While many businesses have used the economy as an excuse to pile work on employees the past few years, Fleet Response didn’t buy in to that thinking. Despite the tough economic times, the company, which provides fleet management services, takes time to make sure its people aren’t buried. As a result, Fleet Response grew during the downturn from $47.4 million in revenue in 2008 to $58.4 million last year and earned a spot on the Weatherhead 100 list of fastest-growing companies in Northeast Ohio this year while also celebrating its 25th anniversary.
“In our marketplace is the fact that we’re at the highest level of service, and if our employees are burnt out or experiencing too heavy a workload, that performance will show up in their ability to keep up in the quality in their work,” says Scott Mawaka, president and COO.
One of the biggest keys to growth has been making sure employees don’t get loaded down with too much work. It can be challenging to figure out work loads, but Fleet Response has built systems around performance metrics to gauge employee activity levels and determine what’s manageable and what’s not. Allison Lanzilotta is the vice president of business development, and one of the big tasks she does daily is analyzing the activity by looking at data to make sound decisions.
“There’s a lot of information you can get and a lot of different ways you can look at it,” she says. “Start somewhere. Look at it every week, every month, and chart things out, and you’ll see what makes sense and what the right numbers should be. … You can’t look at every single number at the beginning. You’ve got to focus in on a few key things and go from there, otherwise you’ll be overwhelmed with all the information.”
For example, on the call center side of the business, two numbers she gauges are how many calls each representative is taking and the length of hold times. In the claims department, she looks at the total number of claims employees have in their portfolios versus the optimum number they’ve determined for peak service.
Beyond just the numbers, Mawaka also gauges workloads by walking around to ask employees how they’re doing.
“Are they able to keep up with their work load?” Mawaka says. “Are they excited about a new client? If they’re terribly busy, you will get their opinions delivered to you, and it’s something where you can talk to the other people involved with them to understand if it’s just a point in time where work was above the norm or if it’s a routine that we need to address [with an] increase to employment.”
As volumes pick up, it’s important to communicate your intentions with employees and thank them for their extra efforts.
“You put a lot on your employees, and you want more and more, and, ‘Oh, here’s another client — and another.’” Lanzilotta says. “It’s great, but you want to appreciate all the work they’re doing and let everyone understand that we’re doing well, we’re growing, and we’re going to keep motivating people by letting them know we’re not going to bury them. We’re going to get the right staffing and reward them appropriately.”
Those rewards come in the form of midyear and year-end bonuses and sometimes additional time off, but beyond that it’s many little things throughout the year too, such as hosting lunches, company outings and parties.
“Your employees are the lifeblood of the organization from day to day and a reflection of how we’re doing,” Lanzilotta says. “It’s very important that we don’t just keep piling things on our employees but we stop and appreciate some of the successes as they come along.”
And if your employees can’t work effectively, your business won’t grow.
“It’s all about the people,” Mawaka says. “It’s what matters most in the world. Medicine, manufacturing or service — it’s all about two people working together to succeed.”
How to reach: Fleet Response, (216) 525-3870 or www.fleetresponse.com
Focusing on clients
Fleet Response's people focus the past few years hasn’t been limited to employees.
“Everything starts with people — that’s both internal and external,” says Scott Mawaka, president and COO.
To grow, the company has also made clients a major priority because they’re experiencing stress just as much as employees are.
“They’re wearing more and more hats,” says Allison Lanzilotta, vice president of business development. “The more that we’ve been able to provide them flexible service and accommodate administratively, [the more that] we’ve been able to bring on new clients.”
Providing flexible services starts with building stronger relationships. Initially, Mawaka approached its largest clients to offer discounts in exchange for extending contracts in order to ensure revenues for Fleet Response and familiarity and savings for clients.
Fleet Response people also went to clients’ offices and vice versa to ask what has challenged them and what they need help with.
“Often, they know right off hand some things that take a bunch of their time that they’d love to get off their plate,” Lanzilotta says. “It’s really keeping that communication line open, not just via e-mail but face to face and phone, if that’s the only option.”
As clients talk about problems they have, customize your services and offerings to help meet those needs.
Mawaka says, “That was probably one of the key facets of growth for us over the past few years was just exploring new angles with our clients and communicating with them about challenges they had internally.”