My message a few months ago was expressly to try to get some kind of unity and communication between fleet “newbies” and veterans. My prose apparently awakened both ends of the knowledge spectrum, since I received more supportive comments than any of my editorials in recent years.
Fairly typical of the feedback came from Sabrina Charles from Redflex in Phoenix:
“I’m pretty sure you were talking about me when you wrote this. I am the self-trained newbie with less than 500 vehicles (115). I wear all of those hats, and I am unable to travel and network. I always feel as if I am the only one in my situation. Because as I go to Rocky Mountain Fleet Management Association (RMFMA) conferences, it seems that everyone is an ‘old timer’ and knows what to do. I learned fleet by myself, and it hasn’t been easy. Any additional advice is welcomed.”
If you’ve been around this business for some years, like me, you have to feel for this young lady. She’s got heart and almost desperately needs help. In my opinion, Sabrina recognizes her limitations, but still has the wisdom to know she has to earn her stripes by her own efforts to become a true professional.
The penalty of success is to be bored by the people who used to snub you.
The fastest way to succeed is to look as if you’re playing by other people’s rules, while quietly playing by your own.
I was successful because you believed in me.
-Ulysses S. Grant to Abraham Lincoln
It also looks like her batting average is not up there when it is difficult to find a mentor or experienced fleet managers with whom to network (even when she’s seeking it).
This part was hard to understand, as I received any number of e-mails from pros who gave signs of offering networking assistance for newbies. They were forthright in sharing, as I expected would be the case; plus, they had recommendations for Sabrina that bespoke of experience.
I’m still an ardent believer in networking to gain advantage, whether it’s in the media area or fleet or any profession. It is my hope that anyone new to our business will take the time to develop networking partners as a kind of sounding board. With more than 100 vehicles, I’m quite certain that many of the major industry suppliers will be happy to support Sabrina’s learning curve. That is also one of the features of our annual Fact Book, which identifies the various regional reps who will share knowledge.
Sabrina: Discuss and read about purchasing incentives, lifecycle costs, the savings with fuel efficiencies, and remarketing values at resale time among operational routines, plus your company’s policies affecting drivers.
High on any newbie’s priority list should be getting invited to the OEM Product Previews where you can learn about the vehicles first hand — especially the ride-and-drive portion.
A recent Maritz Research study of more than 82,000 new-car buyers found that in the U.S., 11 percent didn’t even test drive a vehicle before buying it. It was 26 percent in Canada. It is hard for me to imagine a real fleet manager making a choice without a full test drive (if they really care about their drivers). It’s especially true today, when the OEMs are introducing so many new innovations and changing specs.
Lastly, newbies need to earn the confidence of their boss to allow them to attend these product previews as well as the national conferences, such as the Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association (AFLA) and the NAFA Fleet Management Association. They are a networking paradise.
At the NAFA Institute & Expo (I&E), where more than 300 commercial fleet managers met this year, you can sign up (online) for its excellent Certified Automotive Fleet Manager (CAFM) course.
With genuine motivation and initiative, any newbie can become a growing professional in a relatively short time if they work at it (and have some encouragement from management).
You can do it!