FleetSpeak

How Many Degrees of Separation?

July 19, 2017

by Thi Dao - Also by this author

There is a documentary in the works by two millennials who are hitchhiking across the country, using only their networks and up to four degrees of separation. This follows an idea researchers proposed several years ago that everyone is connected by four degrees of separation due to Facebook, reducing the number of connections from six (remember six degrees of Kevin Bacon?).

Obviously the degrees of connection within any industry are a lot smaller. Choose a handful of random fleet professionals, and I’d bet one of them knows someone you know or have worked with. Similarly, if you have a robust LinkedIn network, your degrees of separation from another fleet professional may be one or two. And our own FleetShare online network connects more than 800 fleet professionals on the same platform.

In-Person Networking

Of course the best way to connect is face to face. Attendees of the Government Fleet Expo & Conference (GFX) say that one of the key points they find most valuable is the networking. Where else can you talk to so many public fleet professionals from around the country who are dealing with the same issues?

Not long ago, a fleet professional from a small agency told me that he had met the fleet head of a major police department at a conference. When he went to the city on vacation, he called his contact and got a fleet tour — that’s more than a tourist usually gets to see.

Join the Community

Everyone works a little differently; some people don’t like publicity, while others like to share their successes.
I once asked a fleet manager from a big city why I never heard from him, despite the fact that he sits on the board of a local ­association. “I like to stay under the radar,” he said.

At the other end of the spectrum, fleet managers approach me regularly to ask how they can get recognition for their fleets.

Whether they want publicity or not, I often meet these fleet managers at regional industry events. They’re out there, connecting with others and learning.

For organizations that aren’t as connected to their fleet peers, it may be that they don’t have a fleet manager dedicated to improving their operation. Or it may be that the fleet manager is so busy, he or she can’t spare the time.

But I sit near editors of other magazines within Bobit Business Media. I talk to them constantly, about conference speakers, about article ideas, and about how to handle certain situations. I don’t know how well I would have done without this guidance.

Unfortuately, you are probably the only fleet manager at your public agency. You’ll have to do a little more work to connect than just standing up and peering over a cubicle wall.

But I truly believe the public fleet industry includes the nicest, most open people you’ll ever meet. They like to share what they’re doing, and not just what’s going well, but also what’s going poorly (off the record, of course). Ask the right people, and someone will get you an answer.

Reach Out

I recently received an e-mail from a fleet manager asking to be connected to fleets that had a specific program in place, to provide justification to start the program at his own fleet. Coincidentally — or perhaps not — I happen to have an extensive list of fleets that have done the exact same thing, and I’m happy to help connect him.

How have you been able to use your networks to benefit your career or fleet?

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Thi Dao

Executive Editor

Thi is the executive editor of Government Fleet magazine. She is interested in maintenance management and alternative fuels.

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Sue Miller is the manager of fleet program services at McDonald's Corp.

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