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In Memoriam: Coach's Insights

Sometimes, a Mystery is Nothing More than an Enigma

After the recent NAFA Fleet Management Association reorganization, some feel left with more questions than answers.

April 22, 2014, by Ed Bobit - Also by this author

Just a few weeks ago, I was jawing with my colleague of nearly 30 years, AF Editor and Associate Publisher Mike Antich. He either knows what's happening in our industry or knows how to find it with a phone call. His opinions are invaluable to me, since, together, we plan our major feature articles for the magazine.

Anyway, I asked if he agreed that the NAFA Fleet Management Association had been "quiet" these past months, and, aside from promoting their Institute & Expo (I&E) hadn't generated much other news. Mike agreed, but said he heard there might be an announcement prior to their Board's quarterly meeting in San Diego late in February.

And, just like that, it happened.

Virtually every member of the NAFA office staff received a new or additional assignment and a new title to go with it. All to meet the goals of their "very aggressive strategic plans" (no specifics identified).

Our analysis concluded the most important change was luring James Marks, CAE, (who is now NAFA's COO) out of retirement. On the surface, it would appear that Marks will free Phil Russo (who came out of the reorganization with a new title as well: CEO) from most of the day-to-day operational management; however, doing some digging we find that Marks made his mark at CPCU (a property and casualty underwriting association) where his membership skills were outstanding.

Prediction: Look for a new membership drive initiative in the very early future.

It was my hope that NAFA would get back to the "transparency philosophy" the association maintained for many years. Now, that's completely gone. I have requested to know about membership (corporate vs. public sector; total current member count, etc.), but their replies only give me generalities. This secrecy is attributed to "info propriety in nature in that it relates to our (NAFA's) strategic positioning on issues."

What in the world is that all about? I've been a member of NAFA for nearly 50 years now and cannot even find out the number of members? How can all these staff members know a benchmark to show progress? How can the Trustee Board measure effectiveness if there is no chance for measurement?

I'm concerned. In past years, membership and education were integral parts of the new Board Chairman's platform. Now it's taboo. What's happening? Is it possible NAFA has signed a secret clandestine subcontractor agreement with the NSA?

A recent promotion out of NAFA's office suggests that an exhibitor can meet thousands of fleet managers at the I&E. I hope the membership has the wisdom to know this is not even remotely possible; not by a long shot.

NAFA does a lot of things "right," such as the "Beyond Fleet" program, in which we played a prominent role. (The original idea — getting the fleet manager's boss to appreciate the professionalism inherent in the fleet assignment — is one that we have nurtured and actively supported for decades).

NAFA often promotes that membership dollars are used to show that both Bloomberg's Business Week and the Wall Street Journal participate in this promotion. Yet, when I try to find out which issues are being used, that data is strategically not available.

Go figure.

For those of you with a long-term outlook, NAFA's venues for the next few years are announced: 2015 in Orlando, Fla.; 2016 in Austin, Texas; 2017 in Tampa, Fla.; and 2018 in Anaheim, Calif.


  1. 1. Kirk Herniman [ April 28, 2014 @ 06:52AM ]

    Ed, I couldn't agree more. To me it seems that for the past several years NAFA has changed. It used to be what could NAFA do for you, the member. Now it seems it's all about what you, the member, can do for NAFA.

  2. 2. Richard Battersby [ April 28, 2014 @ 12:06PM ]

    That's odd. I thought any NAFA member could log on to their website at any time and view the directories of NAFA members and affiliates, even sorted alphabetically or by industry? I know I've done so in the past. Is this no longer the case?

  3. 3. John Croop [ April 30, 2014 @ 01:27PM ]

    Ed, I disagree. As an active NAFA member I think the organization is better then ever, and is a members driven organization. Education is always in the forefront, and it is my belief that NAFA leadership is looking to expand opportunities even further into the fleet world. There was a point in time where I felt NAFA was "my way or the highway" kind of operation. But not any longer. It is truly for the members. I urge all members of NAFA to step up and become active, serve on a committee or board. Avail yourself and see what the day to day operations of NAFA are all about. What you put into anything in life is what you get out of it. Just sitting on the sidelines as an armchair quarterback for too long, will make one look like the south end of a north bound donkey.

  4. 4. Chuck Parker [ June 03, 2014 @ 09:35AM ]

    We all love Ed Bobit and appreciate what he has done for the fleet industry. So enough said. NAFA is better than ever and is, has, and will continue to make the fleet industry even better. We all need to pull together, particularly those of us who publish content and messaging for this great industry.

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Ed Bobit

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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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