Electrification is the future of fleet, and with 29% of emissions in the US coming from the transportation industry, it’s clear that electrification is the key to reaching our nation’s sustainability goals. Merchants Fleet is driving fleet electrification in North America with reservations of nearly 40,000 electric vehicles and $2.5B committed toward having its mobility fleet 50% electric by 2025, and 50% of its clients’ fleets electric by 2030.
Featured for the Cover Story of The Enterprise World’s issue of Top 5 Successful Entrepreneurs To Watch In 2022 is Brendan P. Keegan, an innovative business leader who is elevating the fleet industry with his ingenious solutions.
Brendan P. Keegan is the CEO of Merchants Fleet, the fastest-growing fleet management company in North America, where he previously served the company as a client, board member, compensation committee chair, and strategic advisor. He is an award-winning, 6-time president and CEO having raised nearly $3.0B in capital and returned over $6.0B to investors. Brendan has experience in business transformation, capital raises, strategy development, revenue growth, operational scale, technology enablement, and enterprise value creation with successful liquidity exits.
With a background in the financial services, technology, and professional service industries, Brendan has led companies ranging from 500 to 10,000 employees. Prior to these roles, he started his career at EDS as a systems engineer and progressed through the ranks rapidly to become the Fortune 100’s youngest Chief Sales Officer for EDS.
Brendan was recently named to New Hampshire Business Review’s 200 Most Influential Business Leaders, Executive of the Year by Business Intelligence Group, The World’s Most Innovative CEO by CEO World Awards®, Executive of the Year by Best in Biz Awards, and a Stevie Awards® winner by American Business Awards®.
Brendan serves as a member of the board for Revolution Armor & ExpressIT Logistics. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from RPI, MBA from George Washington University, and Executive Certificates from Harvard, Columbia, UPenn, MIT & U Chicago.
Brendan’s Journey Over the Years
When Brendan joined Merchants, it was for two main reasons-
- The people &
- The potential
As he took the position of CEO, one thing he knew for sure was that every day would present an opportunity to innovate with some of the best minds in the fleet industry.
The second reason Brendan joined Merchants was because of its immense growth potential. The company had the ability to grow fast if the right environment was induced. With a few key initiatives that Brendan kicked off, led, supported, and supercharged, Merchants was all ready to dive into the future.
“I signed up for the job, and it’s been wildly more successful than I could have ever pictured.”
The Year of Challenges
Brendan has an instinct for what motivates people and an infectious spirit that lifts everyone around him which translates into success for the organization and success for his employees individually. For Brendan, obstacles are opportunities to innovate, mistakes are an education, and “can’t” just doesn’t exist. Brendan’s enthusiasm and ability to see the best in everyone, and even more importantly, his ability to help people see the best in themselves—make him an outstanding leader, mentor, and friend.
During the pandemic, Brendan increased his efforts to keep his award-winning team connected as the organization adjusted to a new hybrid environment. Working with department heads throughout the organization, he developed a system for even more frequent communication, outreach, and support, which resulted in Merchants growing from 467 employees in 2020 to over 585 employees in 2021 and achieving a remarkable 89% employee satisfaction rating as determined by the Great Place to Work® Trust Index Survey – ahead of the 57% industry average.
Brendan also innovated to help support clients during the pandemic. When vehicle manufacturers halted production, the ensuing inventory shortage put many of Merchants’ delivery clients in the precarious position of needing vehicles to keep their operations running, yet hesitant to make long-term lease commitments due to the unpredictable marketplace. Merchants worked diligently to provide the vehicles needed to keep America moving.
Brendan recognized that fleet clients needed the ability to adjust their fleets as the rapidly changing business landscape dictated. With that in mind, he spearheaded the development of 8 new offerings, specifically designed to drive flexibility and cash flow at a time when those were more important than ever. These options were crucial to our clients’ financial recovery as the nation emerged from the pandemic.
Brendan’s swift and innovative thinking set the stage to put over 20,000 delivery vehicles on the road in 2021, delivering 4 million packages per day in a vehicle managed by Merchants Fleet, and resulted in the 60-year-old company having record-breaking results.
“I am humbled that because of these efforts our company has been the recipient of over 50 awards, some of which I have had the special opportunity to earn & accept.”
The Products and Services
“We strive every day to create the most comprehensive, flexible, and innovative experience for our clients.”
Merchants Fleet defines comprehensive as offering the broadest set of capabilities to its clients in the industry – from closed and open-end leases, with short- and long-term options. From their remarketing programs GuaranteeBUY to Commercial Sales.
With new vehicles from virtually any OEM and options like their new Merchants Commercial Sales for pre-owned commercial vehicles—Merchants is comprehensive. The company defines flexibility as first and foremost listening to its clients’ needs, understanding how to add value, and then developing a solution. The team never approaches their clients with a canned or “in-the-box” solution.
“We believe each client is different, and we must specialize to meet their needs.”
The entire team at Merchants strives to think “outside-of-the-fleet-box” for their clients and bring innovation to the partnership – sometimes the innovation might be a “BIG I” like their new mobility offerings and other times innovation is simply a “Small i” that takes one thing off their clients’ to-do list but means a lot to them.
In the coming 12 months, the company has some major leapfrog moves queued up to bring to market. First will be their highly anticipated TotalConnect program – an integrated connected vehicle program. The program involves major OEMs, technology partners, and Merchants pulling the data all together for the clients – “exciting times ahead for data geeks like me.”
Second, is the road to Electrification – the future of the fleet. Merchants is leading fleet electrification in North America with major partnerships with OEMs & infrastructure companies, EV (Electric Vehicle) commitments, adoption programs, a full suite of fleet services, the industry’s top EV experts, and more.
The third is their new Commercial Sales offering – providing economical, lightly used alternatives to purchasing new commercial fleet vehicles. Out of the pandemic came the opportunity to launch a new business offering allowing clients and new prospects the opportunity to buy or lease high-quality pre-owned fleet vehicles.
Fourth is their ongoing FleetTech Partner Ecosystem – bringing partners from all over to their clients’ doorstep with unique and useful offerings.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
There is only one way to drive a truly great client experience and that is to have the best and brightest employees that are aligned by a vision and super-glued by core values.
Brendan has built the team through 5 steps-
- Defining a culture
- Hiring to fit that culture
- Making sure culture is part of the performance management process
- Promoting the right attributes of culture
- Separating ourselves from the people who don’t fit your culture
“Employee culture is something we take very seriously at Merchants, and we continue to explore new and creative ways to expand on our award-winning work environment.”
In the traditionally male-dominated fleet industry, Merchants stands out with its robust commitment to ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) with a focus on Electrification & Environment and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Under Brendan’s leadership, Merchants female executives make up nearly half of Merchants’ corporate leadership team and half of its total employee base. Merchants has also been named a 2021 Diversity & Inclusion Rising Champion by the University of New Hampshire, which promotes organizations that demonstrate values of equity, diversity, and inclusion. Moreover, Merchants will launch a ‘Diversity in Fleet’ initiative in 2022, designed to help level the playing field for men and women within the industry.
As part of Merchants’ award-winning corporate culture, the company is building on their commitment to employee enrichment, with an initiative called the RESTORE program – a program based on the premise that an employee is at their best when they have the support, they need to be their best self. Through the RESTORE program, Merchants employees are provided simple and easy access to specialist partners such as a nutritionists, therapists, personal trainers, and crisis counselors, all with the goal of supporting employees to be their best selves—at work and in life.
Additionally, Merchants is also broadening its investment in employee education with the expansion of its comprehensive LearniQ program – through this unique program, employees can advance their career growth by enrolling in a robust assortment of self-paced, micro-credential courses designed to provide job-relevant, timely and flexible professional development through a variety of ivy league level education partners.
“Overall, we are accelerating how we engage with our team members in 2021 and fueling up our commitment to our strong value-based culture.”
Innovation is the Key to Growth
“If you are not innovating you are dying. I often say change or be changed, innovate or be replaced, grow or be left behind. When we talk about innovation, we don’t mean an innovation department, we mean innovation across the entire organization and levels.
Fleet innovation is what we do. That means a unified solution for traditional fleet services, long-term or short-term leases and a diversity of mobility solutions. All with a more responsive, nimble and efficient approach that you will not find anywhere else.
Merchants is also committed to creative problem solving, continuous improvement and robust, real-time technology for our clients. Working with Merchants, fleet clients have access to connected vehicle data, GPS technology, and integrated telematics that provide real-time data to help fleet managers monitor expenses, compliance, and safety, as well as emissions, system diagnostics, and so much more. These valuable insights are imperative to keeping fleets running safely and efficiently for our clients.
We have a broad reach such that wherever our clients are, we’ll be there for them. With a nationwide network of industry partners and support teams, we’re always just a call away and ready to help.”