Don’t Tell Me What Happened, Tell Me What I Need to Do

Amid challenges, a successful vendor partnership should offer recommendations that propel your business forward.

Question: as a business leader, what keeps you up at night? Is it the uncertainty of continued growth in a mature market? Is it worrying about whether today’s innovation becomes tomorrow’s old way of doing things?

There is no question there are multiple challenges for running a business today. Learning how to navigate through the noise to define clear objectives that get your operations to the next phase of innovation is a skill that gets harder and harder to perfect when new variables pop up each day. Shifting your perspective and approach in a few key areas of your business, however, can improve your vendor relationships, which will quiet the noise and bring success to your business.

Changing Business Operations

For far too long, businesses have viewed suppliers as a transactional necessity in order to access the goods and services required to keep operations up and running. It has even been suggested that the best suppliers remain invisible, doing what needs to be done with little interruption to daily operations. But in today’s modern business environment that approach can potentially result in missed opportunities for collaboration and gains in efficiency. To grow your business in a challenging market, successful conversations with suppliers can improve your operations and thereby decrease your overall cost of business.

Take fleet as an example. Typically fleet has been viewed as a contractual relationship with a fleet management provider to order vehicles, coordinate delivery, and keep them on the road. But smart companies have started to evolve the relationship, making it more of a strategic dialogue to ensure best practices are being employed at all times and opportunities for improvement are pursued.

Fleet management companies can help to benchmark your organization’s operations with similar companies in your industry to provide insight into improving operations. When you see how certain ways of doing things result in decreased accident rates, increased delivery time, decreased total cost of ownership and other important measures to your business, it naturally makes sense to adopt these policies into your operations as well.

Keep in mind strategic conversations with your suppliers are a two way street. In order to better understand your business, you must be willing to share why certain benchmarks are important. For example, as a service provider, if you promise a specific window to your customers (i.e., we’ll be there in 30 minutes or less), it makes sense to share this with your fleet management company to ensure maintenance downtime is minimized so your vehicle is back on the road servicing customers as soon as possible.

Remember, it’s more than just doing a task; it’s about working with your suppliers to confirm they understand your business and are committed to helping you meet and exceed company and customer demands. When suppliers support you and your employees to deliver a little more to your clients, that progression results in more revenue-generating activities each day.

Will What I’m Doing Today Become Outdated Tomorrow?

Exploding volumes of data only complicate the issue further. Every day, millions of data points are recorded, and again this can quickly become quite transactional. For example, tracking the number of vehicles in a fleet, maintenance PO’s tied to a vehicle, and fuel transactions becomes quite monotonous (not to mention overwhelming) as the size of the fleet expands. In addition, when the question about where to invest in the future arises, will the fleet data provide sufficient results to know for certain?

Some businesses may consider data tracking sufficient. However, this is operating retroactively; in essence, you are watching what happened. To be successful, it is paramount that you have processes and systems in place for managing data so that you not only know what happened, but have insight into what you need to do in the future.

Successfully managing your fleet’s data will provide you with the overall health of your fleet based on spend, maintenance, fuel, and other factors. You can see which vehicles need attention, make corrections and realize significant results. You may be familiar with the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule – that, in a majority of situations in life, roughly 80 percent of the impact or consequences comes from 20 percent of the cause. Applied to fleet, this means that 80 percent of your spend is driven by the 20 percent of your fleet that is not operating at peak efficiency. Effective use of data can help you identify those vehicles and deal with them quickly.

Change is Scary, but Innovation Brings Success

This approach may be a departure from your current way of doing business – possibly a radical one. To make a shift in how you do things can often be a hard decision, especially if operating this way made you successful up to this point. However, if you look at your business operations 20 or more years ago, I’m sure it was very different from how you operate today. Change is really the only constant in our world, which is why it is critical to ensure your business evolves with the times. Innovation requires identifying opportunities and taking advantage of them through proper preparation and strategic partnerships.

Suppliers who can partner with you to help navigate the marketplace, make recommendations and help you perform better as an organization will deliver value far beyond the goods or services they provide. Partnering with ARI can help you to meet these challenges. We provide insight to improve fleet operations and answer the question, what do I need to do now? By partnering with ARI, a leading-edge fleet management provider with its pulse on the marketplace, you know fleet operations are consistently improving, allowing you to sleep easier at night.