Brendan P. Keegan is an award-winning, 6-time president and CEO with a background in the financial services, technology, and professional service industries. He has led companies ranging in size from 500 to 10,000 employees. Brendan was recognized as the Fortune 100’s youngest Chief Sales Officer for EDS, a $22-billion tech leader. Brendan has raised nearly $3.0 billion in funding and repaid more than $6.0 billion to investors. He has had the opportunity to teach over 350,000 leaders, lead almost 50,000 amazing workers, and produce over $100 billion in sales via his work.
Brendan is currently running Merchants Fleet as their CEO, and he has a highly focused and exciting career ahead of him at the company. Within Merchants, he ends every meeting with “Enjoy the JOURNEY”. “Together, we are working tirelessly to transform a monolithic, slow-moving industry to catch up with the 4th industrial revolution we are experiencing,” says Brendan. “Our transformation is underway, and we have become the fastest-growing company in our industry.”
Brendan graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, received an MBA from George Washington University, and earned Executive Certificates from Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Chicago. In 2009, he began his professional association with Merchants as a customer. He was the CEO of a technology services firm located just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Merchants was their fleet supplier, and they had 10,000 employees worldwide. Brendan was so satisfied with Merchants’ service that when he was approached to join the board of directors and act as a strategic advisor, he readily agreed. He was requested to become the full-time CEO not long after, and he joined the Merchants team in 2018 and has been here since.
Merchants Fleet is the nation’s fastest-growing fleet management company, offering companies that rely on vehicles to conduct their operations various finance and service choices as well as serving as a one-stop source for all vehicle needs, including electric vehicles. From finance to charging to maintenance and remarketing, Merchants has partnered with dozens of Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), charging, data, and upfit partners to guarantee that every customer has access to the services, technology platforms, and solutions that will help their fleet make the switch to electric vehicles (EVs).
Merchants has been in business since 1962 and has stayed true to the company’s core values. Service, flexibility, and innovation are at the heart of everything the company does. Brendan says, “Our unique FleetTech programs are disrupting the industry and providing industry-first levels of fleet customization, flexibility, and unbeatable service. Because of this, we have had the opportunity to service fleets for some of the most recognized brands in the world.”
Merchants provides a one-of-a-kind solution that fleet managers won’t find anywhere else—freedom, in a nutshell. Traditional fleet services, long-term or short-term leases, and a variety of mobility options are all available from Merchants under one roof. All of this is done in a more responsive, nimble, and efficient manner that distinguishes them. The team is dedicated to problem-solving, creativity, constant progress, and proprietary technology. Through their unique FleetTech platform, data knowledge, consulting approach, and technology platforms such as FleetShare, Merchants has a leg up in monitoring and managing fleets.
Tough Times Playbook
During his first major crisis as a CEO, Brendan led well and learned a lot along the way. As his teams navigated different crises, he started to put a crisis playbook together, knowing that sometime later in his career he would be faced with helping another company through it. After using and developing the playbook further during 9/11, Brendan named it the TOUGH TIMES PLAYBOOK.
The Tough Times Playbook went through its 3rd revision during the Global Financial Crisis, and most recently, he updated and leveraged it during the COVID-19 Global Pandemic. He states, “It has been an anchor for me at the onset of a crisis, and it has served to remove fear, uncertainty, and doubt across employees, clients, and shareholders that I have had the opportunity to serve.” Although he has had to shift some of the finer points throughout the years, the message has remained the same.
Significance of Strategic Planning
Brendan was trained as an engineer and has seen how systems operate when they are practiced on a regular basis and carefully prepared. He has made it a point during his time as CEO to create a living, breathing strategic plan. Having a concise vision that teams can rally around and a strategic direction that executives can readily buy into and explain throughout the business is a huge part of it. This framework is then used across the corporation to help teams achieve their departmental goals, which helps the company achieve its broader objectives.
“If there was a silver lining to the pandemic, it was the opportunity it presented for all of us to step up and dig deep to find ways to help each other,” says Brendan. For Merchants, that entailed remarkable leadership, teamwork, and innovation, which resulted in the creation of a suite of new products that helped its fleet clients minimize financial risk during the pandemic and, at the same time, revolutionized the way people view fleets, leading the 60-year-old company to have great success, and it’s not slowing down.
Merchants is still the only fleet management firm that offers a full suite of flexible lease and rental choices for both short and long-term needs, as well as the possibility to buy or sell commercial vehicles, all under one roof. Merchants is offering clients the chance to experience several EV (electric vehicle) models on a short-term lease, with the option to convert to a long-term lease or exchange it for another model, as the country looks toward the electrification of fleets throughout North America. “With these new programs in place, Merchants gives clients the ability to flex their fleets to meet their business needs and minimize their financial risk,” opines Brendan.
Leading a High Growth Fleet Management Company
“There are a lot of responsibilities that come with being the CEO of the fastest-growing fleet management company in the industry,” says Brendan. Helping to drive profit, communicating with partners, and managing the organizational structure are just a few of the hundreds of things in Brendan’s job description. With that being said, the most important part of his job is being someone that his team can consistently depend on, lean on, and seek strength from. He states, “People feed off the energy of others, if I set the tone with high energy and a positive approach, my team will use that to fuel themselves.”
Brendan considers the moments when he gets to stroll around the office and check in with departments, leaders, and workers to be the highlight of his days. This time is used to catch up on not only work but also the personal lives of everyone in the office. Brendan has discovered that establishing these ties boosts workplace morale, which motivates him to continue to be a fearless leader.
A Broad Perspective on Leadership
Many people believe that leaders are born and have the innate traits of being a leader from their birth and upbringing. It’s part of their DNA, as some would claim. However, Brendan disagrees with this point. He states, “I think to a certain extent, our DNA or our innate character gets us started. But it’s up to us what we do with it from there. So, while part of our leadership may be born, that’s just like getting on base in baseball. We can all learn to be MADE leaders, and round the bases.”
Brendan has a unique perspective as a business leader. He asserts, “I was able to move quickly into leadership roles early on and thus had the chance to make mistakes and celebrate the successes of being a young leader.” For this reason, he believes he has had many young leaders come to him seeking advice and input on how they can improve their trajectory as leaders. He tells each one to follow the following steps:
- Surround yourself with the right people, specifically the right PARTNER.
- Develop a PLAN
- FOCUS your efforts, energy, time, and resources on that plan.
- COMMIT to long-term goals.
- Make SACRIFICES.
- Have PASSION for the gift of leadership.
- Have ENERGY to power through and lead.
- Have the COURAGE to act in the face of fear, uncertainty, and doubt.
- Have FAITH that a favorable outcome is possible.
As a leader himself for over 20 years, Brendan has had the opportunity to both experience what it is like to lead and to also train and coach others on how to lead. He believes that it starts with a leader signing up to fulfill the ultimate definition of leadership: “Leadership is the willingness to accept responsibility, to organize a group of people to achieve a common goal.”