In Memoriam: Coach's

Leveraging the Strategic Relationship Between Corporate Execs and Fleet Managers

"Street smarts" and reliable research can help us bring better direction to improving the "respect" gap between the two factions. Plus, the unintended (good) results would mean key savings for the company.

October 31, 2013

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Ever since the NAFA Fleet Management Association announced its Beyond Fleet (many hats) initiative about two years ago, I (and our entire staff) have been 100-percent supportive of the program. We've been working closely with NAFA to make the campaign as effective as possible.

At this point, many months later, everyone in the industry should not only be fully aware of it, but be embracing it. Doug Weichman (exiting as NAFA's president earlier this year) declared that Beyond Fleet was one of his three greatest accomplishments of his tenure. The new NAFA president, Claude Masters, wants to add analytics and some Six Sigma tools in his education goals to tie in with Beyond Fleet.

In August 2011, NAFA conducted a study within its membership. The one obvious question was how they (as fleet managers) felt as to how they (the face of "fleet") were perceived within their own companies.

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Overwhelmingly, the 400 respondents said the fleet manager position was rarely understood and often failed to get the recognition it deserved within the business community.

We could have shared that conclusion with you years ago.

It's not a hidden fact of life that with the dollar investment into the purchase and operation of fleet vehicles there is a considerable financial factor. Understandably, there are a number of company execs who also have a role in the selection, eligibility, and budget approval process. Any fleet manager will confirm this.

From the many years of communicating to fleet managers through Automotive Fleet, (the 1960s) we listened to the OEMs and the FMCs who wanted to develop a closer relationship with all the corporate influences on the vehicle purchasing and operations "committee." Their intention wasn't to "go around" the fleet manager, but, rather, have all decision makers well informed on their products and/or services.

For the record, our own marketing people responded to this apparent need. We filled it by creating a unique new database that has proved to be powerful for those who want to communicate to this especially qualified but diverse group of execs in the finance, purchasing, HR, sales, general admin, and other internal professionals. (Note: Fleet managers are reluctant to share who their boss or vehicle committee members are, so it's a particularly expensive investment to keep this list current).

That's how, and why, Fleet Financials (FF) was born in 1987. We've been the original and continuous advocate for fleet managers to their bosses ever since. With FF, we were also able to create the very meaningful Fleet Executive of the Year Award (with the help of CEI as sponsor) each year to date.

There are more than 12,000 commercial fleets in the U.S. and about 3,000 (those with 200-plus vehicles) are served by FF. From the beginning, FF was (and still is) another level specifically for senior management. However, after the initial debut, there apparently were so many new "consultations" initiated by the execs (now becoming knowledgeable to fleet's challenges). The hue and cry was immediate and loud (by fleet managers who heretofore had maintained their own kind of fiefdom) claiming to have been blind-sided; our only recourse was to also add their names to our circulation list.

Now, some decades later, NAFA has its Beyond Fleet program in full gear. Not only is its full print campaign running in FF, but we also worked out a way for NAFA to sponsor a fully accredited feature of professional editorial content in each issue. They get it!

NAFA's new president, Masters, has said he wants the business world to recognize and respect the CAFM degree as much as most pay tribute to a CPA designation. I agree it's a very worthy goal for NAFA's 900-plus commercial (and other segments) fleet manager members.

The industry should work together to make this happen and earn this kind of respect for the other 11,000 commercial fleet managers who aren't yet members. I'll give you my thoughts on how to expand this effort next month. In the meantime, give me your ideas.

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Author Bio

Ed Bobit

Editor & Publisher

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

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