Managing the Financial Side of Commercial Fleets

In Memoriam: Coach's Insights

Seeing Isn’t Always Fully Believing

August 1, 2013, by Ed Bobit - Also by this author

I kept looking at the two-page promo for what we internally call our “F&I Show.” It’s successful and regularly draws nearly 1,000 dealer and dealer-related managers. Still, the ad bothered me.

In the upper left, the ad touted “Four Shows” and “One Location.” Way over on the lower right, it identified F&I (which I know as finance and insurance; then it hit subprime, which is also finance). Lastly, it zeroed in on CRM and used-vehicle retailing, which, in my mind, might make it more than just four shows. Communications should be crystal clear.

Many of you know that I helped start the Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association (AFLA) in 1969 and kind of stayed close to it all these years.

Most new officials with the responsibility of formulating the next member meeting agenda make at least a cursory attempt to confer with me for any words of wisdom. And, such has been the case in recent years.

My recommendations are nearly all the same: to ensure fleet manager attendance and sponsor satisfaction — and all are within a reasonable budget. Besides remaining active with AFLA, our company produces about 15 conferences and shows (one regularly draws 3,000 attendees).

So, my response to the program is short and concise: Choose a venue in a warm area (believe me, everyone loves a Southern resort) with easy access to the local airport (having to engage a taxi or shuttle for a long drive is a negative) that offers economical room and program presentation rates, and hold it to two-and-a-half or three days maximum (most fleet managers are lucky to get approval for two days). Then, blend in interesting “industry” leaders with some self-help, comedic, or motivational speakers outside the industry. It never fails.

I was just studying the AFLA program and saw that I’m too “old school” to catch up. They’ve got it spread over four days. My guess is that the cab ride from the airport is at least $30 to Scottsdale, Ariz. There doesn’t seem to be even one industry panel or industry leader from an FMC or OEM (ARI, GM, Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler, Ford, and Toyota are all listed as Diamond sponsors — ouch!). On the other hand, it could be a record turnout.

A word to the wise ain’t necessary — it’s the stupid ones that need the advice.
-Bill Cosby

Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes.
-Jim Carrey

Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.
-Mark Twain

The other one that’s kind of hard to figure out is our Global Fleet Management Conference that’s set for September 30 to October 1 (alongside our Green Fleet Conference). It began auspiciously enough with our joint announcement reception last April in Atlantic City, N.J. We had just committed ourselves to a joint pledge with Nexus Communication, which publishes Fleet Europe, and is the recognized leader globally for fleet managers internationally.

There was an immediate enthusiasm and vowed support from both individual fleet managers and the obvious FMC and OEM sponsors. During the weeks that followed, we spoke with at least four national commercial fleet managers on NAFA’s Commercial Sounding Board (who were not aware that the NAFA Fleet Management Association had also intended a global conference later in the year).

Keep in mind that, while NAFA is a competitor to us in the business world, we also join them regularly in a mutual effort to bring knowledge and education to the industry for an economic benefit for everyone involved.

We reacted quickly, along with interested suppliers, to see if we could somehow meld the two together even though our conference had been announced worldwide by this point. We even offered to pick up a substantial amount of NAFA’s cost to join with us, although our conference differs in philosophy and concept. Some have said the NAFA Board is heavily weighted with public sector/utility officers who may find any international alliance not to be at the top of their “to do” list.

The Lord and our global supplier partners know we tried our best to make it one show. With the efforts of Fleet Europe, the committed support from sponsors here and abroad, and Mike Antich, along with our U.S. and European advisory boards, creating an incredible agenda, I can happily say that it’s bound to be a winner for everyone involved.

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Author Bio

Ed Bobit

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Former Editor & Publisher

With more than 50 years in the fleet industry, Ed Bobit, former Automotive Fleet editor and publisher, reflected on issues affecting today’s fleets in his blog. He drew insight from his own experiences in the field and offered a perspective similar to that of a sports coach guiding his players.

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