Steady as She Goes – Behind the Business of Fleet Safety International
Many of us have probably done a lot less driving this year than in the past. The first time I’d been out driving after a month off the road, I felt nervous, like I was a brand new driver all over again. It reminded me how important driving skills actually are.
The pandemic has also driven home the importance of all the drivers out there now, without the luxury of working from home, bringing food to our grocery stores, and our online shopping to our front doors.
We recently interviewed Dr. Randy Flemmer, the President and Owner of Fleet Safety International, and spoke about how they’ve been training professional drivers for decades, instilling the types of techniques that keep us all safe on the roads. So read on to find out what’s behind their business, and give a little shout out to all the drivers out there keeping us stocked with the essentials.
Tell us a little about your business. What is it that you do and who are your customers?
Fleet Safety International has been in business since 1978. The primary goal is to provide quality driver education to our customers. Our two main focus areas are our hands-on corporate programs and our online programs.
FSI has morphed from a small driving school back in the early 80s to being the leader in corporate driver training and online development in Alberta.
In a nutshell, what would you say you’re an expert in?
At heart, I am an educator. My core expertise is in the development of driver education content which also includes online programming.
I am also a big picture thinker and have been able to see business trends in advance that have helped us be successful. In addition, if you talk to my staff, they will tell you that I am good a delegation. I am not a micro manager and trust the work my people do.
So what made you choose this path? Is it a family legacy or are you a pioneer?
My father was an entrepreneur and I sort of followed in his footsteps. I started out as a driving instructor to get myself through school and then ended up buying half of our company. My wife and I eventually bought our partners out.
They say that to be successful you have to be passionate. If you’ll pardon the pun, what is it that drives you every day?
For me, it is about the people. I work with an amazing group of people that makes it great to come into work every day.
Has it been all smooth sailing or have you had to overcome some adversity to get where you are today?
It very seldom has been smooth sailing. We have had to completely re-develop our business module 4 times in the last 20 years. I have always been able to forecast changes in the industry and, as a result of this, have been able to stay innovative and ahead of the curve in our industry.
We all know that crazy happens – what’s been the wildest thing to happen on the job?
What hasn’t happened? Most recently… I think that it will end up that the pandemic will have been the best thing that ever happened to us. Originally, we were worried about simply riding the pandemic out and not going too far into the red.
We were able to take an opportunistic approach that over time will make us a stronger more vibrant company.
What do you do with your time off? (Are you even familiar with the concept?)
I take a lot of time off. My staff provide me the freedom of time; they take care of all the day-to-day running of the business.
I love golfing and traveling. We have a place in Myrtle Beach, SC that we try to go to every year. I basically take 8-12 weeks of holiday but this does not include taking every summer off.
How important is social media to your business?
I am not a marketer; I trust my sales and marketing to make good decisions.
(ed. note: – we happened to ask one of the sales and marketing folks at Fleet Safety International to expand on this, and here’s what she said:)
Like almost every other business today, social media is essential. This is especially true for us in 2020, when we have used it to communicate to our potential customers that we are open and running classes, or to let them know that there are online class options available for them in lieu of in-person driving courses. Some people do not initially think of driver’s education as being taught on a computer, but many of our most successful courses are available online. With many of us staying home more than usual this year, what better way than social media to connect with our customers to let them know?
Have you been able to find a way to get involved in your community?
I used to be more involved than I am now. I spend more time with friends and family.
(ed. note – once again our friend in Marketing jumped in to add some insight)
Our goal is to make the roads safer by providing defensive driver education that really works. We are proud to provide driver training to local businesses and individual Calgarians to build a safer community. Our customers include wonderful non-profits like Canadian Blood Services and local healthcare services such as Alberta Precision Labs. We also build educational courses that are catered to Alberta’s largest industry, the Oil & Gas sector. Our Energy Sector Driver Training courses help people find and maintain safe employment at Alberta-based oil companies
What does ‘supporting local’ mean to you?
Simply buying through local companies if possible.
(ed. note – here once more we find an opportunity for a little fleshing out!)
It’s true that Calgary has seen some tough times economically in recent years. Through these times, local businesses in our area have continued to choose us as their preferred provider for training again and again, so in turn we return the favour wherever possible. For that reason and many more, our team values local businesses and aims to support local wherever we can.
What does the future look like for you and the business?
I like our future. I see some particularly good times head. As we shift focus from primarily in-vehicle training to providing online education, we will be able to expand our market and offer courses across North America.
Do you have any advice for new business owners just starting out?
A few simple rules:
- Love what you do.
- Have patience and do not get head of yourself.
- Manage your expectations.
- If you think you are thinking big, you probably still need to think bigger.
- Enjoy the moment.
And finally – I know you’ve mentioned it a little, but 2020 was such an unusual year – how has the COVID-19 situation affected how you do business?
COVID-19 has allowed us to think differently about our company and that is a good thing. What does not kill you makes you stronger.