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Pam Nicholson, Enterprise Rent-A-Car executive vice president and chief operating officer, spends most of her work day with people who run the different divisions within the company. Shown here with Peter LeBlanc (wearing a green tie), Dawn Hopper, Alonzo Byrd Jr. and across the table Lisa Martini.



By Linda F. Jarrett

When Pam Nicholson was a young girl, her mother told her to prepare for a career that would hold her in good stead. Pam followed her advice and is now the chief operating officer with a worldwide multi-billion dollar company.

WHEN SHE ENROLLED at the University of Missouri–Columbia, Nicholson was not sure where her path would take her. However, after graduating 24 years ago with a degree in consumer economics, she joined Enterprise-Rent-A-Car as a management trainee working behind the desk at a branch office. Her course was set.

Started in 1957 by Jack Taylor, Enterprise enjoys a reputation for attracting the “best and brightest” to its portals, and Nicholson felt that this was a good fit.

“What attracted me,” Nicholson says, “was the fact that Enterprise had a management training program. It had a reputation for treating its employees well. It was a company known for promoting from within based on performance not length of service.”

Within a year, her rise began. From a trainee, she was promoted to assistant branch manager and transferred to the Southern California area. After 12 years, she worked her way up to regional vice-president, and now, 12 years later, she heads Enterprise’s global operations as executive vice president and chief operating officer.

Nicholson firmly believes that the work ethic promoted by Taylor has propelled the company into the global business spotlight.

“Jack Taylor’s mission is to take care of customers and take care of employees,” Nicholson says. “If you do those two things well, the company will be successful and grow. That remains the foundation and base of the company. We live and die by that mission and it has certainly worked.”

That is an understatement. Enterprise started its rental operation in 1963 with a fleet of 17 cars. As the largest rental car company in North America, it has 602,000 rental cars in service. With 5,400 offices in the United States and more than 600 offices in Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Ireland, it employs 57,000 people.

Keeping these employees happy is key to Enterprise, Nicholson says. “We work hard, but it’s also a fun place to work. If you have fun, your customers will want to do business with you.”

The fact that Nicholson’s values closely match those of Enterprise played a large part not only in her choosing to join the firm, but also in her rise to the upper executive echelons. Honesty and integrity are two of those values held in common.

“I originally started because of what Enterprise had to offer to me, my future, and the opportunity,” she says. ”But what has made Enterprise so important to me and why I have stayed for 24 years is that its values match mine.”

In her job, Nicholson works with all parts of Enterprise’s operations including the rental division, fleet services, truck rental, and car sales. “Typically, I spend most of my day working with people who run the different divisions within the company, understanding what their strategies are, what their needs are and how I can assist them.”

That is also the most fun part of Nicholson’s job, she says, “The people here are tremendous and I’ve made many friends throughout my career with this company.”

Watching many of these people grow professionally is also gratifying to her. “I think that’s been the most rewarding,” she says. “Making sure we are creating opportunities for those who are starting with the company today.”

Nicholson does miss being involved with these employees on a day-to-day basis. “I worked in operations most of my career, and I miss working in the field with our rental and fleet service customers. I also miss getting involved with our front-line employees who really work with our customers and provide great customer service.”

Community involvement is another of Nicholson’s values promoted by Enterprise. “We encourage all of our employees to get involved in the community, not only with their time, but we encourage them to seek funds from our Foundation if they’re involved in a particular charity.

Nicholson’s community involvement extends to sitting on the board of directors for Energizer Holdings Inc. and the Missouri Humane Society.

Fellow Energizer board member John Roberts, executive director, Civic Progress, says Nicholson adds a dimension to the board. “She brings a broad background of knowledge and experience as it relates to business matters. Her operating experience at Enterprise and her general business knowledge is excellent, and she’s highly respected by other board members.”

Perhaps one of the organizations closest to her heart is the Humane Society. An inveterate animal lover and owner of three dogs and two cats (all rescue animals), Nicholson enjoys all activities that help with pet adoption and care, her favorite being the Society’s annual Bark in the Park.

Kathy Warnick, president of the Humane Society, says Nicholson is a “die-hard animal lover. Pam has demonstrated her commitment to animal welfare by adopting shelter animals and her love for them is evident. Plus, she has been instrumental in spearheading a $3 million capital campaign for the farm animal rehabilitation division of the Society’s Longmeadow Rescue Ranch in Union, Mo.”

She adds, “Pam has also been extremely helpful in securing major donations to combat the substandard puppy mills throughout the state of Missouri.”

“Missouri has the most puppy mills in the U.S.,” said Nicholson. “And while the Humane Society does a great job helping these animals, more work needs to be done both in funding and for the investigative team to help in these efforts. We need to support stricter Missouri laws so that animals are, at a minimum, provided with basic shelter and food.”

Nicholson also loves horseback riding and while she does not own a horse now, she hopes to again someday.

“I love to exercise,” she says, “whether it’s cycling or taking walks with friends.”

Travel plays a big part in her life, both in her professional and private life. “My job takes me to some great places. In the next two months, I’ll be traveling to the UK, Germany, and Geneva. Once a year I take a trip through Canada, and visit at least five provinces in a week or two.”

When pleasure traveling, she and her husband, Cal, like to go to Florida or anywhere in the Caribbean, where they can scuba dive. “Or any place warm,” she adds, “where I can read a book and ride my bike!”

Nicholson says she cannot think of anything she would rather be doing than what she is doing now, being an integral part of an international company that showed a 2004 revenue of $7.4 billion. A large company with a family feel.

“I’ve only been in this position for six months, so I have a lot of things to do,” she says. “Currently I’m wrapping my arms around our national and international growth strategy for the’s all very exciting.”

However, she is ever mindful of the present “My goals today are to continue to keep this company growing and providing opportunities for our employees, to work with all our divisions throughout the company and help them with continued growth and success.”

Listening to Nicholson, one has no doubt that she will achieve these goals, sooner rather than later.


1957 With seven cars and a hunch that customers will embrace the novel concept of leasing automobiles, Jack Taylor founds Executive Leasing Company in St. Louis.

1962 Jack listens to his customers and hears that they need to rent cars while theirs are in the shop. Executive Leasing Co. adds a rental car business division with a fleet of 17 vehicles. The company also starts a Car Sales division.

1969 Jack and his team decide to expand beyond St. Louis. Unable to use the Executive name in some markets, Jack re-christens his growing operation “Enterprise” in honor of the aircraft carrier aboard which he served as a decorated fighter pilot in World War II.

1970 Enterprise realizes that the best growth opportunities are with hometown renters, not airport travelers. While the rest of the industry competes at the edge of America’s runways, Jack takes the company into neighborhoods—where customers live and work.

1974 A branch manager in Orlando starts a new program that provides customers with a free ride to the rental office. The service leads to Enterprise’s well-known “We’ll Pick You Up” tradition.

1980 Enterprise opens its National Reservation Center, allowing customers to call a toll-free number to reserve Enterprise vehicles nationwide. The company’s fleet reaches 6,000 rental vehicles.

1989 The company’s name changes to Enterprise Rent-A-Car to reflect the enormous growth of its rental car business. Enterprise has more than 500 locations and more than 50,000 rental vehicles.

1992 Enterprise surpasses $1 billion in annual revenues and nearly 10,000 employees in its work force. Enterprise’s leasing division becomes Enterprise Fleet Services, focusing on serving businesses with small- to mid-sized fleets.

1993 Enterprise opens its first international office in Windsor, Canada. By this time the company has more than 200,000 rental vehicles and 1,500 locations.

1994 Enterprise opens its first European rental office in Reading, England.

1995 Enterprise opens its first on-airport rental location at the Denver International Airport. The company has more than $2 billion in annual revenue and operates more than 250,000 rental vehicles.

1999 Enterprise surpasses the half-million-vehicles mark in its rental and leasing fleet and 4,000 locations worldwide. The company opens its first Rent-A-Truck location.

2004 Enterprise operates more than 6,000 offices in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Ireland, and Germany. In the U.S., it has locations within 15 miles of 90 percent of the entire population. The company has 600,000 rental car and 135,000 Fleet Services vehicles in service. The company surpasses $7 billion in annual revenue.



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