There can be rich rewards for those who have the chutzpah to dream big, make plans and then stick to their agenda through thick and thin. Just ask Nigel Malcolm, who saw an opportunity in managing company vehicle fleets, acted on his instincts and made the commitment to see it through. As a result his company, Fleetcare, recently notched up three decades in business.
“The celebrations were fantastic,” Nigel says enthusiastically. “It’s a true milestone for any business to achieve 30 years in a competitive environment, but I always knew I’d be doing this for a long time. This was a passion of mine. This is not just about running a business per se – this is about actually delivering something different, and we’re still excited about that.”
Nigel established Fleetcare at a time when a deep recession hammered the Australian economy, the average overdraft was about 20% and interest rates rose regularly. Not for the squeamish, starting out in such a business environment.
“I always knew I’d be doing this for a long time. This was a passion of mine.”
But, he recalls, his few competitors were traditional hire companies that only offered leasing packages to clients who were actually looking for much more. “I saw a window of opportunity to provide a unique solution to businesses, actually managing their fleets, doing proper asset management and reducing their fleet operating costs,” he says.
“Companies were paying more than they should and doing all the work themselves. So when I started Fleetcare, I looked at the entire life cycle of the vehicle to determine how we could offer a much better service for them.”
His instincts have certainly been proved correct after 30 successful years. He boils it down to an elemental tenet that has guided the company through all that time. “It’s about delivering great customer service,” Nigel points out.
“We have a lot of return business – we have a lot of very sticky employees and a lot of very sticky clients. It’s about being consistent, about offering specific solutions to businesses and not asking them to fit in the box. It’s about a can-do attitude and going the extra mile. That’s what I built the business on, and nothing’s changed from that in any way whatsoever.”
A lot has happened in that 30 years, and not least in technology. When Nigel started Fleetcare, the internet didn’t exist, emails hadn’t arrived, and telematics hadn’t either. Vehicles have also evolved since those early days, making Fleetcare’s role a more complex and demanding one, but also more holistic.
“Today, businesses are much more savvy today about concentrating on their core strengths,” he explains. “When I started, we had to convince businesses to outsource their fleet and have somebody looking after it for them. Now it’s almost a given that they give it to an expert to handle.”
“We have a lot of return business – we have a lot of very sticky employees and a lot of very sticky clients.”
Fleetcare has used emerging technology to advantage by developing its own software platform to provide full analytics, with bespoke programs to free up their employees. “We are probably the only firm of this kind in Australia that runs its own software,” Nigel says.
“We have an IT development team and data scientists on board, so our technology front is really massive. We’re not reporting transactions, we’re doing predictive analytics for what our customers do. The technology lets us look at the car and know what it is doing on the road right at this moment. We can report what’s going on to our customers in moments.”
Fleetcare is now prepared for another wave of disruption that will soon hit every business running a vehicle fleet – the introduction of electric- and hydrogen-powered vehicles.
“This is a dramatic change in the market for all of us, and our role is to give our customers solutions to maximise opportunities from some big challenges,” he says. “The price of an electric vehicle is much higher – how do we get the best out of that? How can our customers be seen as environmentally friendly without bleeding to death in costs?”
This is where the alchemy of engaging employees lies, Nigel says, so they seek innovative answers to complex questions. They want, and need, an environment in which they can thrive, and that means giving them room to grow.
“Enjoy what you’re doing, because if you don’t enjoy it, you shouldn’t be doing it.”
“We actually have quite a flat structure and everybody here is empowered to make a decision,” he explains. “Everybody’s responsible for what goes right and also what goes wrong. If something does go wrong, we throw a team at it to gain an understanding, but our focus is to sort the customer out, sort the issue out, get everything running smoothly and then do the forensics behind it.”
Nigel’s three decades of business experience has taught him some tough lessons, but he has a basic rule for budding entrepreneurs. “Don’t lose sight of why you started, and enjoy what you’re doing, because if you don’t enjoy it, you shouldn’t be doing it.”
Nigel certainly does, even after all this time. “I’m so lucky. I go to work every day doing what I love. I’ve got a business that I love. I’ve got a wonderful group of people – I just can’t tell you how good they are. Personal satisfaction – it ticks every box. I’m motivated, we achieve great things, our customers enjoy it, our suppliers enjoy it. And I get an insight into some great Australian companies and how they operate.”
It seems his entrepreneurial spirit is just as strong as it was 30 years ago.
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