My first road trip of 2014 was planned long before the NFL Divisional Championship games were played, and long before we learned the term “Polar Vortex.” Unfortunately, I found myself headed to Boston the day after the Patriots lost that game to the Broncos, with a forecast of a wicked Nor’easter headed there along with me.
I had an early flight, so I landed at Logan, hopped in the rental car, and made it to Shrewsbury, MA before lunchtime. At Advantage Truck Leasing, LLC, a NationaLease Member, John Paulik and I chatted about a variety of topics, including NationaLease’s strategic partnership with Universal Technical Institute (UTI). Many of our members, including Advantage, have already been working closely with UTI to recruit diesel technicians at their local campuses. With our new partnership, we are now able to build on the local relationships and add the ability to recruit technicians for any of our members from any of UTI’s eleven campuses. We are also able to work directly with UTI staff and instructors to give input into the curriculum and prepare students to be ready for the workforce when they graduate. John and his team have been active in their local UTI campus, and have been successful in hiring UTI graduates. Diesel technicians are the backbone of our organization, so the ability to hire enough high quality technicians puts NationaLease ahead of the competition.
From Shrewsbury, I drove about an hour, and arrived in Woburn at Diamond Truck Lease Corporation, a NationaLease Member. Diamond has been a member of NationaLease since 1994, so it was a pleasure to learn some of the history of NationaLease from Bill Burrows. It was also a pleasure to hear about how closely our members in the New England area work together to assist each other and their customers whenever the need arises. Hearing Bill talk about his relationships with the other NationaLease members in the area reminded me of the very reasons NationaLease was founded in 1944.
I left Woburn and headed toward my hotel. When I booked the hotel, the description mentioned it was close to Gillette Stadium. I didn’t realize just how close until I pulled into the parking lot. Looking through the hotel lobby, you get a perfect view of the stadium. There is an entire entertainment complex with shops, restaurants, and a movie theater right outside Gillette. Since the weather forecast was calling for 18 inches of snow, this looked like a pretty good place to get snowed in, despite the somewhat somber mood of the local Patriots fans. Jay Hagerty, NationaLease National Account Executive, arrived at the hotel shortly after I did, and we planned our strategy for the next couple of days–with contingency plans for the snowstorm.
The next day, we headed south to Rhode Island to visit one of our newest members, Rhode Island Truck Rental, a NationaLease Developing Member. Ben Viti Jr., and Ben Viti Sr. shared some of their successes and challenges from their first year in the truck rental and leasing business. Jay was able to offer some advice from his nearly 25 years in the truck leasing industry, and I reminded them of some of the programs NationaLease offers to assist them, including our purchasing programs. I also talked with Ben Jr. about the NationaLease Young Executives Club. This group started just a few years ago to support the next generation of leadership of our member companies. The group meets twice a year to network and to learn from speakers they bring to their meetings. They have also been active in sharing ideas with the general membership through blogs, articles, and presentations at the membership meetings.As we left Rhode Island Truck Rental, the snow had already started to fall. Jay and I decided to grab a quick lunch and start heading back toward Foxboro before it got any worse. Just down the street, we found Italian Corner. The place was tiny, but the parking lot was packed. This is usually a good sign. Inside, we found a counter serving Italian sandwiches, meats and cheeses, a few shelves of Italian coffee, cookies, espresso makers, and canned tomatoes, a cooler filled with fresh homemade pasta, and fewer tables and chairs than there were customers. While Jay ordered the sandwiches, I kept a lookout for someone to leave, and grabbed the first table that became available. The sandwiches were quick, fresh, and delicious, and we were on our way before the snow started falling even harder.
Jay and I both had some work to do in the afternoon, so we decided to meet for dinner a few hours later. By that time, the Nor’easter was in full effect. Fortunately, we had all the amenities we could need right outside our door. Even though it was easily within walking distance, we decided to drive to the other side of the complex, where we found a seafood restaurant called Skipjack’s. As we ate some delicious seafood minestrone and sushi, we watched a terrifically efficient team of workers shoveling and plowing the sidewalks. By the time they got one section cleared, the previous section was completely covered again. The news was reporting flight cancellations, school cancellations, and windchills in the negative numbers. Our prospects for getting home the next day looked pretty bleak, but there was nothing we could do but enjoy our dinner and get back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.
In the morning we only had to drive about two miles to get to Minuteman Trucks, Inc., a NationaLease Member. Clearing off the cars in the wind and snow was not much fun, but fortunately the roads were fairly clear. Bill Carroll met with us and we had a lively discussion on lots of topics including National Accounts and the upcoming Spring Business Meeting in conjunction with TRALA, which will be in Scottsdale on March 11-13 this year. The NationaLease meeting this year will be focused on member-facilitated discussions. Instead of bringing in several speakers, our sessions will be open discussions on topics recommended by NationaLease members that impact their daily business. As much as we hated to cut the conversation short, Jay and I both wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to get to the airport, just in case we might be able to get a flight home. Despite the 18 inches of snow the news was reporting, the roads were remarkably clear, and both our flights were miraculously on time.
So 2014 is off to a good start. I survived a Nor’easter, I visited with some great members, both old and new, and I experienced the resilience of New Englanders. Neither a snowstorm nor a loss to Denver will get them down. I, however, need to plan a bit better. I think I’d prefer to see Boston in the summer next time. Regardless of the conditions, I left New England confident that NationaLease customers in the entire region are in great hands, as our members continue to work together, just as they have done since 1944.
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