In Memoriam: Coach's Insights

They Call it ‘Baptism Under Fire’

It’s not in any study book; you won’t earn a certificate to verify your status from any NAFA test. You may not even realize how you are finally recognized and honored to join that special group known as professional fleet managers.

July 2, 2013

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It’s sometimes referred to as a “rite of passage.” It’s an “initiation” into the “Club.” It really makes a world of difference to your work life. Yet, with all the hype, it’s simply an invitation to a manufacturer’s National Fleet Product preview.

It may sound simple and even meaningless to you if you aren’t in the inner circle. Oh, if you have a 1,000-vehicle fleet and you just replaced the former fleet manager, you could be SpongeBob SquarePants or Miss Piggy, because you are automatically “in.” If you’ve signed a three-year purchase agreement promising 90 percent of your buys will be with your single OEM, you’re automatically “in.” In fact, you’ll probably be able to bring along your admin or purchasing staff member, too.

But, if you are managing a fleet with a few hundred cars or trucks and maybe buy 50 new vehicles a year, here’s where it gets sticky, because there are literally hundreds and hundreds of these fleets that manufacturers love but are necessarily limited to invitations extended.

● Hint: You can make a difference.

Of course, if spending three days as a special guest at a Gaylord Resort in Orlando, or enjoying the splendor of the classic Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, or soaking in the ambiance of the Mirage on the Vegas Strip doesn’t appeal to you, then forget I brought it up. The venues may change, but you’ll be exposed to products like never before, and you are treated first class all the way while rubbing shoulders with fleet elites.

● Hint: You can make a difference.

First, make a mental choice of the OEM that fits best overall. Then, get to personally know your field rep; encourage lunch meetings for serious discussions. (The rep probably has a few hundred accounts similar in size, so you need to stand out). Take any opportunity to meet the rep’s boss. If you really want an invite, you’ll figure out how to get one without compromising your position. And, once you’ve earned one invite you have an even better chance of getting other offers.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

-Winston Churchill

Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.

-Booker T. Washington

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.

-W.C. Fields

● Hint: Once you are invited, play by the “rules.”

First of all, make your boss a partner in your quest (you’ll need his or her approval to go, anyway). Underscore the value of discussing selection with the OEM experts and networking “take-home” knowledge. While at the Product Preview, always attend the meetings and make sure your field rep knows you didn’t sleep in.

At the test track segment, make every attempt to appear excited about your next ride & drive (even though the black tarmac is virtually melting into you new white sneakers). And, never get caught in the long lines that have the race driver demonstrating the virtues of the latest Corvette, Mustang 500, or souped-up Spyder.

Seriously, these events by the OEMs are beneficial to you as well as for them. If you’re committed to earning your “stripes” by getting an invite, I’ll be happy to add additional hints that help; e.g., finding the shrimp station early if they have one; always view the dessert table before hitting the entrées; etc.

Let me know if I can help.

[email protected]

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Author Bio

Ed Bobit

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Former Editor & Publisher

With more than 50 years in the fleet industry, Ed Bobit, former Automotive Fleet editor and publisher, reflected on issues affecting today’s fleets in his blog. He drew insight from his own experiences in the field and offered a perspective similar to that of a sports coach guiding his players.


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