Selling Your Fleet: 7 Things You Need to Know

Feb. 17, 2015
Selling your fleet operation may be the most important business decision you ever make—but it's a very strange process. Here’s what you need to know.

Selling your fleet is not simple. It will take longer than you think, and it will be more complicated than you think. And if you’re not familiar with the process, you’re going to be baffled by questions you hadn’t anticipated—how many buyers am I supposed to reach out to? —and situations you don’t know how to interpret—this buyer’s offer is 20% lower than that one! Are they trying to insult me?

Here are seven scenarios that you might not be expecting—and the reasons they’re not the end of the world.

It is a long journey, so know why you’re selling. Why are you choosing to sell now? Maybe it’s because you want to grow the fleet to 300 trucks or more and need a good investor, or your want to join a friend in a new start-up, or even take a long exotic vacation. The sales process usually takes from nine months to a year, so it’s normal to get frustrated during the process. Knowing why you are selling will help you stay focused on the ultimate goal.

This isn’t your specialty, so hire professionals. Selling a middle market company is a specialized process. It’s not a good idea to hire an accounting firm just because your golf buddy recommended it, or to use your family lawyer to negotiate the sale of your business. You’ll only sell your company once, and you owe it to yourself to use expert intermediaries who have done this many times before.

You’ll think the deal has died. A partner of mine likes to joke, “Every deal dies three times before it successfully closes.” There’s a some truth to that. At points, you and the buyer will slam down your phones or stalk out of the conference room, swearing on your respective grandmothers’ graves that there is no possible way to do a transaction together. Believe it or not, this is normal. Stay focused on the long-term goal and you will succeed.

Accountants need numbers to survive. You will be overwhelmed by an unending stream of demands for more and more financial information, not just from the buyer but from your investment banker, your accountants, your CFO, and probably the neighbor’s dog. Unfortunately, this is a necessary and unavoidable part of the process. Numbers drive the process.

Lawyers start every sentence with, “The problem is…” This negativity can become very discouraging after a few weeks or months. Remember, you pay lawyers to protect you, so they’re supposed to identify possible problems. Your job is to stay positive, help them resolve the issues and keep pushing towards the closing table.

You’re not Peterbilt or Freightliner. If your asking price is more than the value of the best public company in the industry, you may be a little unrealistic. I know, I know, your baby is prettier and smarter and more valuable than anyone else’s. Recognize that you can’t help but be biased, and rely upon your banker and the market to determine the true value of your fleet.

Don’t forget to manage our fleet! This is the biggest sale of your lifetime. It’s quite likely that the most important business decision you ever make will be when and how to sell your fleet. Once it gets rolling, the sales process will seem to suck up all your time and energy, and you’re going to want to focus on it. But if sales and profits drop, so will the value of your fleet and your negotiating strength. Stay focused on what you do best. Take the time to keep the business running smoothly, so it’s the kind of growing enterprise for which buyers will pay a premium. 

Selling a fleet is not simple or easy. However, with professional guidance from an experienced team of advisors you can successfully complete the process; secure your future, while also ensuring your fleet is well positioned to grow.

About the Author

John Sloan | Vice Chairman

John Sloan is the Vice Chairman of Allegiance Capital, a middle-market investment bank that works with business owners to help them sell or raise capital. 

John has more than three decades of C-level experience in investment banking and private equity.  He has personally executed transactions with fleet owners and understands the unique needs of the trucking industry. 

During his career, John has raised more than $1 billion in debt and equity.  He is an expert in all aspects of investment banking and has evaluated and negotiated the acquisition of more than 30 companies in: energy, construction, retail, telecom, environmental, logistics and manufacturing, with an aggregate value in excess of $7 billion.

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