The fleet world is a busy one, and with limited time and budgets it can be easy to simply skip professional development events, especially conferences. But carving out time to network with peers and see how other fleets are addressing today’s challenges and rapid technology changes is invaluable. One of my go-to events every year is AFLA’s Annual Corporate Fleet Conference. Here is why I carve out time and budget to attend.
1. You Gain Access to People and Ideas
The people that attend and speak at AFLA are revered in fleet because they have such high levels of professional experience. I liken them to the PGA of fleet – these are the people whose perspectives you want to hear.
One of the most impactful sessions I have ever attended was the Best Practices session at AFLA. It is set up to have a few starting topics and then lead into open discussion where people talk about their own experiences and ask questions of each other; it’s a thinktank. Attending the session enlightened me to the fact that I have access to professionals, and they have access to me, even if we don’t have a formal business relationship. You can exchange a business card and ask, “Can I bounce something off you?” This was how I started a great relationship with a colleague, and what inspired me to become actively involved with Women in Fleet Management (WIFM), an AFLA task force dedicated to professional development and mentorship for women fleet professionals.
2. You Get Highly Concentrated, Relevant Information
AFLA tends to take a different approach than other fleet industry conferences. One of the features I like is that all sessions are general session, so the content is more concentrated. They also tend to have truly engaging and dynamic speakers (some even from outside the industry that bring a fresh perspective to fleet). Plus, the content is forward-thinking and relevant. With one track of highly concentrated information, I find it easier to balance my participation with my other work responsibilities. I can go to the sessions I’d like and work from my hotel room during others without having to worry about missing multiple breakout sessions.
3. It Makes You Think about the Future
Fleet professionals often wear multiple hats. It’s very easy to be heads-down and focused on the day-to-day. When you attend a session at AFLA, you find the space to look up – you look forward. And when you start looking forward, you start thinking of strategies and ideas that you hadn’t thought of before. You hear about new products, evolving OEM technologies, and consider strategies that more progressive fleets have already begun to adopt. You see changes happening all around you.
4. It Inspires You to Act
The most meaningful thing that comes out of a professional development conference like AFLA is what happens immediately after – the reflection time. For me, this usually happens during the travel home. I think about what I heard and learned and do what I call “insight sorting” – I consider each nugget of information and decide whether that applies to me today, tomorrow, this week, or later in the year. I might reprioritize or even stop various initiatives based on what I learned, and it always helps me shape my success criteria for the future. When I get back to work, I choose one or two things to work on for the week and integrate it into my schedule.
It’s Always Smart to Invest in Yourself
Fleet is rapidly changing, and one of the best ways to prepare for a changing industry is to keep on top of the latest knowledge. Take the time to invest in yourself and your organization this year by attending AFLA. If AFLA is too large of a commitment, I challenge you to start small by attending a webinar or in-person training, and find opportunities get involved in organizations like AFLA and WIFM. When fleet professionals invest in themselves and grow their knowledge, we’re better positioned to serve our companies and our clients.
Diana Holland serves as Regional Vice President at Merchants Fleet. Diana and her team of sales representatives are focused on new business development, customer retention and growth in the Northeast region and nationwide in the Government and Livery sectors. Today she participates in operational excellence efforts, elevates organizational talent, and contributes to the industry by serving on the Automotive Fleet Leasing Association’s Women In Fleet task force.