NAFA’s Phil Russo: ‘Standing Up for Fleet Managers’ a Key Focus in 2014

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.

BIO

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 . 

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.

[email protected]

 

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