Fleet on fleet: Nigel Trotman of Alphabet
As an ex-fleet manager what was it like moving to the other side of the fence?
It was definitely a bit of a culture shock – I suddenly found myself part of a sales department rather than providing a service to internal customers. I also found it really fascinating, and gained some real insights into why my own suppliers sometimes struggled to deliver what seemed to me relatively basic services – systems constraints really do exist!
What do you enjoy the most about your current role?
Variety. No two weeks are the same, and I have been really fortunate to get involved in new products and services such as AlphaCity and AlphaElectric. I have also had the opportunity to develop new products of my own such as our Fleet Healthchecks, which are now being rolled out across Europe. Alphabet is an exciting place to be at the moment and long may that continue. Being involved in developing AlphaElectric across Europe has been particularly stimulating.
In your view, where are fleet managers missing a trick?
It still surprises me how relatively few fleets even now use whole-life costs as the basis of policy. I understand that changing a car policy is a big deal and as a result tends not to happen. However, fleet managers should be looking to ensure that policies are reviewed regularly – every two to three years as a minimum – and underlining the potential benefits of WLCs.
Fleet managers also often miss opportunities to underline their value to their organisations. I come across a lot of people responsible for fleets (not always fleet managers as such) who are doing a fantastic job that is not really appreciated by their management – mainly because they don’t communicate their successes well.
What’s your view on complete outsourcing, with no fleet manager in place?
I would say you certainly need someone in the client company to make decisions and enforce policy. While at Whitbread I gradually outsourced more and more activities, but retained a small internal resource for billing and driver queries. Personally I was able to devote less time to fleet (I took on other responsibilities), but was still there to manage and advise as required. To me that is the right balance.
How can fleet managers get best value from their leasing supplier?
Simple – become their favourite customer. That doesn’t mean being a soft touch – it is about ensuring that the supplier really values their relationship with you and that any benefits are shared. That way, you will get the best service and the right deal, without the need for heavy-handed adversarial discussions that help nobody. I knew I had succeeded with one supplier when their MD told me they would do whatever was necessary to retain my business!
Time for a hobby outside of work?
My hobbies take place in the open air. For many years I have been a regular runner, having completed the London Marathon once and almost 50 half marathons. I even still run cross-country races. I also have an allotment where I grow lots of lovely organic fruit and veg.