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Greg Grant: Relationship Focused

Understanding vehicle requirements, maintenance and operating environment are critical for successful fleet management. PHOTO Ford Motor Company

EMKAY Canada’s Head of Sales stressed the importance of people in successful fleet management practices.

Greg Grant was recently appointed to Head of Sales for EMKAY Canada.

A long-time fleet management professional with experience in different markets across Canada, Grant has had a very storied career that’s given him some very unique and valuable insight into fleet operations and client relationships.

Recently, Grant was able to share some of these experiences with Autosphere.ca, as well as provide an overview of the current conditions impacting many fleets and where opportunities lie.

 

Autosphere: How did you first get involved with the fleet management business?

Greg Grant: I’ve been in the fleet management industry for nearly my entire working career. I started at university really not knowing what I want to do.

I always had an interest in the automotive space and wanted to get into customer service, sales, or management-type roles.

I’ve always loved vehicles and also the technology side of the automotive industry. I was fortunate enough to have somebody in the industry give me an opportunity in customer service and I took that chance to gain some valuable experience and learn the business from the ground up.

 

AS: Having worked in different regions within Canada, what are some of the nuances you’ve found when it comes to managing fleet operations in different markets?

 

GG: I was born and raised in Ontario, but I’ve had the opportunity of working in different markets.

I’ve had responsibilities in working for fleet customers for Ontario and in eastern Canada, which also included Quebec, the Maritimes and all the way out to Newfoundland.

Dealing with fleet customers in Newfoundland, was a tremendous experience from a cultural perspective, as was working with customers in Western Canada including Vancouver and Northern British Columbia (Fort St. John), as well as Fort McMurray in Alberta.

In those kinds of situations, you’re learning about specific business practices and understanding the needs of local fleet operations. Alberta in particular is really driven by oil and gas and the energy sector, and fleet operations tend to be a lot different.

Understanding the environment out there, the geography, the economics and what fleets have to deal with was a really interesting experience.

I spent a lot of time in Calgary and Edmonton meeting customers and being exposed to their operations at a grassroots level.

At that time, the fleet management company I was working for was acquired, so transitioning from one platform to another provided a wealth of knowledge and experience in a relatively short period of time (16 months).

It was a very unique experience and from that, I really was able to get a better understanding of customer needs and how to integrate them into specific organizational solutions.

When it comes to Canada, there is just so much regional diversity, geographically, economically and culturally. This is an amazing country in which to live and I consider myself very fortunate to have experienced working and living in different parts of it.

 

AS: From your perspective, what has been the biggest change you’ve seen during your career so far as it relates to fleet management strategy and practices?

 

GG: As I’m sure you know; fleet management is very much a relationship business. We’re transacting with our customers daily, but ultimately, it’s really those learned and trusted relationships that you’ve developed over time that really stands out.

I would say that is probably the biggest change I’ve seen during my career in terms of strategy and practices. It’s the people that make the difference.

As I mentioned previously, when it comes to fleet operations it differs tremendously from one region to the next, as well as the type of fleets you’re working with and the environments in which they operate.

During my time in Newfoundland, I was simply amazed at the level of community spirit out there. There are lots of little communities across the province, but they are very well connected and work with each other and that comes down to relationships.

 

AS: Are there any particular case studies or examples you’d like to share with us where you were able to improve efficiency and fleet operations?

 

GG: From a client perspective, one of the ones that I’m probably most proud of is working with a particular utility company.

They were operating with an existing in-house fleet management model. There was a change in the organization, and a new direction was established, which focused on looking at opportunities outside the existing framework.

We worked with them very closely in coming up with an integrated outsourced solution but one that at the same time, still required managing aspects of the fleet, internally within the company.

It was a huge undertaking in terms of the size of the fleet, the data, from a fueling and maintenance standpoint, as well as the vehicles themselves and fitting configurations.

Taking all that information and knowledge and transitioning it to an FMC platform, was a big project.

It took a lot of time to put it together, but we ultimately became very integrated with that customer and the result was probably around $500,000 in savings for the utility company.

It was a great experience and the deliverables were tremendous, plus it also demonstrated the power of collaboration and working together effectively as a team.

From that, we were able to learn and apply this model to other companies within the utility sector.

 

AS: What do you think are some of the biggest challenges and opportunities that many fleets face today?

 

GG: Obviously, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been widespread and impacted so many industries around the globe. We certainly haven’t been isolated and now we’re having to contend with reduced product availability and the ongoing semiconductor shortage.

As we start to see the economy open up again, we are talking to the vehicle OEMs and keeping our customers informed of vehicles that are on order.

I would say one of the biggest challenges facing fleets right now is product availability and that is forcing many of them to extend replacement cycles.

Utilization is also an ongoing concern. This has been a particular issue for fleets with lots of vehicles used by sales representatives that in many cases have seen restricted use due to the pandemic.

For fleets that use commercial vehicles such as vans and pickup trucks, they haven’t been impacted so much from a utilization standpoint, but maintenance is an ongoing concern as replacement cycles have gotten longer.

Managing maintenance proactively can be pretty hard when you have limited availability of products.

As a result, fleets need to be extra diligent when it comes to servicing and maintenance, plus looking at swapping out higher mileage units for newer and lower mileage assets wherever possible.

There’s also the question of what work will look like post-pandemic and will we see more people going to the office again and how and when business travel will resume which will impact fleet usage.

It’s difficult to say how it will play out but right now, we have to manage our assets in the best way we can.

 

AS: Technology and Electric vehicles have been generating a lot of buzz over the last few years, what are your thoughts on this when it comes to a fleet perspective?

 

GG: We’ve continued to see technology evolve and accelerate. There’s more than just one aspect here but when we look at something like data analytics, it is a huge help in helping fleet managers make smart, well-informed decisions and enabling them to run their fleets as cost-effectively as possible.

The data tells you a lot of information, but you need to make sure you can find the information you need, and it doesn’t become too complex or overwhelming.

As far as the EV equation, I think we’re really just at the beginning of the electric vehicle revolution.

We’ve seen a lot of interest and been involved in lots of conversations with clients around EVs but at the moment, many fleet management companies are mapping out the landscape of what EV adoption will look like and engaging with OEMs that have and are continuing to invest in EV technology.

There is a lot of infrastructure investment and education required and we also need to acknowledge the efficiencies made with internal combustion engine vehicles.

Today’s four-cylinder vehicles deliver more power than V-8 examples did not too long ago and do it by delivering much lower emissions and far better fuel economy.

Fleets will continue to look for ways to optimize vehicle efficiency and that will likely include EVs, but one of the biggest assets available to them right now is the ability to really utilize data analytics.

 

AS: Can you tell us a little about your new role at EMKAY and what it entails?

 

GG: As head of sales for EMKAY in Canada, I see my role as really being the voice of our Canadian clients to our management team. A lot of our service model and technology have been built on customer feedback and input. We frequently survey our clients and engage with them regularly, so they have a great influence on our business.

We will continue to work with our customers and engage the right stakeholders within our management team to develop new services, additions and extensions that we might not currently have in place.

We’re really invested in growing the business in Canada and building upon our successful track record by understanding what the needs of our customers are and providing solutions that continually work to serve them better.

The rebranding of our fleet management portal and enhancing the user experience is just one example and a lot of what we did relied on feedback from our customers.

 

AS: If applicable, are there any strategies or tactics you’re looking to implement at EMKAY moving forward?

 

GG: Our approach is really to build on what we’ve established and being as proactive as possible with our customers and prospects.

Our driver and fleet manager apps are fairly simple, but very effective when it comes to helping our customers operate their fleets as efficiently as possible.

Ultimately, our objective is to continue working with and educating our customers–including internal key stakeholders such as finance and procurement. By understanding what is important to them we can build an experience-based around that.

 

AS: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

 

GG: I’ve been in this industry a long time. It’s a great business and many great people are working within it.

It’s also very dynamic, it changes constantly, and the OEMs are always introducing new designs and new technology.

I’ve been very fortunate to work with some incredible people in the fleet management sector and having been at EMKAY for five years I’m very proud of the team that I work with.

They’re a great, dynamic group of fleet professionals that are really committed to customer service. On another note, I would say that the structure of EMKAY allows us to make big decisions quickly and effectively which I think definitely gives us an advantage for both us and our customers.

It means that you can often make big things happen within a short period of time which can have a major impact both on your business outcomes and those of your customers.

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