NAFA’s 2013 Institute & Expo in Atlantic City was a huge success. Give us some of the highlights planned for 2014.
NAFA’s 2014 I & E will be held April 8,9,10 and 11 in the Minneapolis Convention Center in beautiful Minneapolis, Minnesota. We have a tremendous agenda scheduled focusing on the four main areas that we focused on last year: cost cutting ideas, driver and vehicle safety, technology and professional development. All of the courses and the sixty odd sessions will be focused on those top four areas that fleet managers have identified as core to their needs and the areas of concerns that they have.
The really cool thing that we are doing this year is we are going to have a pre-conference event at the GE Alt-fuel Driving Center so you are going to be able to drive every form of alternative-fueled vehicle, including electrics and hybrids, in a controlled environment. It is an add-on event; you are going to have to sign up for it at no extra cost. You will be able to spend a half a day or so testing one vehicle; getting out of one vehicle going into the next vehicle, getting out of that vehicle going into another vehicle and talking with the experts that are going to be right there. The OEMs, the fuel suppliers and the technology people will be right there; you can ask them those questions.
So, in addition to the tremendous networking and education value and the expo value you get at I & E – now you have this great pre-conference event that you are going to be able to go to as well. I am really looking forward to it.
Let’s address NAFA’s major efforts for next year; where will you be focusing your resources?
We have three main areas that we will be focusing on next year: our advocacy efforts, growing membership and helping our chapters. This focus comes directly from our strategic plan that we have been building over the past couple of years, with the volunteer fleet manager members and affiliates on the Board of Governors.
We are expanding advocacy in two different ways. Most people, when you say advocacy, think of legislative representation and it certainly is that. We have literally doubled down on our advocacy efforts. As of October of 2013, our representative in Washington hired a new staff member just for us, to handle NAFA work. NAFA has always been good at being involved in legislation in Washington D.C. but it has always been on a reactive basis not a proactive basis.
The idea now is we want to be at that table; we want to be part of the conversation. We want to start the conversation, frankly. We don’t just want to hear about the conversation. We will have some expanded recognition and expanded efforts there, which mean that we are going to do a better job of defending fleet managers and defending fleet management so that we have sensible legislation and sensible regulations and really be a part of the movement down in Washington.
That is one part of the advocacy. The other part of advocacy that people don’t really think of is standing up for fleet management and fleet managers with their bosses. Last year we began the Beyond Fleet Campaign. This year we are expanding that as well as the ads in Fortune magazine and Business Week magazine and The Wall Street Journal. We are expanding the realm of publications that we will be reaching out to, expanding our radio advertising that we will be doing all in the name of promoting fleet managers and fleet management to your bosses so your bosses know what you do and bosses know the value that you bring.
And then in addition to that we are expanding the Beyond Fleet website to give you practical, easy-to-use tools. We will have Power Point presentations so if you need to make an executive presentation, the template is right there. There will be letters you can send up to your boss saying, “This is what I do, this is the value I bring; these are the assets that I am in control of.
So through Beyond Fleet, NAFA will use external methods to inform your boss of what you do, but Beyond Fleet will also give you tools so you can do the same from an internal perspective.
What are your initiatives with respect to increasing membership?
The idea behind membership is simple; bigger is better, size matters when you are talking about NAFA. We definitely want more members. At NAFA we have a prospect list of thousands of fleet managers whoare not members of NAFA who should be. We have 2,500 or so fleet managers who are members of NAFA but there are exponentially more than that who are not members. We are reaching out to those folks and finding out what it would take for them to be members. Some of those people aren’t necessarily full time fleet managers, some of them only do fleet part of the time. What is the value proposition that we need to create to get them to be a part of NAFA? That may mean that we need to come up with a new business model for those people.
In addition to that, we think there is room for other stakeholders. Maybe it is your boss who is on the next floor up who could get some value out of knowing what you are doing but isn’t really a fleet manager. Or maybe it is your shop supervisor who needs to know what you do as a fleet manager but isn’t necessarily a fleet manager him or herself. We need to create a world where these professionals can join and have value out of NAFA.
We are creating a couple of rings outside of the core NAFA membership to really get all of fleet management because NAFA’s philosophy is “we are fleet management.” We are the big tent where anyone who has anything to do with fleet management should be under our tent. We need to create the world where you can come in and create those separate little rooms for you to come in and enjoy NAFA and enjoy the value of what we offer.
That brings us right to growing the chapters.
NAFA recognizes that our chapters are one of the most valued assets that we have. When we poll our members and ask what is the greatest thing that you get out of your NAFA membership, most times it is going to be their chapter membership and the networking they get out their chapters. When we asked them how well do chapters deliver on that, some chapters do really well and some chapters don’t.
We need to create a consistent level of service among our chapters. Our chapters are run by volunteer fleet managers. They have full time jobs and running a chapter is something they may or may not have time for and may or may not have the expertise for. We have recognized that so now we are going to offer chapters the ability to tap into our expertise because that is what we do. We, NAFA, plan meetings, we do marketing, we do public relations, we do membership database administration, etc., so we are going to offer those services to our chapters for free for those who need it.
The Board of Trustees is putting money in the budget to pay for some internal services as well as some external services that we can provide to the chapters so that we have that consistent level of services at all of our chapter meetings because it is such an important touch point for all of our members.
Fleet Management Weekly interviewed a number of attendees at the International Fleet Academy and we heard rave reviews.
Our third International Fleet Academy rebranded this year has been phenomenal. It has surpassed all of my expectations. We were going limit our attendance to about 35 or 40 people and we had 43 people. What I really love is the intimacy of it and the fact that the majority of the people in the room were fleet managers; 27–30 were fleet managers, the rest were suppliers and it afforded them the ability to really network and be honest and open with each other.
I am just in awe of and blown away by the ability and the willingness of fleet managers to share their expertise with each other, to help each other out and really move themselves and the association and the industry forward. It is phenomenal and we are really looking forward to having this again next year and having just a few more fleet managers creating that intimate environment where they can share with each other and help each other along. It is a phenomenal event.
Phil Russo is the Executive Director of NAFA Fleet Management Association (NAFA). NAFA is a not-for-profit professional society of individuals who manage fleets of cars, trucks, vans, and equipment for corporations, government agencies, utilities, and other institutions across the globe.
Phil began his career with NAFA in 1985 when he was hired as Assistant Editor, working on the organization’s newsletter, magazine, and other print publications. In 1989 he was promoted to Director of Communications, where he launched the association’s first-ever public relations campaign and directed all the marketing efforts for NAFA’s conference, expo, seminars, and other products.
In the early ’90s NAFA created a new position for Phil: Deputy Executive Director, giving him the #2 spot behind the Executive Director. In that seat, Phil worked closely with every one of NAFA’s then 30 chapters in the US and Canada. He also directed all of the association’s marketing efforts and was the team leader on the group that launched NAFA’s entrance in to the worldwide web, with www.nafa.org.
In 1999, Phil left NAFA to become Executive Director of the International Recording Media Association. But he couldn’t stay away for long. In 2005, Phil came back to NAFA – this time in the #1 seat, as Executive Director.
Phil has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from Rutgers University, with a minor in Marketing and Public Relations. He also earned the Certified Associate Executive designation in 1997, attesting to his expertise in running non-profit organizations.
Phil lives in a historic little suburban town in Central New Jersey with his wife of 23 years and his four daughters. He is an avid New York Mets baseball fan, enjoys long rides on his hybrid bike, and likes spending time at the Jersey Shore.