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Long-Time Fleet Managers Reveal Their Secrets to Longevity in Fleet

January 9, 2013, by Mike Antich - Also by this author

Why do some fleet managers last longer in their positions than others? Longevity is important, because if you want to be a great fleet manager, you need “time in the saddle.” I’ve discovered that longevity is the secret to being exceptionally good at fleet management. So, back to my opening rhetorical question: What is the secret to longevity in fleet? Based on my conversations and observations over the years, there are four key factors: flexibility in the face of change, a desire to be a lifelong learner, the ability to have an open mind, and the management skills to be a team player.

Strong Survival Skills: Flexibility & Adaptability
There is one truism in life: Nothing stays the same. A key trait contributing to fleet manager longevity is the ability to be flexible, especially in fluid situations, and to have the ability to easily adapt to change. You must be ready to change your professional direction, which may not always be the direction you anticipated or initially desired. All long-time fleet managers have demonstrated an ability to be flexible, even when management makes significant major decisions affecting the fleet with little to no input from them. Since fleet is ever-changing, you must be able to adapt to change, instead of fighting it. This professional orientation and philosophy will increase your fleet longevity quotient. Not only are long-time fleet managers able to adapt to change, they are willing to recommend change. A corollary trait is having a thick skin. No matter what you do, somebody won’t like it, and they’ll be sure to let you know — you need to roll with the punches.

Motivated to be Lifelong Learners
Long-time fleet managers demonstrate a continual desire to learn. By their nature, they love to learn new things and are motivated to do so. They are never complacent — to be complacent is the corporate kiss of death. They constantly try to improve their value to the company through continual education in developing new skills. Not only are they motivated to expand their professional skill set, they do not hesitate to share this knowledge with their colleagues and direct reports. However, much of a fleet manager’s true education is learned from on-the-job experience — the proverbial school of hard knocks. You will never gain this real-world experience unless you have longevity in your position.

Open-Minded to New Approaches
One important trait of long-time fleet managers is being open-minded. They listen and give serious consideration to new ideas, but have the wisdom and sensibility to temper ideas in the light of fleet pragmatism. But, the bottom line is that they are not threatened by new ideas. They recognize that, even if they are the resident in-house subject-matter expert, someone else may have a better idea. They are open to ideas regardless of the source, whether they are from suppliers, industry publications, drivers, or employees in other departments that interact with fleet. It is crucial to be open-minded, because fleet interacts with various departments and user groups. Being open-minded is being open to new opportunities. This goes beyond “thinking outside-the-box.” It means removing all internal limits to visualize a goal and be open to whatever the best path is to attain that goal. Open-mindedness is the incubator to innovative fleet management, resulting in new processes, metrics, and technological applications.

Manages as a Team Player
All great fleet managers, and most long-time fleet managers, are team players. Fleet managers deal with a diverse group of drivers, ranging from sales reps to mid-level managers to senior executives, with each group requiring a special finesse. Long-time fleet managers (typically) can accept criticism without getting angry or taking it personally. Similarly, long-time fleet managers are able to build consensus, which means getting others to work with you rather than against you. This means they listen more than they speak. They gather input from others before making decisions. They reach out and cultivate relationships with manufacturers, fleet service providers, and upfitters. More important, they maintain excellent internal relationships with all departments that interact with fleet and build long-lasting professional relationships. They are committed to a team approach of running a cost-effective and productive fleet that is responsive to user needs.

Thrives on Change
The fleet manager role has been changing over the past 20 years, as many corporations continue to reassess how they provide fleet management and other support services to their internal customer groups. However, while good fleet managers adapt to change, great fleet managers thrive on change. If you can do this, expect a long (and rewarding) career in fleet management.

Let me know what you think.


  1. 1. Lenny Green [ January 11, 2013 @ 04:17AM ]

    Thank you Mike,

    sometimes, after we've been at this for so long, we begin to question ourselves. Thanks for helping us to "step back", take a look and realize that we are okay.

  2. 2. Chris Amos, CAFM [ January 11, 2013 @ 07:43AM ]

    Exccellent insights, Mike. These all ring true for my 30+ years in this profession. I'm thankful for the changes in technology and even the occaisional organizational culture shift or there would be no challenges to adapt to and overcome.

  3. 3. Steve Kibler [ January 11, 2013 @ 08:28AM ]

    Soooooo true Mike, "There is one truism in life: Nothing stays the same." Do you call this an Oxy-Philosophy? My phylosophy, after 44 years in this business, is: Challenge + Solution + Patience = a passion for change. I agree that fleet management is a wonderful career choice that goes unrealized until at least 10-years "in the saddle."

  4. 4. Don Thompson [ January 11, 2013 @ 08:59AM ]

    Mike --- Good article. Personally, I'd add a fifth factor: empathy. A case could perhaps be made that empathy is woven throughout the four factors you cited. In a government fleet, I'm supporting departments that have not only different types of equipment, but widely varying operational modes. They all want attention first, but that's obviously not possible. I have to think inside their boxes to perform well in mine. I must be able to deal with both the logical and illogical factors that are driving their needs (perceived or real) if I'm going to be successful in balancing my resources across my customers' demands. I've always told my customers, "I won't always be able to give you everything you want, or sometimes even everything you need, but I'll always give you what I can." For me to endure as fleet manager, my customer has to believe that I'm in his corner.

  5. 5. Sue Miller [ January 15, 2013 @ 12:06PM ]

    thank you for such a thoughtful article! Everything you listed is dead on. I also agree with Don's suggestion to add empathy. Its the underlying current to being successful as an open-minded person and team player. Seek to understand before pushing to be understood.

  6. 6. Rick Ravelo [ January 15, 2013 @ 12:40PM ]

    Your article rings so true...

  7. 7. Chris Burgeson [ January 16, 2013 @ 03:58PM ]

    It's funny Mike - in my 30+ years in the business, I have met a lot of good fleet managers. Contrary to your list however, some of them have been very inflexible, some were lifelong learners but very selective on which subjects, some had serious tunnel-vision (figuratively speaking), some were very autocratic rulers, and some cursed change. But all of them were very bright; not Mensa members or PhD's, just very bright. While the career path is not always clearly defined, you will always find resourceful thinkers survive in the fleet world. Cheers to all us long-time Fleet Managers.

  8. 8. Rachel Johnson [ January 17, 2013 @ 06:10AM ]

    Thank you so much for your insight. I found it inspirational as I hope to be one of those long-time fleet managers. I even wrote a couple of quotes on my white board to remind me.

  9. 9. Milton R. Reid [ January 17, 2013 @ 08:53AM ]

    Mike, you are on target, as usual.

  10. 10. Bill DeRousse [ January 20, 2013 @ 06:32PM ]

    Mike, like my peers above and for the thousands of exceptional fleet managers that mirror your comments above, great artical. Not all fleet managers are as skilled at presenting thier abilities to upper management, but they represent some of the most skilled fleet managers we have. Of the nearly 4000 fleet managers through out the US, half are leaders, learning and teaching every day, wanting to be the best. I contenue to be proud of my 45 years in Fleet Management and equally proud of the majority of the fleet managers i meet. Mike you would have been a great fleet manager and you are equally great at what you do, in making sure we are all informed. thank you for all of the great informational papers you have wrote.

  11. 11. Carl Stevens CEM [ January 22, 2013 @ 11:47AM ]

    You nailed it Mike, AMEN!

  12. 12. Todd Atchison [ January 28, 2013 @ 12:00PM ]

    Mike as always a well thought out and articulate article. My previous Fleet director in my ascent in this chosen field was an excellent mentor and as such that trait has been instilled in me. I believe that characteristic should also be considered valuable in our field. thanks

  13. 13. Allen Mitchell [ January 28, 2013 @ 12:34PM ]


    I agree. There are so many attributes required to be a successful fleet manager that those outside the profession don't seem to acknowledge or appreciate. I especially believe in life-long learning and adaptability to change. Without those two, one becomes somewhat of a "dinosaur" and deserves to fill the ranks of the "non-survival of the unfittest" to borrow loosley from Charles Darwin.

  14. 14. Scott Jaynes [ February 15, 2013 @ 06:51AM ]

    Great article. I found it inspirational.30+ years in the business of utilities.Setting on the other side of the table working my way up from welder,field service, hydraulic engineering to now National Sales Manager today. It is a life-long learning and adaptability in this world today in any work. Maybe its wanting to be the best at what ever a person doesThank you for such a article

  15. 15. Kelly Reagan [ March 08, 2013 @ 09:49AM ]

    Hello Mike,
    I really enjoyed your editorial, Long-Time Fleet Managers Reveal Their Secrets to Longevity in Fleet.

    I thought you hit the nail on the head for surviving in a “dog eat dog” world. You said one must be “open minded” and a “team player”, absolutely true! You also said that, “nothing stays the same” and “longtime fleet managers are able to adapt to change” – spot on!

    Isn’t that life for us in the working world though, always looking for “better”, “cleaner”, “safer” ways to get things done. That means that we can never stop learning, just as you point out in your article, you are always considering new ideas just as you point out in your article, being able to visualize a goal, then determining the best way to go about achieving that goal, just as you point out in your article!

    Your article was great in that it very pointedly told all of us to continue to always be “team players”, and “thrive on change” in an ever changing fleet world. Even when times get tough, even when budgets are cut, even when there just never seems to be enough to go around fleet managers are charged with getting the job done – thrive on change! I love it! I take this as one must always look for the positive in every situation, ebb and flow with the economy in our thinking, and always be a motivating factor for our work force!

    Thanks for the encouraging words and the golden nuggets that I “panned” from your excellent article!

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Author Bio

Mike Antich

Editor and Associate Publisher

Mike has covered fleet management and remarketing for more than 20 years and entered the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2010.

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