We just finished another Professional Fleet Manager of the Year, Fleet Executive of the Year, and Fleet Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the annual Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association (AFLA) Conference in Nashville.
Congratulations to our incredible nominees and winners this year. It was a great group with John Dmochowsky of Mondelez, Brenda Davis of Baker Hughes, and Jann Panzer (formerly) of Albertsons Safeway vying for the Professional Fleet Manager of the Year award. Brenda took the crown this year.
Mike Bieger spent much of the conference on the stage in his role as VP of AFLA, returning to the stage once again to accept the honor as our Fleet Executive of the Year.
And, our Hall of Fame inductees included my dear friend, and greatest lessor representative ever, Bob Mayfield; the incomparable Harley Westfall of Adrian Steel; and Ron Pink of Xerox, one of the first ever Professional Fleet Manager of the Year winners.
A common theme among all of the wonderful acceptance speeches was a heartfelt thank you to all the suppliers, peers, coworkers, and other supporters who helped make it all possible. I didn’t hear anyone mention how much their Ivy League education helped them in their career, didn’t hear anything about all the studying they did on their own to learn the ins-and-outs of the business, but we did hear a steady refrain about how important it was to be a contributing member of the industry, how they reached out to others for help early and often, and how they couldn’t have done it without such support.
It reminded me of the lesson that my incredible father told me so often when I was growing up: He loved to remind us that it’s not just what you know, but who you know that will determine how well you do.
Our winners this year really epitomized that mantra. At various stages in their careers, they all realized they couldn’t do it alone and needed to reach out to the collective intelligence that exists in our market to succeed.
A lot of them mentioned Automotive Fleet and how much it had helped them to learn about the technology and trends that were driving the business. But, that was just one step. They also realized that there were fellow fleet managers and even suppliers that were willing to help them. There were people who had been in their same spot, had to fight the same battles with senior management, with suppliers, and with unhappy drivers, and they could learn from those people.
The key to success in our business today is getting out from behind your desk. Get out to industry events if you can. If you can’t, you can still find fellow fleet managers in your market that can help. If you don’t know any, feel free to reach out to the Automotive Fleet staff and we’ll find some geographically desirable fleets in your area. And, don’t be shy about reaching out to the supplier community. Sure, they want your business, but they also want to see you succeed.
One of our winners this year even choked up a little when talking about how important her FMC was to her operation. That should tell you all you need to know about our supplier community and how committed they are to your success.
When the day comes that you decide to finally hang up your cleats, you’ll probably realize that it was less about what you knew about the fleet business and more about who you knew.