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Time to Complete a Heavy Duty Business Opportunity Audit

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Everyone is becoming very aware as to the many challenges that lay ahead for the independent HD aftermarket. Challenges can turn into incredible opportunities when approached properly. We are now moving into a new era where the “Trade” days are coming quickly to an end and our “Profession” will step out into the economy and WOW the commercial client. It will also attract the millennials when they see the exciting technology and opportunities for them to be involved in moving our sector forward. As a Profession we will finally elevate the HD aftermarket to an income level that mirrors other high end economy segments. Exciting days are ahead but detailed planning is now required to make sure we can embrace the future.

Consider this list and address how each one affects your business and list the solution required so the shop can continue to move forward.
Business Opportunity Audit:
1 We face increased competition from the HD Dealerships and/or shrinking margins so our focus must shift within the business to selling our knowledge. Billed hours must be our focus. To achieve this it must be recognised that client relationships and earning their trust is so important. Educate as to the value and importance of investing in at least two comprehensive inspections on the HD vehicle each year. The purpose of the comprehensive is to have a full picture of the condition the vehicle is in for safety, reliability and efficiency. You then counsel the client the timing of the required work, based on how they use the vehicle and their annual mileage as to what is in their best interest to insure vehicle safety, reliability and efficiency are properly maintained.

2 We need to better understand our target clients…who they are, why they buy and what they really want. Analyze your data base as to who are your top commercial clients. What type of work do they have done on their vehicle meaning are they a break down and repair client or a vehicle preventative maintenance client? You have a solid relationship with all these people so have a conversation as to why they come to your shop specifically and what are they looking from you moving forward? These are the people who most likely will recommend you so listen carefully, take notes and improve the service level where required to meet their total expectations.

3 Some of our current and target clients are not aware of all the value we offer. Have you educated your clients as to what makes your shop “uniquely” different? This should be where your advertising/marketing dollars are spent. Differentiate yourself from the HD dealership arena “in writing” and make sure clients and potential clients “experience” that differentiation when they come into your operation. Differentiation can mean strong value to a client if you work on and remember that EVERY visit for them is about their experience with your business.

4 We don’t charge as much as we should, because of a lack of confidence in our value, or for some other reason. Have we got our emotions in check? Do the real math and establish the right labor rates for the competency and value we bring to our clients. Acknowledge that your labor rate represents your shop’s competency. You are in a knowledge based business and competent staff, from the technicians to the front counter are worth more. Review your structure to make sure you have the right rates in place for maintenance, diagnostic and re-flash labor. Once again proper education of the client is critical here. Think about this example….introduce to the client the lead technician that will be working on the client’s vehicle. This is all of a 2 minute introduction. Have a small training session with the technicians as to how the technician should handle him in front of the client and why this is important. This can build incredible relationships and trust when a client actual can put a face and “personality” to the person working on their vehicle. Remember as I said before, it is about the “experience” on each visit.

5 Our industry faces trust or image issues that we must overcome to create client confidence. This is a great opportunity for the HD independent sector to embrace. To create client confidence, you must slow down and actually make time for the client so you can engage in a constructive and positive conversation with them. Review all the facts you have on that client file proving you understand their situation. You know whether they own or lease the vehicle, how they use the vehicle (city, highway or a lot of off road driving due to their physical location) confirming they drive X amount of miles per year and understanding their expectations with their vehicle. MANAGE the vehicle based on their facts and remind them that your recommendations are for safety, reliability and efficiency to achieve the client’s ultimate expectations.

6 We need a clearer Vision for the future of our business…and a written Plan to define it and how to get us there.

This is one of your greatest exercises in an opportunity audit because you now confirm the 5 building blocks required for a successful culture and building a profitable business. All these should be fully written out and properly documented in detail. The 5 blocks are 1. Vision – what will the business look like in 3 years? From facility appearance to staff appearance to work flow management to maximize bottom-line profits. How will it differ from today? 2. Do we have or understand what talent do we require to fulfill the vision? Have you got the knowledge depth on your team that is required today? If not do they have the desire to learn what they must know to be part of this business? Where is the right training available? 3. Does the team “believe” in the vision to be achieved? In other words are they motivated because they like the direction the business is going and want to be part of it? Never ask the team to “buy into” the business, you want and need them to “believe” in the business. 4. Provide all the resources to achieve the vision. This relates to on-going and specific training the team needs, equipment and software upgrades where required and an efficiently laid out facility to maximize productivity. 5. A proper measuring document. This means to have a proper measuring document to confirm the journey is going in the right direction or point out where attention must be paid to keep the business on track.

The above six examples are but a few opportunities in the audit process but as you can see when you approach the business with a positive mind-set you are in control of the future because you are thinking of where “opportunities” lay within your business. Get the team involved as well, especially millennials who love to be part of the building blocks. Listen carefully to them; you may be very surprised as to what great in-put they can give form “their” perspective, your future customer and client base.

2019 is the start of the future. Lay down a solid foundation of thought and planning now and the next 3 years will be a start to an incredible and exciting journey.

Agenda Released for 2019 HD Repair Forum

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Houston, Texas, February 12, 2019 – Earlier this month, HD Repair Forum’s development team released the agenda for its 2019 heavy-duty collision repair conference, being held April 2nd- 3rd in Fort Worth, Texas.

“Last year, as a first-time event, we were very satisfied with the feedback we received on the program. Repair facility owners, fleet and body shop managers, insurance partners and other industry leaders were pleased with the information and opportunities that were uncovered.” explains Co-founder and President of the HD Repair Forum, Brian Nessen.“It is based on this feedback and the requests and direction given from our advisory board, that this year’s conference follow a similar format.”

The 2019 agenda will assist repair facilities in the heavy-duty collision repair market improve their processes and profitability, bring further clarity to solutions available for parts sourcing and pricing, educate the industry on the newest vehicle technologies entering this market, while continuing conversations on other industry challenges, including access to OEM repair procedures.

Until recently, this group of collision repairers did not have an event dedicated to their business needs and interests. The HD Repair Forum now provides industry leaders a place to gather, communicate, collaborate, and network with peers, stakeholders, and key-influencers. “We look forward to offering the heavy-duty collision repair industry the opportunity to come together and drive change that benefits all the stakeholders and most importantly, their mutual customer.” concludes Nessen.  

Below is an overview of the 2019 HD Repair Forum agenda:

2019 HD Repair Forum Day One – Tuesday, April 2, 2019

General Sessions
Keynote Speaker – Mike Jones
OEM New Vehicle Technology
Clean Energy in the Transportation Industry
Panel Discussion: Finding Parts – Is There an Easier Method to the Madness?

Focused Learning Tracks – Breakout One
Track A: What Happens in 100 Milliseconds During a Collision
Track B: Estimating Made Easy
Track C: Building a Successful Alignment and Safety System Calibration Program

Focused Learning Tracks – Breakout Two
Track A: Develop Standard Operating Procedures for Efficient Results
Track B: Composite Repair in the Heavy Duty Truck and Commercial Vehicle Market
Track C: Heavy-Duty Truck Collision Damage Analysis

Focused Learning Tracks – Breakout Three
Track A: Discover Leadership
Track B: Commercial Vehicle Scanning – What Tools and Software Do I Need?
Track C: I-CAR Training

Networking Reception

HD Repair Forum Day Two – Wednesday, April 3, 2019

General Sessions
Industry Trends and Insight
New Vehicle Technology Now and Beyond
Opportunities for Equipping the Industry with Training and Technicians
Data Privacy and Liability After a Collision
Panel Discussion: A Dive into Successful Operations in Heavy-Duty Collision Repair
Panel Discussion: Understand Insurer Challenges & Opportunities to Work Together

Focused Learning Tracks  – Breakout One
Track A: What Happens in 100 Milliseconds During a Collision
Track B: Heavy-Duty Truck Collision Damage Analysis
Track C: Elevating HD Service Excellence with Mathematical Measurements

Focused Learning Tracks – Breakout Two
Track A: Extreme Communication
Track B: Composite Repair in the Heavy Duty Truck and Commercial Vehicle Market
*Track C: Elevating HD Service Excellence Continued

Focused Learning Tracks  – Breakout Three
Track A: I-CAR Training
Track B: HR Matters
*Track C: Elevating HD Service Excellence Continued

For additional details on speakers, sponsors, and event details visit

Conference days are Tuesday & Wednesday, April 2nd & 3rd, 2019 in Fort Worth, Texas. To register for early bird rates through Friday, February 15th follow this link:

Industry Receives Increased OEM Communication Since HD Repair Forum

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Houston, Texas, Jan. 29, 2019 – When the HD Repair Forum was first in development back in 2017, its founders breathed hope into offering the heavy-duty collision repair industry something it has never had before: A Platform for Progress.

“Months of research and countless conversations proved this industry needed an event tailored to its needs,” explains Brian Nessen, Co-founder and President of the HD Repair Forum. “When you’re hearing similar concerns from all angles of the industry, you recognize a missing link in the chain of communication. From experience, we understand that discussion around common struggles brings light to industry inefficiencies and creates opportunity for strategies to evolve. The aim is to move everyone forward as a solid unit,” he continues.

“The conversations we had at the HD Repair Forum in 2018 helped us better understand the challenges many repair facilities are facing,” says T.J. O’Hanlon, Director of Private Labels at Navistar, which makes International® trucks, IC Bus® school buses, and Fleetrite® all-makes replacement parts.

“Those conversations led directly to the development of our collision catalog, which should make it easier for these facilities to identify OEM- and aftermarket- approved replacement parts. At the 2019 HD Repair Forum, we’re looking forward to additional discussions about how independent repair facilities can best provide their customers with high-quality, economical solutions.”

O’Hanlon is scheduled to speak to attendees in more detail about these and other company developments at the 2019 event on April 2nd & 3rd in Fort Worth, TX.

The HD Repair Forum brings together repair facility owners and managers from across North America to hear from and interact with industry stakeholders, like Navistar, the Illinois-based OEM, who was one of the first to commit their support to the 2019 event.

Navistar’s collision catalog is a readily available reference guide of OEM part numbers for not only the International vehicle brand, but also for Freightliner, Kenworth, and more. Part numbers are displayed with accompanying pictures to make it easier for customers to decipher what is needed. Delivery of parts within 24 hours has been advertised.

“The underlying commonality between repair facilities, insurance parties, and manufacturers is the end customer. Making their lives easier and safer is the central focus of this event,” concludes Nessen.

Discounted registration to the event is available through February 9th. To register follow:

If you are interested in joining Navistar in its support of this industry, please visit:

For additional information, please visit: or call (281) 819-2332.

About the HD Repair Forum

Created as a dedicated resource for heavy-duty collision repair information for shop owners, managers, estimators, appraisers, insurance personnel, manufacturers, educators, and consultants. The HD Repair Forum offers a monthly newsletter, a website, news articles, webinars, and an annual conference that brings industry stakeholders together. The HD Repair Forum’s conference will take place April 2-3, 2019 in Fort Worth, TX with numerous classes and panels dedicated to education and problem solving.

About Navistar

Navistar International Corporation (NYSE: NAV) is a holding company whose subsidiaries and affiliates produce International® brand commercial and military trucks, proprietary diesel engines, and IC Bus® brand school and commercial buses. An affiliate also provides truck and diesel engine service parts. Another affiliate offers financing services. Additional information is available at  

AkzoNobel Coating Increases Support of the HD Repair Forum in 2019

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Houston, Texas, Jan. 9, 2019 – The HD Repair Forum is pleased to announce that AkzoNobel Coatings will continue to be an active partner in building a community and platform-for-progress in the heavy-duty collision repair industry.

At the inaugural conference in 2018, AkzoNobel Coatings hosted its spring 20-Group meeting alongside this unique heavy-duty collision conference and shined as a premier sponsor.

“The company’s involvement and enthusiasm for the heavy-duty industry was obvious. Attendees knew their products and were proud to discuss the benefits they received from being involved with AkzoNobel.” explains Brian Nessen, President and Co-Founder of the HD Repair Forum.

The company committed early last week to join Navistar as one of the two exclusive Elite Sponsors for the 2019 HD Repair Forum.

The Forum’s aim is to foster growth and progress in the heavy-duty collision repair industry through the exchange of knowledge, experience, and feedback from all industry stakeholders. Heavy-duty collision repair professionals from across North America will gather in Fort Worth, TX, April 2nd & 3rd to obtain information on the latest trends and industry issues. They will hear about the latest technology, solution-based services, and training opportunities available to the market.

“Our 20-group members find great value in attending the HD Repair Forum. At our Fall meeting in 2018, members voted unanimously to once again host the spring meeting upon completion of this conference.”  explains Jimmy Harris, co-facilitator to AkzoNobel Coating’s 20-Group.

“Having this group for 2019 confirms the importance of bringing the industry together. We are pleased to hear of their enthusiasm and take pride in being able to further assist this already strong segment of the industry,” continues Nessen. “Their decision supports the ongoing plan for industry collaboration and fits with the direction of the HD Repair Forum, to bring the heavy-duty repair industry together for education and networking.”

Many other industry stakeholders, including truck manufacturers, equipment suppliers, insurance companies, independent appraisers and heavy-duty repair facility owners have already marked the second annual HD Repair Forum on their calendars.

Heavy-Duty Collision Repair Event Schedule:

Tuesday, April 2
7:00 AM Registration
8:00 AM-5:00 PM Conference
5:00-6:30 PM Networking Reception

Wednesday, April 3
8:00 AM-5:00 PM Conference

Thursday, April 4
AkzoNobel Coating’s 20-Group Meeting 

Road to Green: Rotten Apples or a Rotten Barrel

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We’ve heard the saying many times, “A bad apple spoils the barrel.”
That’s very true in so many cases and in business that’s why Management must focus on building the right culture with the right team and partners in place. It’s not an easy thing to do but it must be an on-going process in the business today. That is why a detailed VISION plan is required which not only lays out what the business will look like in 3 years’ time, and the road map it is going to follow to achieve the vision (the quality of the barrel), but also what will the Team (the apples) look like in terms of quality and quantity.

There’s also another aspect to consider that’s not talked about in our HD industry at all—sometimes, at some point, you have to acknowledge the barrel is spoiling the apple!

This means the entire process of how business is being done in the HD shop is completely broken and no matter how talented the staff is, the culture the shop runs under is not going to work. With a bad culture in place, finding the right people is a constant and nearly a full time job; good people that are hired do not stay with the company as good people leave because management allows bad people to stay; attitudes are negative; a team atmosphere of having each other’s back does not exist. Those are just some basic examples. The entire business must be revamped or the odds of survival may not be in that business’ favour.As the CEO of your HD business, have you clearly defined your culture and how it is developed and maintained? 2019 is going to be an exceptional year for the HD shop owners that get it.

Registration Opens for the Second Annual HD Repair Forum

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Registration for the 2019 HD Repair Forum is set to open Monday, December 10th, 2018. Last year’s premier event proved a milestone for the heavy-duty collision repair industry. Co-founder and Director of the HD Repair Forum, Brian Nessen explains why.

“Up until to the 2018 event, this group of collision repairers simply did not have an event dedicated to their businesses’ needs and interests.” This void eliminated opportunity for the niche group to gather, communicate, collaborate, and network with peers, stakeholders, and key-influencers of their industry.

The inaugural HD Repair Forum proved a great success. “Attendees, speakers, industry leaders, and sponsors alike were relieved to see the heavy-duty collision repair industry come together and begin to gain momentum in the progress to alleviate gaps that exist within the heavy-duty collision repair process.” Nessen continued.

This year’s conference will follow a similar format to last year’s event with keynote speakers, presentations from OEMs and other industry experts, followed with unique access to equipment suppliers, break-out sessions, and networking opportunities. “From the conversations we’ve had with many individuals within the industry, it was obvious an event geared towards education and information was necessary for the industry’s growth and sustainability.”

The event is set to take place Tuesday and Wednesday, April 2nd & 3rd, 2019 in Fort Worth, Texas. To register for early bird rates follow this link:

For additional information, please visit or contact us at:

Women in Trucking – Another Opportunity for Women to Impact an Industry

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Photo courtesy of Deb Schroeder- Women in Trucking

The advancement of women in the workplace is an ongoing theme in the trades world. Organizations like Women’s Industry Network, TED Women, Women Auto Know, and others have come into existence in the last decade or more. These organizations empower women by providing guidance in overcoming adversity. In the trucking industry, a workforce that has been historically male-dominated, Women in Trucking has emerged.

Women in Trucking’s (WIT) mission is dedicated to encouraging the establishment and promotion of women as professionals within all sectors of the trucking industry. This includes professions ranging from logistics operations, to OEM engineering positions, to administrative or leadership roles with suppliers of the industry, to even truck drivers themselves.

The organization supports its aim by assisting in this transition. WIT identifies and eliminates obstacles that inhibit women from involvement or progression. WIT takes the mission a step further and also celebrates female leaders already within the industry and purposefully recognizes companies that support diversity.

Earlier this month a group of nearly 800 women and men, from different sectors of the trucking industry gathered at the Embassy Suites in Frisco, Texas for the WIT Accelerate! Conference. In its fourth year of execution, the conference saw an almost doubled increase in attendance from the year prior. The increase in attendance alone boasts the progress of women within this industry. Conference offerings included a small trade show-style floor, networking opportunities, educational sessions for professional development, and informational sessions clarifying the state of the industry.

Women in leadership positions, like Kelly Goebert and Lauren Attainasi from Daimler Trucks North America, spoke to attendees about the progress the OEM has made in both technological and electrification advancements on its trucks. They also shared the hand they have in that progress and discussed how they manage such influential changes in their professional and personal lives.

The conference celebrated women’s progress in transportation with two evening receptions. One, which was preceded by an award ceremony recognizing WIT’s “Top 50 Companies for Women to Work for in Transportation”. According to the event website, the companies receiving the award have established “corporate cultures that foster gender diversity; competitive compensation and benefits; flexible hours and work requirements; professional development opportunities; and career advancement opportunities.”

WIT continuously looks to promote the opportunities for women within the trucking industry. A recent notable endeavor is the execution of a longtime aspiration of WIT founder, Ellen Voie; the creation of Clare, the Trucking Doll. Clare’s purpose is to provide young girls with a new perception of the trucking industry. One that fosters the understanding that, “The world is wide open for girls today… (and) whatever they want to be is just great – whether that’s a teacher or an ad exec or a professional driver.” Clare can be purchased via this link or through AmazonSmile.

For more information visit

Road to Green: Professionalism – Defining the Real Meaning for Your HD Business

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The term has been talked about within the Aftermarket Industry for decades…….. “Professionalism” and “being a Professional”, who is professional and who is not? The question is confusing today.

Professionalism means several different things in the Heavy Duty shop owner’s mind-set. There is an ironic view in its traditional meaning. For decades a professional was exactly what a HD technician, shop owner or parts supplier was not. It has always been assumed that there was a higher purpose to professional activities than merely making a living. This put professional people on a higher social level than those “in trade”, who in turn were assumed to have only money in mind when doing their work. Our education systems are guilty of promoting this concept and each of us should seize the opportunity if we get a chance to interact with the local education system to get this fallacy corrected.

In the public’s eye, professionals are supposed to “know their stuff”, meaning they know exactly what they are doing at any given time, and they know their subject inside-out. Professional persons tend to present an air of capability for the very good reason that what they have to sell is trustworthiness. Professional self-confidence comes from having a sure grasp of the fundamentals of one’s subject. Where self-confidence goes wrong is when a long-term person in the field becomes too sure of what they know, and come to believe that they have completely mastered their subject. The fact is, when they conclude that they know all there is to know, they are no longer professionals, but hacks.

If there is one characteristic of an established professional which sets them apart from other employment, it is the continual renewal of knowledge and expertise through continuous reading, attending seminars, conferences and interacting regularly with industry people.

Consider a HD shop today constantly has to learn about new equipment, new technology advancements on all vehicles, business processes and methods required to move the shop forward in a forever changing marketplace and economy. Like all professionals worthy of a name, professional Technicians, Shop Owners and Parts suppliers will put their client’s welfare before any personal consideration. They will never stop renewing and improving their knowledge and skills. They will conduct themselves with due professional pride and integrity. They will not cut corners, whether in terms of ethics, performance, or quality. Never has there been more need than there is today for professional attitudes within our HD sector of the industry. A great HD Service Industry is one in which men and women within the industry think greatly of their functions. To think greatly of those functions is to regard doing them as a profession whether or not it is so called.

In essence, the professional man or woman is one who behaves professionally, not necessarily one who has been certified by a licensing body. Professionalism cannot be conferred on you by other people. It solely consists of what you expect from yourself. Take a look in the mirror; who do you want to be?

The HD Repair Forum Announces Advisory Board for 2018-2019

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Following meetings with heavy-duty industry executives, educators, and consultants, the HD Repair Forum announces its 2018-2019 Advisory Board. This year’s Advisory Board members include:

Ray Chatfield, Truck Collision Services, Owner
Howard Elsenpeter, Hoglund Body & Equipment, Body Shop Manager
Dean Hancock, Bob Johnson’s Truck & Body, Owner
Fred Honore, Gerber Collision Services, Market Manager Fleet & RV
Monte Lewis, Monte’s Repair Shop, Inc., Owner
Wally Melia, SelecTransportation Resources, Corporate Body Shop Manager
Mark Polzin, Budget Truck & Auto, President
Ed Rietman, K&R Truck Sales, Inc., Owner
Rodney Rowland, Lakeside International Trucks, Body Shop Manager
Jason Shesky, Truck Zone, President
Chris Sterwerf, Fairfield Auto & Truck Service, CFO/COO
James Svaasand, Penske, Vice President-Collision Repair Ops & Development
Brian Vesley, Valtek Inc., President
Gigi Walker, Walker’s Auto Body, Owner
Steve Wolfe, Diversified Body & Paint, President

The HD Repair Forum is the only program dedicated exclusively to the heavy-duty collision repair industry and is open to everyone involved in the repair of heavy-duty/commercial vehicles in class 5-8. This includes shop owners, shop managers, fleet managers, dealer repair shops, commercial vehicle manufacturers,  insurance providers, and service, equipment, and technology companies.

This year’s advisory board is set to deliver an event that serv

es as extremely valuable to the heavy-duty collision repair industry. Their experience in heavy-duty collision repair builds a conference agenda filled with relevant and timely content.

The first advisory board meeting, set for later this week, will establish the most relevant topics facing this industry. Topics up for discussion include: continued increase of OEM repair support; industry economics and trends; commercial vehicle technology advancements and repair impacts, standard operating procedures, operational best practices, and more.

The 2-day event, being held on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 2-3, 2019, brings together all segments of the heavy-duty commercial vehicle repair industry in one place for collaborative discussions, education, future preparation, and high-level networking opportunities. The 2019 HD Repair Forum takes place in Fort Worth, Texas, at the Hilton Fort Worth.

“The inaugural HD Repair Forum of 2018 was an inspiration. Attendees, speakers, industry influencers, and sponsors alike, were relieved to see the heavy-duty collision repair industry come together and begin to create a mold for higher standards in safe and efficient heavy-duty repairs.” States Jennie Lenk, Communications Manager of the HD Repair Forum.

“Progress for the heavy-duty collision industry is imperative. The automotive collision industry has been experiencing this development in communication and collaboration for more than a decade, and the results in higher repair standards and more efficient processes has been very promising. It is at meetings like the HD Repair Forum where this progress will gain momentum, relationships to make development possible get established, and communication to the industry gets distributed.”

The Demystification of M&A – Part 3 TAKES TWO TO TANGO

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Our last article focused on the numerous motivations from a buyer’s perspective; we learned that sellers are wise to discern each potential buyer’s motivation as they enter into negotiations and prepare for due diligence.

Now it’s time to look at the seller’s side of an M&A transaction. Every deal requires a willing seller and a willing buyer (yes, occasionally we see unwilling sellers, but we’ll leave distressed and bankrupt sellers out to the equation for now). Seasoned buyers understand that timing is critical and the only way to buy a strong, well-run business on the buyer’s timing – other than luck – is to overpay. Everybody has a price.

Of course, serial buyers don’t call a disciplined process of continuously nurturing a healthy deal pipeline “luck”. And they shouldn’t. If your goal is to buy a stable business at a fair price, you often have to cast a lot of lines into the water, check on them regularly to ensure the bait still is good, and wait for a nibble. If you want to acquire several businesses, add a corporate development executive to your team whose job is to ensure every strategically-viable acquisition target is called upon regularly. As they say, make your own luck.

[Buyers also can wait for investment bankers and business brokers to send them unsolicited acquisition opportunities, but why wait? A proactive search process tends to yield better results than playing the waiting game and then competing with your peers after everyone gets the offering memorandum.]

The Nibble. When a seller shows some interest, a critical next step is to determine why the business is available. While it may seem counterintuitive, often a seller’s reason for exiting isn’t just to “monetize” the business. Let’s explore some scenarios:

1. Frailty. I can count on four hands how many deals I’ve been involved in that were heavily influenced by a health issue. Despite being a data-driven, analytical type, I have not tracked the different maladies. That said, owners suffering heart attacks (or near misses) likely have been the primary motivator, followed by a spouse’s serious sickness. Why is this notable? Beyond knowing that the seller may have a sense of urgency, there may be ways to sweeten a deal that makes it more attractive than others. In this situation, consider offering an employment position that allows the seller to maintain health insurance while reducing some of the stressors that may have led to the health issue.

2. Fear. In industries experiencing consolidation or obsolescence, sellers tend to be less rational. When a buyer suspects that a deal may be driven by fear, that should be a giant warning sign prompting detailed due diligence. Is the suspected “fear” something that would negatively impact the buyer? Perhaps the fear isn’t so obvious to a buyer. Could it be that the seller knows that eminent domain will be gobbling up a big chuck of the site, or a major lawsuit is looming, or a major customer is likely to go away because it is being sold to a company that won’t work with the seller, or the seller expects a key employee to be moving away. Think of a major risk in your business and then examine the seller’s propensity to suffer from the same situation. The scenarios are almost endless.

3. Fatigue. Health reasons and fear, particularly when combined, can result in significant fatigue for a business owner. When you sit down for an exploratory conversation with a potential seller over coffee and all that you hear is that he’s tired or that she’s not sleeping well, try to quickly discern between the fatiguing influences that would affect you as a buyer versus those that may be unique to the seller. If the seller is tired because, for example, he/she can’t find quality employees and is having to work double time, be sure to have a proven plan in place to eliminate this challenge (or acknowledge it and wisely walk away).

4. (In)frequent. Occasionally, a bored business owner becomes a rational seller. This is particularly common in owners who have started and sold multiple businesses. These “serial entrepreneurs” live for the start & build, but don’t get too emotionally attached to a business. Their objectivity in a deal tends to yield balanced outcomes. Conversely, another occasional motivator is situations with multiple partners having conflicting interests. Buyers should tread lightly in these situations in the event acrimony amongst the sellers leads one to make choices and take actions that potentially damages the blue sky that is appealing to the buyer.

5. Financial. Most success doesn’t occur by happenstance. Rather, business owners who have a clear vision, set goals and then direct their resources and energy towards achieving them, often have “that number”. That’s right – as soon as their business reaches a certain value, they’re a seller. They can be in the 30’s or their 60’s. Even the most experience buyers can’t recognize these sellers until they self identify, which often sounds like: “I need X”. Like the bored or serial entrepreneur, they tend to be more objective – hit their number and the rest of the deal will likely go smoothly.

6. Finally. More than any other reason, the desire to depart is driven by a date. Whether it’s the owner’s 50th, 60th or 65th birthday, often the calendar is the final arbiter. The seller has had a successful career, built a healthy business and now it’s time to rebalance the retirement portfolio’s assets from a risky business to cash. Why should buyers care? Often sellers in this category don’t have a significant sense of urgency, or so they want you to believe. If you’ve been around the deal block a couple of times, you know to not count that big chicken before it’s hatched. Savvy sellers will continue to invest in their businesses during negotiations and due diligence to not only create a sense of nonchalance about the deal, but also to be ready in the event it potential breaks down. They’re good at “playing chicken” about “counting their chickens” (sorry – I couldn’t resist!).

What’s the message here? It may not be just dollars driving a deal. Savvy buyers dig deep to understand their deal counterpart’s motivations and will structure deal terms to match their goals or allay their fears. Meanwhile, successful sellers are careful to project objectivity and artfully use perception to improve their outcomes. A key to successfully negotiating and structuring a deal is to know what drives the other side.

Comments / questions / criticisms? Are you contemplating a deal that might fit into one of these categories and you want to ensure you’re making a sound decision? Feel free to e-mail me: – I’m happy to explore the circumstances with you. Our next article will explore the anatomy of a deal. Until then, happy dealing!