The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Fleet Managers: Battered, Maligned & Abused!

January 2002, by Ed Bobit - Also by this author

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to the indifferent to them; that's the essence of inhumanity. - George Bernard Shaw


The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of great moral crises maintain their neutrality. - Dante Alighieri


Never play cards with a man called Doc. Never eat in a place called Mom's. Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own. - Nelson Algren


When I first started selling advertising in 1954 in Chicago for McGraw-Hill (on Fleet Owner magazine), there was much to learn in a new field. It didn't take me long to find out what the challenges were.

Getting to the right guy (or gal) who makes the decision. It's the mantra of every sales manager. The key buying influence is an important person making many choices throughout the workday so it's not surprising that it is difficult to reach them. Or, to have them agree to a presentation, or lunch, or to respond in any way. It doesn't matter how clever you are; they're tough to reach.

Unless you want to starve or get fired as a salesperson, you quickly learn to cultivate the assistant or secretary of the decision-maker. It's here I like to make the comparison with many acting as fleet managers today. Even though they may not be the ultimate one to stamp final approval to a purchase, they can be critically instrumental in the ending selection.

Just as a good secretary can wedge you into an initial meeting or suggest that you call at 5:10 p.m. (when he's alone in his office) or what's his or her boss' favorite hobby or interest, making friends at this level pays off. (It cost me many boxes of candy or a rose to learn how it's done.)

Today's fleet manager is similarly the keystone step for anyone with a portfolio of wares (vehicles, leasing, allied services, etc.). With so many accounts now outsourcing or unbundling, there is always a need for information and communications, no matter how inexperienced the fleet manager may be.

During an era where many people tend to minimize the importance of the commercial/corporate fleet manager, I choose to defend them. Whether you have experience for 10 years and operate a 1,000-vehicle fleet or if you're brand-new out of the secretarial pool assigned to the task, your observations, input and recommendations are vital. The fact that you are familiar with the corporate culture and the goals and mission for the period, give you an edge over anyone on the outside. If you're new at the job, you can learn valuable basics rapidly through networking, studying the vast resources from publications and a library like NAFA has to offer.

Who's in a better position to determine the kind of service you are receiving from our outsourcers? Simply match reality against the terms of agreement.

You also know your drivers better than anyone. Not unlike the secretary I brought chocolates to, or the ad agency media buyer who often couldn't spell f-l-e-e-t, you, as a fleet manager, are a gatekeeper who can support an idea or find a way to make sure no one gives it credence.

Fleet managers will always be key and needed. Those that earn a professionalism stripe are secure. Make no mistake, until all sales and service is switched over to the Internet, you have the ability to save your company a whole lot of money, whether you're the ultimate decision-maker or not.

I'm the best fan a fleet manager ever had.


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