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Sunday, October 25, 2009 

Vol. 5  No.  2

The Amazing Success of AFLA & the 2009 AFLA Conference:  An Example of How True Leadership and a Team Can Make  Difference!

I know I haven’t written in this blog in a loooong time.  While no excuse, suffice it to say I’ve been on a year long assignment for a vehicle manufacturer that I find very exciting and rewarding, but unfortunately has not left me with a lot of spare time... more on that topic later.

For now, despite my lack of overall time to make blog entries (even the amount of time it took to get this one out is shameful!), I would really be remise if I did not make some comments about this year’s annual Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association Annual Conference, at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, AZ, September 9-11, 20009.  Of course, even time challenged as I was, I would never miss this event if at all possible – since 1986, over 23 years, I think I’ve missed only two AFLA events (geez, I must have started when I was 6 years old).

 course this year had a fantastic schedule of speakers, which included up to the minute industry analysis and forecasts (see the AFLA Web site at www.aflaonline.com for complete detail, and my own contemporaneous “tweets” at the time my twitter page at Car_Esq - http://twitter.com/car_esq); and once again I got to catch up with old friends in the business, some of which I’d lost touch with during this very busy and challenging year or so.  But what really made this meeting, and this organization extra special and noteworthy right now is the dedication and drive of its President throughout this year, who just happens to be one of my oldest and dearest friends in the car business, Mike Antich, the long time Editor and Associate Publisher of Automotive Fleet Magazine.

It’s said that results speak for themselves, and in this case, I think they do tell a lot of the story.  Despite the world wide financial recession, that irrefutably has damaged the US car business (and fleet business) worse than any time at least in the last 40 years or so, and again, despite massive industry budget cut backs, travel restrictions, unemployment, etc., Mike managed something with the AFLA Annual Conference,  unparalleled this year for any automotive industry association meeting that I’m aware of, that is, a fantastic RECORD ATTENDENCE FOR THIS YEAR'S ANNUAL CONFERENCE…the highest attendance on record since the organization’s formation 41 years ago!!  Again, such an achievement would be amazing in an average year, in the midst of possibly the worst car business recession in history, its truly mind boggling.

Then again, perhaps it isn’t a surprise, as throughout the year evidence of Mike’s tireless work and enthusiasm for the organization is visible in all facets of this, my favorite car industry group.  From the state of the art Web site, videos, and podcasts (note: this year’s entire conference was filmed for NIADA’s online TV network, and, in addition, Chuck Parker’s Automotive Digest did lots of individual video interviews… even my old friend, past President, Mark Conroy had his roving “on the fly” video camera for interviews), to the frequently published, members only industry White Papers, to the membership and visibility drives, Mike’s boundless energy and positive force can be seen throughout this revitalized organization. 

I have to say that for the last year or so, I’ve been less active in AFLA then year’s past, but given Mike’s and his team’s influence (the incoming/current President Tom Donato, and the new Executive VP Lori Rasmussen, and of course, all the folks at Ewald Group that manage and organize day to day activities), I am moved, personally, to now get back into the swing, and do whatever I can, whenever I can do it, to keep the momentum going.  More than a few folks I talked to at the Conference feel the same way, which will undoubtedly lead to an even more vital and vibrant AFLA of the future. Mike has set the bar very high indeed.

Congratulations Mike, my hat is off to you, not only for what you have spearheaded at AFLA, my favorite automotive group in the industry, but in proving, beyond doubt that one leader, with the right team, with drive, energy, creativity and enthusiasm, can defy all odds and create vibrant incredible positive growth, support and achievement for an car industry association, despite these very challenging times that seems to have caught everyone else in a mental and energy quagmire (with results like that, maybe you should run for national political office?).

 ...And I Can't Fail to Mention

One last  thing, although I’ll leave the detailed account of the this year’s AFLA Conference to the AFLA Web site (with their write-ups, video etc), I would be remiss too, if I didn’t also offer congratulations to the nine new inductees to the Fleet Industry’s “Hall of Fame,” especially and specifically Ed Bobit, the Founder and Executive Director Emeritus of AFLA (and definitely my oldest and dearest friend in the car business), and the Founder and Chairman of Bobit Business Media (THE fleet industry media resource).  I think everyone in the business would agree that in any fleet “Hall of Fame” convocation, Ed has earned his spot at the head of the table many times over…


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