This 50th Anniversary issue marks a huge milestone for Automotive Fleet and for the fleet industry. AF has outlasted nine U.S. presidents and 382 Fortune 500 companies. And it wouldn’t have been possible without Ed Bobit. He is, and has always been, the driving force behind this company and this magazine.
Ed not only comments on the fleet industry, in many ways he has shaped the industry. In all that time, he has also been a relentless champion for the fleet manager and for the sometimes maligned factory fleet departments. He has been near the top of the speed dial list of every factory fleet leader and leasing company CEO for more than five decades. The Coach has been an industry icon and thought leader from day one, so it’s no accident that AF has not just survived, but actually thrived for five decades.
Many of you have had the honor to spend time with Ed at industry events, on fleet advisory boards, or at our Fleet Manager of the Year Brunch. That’s the public Ed. But there’s a different guy that we know around the office. I have had the pleasure (most of the time) to work side by side with The Coach for a little over 15 years now. Prior to that, Ed was already an important part of my life as my father’s employer and best friend, and as godfather to my younger brother. Forty-plus years of memories of Ed have left me with a few significant impressions about the guy behind the back page in AF.
The Coach is without a doubt the smartest guy in any room he occupies. I spent four years at a fairly well respected state university along with another three years earning a law degree and can’t remember ever coming across anyone as quick as Ed Bobit. He is perspicaciousness personified. Many times early in my career here, I would walk into his office with a problem that just seemed hopeless. Usually by the time I finished describing the problem, he already had the solution figured out. He’s always had a wonderful way of making you feel just a little like an idiot for not figuring it out yourself. Not in a “boy-are-you-stupid” kind of way, but more like a subtle jab that I’m pretty sure was designed to make you push yourself a little harder the next time.
The Coach has also served for decades now as the unofficial, and I might add, unpaid employment consultant for the fleet industry. Many fleet suppliers start their employment searches with a call to Ed for suggestions and insights into where they should look for that new salesperson or that operations director. Perhaps even more importantly, those who have found themselves in the unenviable position of being without a paycheck in the fleet business have always known that they can count on Ed to point them in the direction of the best opportunities. Ed has gone to great lengths to help those folks and it didn’t matter if you were the assistant fleet manager for Bob’s Plumbing in Dubuque or a recently retired vice president of sales for a vehicle manufacturer. The Coach is always there for his fleet industry friends.
Good leaders and good coaches lead by example. And our own Coach demonstrates that as well as anyone. He founded a successful company and has 150 employees. He has his name on the company and on the side of the building. But there’s no job he hasn’t done here and no job he wouldn’t still do today. He’s got a big house overlooking the ocean, a couple of ex-wives, a steady stream of female acquaintances, a smart and successful son running his company, and could have easily transitioned into the “good life” many years ago. But he still comes in every day by 7:30 a.m.
He answers his own phone, keeps his office door open to anyone at all times, and is willing to help wherever he can. As far as sales guys go, Ed is as good as they come. But he’s also a great writer, marketer, conference planner, idea generator, and even has shown some prowess as a telemarketer. Ed wouldn’t ask anyone else to do something he wouldn’t do himself.
He’s a poor farm kid who has spent a lot of years working his tail off to make a good life for himself and his family. All he expects out of his “associates” here is that they show the same level of intensity and dedication. Whether that’s reasonable or not is another story, but if you’re a young gun looking for someone to show you how to get ahead in the world, there’s no better example.
The Coach built a great company and a great magazine. We’re all grateful for the chance to contribute what we can around here, and we’re looking forward to someday helping Ed celebrate 100 years of AF.