleaning the shop, parts inventory, routine things," he said.
While those responsibilities still may be part of the job description, the role encompasses so much more these days and requires transparency on the part of the fleet manager and the department — from hiring to budget, to preventive maintenance and utilization, to procurement. Otherwise you're not going to be successful, Condran stressed.
Learning how to deal with tough economic times, such as the recessions in the '80s and '90s when so many entities were experiencing layoffs, also taught Condran how to work smarter, leaner, and better. "We didn't want this to happen to us, so we forged accountability and developed seamless programs that involved the entire top to bottom operations so that everyone knew what we were doing. Communication is the No. 1 driver," he said.
Doing so has helped create more cohesion within the entire organization as well as strengthened Condran's leadership skills.
Condran summed up his philosophy on leadership and success by paraphrasing a saying by former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell that hangs on his wall: " 'There are no secrets to success; don't waste time looking for them. Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, unyielding loyalty to those for whom you work, recognizing those that work for you and persistence.' I do the best I can to subscribe myself to that."
- Paul Condran, fleet services manager, City of Culver City, Calif.