Allison Lanzilotta’s Rise to President of Fleet Response
Opportunity. Hard work. Growth. Family. This is the Fleet Response story – and the story of Allison Lanzilotta’s journey from an entry-level position in the subrogation department to being named president of the company.
In August of 2022, after 23 years with Fleet Response, Allison’s leadership and accomplishments are being recognized as CEO Scott Mawaka announces her transition from Executive Vice President to her new role as President of Fleet Response.
Scott describes this promotion as a statement about Allison’s character and growth. “With her natural people skills and intelligence, she earned respect and went from an hourly operations role to earning my absolute confidence. For a privately-held, second generation company to declare the highest level of responsibility to a non-blood relative – that’s significant.”
Allison’s rise to senior leadership tells a story not only of her work ethic, integrity and strategic savvy – but of a company that provides employees with challenges, training, support and advancement.
Allison grew up in Rocky River, Ohio and attended Grove City College in Grove City, PA. After graduating in 1999 with a degree in molecular biology and business management, she returned to Northeast Ohio and began her job search. Spotting a newspaper ad for a small family-owned business known as Rental Concepts Inc. (RCI), she applied for a job in their subrogation department and was hired after a successful interview with owner Ron Mawaka, Sr., who founded the company in 1986.
In the subrogation department, Allison quickly learned how to help clients recoup expenses from at-fault drivers’ insurance carriers. With few employees at the time and no separate call center yet in place, that also meant answering phone calls from drivers to gather facts, report a loss due to an accident, and set up a rental or tow.
“I wasn’t in subrogation long before I was presented an opportunity to move into a sales coordinator role working for Scott Mawaka who was building out the sales team for the accident management program,” says Allison.
Scott remembers immediately spotting Allison’s talent. “The minute I hired her; I knew she was unique. She was very intelligent, independent and motivated. She is arguably the most balanced professional I have ever worked with. It wasn’t a conscious decision to ‘groom’ her to become president of the company, but I knew that she would make me better. I decided there was nowhere I was going without taking her with me!”
Allison attributes much of her career growth to Scott, who took on the role of CEO/President in 2016 – a company doing business as Fleet Response since 2003. She’s been along for the ride and became a driver as the company expanded from managing temporary business rentals to comprehensive corporate accident management.
“Scott’s been great at challenging me and allowing me to work on open-ended on projects with autonomy. He’d always answer my questions and give feedback but pushed me to learn as I go. He helped me set goals and a vision, with lots of brainstorming on the strategy side. His belief in me and my ability has helped me a ton. We developed a great working relationship and a personal one too. Knowing his wife and two daughters has strengthened the trust and respect we have for each other.”
LEARNING THE BUSINESS
As a sales coordinator, Allison helped the sales team put together proposals but also worked on RFPs, reports to clients, system demos, tradeshows and event planning. “I learned a ton about our industry, our competitors, our clients and why they love us,” she says. “I learned who Fleet Response is in the industry and how important it is to get client feedback.”
That feedback led to the development of their first safety program. Allison played the role of business analyst, working with developers building a system that evolved into the Driver History Profile still on the Fleet Response platform.
Allison’s skill in listening to clients helped her work with the IT team to improve system efficiencies and expand data along with customized reporting and process efficiency. In 2006 she moved into the operations management side of the business as a director. She was responsible for the call center, claims, adjustors, maintenance and subrogation groups. “I really worked to build up these departments and the formality of their management teams. I also brought to the table a greater understanding of the client side,” she recalls.
As her career continued to evolve, in 2009 she took on leadership of accounting and was named VP of Operations. Just a few years later, IT was put under her direction, and in 2012 she was named Executive Vice President.
RIGHT TIME TO BE PRESIDENT
CEO Scott Mawaka describes himself as “a people person” and being in sales, he gravitated toward that same quality in Allison. “She has this natural magnetism. When she walks into a room and smiles, you say ‘I want to talk to that person.’ She exudes confidence and always has good things to say about people. And she was extremely organized. What you asked her to do, she got done. She has taken ownership of every role given to her and does it with incredible balance among a wide range of personalities across our business lines.”
Scott sees her promotion as “probably overdue” since Allison has been performing most of the role of president for the last year or two. “It’s time for Allison to receive the recognition and clear authority that comes with the title of president. She’s earned this position and has my full confidence. This promotion makes it clear – she is the boss,” says Scott with a smile.
As CEO, Scott will select executive leaders while Allison leads that team. “My role is to inspire and challenge Allison – and to foster creativity in her vision. All employees can and should do the same as we fulfill our mission and nurture the family culture my dad started. And of course, like any company president, Allison’s job is to make decisions that maximize shareholder return.”
She doesn’t see any major changes coming with her promotion to president – because she’s mostly been playing that role for several years. “I’m already involved in every area of the organization, so there won’t be major changes in how I operate. I’ve always been consistent in my management style and clear with expectations. I listen to everyone’s perspective and ideas. That’s how we come up with creative solutions.”
CULTURE THAT BREEDS SUCCESS
These days, it’s rare for a college graduate to stick with their first employer. But Allison has done just that. “I continued to have opportunities here that challenged me. I was never bored.” She has also stayed on because of continuous development provided by Fleet Response, great relationships with peers, and the support that comes in a family culture.
“When I started here in 1999, I was engaged to be married. Now my husband (Scott Lanzilotta) and I have three children ages 16, 13 and 10 – our sons Dash and Bo and our daughter Harper. Before we had kids, I got my master’s degree with help from the company. They invested in me and then supported me as I learned work/life balance. That’s been an important reason why I’ve stayed and it’s important to our employees. We put a lot of time and energy into giving opportunities for flexibility and mental health for all our employees.”
Allison is proud of the Fleet Response leadership’s efforts to keep a family feel in a company that’s grown to over 300 employees. “We want every employee to feel valued, able to make recommendations and have a voice. I experienced that myself. It keeps people motivated to stay, so I put a lot of energy into making sure employees are engaged and valued.”
She’s also proud to have played a key role in the 2021 acquisition of Paragon Subrogation Services, a landmark moment in the company’s history. She was involved in determining if it was a right fit, making an offer, managing negotiations, funding the deal, and leading the integration of two independent businesses into one stronger company.
PART OF THE FAMILY
Allison reflects on her own story and believes it one that every Fleet Response employee can tell in their own way.
“We have so many great examples of people starting in our call center and growing into management roles. I’d tell every employee – don’t sit back and wait for it. Talk to your manager and apply for our Lead management development program. There are lots of opportunities to grow here.”
Allison makes it clear she will continue to lead Fleet Response as a team player. “I assure everyone that Scott is not going anywhere! Our leadership team has strategic plans for continued investments into our systems, processes and people. We are a stable company focused on growth, innovation and best in class service to our clients.”
And though she in not technically part of the Mawaka family, Allison feels she has been treated like family. “Fleet Response recognizes people who put in the hard work. It speaks to our culture. When you’re given opportunities and you perform and show loyalty to the organization, you absolutely feel like part of the family.”