“This is a sleeper industry,” says Adam Berger, co-owner of Doering Fleet Management. “It’s been such a traditional business where you’re just moving metal around and playing logistics games. It’s different now. … There’s never been so much excitement and innovation in the automobile industry as there is right now.”
Much of the transformation Berger mentions involves electric cars, self-driving vehicles and new business models that eschew car ownership. “That’s a pretty prolific change,” Berger says, citing a trade report that estimates mobility services such as Uber and Lyft will reduce consumer sedan sales 40 percent over the next 12 years.
What it does: Advanced fleet management and leasing operations
Annual revenue: $20 to $25 million
A Deep Dive Inside Milwaukee’s Startup Scene
Berger joined the business in 2003, 14 years after Doering transitioned away from dealerships and into leasing. In 2009, it evolved to include fleet management, or the maintenance of company vehicles. Think financing, risk management, repairs, upkeep and retrofitting of cars, trucks and buses owned by organizations.
Since then, Doering swelled from a four-state presence to a nationwide operator, and from a four-person outfit to a bustling office of 17 full-time employees and six part-timers.
It’s not enough. Berger says his No. 1 challenge at the moment is filling open positions with talented specialists. “There are so many opportunities that some are frankly falling out because we don’t have the team power to do it all,” he says. “We’ve got headhunters looking as we speak.”
Powering all that growth is a mushrooming roster of loyal clients, including hometown businesses Quad/Graphics (owner of this magazine) and Butters-Fetting, as well as out-of-state accounts like Tesloop, a Greyhound of sorts but with Teslas, that is the brainchild of a California teenager. Berger is particularly bullish on its fortunes: “They have a vision for transportation in the future where possession of the vehicle is not important but access to it is, and it’s certainly where the world is going.”
Since launching the fleet management business, Berger says Doering has never lost a customer; he likes to say it’s the last company people choose. “The automobile business is a very simple business, but it is riddled with poor service, bad customer experiences and broken promises,” he says. “Doering actually does everything we say. It’s really that simple.”
While Doering is not close to the same level as multinational industry giants LeasePlan and Element, which purchased GE’s fleet management business in 2015 for $6.9 billion, it’s seen its fortunes rise significantly in recent years. Doering’s annual revenue in the neighborhood of $20 million to $25 million makes it one of the largest fleet managers in Wisconsin, and with growth exceeding 15 percent last year, it may be only a matter of time before the larger players take notice of what’s happening in Brookfield.
“There’s going to be a shock to our competitors when they hear how far ahead we are,” he says.