Fleet managers should have comprehensive manuals, task lists, and standard operating procedures (SOPs) that outline the essential elements of their role. This documentation becomes a crucial guide...

Fleet managers should have comprehensive manuals, task lists, and standard operating procedures (SOPs) that outline the essential elements of their role. This documentation becomes a crucial guide for the designated successor, ensuring a smooth transition.

Photo: Canva/Automotive Fleet

Here’s to a happy new year! 2023 ended with a bang, unfortunately not the happy type for me.

My older brother and last living brother passed away. It was unexpected and took us all by surprise. He was a widower for several years and lived alone, as I have and do now. Having multiple states between us, we talked weekly — sometimes for hours. He was the unofficial family historian and would share wonderful stories. There was no warning as to what was to come.

Due to his decades-long career in insurance and investments, he often counseled me on life matters, one topic being end-of-life preparedness particularly due to his experience with the passing of his wife, as well as those of his past clients.

Always being the sassy little sister, when I would lovingly challenge him about his preparedness, he would assure me and his only daughter that his end-of-life paperwork was in order.

We accepted that on face value and went about living day to day, until that day.

Long story short, his end-of-life paperwork was in order, just not readily available when it was critically needed. This prolonged an already very emotional and difficult situation. 

So why am I being so personal in a prominent industry magazine?

Work has always been a strong catharsis for me, and a love of the fleet industry runs deep in my veins. I started catching up on my reading and came across Chris Brown’s November 2 article titled Do You Have a Fleet Manager Succession Plan, and then watched his November 20 video interview with Debbie Struna on Insights into Fleet Manager Succession Planning.

Plus for several weeks in a row, Mauricio Berber of Predictive Coach was airing clips on LinkedIn of a discussion he and I had late last year that he labeled #itsmillertimeseries. It was on the topic of navigating driver safety and litigation issues.

It was a clear push to act. With the impact of my brother’s situation still so fresh, I felt compelled to research and lay out a blueprint for fleet managers to help build or consider their succession plan — especially for those small business owners who wear multiple hats in their company.

Succession planning is often underestimated, especially in the context of fleet management. Fleet managers and businesses alike need to recognize that the absence of a well-thought-out plan can lead to operational disruptions, loss of institutional knowledge, and challenges in maintaining crucial relationships within the business and the industry.

For fleet managers themselves, having a succession plan in place is a strategic move that not only ensures the continuity of the business but also enhances their own career prospects.

Key Elements of a Fleet Manager Succession Plan

Document Policies, Processes, and Responsibilities - The foundation of a successful succession plan lies in documenting all policies, key processes, and responsibilities of themselves and their team if applicable.

Fleet managers should have comprehensive manuals, task lists, and standard operating procedures (SOPs) that outline the essential elements of their role. This documentation becomes a crucial guide for the designated successor, ensuring a smooth transition.

Build a Talent Pipeline

Succession planning involves identifying and developing talent within the organization. Fleet managers should assess the skills, knowledge, and potential of existing employees, proactively preparing individuals who demonstrate the ability to assume the role of a fleet manager in the future.

This could be anyone within the organization, not just those limited to the fleet department. Implementing training, mentorship, and development programs contributes not only to the organization's future leadership but also to the motivation and engagement of employees.

Establish Clear Communication Channels

Communication is key in everything, succession planning included. Fleet managers must establish transparent communication channels with their leadership, key stakeholders, cross-functional teams, suppliers, clients, and if applicable, regulatory authorities.

Informing them about the succession plan and how it will be implemented ensures that everyone is on the same page, managing expectations and maintaining relationships during the transition.

Benefits of a Succession Plan for Your Business

Mitigate Operational Disruptions 

Succession planning mitigates operational disruptions by identifying potential successors who can seamlessly step into the role of a fleet manager during unforeseen events such as illness, accidents, or sudden departures. This ensures that the business can maintain efficient operations and provide uninterrupted services.

Preserve Institutional Knowledge

Documenting critical processes and responsibilities safeguards institutional knowledge and culture within the organization. This knowledge transfer is vital for the successor to navigate roles/responsibilities, policies, processes, programs, driver management, and regulatory compliance.

Establish Strong Relationships and Partnerships

Fleet managers are known to build crucial internal and external relationships such as suppliers and industry associations. Succession planning allows businesses to maintain these relationships by introducing the designated successor to key stakeholders, ensuring a smooth transition without losing valuable partnerships.

Benefits of a Succession Plan for the Fleet Manager

Career Advancement

For fleet managers, actively participating in the creation and execution of a succession plan positions them as proactive leaders with strategic foresight. This involvement enhances their promotability within the organization and contributes to their long-term career growth.

Personal Development

Succession planning presents a valuable opportunity for both fleet managers and their team members to engage in personal development. By proactively identifying and nurturing talent within the team, fleet managers contribute not only to their own professional growth but also to the continuous development and advancement of their employees.

This commitment to talent development not only ensures a strong leadership pipeline but also fosters a culture of continuous improvement and employee engagement.

Adaptability to Industry Changes

Fleet managers who engage in succession planning showcase their adaptability to industry changes. By considering long-term business strategies and forecasting industry trends, they position themselves as leaders ready to navigate the challenges of our constantly evolving fleet industry.

A Career-Enhancing Move

Creating a fleet manager succession plan is not just a strategic imperative for the business; it is also a career-enhancing move for the fleet manager.

This understanding empowers the fleet manager to convey the strategic value and long-term benefits that succession planning brings to the organization, so they can both navigate the future prepared with confidence and resilience.

About the Author: Sue Miller served in various fleet management roles at McDonald’s Corp. for 29 years and then as senior program manager and broadcast producer for Geotab for seven years. Miller has won numerous awards, including Automotive Fleet's Professional Fleet Manager of the Year award, AFLA’s President’s Award, and McDonald’s President’s Award. She served as AFLA’s president and was a founding member of the Women in Fleet Management Association (WIFM). Miller was inducted into the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2012.

This article was authored and edited according to Automotive Fleet's editorial standards and style. Opinions expressed may not reflect that of Automotive Fleet.

Originally posted on Automotive Fleet