It’s a warm June day in Chicago, 1961 — the “Mad Men” era. Ed Bobit has an idea that he thinks is good enough to take to the bosses.
He’s done his research, he’s outlined his idea, he’s ready to make a pitch.
“What if,” he says to his bosses at the publishing giant McGraw-Hill, “we created a magazine for the men who manage the vehicle fleets at big companies? The magazine will be devoted to the issues they need to know about: running a cost-efficient fleet, safe driving tips, how to select the best car for your company’s salespeople and executives.”
I don’t know how long the bosses mulled it over, but the reply came back: “No, thank you.”
Ed felt so strongly about his idea that he went back to the bosses with his resignation letter and decided to give it a go alone. And with that, he launched Bobit Publishing and its flagship publication, Automotive Fleet.
A credenza that Ed bought for $12 (and which is still on display at the company’s headquarters) was used to lay out the first issue of Automotive Fleet.
At the time, Ed had five kids to feed (and would soon have six), so he was what you’d call “motivated to succeed.” And succeed he did.
Within a few years, the company had expanded its toehold in the fleet management field with SCHOOL BUS FLEET and Metro Magazine. Later, the company would add magazines for security system installers, limousine operators, police officers, nail salons and hot rod shops.
The roots of SBF actually go back to 1956. The magazine debuted as School Bus Trends, from Hitchcock Publishing. On the cover of the first issue was the current Miss America, Sharon Kay Ritchie, perched on a 1956 Wayne Superamic school bus.
Five years later, Hitchcock changed the name of School Bus Trends to School Bus Transportation.
Then, after Bobit acquired the magazine, it relaunched in 1965 as SCHOOL BUS FLEET with a new look and vision.
So as SBF hits 55, Bobit celebrates its golden anniversary — 50 years under the same family ownership, which is remarkable in itself.
Ed Bobit is still at his desk in the corner office every morning. His son Ty runs the company. And Ty’s son Blake is also working in the family business.
As for myself, I’ve had the privilege of being a part of Bobit for more than half of the company’s history — I just marked my 30th anniversary.
Several years ago, the Bobit Publishing name was changed to Bobit Business Media, which reflects how the company has grown. In addition to the print magazines that are still our bread and butter, websites, e-newsletters and events have become integral parts of how we inform and connect with the industries we serve.
I salute Ed Bobit, a man who had the courage to go out on his own 50 years ago with a great idea and a lot of confidence. Here’s to another great 50 years for the company.