Fleet News

Special feature: Why face to face is best for business

(By Stewart Whyte): Forget the internet. Forget conference calls and video-conferencing. Forget mail merge. All of these techniques have their place, of course. But to really swap information with your business peers and colleagues, nothing even comes close to networking.

Groups of people coming together and talking amongst themselves on issues of common interest is the oldest mass communication system known to man (and woman!).

And psychologically, we are still very closely attuned to this method of information-gathering.

It may be primitive, it may be simple, and in today's terms, it's not especially 'green' - but bringing people together, face to face in small groups, allowing them to mix and mingle at their own pace, and letting body language and eye contact do their stuff, has to be one of the most effective ways to absorb new thoughts.

Fleet News has always recognised this. Despite its roots in the printed word, the newspaper has always held events where people are actually brought together.

Because the opportunity to interact just isn't available any other way.

Hence the big attraction of Fleet News Drive events. Networking - meeting other people in the same industry, with a whole range of different experiences, skills and techniques - is surely the icing on the top of opportunities to drive a wide selection of latest-specification cars and vans, and listen to industry experts in the slightly-more-formal presentations.

Indeed, trying out a new car model you have never driven before, or hearing a specific explanation about a new tax arrangement, can be just the thing to start off a discussion about how and where these things might sit in your fleet.

They might well signal a threat or an opportunity. And who better to discuss them with than people doing a similar job, with the same mix of drivers, and - almost inevitably - most of the same cost pressures as you face?

And it's not just a short-term, on-the-day benefit. That exchange of business cards is still an important way to build up your own personal index of useful contacts.

It may be a couple of days, or a couple of months or even a couple of years later, but at some point, the ability to phone a fellow fleet manager, or contact someone from the manufacturer's technical operation, or an acknowledged expert in fleet administration, can be immensely valuable.

Recognition ('...remember, we met up at...') of a shared experience is a great introduction, and provides an easy lead-in to a request for information, help or advice.

And, of course, it can be quite flattering when someone calls to seek your opinion. All of these ways open up the likelihood of learning a few more “golden nuggets” of valuable fleet management information.

The old saying 'No man is an island' gives a strong clue to the interdependence we have with one another.

While this is generally true in everyday life, it is particularly relevant in fleet, where so many fleet managers or controllers have to fit in running the cars and vans with a whole range of other tasks and functions.

Something like 60% of 'fleet managers' have only ever had experience of the one fleet they work in. But there is such a huge wealth of choice in vehicles, fuels, methods of operation, and so much more, that opportunities to see how other fleets organise themselves are always welcome. After all, there is little point in trying to reinvent the wheel, all on your own, is there?

Networking at events like Fleet News Drive provides the opportunity for re-thinking strategy and tactics; for learning from other people's experience; and for resolving issues. Think of it this way: any one of the people you talk to at the event might well have - as a well-established part of their own existing business operation - exactly the answer to the problem that you have been wrestling with for a couple of weeks.

Listening to the hows, whys and wherefores of a solution that works, and finding out how it works, can be very rewarding – and enormously cost-effective.

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