The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Ed Bobit: Are Friendships and Ethics Ever in Conflict???

October 2003, by Ed Bobit - Also by this author

Friendships, like marriages, are dependent on avoiding the unforgivable.-John D. MacDonald

Love thy neighbor as thyself, but choose your neighborhood.-Louise Beal

I don't like to commit myself about heaven and hell - you see, I have friends in both places.-Mark Twain


Last month I lost my two very best friends, Milo [Matick] and Don [Fenton]. We had a lot in common, including the outdoors, good laughs, helping friends in need, and ethical personal and business behavior. I miss them much.

My so-called "fleet" career began in publishing in 1954 with McGraw Hill's Fleet Owner magazine. For seven years they instilled in me the value of good ethics, the power of excellent editorial content, and how vital a reading audience was.

In '61, after presenting the idea for Automotive Fleet to my management team (they turned it down), I moved ahead with the concept myself. But not without a bumpy road in the beginning.

My first real test appeared after I reported that the Pittsburgh Yellow Taxi company was suing Studebaker for selling shabby-quality cars. This was an accurate report. It so happens that I used my friend, Al Fitzpatrick, who was fleet director for Studebaker as counsel, before launching AF. He was most encouraging and an early major advertiser (that I needed badly).

Al was so upset with our Pittsburgh coverage that he cancelled all his ads and that hurt. After a couple of months he reinstated the program, but he couldn't convince me to change our mantra.

Years later a major leasing company was "disappointed" when we refused to carry a story they furnished that was completely "fluff' (totally admiring about the company but of no value to the reader). They refused to let us edit the story and add substance to make it acceptable. It turned out to be a crisis situation.

That lessor elected to cancel their ad program (an ad in each issue) for an entire year. About halfway through the year, we started carefully screening releases that their public relations folks furnished us and we also stopped sending the usual complimentary monthly copies to their many field and home office people. Somehow it created some screaming, I'm told, and the ad program was reinstated. We've gotten along very well since then, thank goodness. But, we wouldn't change our standards.

We regularly report, both in the magazine and our weekly e-News when major accounts switch suppliers. These can be fleet management moves or factory product changes. We're acutely aware that the "losers" do not like seeing these kinds of reports, but our responsibility is to accurately report this type of significant activity. Besides, our readers eat up this kind of information.

We are fortunate that we are in an industry that recognizes "fair" competition and where most suppliers keep repeating that whatever happens, "they will be competitive."

For some months now, many within our fleet community are awaiting the executive decisions that may cause major changes at companies such as Hewlett-Packard. McDonalds, and other commercial firms where detailed RFQs are making their mark.

For Automotive Fleet to ignore this news, when finalized, would be an injustice to our 21,000 readers. Unfortunately, if there are "losers" with these decisions, it will directly affect some of our very good industry friends. Everything about our reporting function isn't easy; but we don't intend to change our standards.



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