Under the radar, auto manager thrives

Posted: June 17, 2014

Carl Ortell gets the problem. He runs a big company: $1.6 billion in revenues, 2,800 employees, global, growing, never had a layoff.

But his company, Automotive Resources International in Mount Laurel, isn't well-known and its business, fleet management, isn't well-understood.

"The only threat to the vision we have to grow the business, to expand our business globally, is whether we could attract the talent that we needed as a family-owned business in an industry that's under the radar," said Ortell, 51, the company's president.

"So how do we get ARI's name out there? How do we attract world-class talent?"

It doesn't hurt to be ranked 27th on Fortune magazine's prestigious 2014 list of the Top 100 Places to Work.

Question: Before you tell us how you made the list, what does your company do?

Answer: We manage 1.1 million vehicles in [leased and company-owned fleets] for businesses and government agencies - the entire state of New York, the federal government of Canada. Union Pacific has 10,000 vehicles that build and repair railroad tracks. We manage all those vehicles. We've been doing business with PECO/Exelon since the 1970s. FedEx since the 1980s.

Q: What do you provide?

A: Anything you can think about [having to do with a] car. Fuel, maintenance. You break down on the road, you call us. We manage the entire supply chain of getting the vehicle ordered and built [to customer specifications] and delivered. You get in an accident, we collect all the data.

Q: Can ARI technology collect data in crashes such as the New Jersey Turnpike accident that killed one person and seriously hurt comedian Tracy Morgan? Allegedly, the driver who hit them had been up for 24 hours.

A: I can't comment specifically about this incident, but accidents of this type aren't uncommon. There are programs and technologies available through ARI and other sources that, if applied properly, can help mitigate events of this type. We provide telematics and GPS solutions that monitor the driver's performance.

Q: Back to the Fortune 100 list: How did that happen?

A: It involves a survey of your employees - completely anonymous. Not just objective survey questions, but subjective.

Q: What else?

A: You have to do what is called a culture audit - why it's a great place to work. Year one, we didn't make it. Our survey results were better than the average of the top companies that made it. But we didn't tell our story good enough.

Q: The next year you made the list, ranking 70. This year, 27. Why is ARI a great place to work? Fortune listed a big bonus and an annual auto show.

A: We pay 100 percent tuition reimbursement from the day you walk in the door, anywhere you want to go. This is going to sound crazy, but if I interview you for a job, I never want you to leave. I want people to know they have a home here and it's up to them to make their career.

Q: Describe ARI's culture.

A: It's simple. Everybody has the other person's back. We're not pointing fingers at each other.

Q: You sang at an ARI meeting. Is that a perk or a peril?

A: I play [guitar] much better than I sing. I'm not Paul McCartney or anything like that, but I'm not afraid.

Q: No beer involved, right?

A: No, but that helps.

Q: What is your favorite beer?

A: Guinness.

Q: Better yet?

A: Caymus Special Selection Cabernet.


AUTOMOTIVE RESOURCES

Where: Mount Laurel.

Business: Fleet management.

Revenues: $1.6 billion.

Employees: 2,800 globally, 1,152 locally.

Ownership: Private, one of 25 companies owned by the Holman Automotive Group, of Maple Shade.

Chairman: Joseph S. Holman. His daughter, Mindy Holman, is CEO.

  High tech: Ability to monitor acceleration and braking patterns to improve fuel efficiency.

Sales data: 30% of ARI-managed company fleet cars are later bought by the drivers assigned to the cars.

Next up: Selling services used by fleets to individuals.


MORE ONLINE

Carl Ortell on capitalizing on a competitor's sale. www.inquirer.com/jobbing


Interview questions and answers have been edited for space.

jvonbergen@phillynews.com

215-854-2769 @JaneVonBergen

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