Coe Bockmeier was raised to see things through, no matter how difficult the task might be.
Growing up in Oregon, Bockmeier’s first job as a preteen was picking strawberries. He jokes it taught him he did not want to pick strawberries for a living.
“I just think of work ethic at a young age, when you had to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning and go jump on the berry bus and you had a responsibility to go,” says Bockmeier, the 47-year-old vice president/general manager of Enterprise Holdings Inc.’s Upstate New York region.
“My parents said if I wanted to do that, if I started something, I needed to finish it. So that was instilled in me at an early age; that if I decided I was going to do something, do it until the job’s complete.”
Bockmeier carried that lesson to Enterprise, where he started his career as a management trainee nearly a quarter of a century ago.
“I started in October 1992 for $6.36 an hour. And I was just looking for an opportunity to prove myself and work for a company where I could grow within the company,” Bockmeier says. “I very much wanted to be like my grandfather and work for the same company my entire career.”
In his current role at Enterprise, a promotion he received last fall, Bockmeier oversees a staff of more than 500 in Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse, as well as locations elsewhere throughout Upstate New York. Some 175 individuals work at Rochester facilities.
Based in Clayton, Mo., the $20 billion, privately held company has more than 90,000 employees globally. With 5,400 home city locations and 419 airport locations, Enterprise is the largest rental car company in the U.S. Seventy of those locations fall under Bockmeier’s purview.
“Everybody in our company starts as a management trainee,” Bockmeier notes. “So Enterprise, I learned at a very young age, would help me reach all the goals that I wanted to reach. I realized that at Enterprise it’s a marathon, not a sprint. If you really commit to it and put your mind to it, you can do very well and be very successful with the company.”
Enterprise was founded by Jack Taylor in 1957 as Executive Leasing Co. Taylor began the company with seven rental vehicles inside of a Cadillac dealership in St. Louis.
In 1969 Taylor renamed the growing company Enterprise Rent-a-Car, in honor of the USS Enterprise, the aircraft carrier he served on during World War II. The company’s first expansion outside the St. Louis area was in Atlanta.
Jack Taylor’s son, Andy, joined the company and in 1991 was named CEO. Two years later, Enterprise started expanding internationally with an office in Canada. The company now has offices in 70 countries.
In 2007, Enterprise purchased Vanguard Car Rental, the parent of the National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car brands. At the time, Enterprise and Vanguard accounted for $11.7 billion in annual revenue, had nearly 11,000 locations and nearly 75,000 employees.
In 2013, Pam Nicholson was named Enterprise CEO, the first non-Taylor to hold the title. Andy Taylor’s daughter, Christine, serves as executive vice president and chief operating officer.
The company bills itself as a total transportation provider, because in addition to car rental, Enterprise offers car-share, truck rental, fleet management, rideshare and car sales, although some of those services are not yet offered in Upstate New York.
Dedicated employees can move through the ranks quickly at Enterprise, Bockmeier says. He was promoted to assistant manager within eight months of joining the firm. He moved to a branch manager position in two years and from there became an area manager.
In 2003, Bockmeier moved to the Dallas area, where he was named regional rental manager, and in 2006 he moved to the Atlanta office, where he later was promoted to group vice president.
Enterprise’s website boasts that since Jan. 1 of this year, the company has promoted some 2,623 people.
“We promote 100 percent from within as a company,” Bockmeier says. “Our leadership is all created organically.”
That puts employee development high on the company’s list of short- and long-term goals.
“All the people who come up through the company are home-grown, they’re cultivated,” Bockmeier says. “Putting great foundations in place, putting processes in place, teaching people about execution I think is very important. And if we do a great job at that it helps enhance and build our culture.”
Bockmeier says that without doubt the company’s success is a result of its people. But it also is about the way Enterprise treats its people, says Terence Clark, area rental manager for northern Georgia.
“Their commitment to the employees,” Clark says. “I feel like every employee at Enterprise has a clear-cut understanding of what it takes to get to the next level. They do a great job of laying out career paths.”
Clark, who has known Bockmeier and worked with him for roughly a decade, notes Enterprise invests in its employees through training and technology, and it is those investments, in conjunction with its promotion policy, that empower staffers and help create loyalty.
“No matter who manages you, you feel good knowing that they’ve been in that position before,” Clark says. “And it helps employees feel good about opportunity. You know nobody’s going to come in off the street and take the job from you.”
Adds Selena Bierman, who serves as Atlanta area manager: “Because we have a culture of promoting from within, we don’t hire you to be in a bottom-level position for a decade. We hire you with the intention of developing you into the next leader.
“Our people are absolutely our biggest difference in the industry,” Bierman says.
Challenges and opportunities
For all its successes, Enterprise has not avoided bumps in the road. The Great Recession affected the company in 2008 and 2009 when the residual values of cars fell because of rising gas prices.
“Being a private company, the positive part of that is that we can react very nimbly,” Bockmeier says. “We’re a pretty conservative company, and the Taylor family made very quick adjustments to make sure to put our company in the best possible situation coming out of the lower residual values.”
Demand for used cars rebounded, placing Enterprise in a good position to sell its vehicles, which it does directly to auto dealers and through auctions, as well as at local retail facilities.
“Every time we hit a downturn we learn to become better operators,” Bockmeier says. “We learn to operate the business much more effectively, much more efficiently. And we maximize our potential, and we really use that as an opportunity to teach our people how to be as efficient and as effective as they possibly can with their operations.”
And while its people are its biggest asset, finding those people also can be problematic, Bockmeier says.
“It’s always challenging to stay ahead of the curve in finding great people,” he says. “Finding people to bring in and continue to develop and to nurture—as we grow it becomes more of a challenge. We have to have laser-focus on our people at all times.”
With the perception millennials are not interested in long-term career choices comes the challenge of attracting and keeping them. Bockmeier contends that if you love who you work for, love who you work with and there is room for advancement, keeping millennials—or anyone—onboard for the long haul is fairly easy.
Technology plays a role in that as well, he says.
“Because millennials want to utilize technology,” Bockmeier says, noting that Enterprise has moved to using tablets to connect staff with leadership and the customer. “How do we go to the customer? If we’re effective at going to the customer, we’re going to be effective at executing the long-term business plan.”
Embracing technology contributes to speed and ease of transaction, Bockmeier adds.
“We want to make it easy for you to be able to make a reservation,” he says. “We want to make it easy for you to be able to get and access a car.”
Bockmeier says there is not much about his job that makes him want to pull his hair out or keeps him up at night. But he wants to be sure that as a
company Enterprise continually is doing the right thing.
He describes himself as passionate, transparent, trustworthy and visible and says his passion is both a strength and a weakness.
“I’m very passionate about doing well. I’m very passionate about my people,” he says. “I’ve always got to make sure that I don’t become overly passionate.”
Enterprise is not just his job, Bockmeier says, it is part of who he is.
“It’s a part of my fabric,” he adds. “It’s funny because it’s like a small-business owner; their company is a part of them. It’s who they are. I don’t go home at night and the workday is done.”
Area rental manager Clark also points to Bockmeier’s passion for the business.
“Very competitive,” Clark says. “I would also say strategic. I can’t say enough about how influential he’s been, not just to me as it relates to my career, but also to females and minorities in our group and helping us develop into future leaders.”
Atlanta area manager Bierman says that for Bockmeier, his people are his priority.
“And that’s something he’s taught me with Enterprise,” she says. We really lead with employee development and driving our people to success, which runs the rest of the business. He taught me a lot about investing in our employees.”
Bierman says Bockmeier’s core values align with those of the business: honesty and integrity.
“He’s always been very direct,” she says. “I always felt he was going to be honest with his team and make sure that we knew where we stood. That really helped us perform.”
The best part of his job, Bockmeier says, is the people.
“Our mission statement for our company is if you take care of your employees and you take care of your people, profits will follow,” he says. “It’s a very simple, very direct piece, but Jack Taylor always focused on his people, always focused on the customer. I think that if you’re having fun and your employees are getting developed and you’re taking care of your customers, everything else is going to fall in line.”
One thing Bockmeier talks to his employees about is the importance of their personal brand, or their own ethics and the way they conduct business.
Bockmeier and his wife, Christy, have a 15-year-old son, Hudson. The family lives in Pittsford.
In his spare time, Bockmeier enjoys spending time with his family on the water and watching his son play baseball. He also enjoys outdoor activities, including skiing and golf.
New to the area, Bockmeier says he is looking forward to working with local charities and organizations whose focus is diversity and inclusion. While in Atlanta he worked and became friends with former Chicago Cubs outfielder C.J. Stewart, who founded a nonprofit organization that works with inner city youth to create positive outcomes for at-risk kids.
“In this racially charged environment and divided country that we have, Coe really is intentional about using his privilege and power as a white man to empower young black men,” Stewart says of his close friend. “I’m talking (about) finding out where the issues are, especially from a performance standpoint.”
Stewart says what Bockmeier holds dear is understanding people’s journeys, what they are striving for and what they should be striving for. Bockmeier’s nature is to be curious, he says.
“When I get done with Enterprise, I’d love to be able to start a diversity think tank,” Bockmeier says. “To be able to go and work with businesses and talk with them about why diversity is important and why their business mirroring the community is so important; why it’s good for business and how it helps the community.”
In addition to Stewart’s effect on his personal and professional relationships, Bockmeier cites his parents as the individuals who most influenced his life and who instilled in him his work ethic. His father was a partner in car dealerships in Oregon, and Bockmeier grew up around the car business.
“Work hard; always try your best,” Bockmeier says his parents taught him. “Give 100 percent and never quit.”
Title: Vice president and general manager, Upstate New York region, Enterprise Holdings Inc.
Education: B.S., political science, 1992, University of Oregon
Family: Wife, Christy; son, Hudson, 15
Activities: Spending time with family; watching son Hudson play baseball; skiing and golf
Quote: “All the people who come up through the company are home-grown, they’re cultivated. Putting great foundations in place, putting processes in place, teaching people about execution I think is very important. And if we do a great job at that it helps enhance and build our culture.”
3/31/2017 (c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal.
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