I am often asked how things are now that Ed Bobit is gone. I reply that it is a case of good news and bad news.
The good news is that the company hasn’t skipped a beat.
The bad news is that the company hasn’t skipped a beat.
Industry colleagues reply that the fact the company hasn’t been impacted by Ed’s passing is the mark of a good manager; someone who had a succession plan in place to ensure the company is able to prosper after he is gone. I understand that, and it is true, but I have trouble picturing Ed as simply a cog in the gears of business. He was much more than that.
Ed devoted more than a half-century to building a highly successful media company, which, by his own admission, exceeded his wildest fantasies when he founded Automotive Fleet magazine in 1961. When I first joined the company, Ed was fond of taking the staff of Automotive Fleet to lunch each day. On one of those occasions, while driving back to the office, I asked Ed why he started Automotive Fleet.
Without looking back at me, he raised his right hand and quickly rubbed his thumb over two fingers – the universal gesture for money. Ed was a self-made businessman and everything he did revolved around profitability or it wasn’t done. However, over the ensuing five decades, Ed truly fell in love with the fleet industry. It was Ed’s love of fleet that made working at Automotive Fleet so special for me. It was a shared bond.
I had no fleet experience prior to joining Automotive Fleet. When I accepted Ed’s job offer, my plan was to work as an editor for a couple of years and return to the microcomputer publishing industry from where I got my start. But, as we all know, plans have a funny habit of changing. And the key reason my plans changed was because of Ed Bobit. He was the catalyst who inspired and cultivated my love of fleet and Automotive Fleet.
Ed constantly stressed that fleet is a relationship business. I followed his advice. My journey in fleet has resulted in developing many long-lasting friendships with thousands of people. As a LinkedIn user, I limit my connections to only people I personally know in the fleet industry and exclude personal friends and work colleagues. Currently, my LinkedIn connections stand at 3,000-plus people, every one of whom who I view as industry colleagues and friends. I’ve also been lucky to know many of the legends in our industry, but, without a doubt, the most influential person I ever got to know in fleet was Ed Bobit himself.
For those who knew Ed, you know he and I had diametrically opposite personalities. But, our common bond was the love of fleet and a mutual shared labor of love called Automotive Fleet.
My almost 30-year relationship with Ed is comprised of many fond remembrances. A few stand out because they provide an insight into Ed’s personality and who he was as a person. While a frugal child of the Great Depression, Ed, on occasion, could be remarkably generous. I remember one of those occasions as if it happened yesterday. During my first decade with the company, Ed called me on the intercom (before e-mail existed) and asked me to come to his office.
When I arrived, Ed said he was concerned about me lately and asked if everything was okay. I told him I was fine. He disagreed and thought I was stressed. I told him I wasn’t (and I truly wasn’t), but, the more we talked, the more I could see how my denials were being misperceived by Ed. I thought of the line from Shakespeare: “Thou doth protest too much.” The more I denied it, the more convinced Ed was that he was right. Leaning forward across his desk, with cigar in mouth, he said, “Why don’t you take Friday off and spend the weekend in Palm Springs. Take the company credit card and enjoy yourself.” I was stunned by Ed’s generosity.
I never took him up on this offer, but that afternoon, I realized Ed genuinely cared about me as an employee and as a friend. This was one of many glimpses of Ed’s personality that when they did emerge, burst forth like a supernova.
On another occasion, the two of us found ourselves in Amsterdam for business. We had a free afternoon and took the opportunity to sightsee. On the trolley back to our hotel, we sat opposite one another on facing bench seats. We didn’t talk. Ed pulled from a bag an object wrapped in newspaper. He motioned for me to come over and sit next to him. He unwrapped the newspaper revealing a small pewter animal figurine, similar in style to Frederic Remington, a sculptor whom Ed adored. “I bought it to place on a shelf in my home,” he said. “Every time I see it, it will remind me of my trip to Amsterdam with Mike Antich.” I was touched. This was the side of Ed Bobit that wasn’t often shown but it was genuine, always spoken from the heart, and occurred unexpectedly.
I do have one regret. Ed was called Coach by many people, but I never once called him Coach in the entire time I knew him. I felt it came across like brown-nosing. I knew Ed liked being called Coach, and, in hindsight, I wish I would have done so.
But now it’s time to say goodbye.
Rest in peace Coach.
You will be missed.