Five weeks into his new assignment as Group Rental Manager in France, Edwin Charlesfound he still needed to make some adjustments. Turns out, living in Paris isn’t much like living in south Florida. “Honestly, sometimes I feel like I was dropped on Mars,” he smiles. “Everything is different here. I still get lost four to five times a day — and the GPS is really not much help. If I make one wrong turn, it means I’m probably going to be a half-hour late.”
Group Rental Manager Edwin Charles has taken chances during his Enterprise career — whether it involved serving as one of the company’s first dual-branded area managers while in south Florida, or moving halfway across the world to help guide the operations in France. But while getting the lay of the land can prove exasperating at times, Edwin sees his new country quickly becoming a land of extraordinary opportunity for Enterprise Holdings. “It’s truly a ground-level situation — a chance to teach the Enterprise way to an already successful team,” he says. “It’s a huge challenge, but also extremely gratifying.”
Paving his way to Paris
Enterprise entered the French market in 2012 with its acquisition of Citer SA from the European car manufacturer PSA Peugeot Citroën. The operation began transitioning to the Enterprise brand this past February. Two things made the opportunity to help with these efforts particularly appealing to Edwin. First, he’s fluent in French having gone to high school and college in Montreal, Quebec. Second, his recent experience had focused on making a brand and cultural transition work for the South Florida Group.
“At the airport in Miami, I became one of the company’s first dual-branded area managers — overseeing the Enterprise and National operations,” he says. “I went on to manage the Alamo location there, one of the biggest in the country. That experience gave me the chance to quickly learn how to integrate brands and cultures, take best practices from both, and create growth and opportunities for our teams.”
Clearly, Edwin’s approach had an impact in Miami. “While overseeing the Alamo brand, our SQi climbed 13 points over a 24-month period, and that gave me the opportunity to apply for the job in Paris,” he notes.
Teaching the Enterprise way
As he’s discovered, the task Edwin now faces in France is similar to what he accomplished in Florida: “We have a great team,” Edwin says of his new colleagues. “They’re very engaged in the business, excited about the acquisition, and they know how to run the operation and run it well. So our challenge is largely a matter of teaching the Enterprise way — showing people how our culture of providing exceptional customer service will lead to opportunity down the road for everyone involved.”
A recent branch visit provided a chance for some real-time instruction. “A customer returned a vehicle rented from another location, and as he checked in, he told the counter agent he hadn’t received a full tank of gas initially,” Edwin says. “Our employee apologised for the oversight, but didn’t intend to do anything more. So I mentioned to the branch manager that we might be missing an opportunity to ensure the customer’s complete satisfaction.”
With that, the branch manager took action — crediting the customer for the additional fuel and providing a 10 percent discount on a future rental. Edwin also asked the manager to contact the first location to reinforce the idea that customers should be taken care of, no matter where they drop off their vehicle. “You can’t just read about the service culture we want to build,” Edwin says. “You really have to live it — and translate those opportunities into action.”
Growing the brand abroad
While the France team is still early in the integration process, Edwin believes the growth opportunities will come along quicker than some people think. “We have a great business model, a passionate workforce and we have already made some tremendous strides,” he says. And that outlook is a big reason why he agreed to pull up stakes and move 7,516 kilometers from his house in south Florida. Soon, his wife, Lucy, and children (Ethan, 10, and Emma, 7) will join him in Paris, once the school year wraps up.
Edwin heartily recommends the move.
“When you come on board with Enterprise, it’s part of our makeup to be flexible,” he says. “So why not go for it? If you have the language skills and the background, you can definitely help this company grow abroad.”