The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

It's Good To Be King!

July 2004, by Ed Bobit - Also by this author

Anybody can win, unless there happens to be a second entry.-George Ade

Victory has 100 fathers but defeat is an orphan.-Count Galeazo Ciano

Winning is overemphasized. The only time it is really important is in surgery and war.-Al McGuire


My mind won't let me stop thinking of our special event in Atlanta just prior to the NAFA meeting in April. They've always been memorable, but somehow this year made more of an impact on me personally.

Maybe it's because as one matures into the November of life, one appreciates the elements that stir emotions. Certainly it wasn't the venue, although the ballroom at the Hyatt was festive (we usually like to have the gala up top with a spectacular view of the city).

Upon reflection it has to have been a combination of a lot of things. For the Automotive Fleet Professional Fleet Manager of the Year Award (every year for 20 years) you had to feel the tension and anticipation.

Consider that out of about 7,000 fleets with 100+ vehicles, only 19 nominations were entered; and these were 24-karat finalists.

It's exciting to see the field whittled down to the last three or four and wonder how the 26 judges will cast their votes. Actually eight of them are previous fleet manager winners, so peers have a strong influence choosing the winner within the industry.

When we present the $3,000 business school scholarship to the winner's university of choice (Wheels has been our continuous major sponsor along with AFLA), it's a special treat to listen to Jim Frank extol the virtues of fleet managers as he recognizes the award winner. Jim has never faltered from being the strongest supporter of the fleet manager's role and responsibilities.

You need to understand that while you and I are virtually enamored with an entire cult of vehicle managers, it's not exactly "show biz." We don't have Klieg lights scanning the skies out front. There are no police escorts. Celebrities are not sitting at every table. The band No Doubt is not playing in the orchestra well.

Why 145 industry people show up (our largest crowd ever), I'll just have to guess (of course I know why. Georgia "Blue Laws" prevented us from having the usual champagne and bloodies, so it wasn't the virtual reception). It was more like one of today's TV reality shows; no one knows who the eventual winner will be, and it's agonizing for all the nominees and their friends.

Fleet managers, as a group, are professional and not what you might term glamorous in the trade. It's not a weekly TV series, but it is a daily challenge faced each and every day. It could be compared to the TV show "Survivor," if you stick it out for years.

They don't hear the now almost-immortal words, "You're Fired," but they don't have a key to the executive dining room either.

Henry Paetzel of General Mills was this year's deserved winner, and we congratulate him and the other nominees. It's an honor to even be among the final group.

Similarly, our Fleet Executive of the Year Award was bestowed on Tyco's Gordon Campbell who is equally impressive among a finalist group of uniquely talented upper management people.

Perhaps it is Jim Frank himself whose keen mind puts it all into a clear perspective when describing the effect of the changing marketplace, technology, and the need for corporate flexibility.

He says, "... this transformation will require an in-house manager who can get things done, who can be more flexible. Someone who can communicate to the organization (that) we don't run fleet by fixed policy anymore. We run it by strategy."

Long live the (king) fleet manager!



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