January 23, 2018
This month, we get to know Simon English. Simon is an experienced entrepreneur and former Managing Director of Fleet Assist, one of the UK’s leading supply chain management specialists in the Fleet Market. Fleet Assist was recently sold to US-based investment fund Eli Global and Simon and his fellow shareholders were advised by Bluebox.
Pure pot luck I suppose! I was 27 years old and had been in the police force for a good number of years. I wanted a career move and managed to get a job working for a Finance House in their Automotive Finance department. This was my first step into the Automotive sector.
I worked for the police for four years and prior to the police, in a manufacturing company having left school with a modest couple of A Levels.
I had been an MD in three separate business and realised that I enjoyed change and change management so decided to go into a consultancy based role in this field. However, in a consultancy role, the jobs are inconsistent and I wanted a steady actuarial income that would also mean getting paid whilst on annual leave.
I started to think about creating a business of my own. I wanted to own an internet based, people light business. At the same time, Mike Smith (Simon’s Co-Founder of Fleet Assist) was also thinking about setting up a business so we put our ideas together and came up with the concept of Fleet Assist.
My other motivation was that I had a very young family and wanted to be very much part of their life growing up. I didn’t want to be the career Dad and just be there for just the key moments. I thought that starting my own business and becoming my own boss would allow me the time and flexibility to be able to make this happen.
Twenty years ago, it was a very slow-paced industry and nothing seemed to change. Automotive is now a very dynamic and fast changing industry. Cars are a manufactured item which have an incredibly long-life cycle. There will be plenty of people driving a car that’s only 3 years old, but that was designed before the first iPhone was even launched.
With all the new technology coming into play in the future within the Automotive sector such as electric cars, autonomous driving and AI, it will be most interesting to see what happens in the future.
Bizarrely I didn’t have any concerns. I knew that if all else failed I was confident enough to go back into ‘corporate life’ so at least I had a cushion and wasn’t taking too many risks with money. The business model meant that we didn’t need to invest hundreds of thousands into the company. Instead, we invested some seed money in and decided not pay ourselves for a while……
No – we didn’t think like that in those days. However, on reflection, building a business with an exit plan in mind would have been very valuable and worthwhile. It is fair to say that Bluebox ensured that the exit moved very smoothly in the end so I suppose that we got away with the lack of planning in our case. ?
The biggest challenge was that we had quite a lot of interested parties that came to the process at different times. It was hard to manage such a high level of interest and to decide who was going to be the best fit for the management team and for Fleet Assist going forward.
Bluebox were instrumental in not only introducing these parties, but also maintaining the interest of all these parties up to the point when we decided to select the best party to move forward with. It was great that we didn’t seem to lose anyone along the way!
Have a really defined plan upfront which all of the equity holders sign up to. Know the market you are going to approach and have an exit plan/strategy as far in advance as possible. Obviously, using an Advisor to advise on the sale can add considerable value. We were really delighted with what Bluebox achieved.
I would also advise shareholders to think big and seek external funding early. It can add a lot of value. We didn’t have private equity money in Fleet Assist, but I have been exposed to private equity in other areas of work that I do and can see that they can really add value!
Fleet Assist are definitely looking to grow organically and through acquisition. They now have an increased appetite for risk in the vehicle rental market (which we really just explored and were very cautious about) so I am sure the business will focus in this area. They have also got some new products planned in Business Intelligence, Telematics and some ‘rent to buy’ type products in the rental sector. They are hoping to make a couple of automotive acquisitions a year with a view to grow that Automotive exposure. These are exciting times for Fleet Assist!
No. I have had this conversation with my wife multiple times. I have never really looked back with great pride but I think that this is part of what drives people on – wanting to do the next big thing. I suppose I must be proud of some of the things I have done but I don’t really have a proudest moment in my career – only the achievements of my kids and in my personal life.
I would take more risk
I would bring in private equity earlier
I would become a qualified accountant. I have run four different business and have been on a couple of different private equity boards and there are conversations that take place where I am always playing catch up because of my lack of technical knowledge. I see that as a shortcoming. I think that if you’re a qualified accountant you have always got that skill to fall back on which aids in your financial and technical understanding.
For someone who has worked in the Automotive industry his whole life it is strange to say I really am not interested in cars. My business partner Mike, who exited with me this year has bought himself an Aston Martin DB11. I have still got the same car that I left the business with 7 months ago. I generally don’t have a dream car. I like driving, but don’t care what car – within reason!
Golf or Rugby? – Rugby
Ferrari or Lamborghini? – Ferrari
If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go and why? I’d cycle solo through the Middle East. I don’t think it’s that safe at the moment, but I would love to see all the history. A change in the political environment there would be hugely positive thing.
Where you upset when Top Gear was cancelled? What’s Top Gear? ?
Quick cure to get over the January blues? We all have the January blues but January is an exciting month and we should be looking forward to the year ahead in terms of our careers and also getting fitter!
What is one of the things you would put on your “bucket” list? Cycling across a continent solo.
“We were delighted with the services that Bluebox offered us. Bluebox’s attention to detail through their Diamond Programme ensured that we were well prepared for when the business was taken to market and that the sale process itself was managed expertly.
We challenged Bluebox with finding the right strategic buyer and thereafter negotiating a deal that met our requirements. In helping initially to identify and to secure the deal with Mountville Mills they accomplished just that. Communication throughout was excellent and professional, managing each stage of the process. I would have no hesitation in recommending Bluebox to any corporate shareholder or private business owner looking to divest their business.”
Richard Millward, Former Client
“We were delighted with the services that Bluebox offered us. Bluebox were challenged with finding us the right strategic investor and, thereafter, negotiating a deal that met our complex requirements. In identifying and securing the deal with LGC they have done exactly that. The process itself was efficient and smooth, largely due to the excellent communication from the Bluebox team, who also demonstrated excellent experience at managing a very engaging auction process. I would be delighted to recommend Bluebox to any corporate shareholder or private business owner looking to divest a business.”
Helen Dickinson, Former Client
It has been a real privilege working with the team at Bluebox over this last year or so. Bluebox’s attention to detail ensured that we were well prepared for when the business was taken to market and the sale process itself was managed expertly. Starting the process, I had no idea exactly what this would entail and the volume of work that has been produced by everyone and the result reached today is nothing short of brilliant.
Hugh Morris, Former Client
We are delighted with the services that Bluebox was able to offer. They showed an intimate knowledge of a deal cycle, managed a tight auction process and were highly communicative from the start. I would happily recommend Paul and his team to business owners contemplating a sale of their business in the next 24 months. Experience is key and this has paid off for us.
Laurence Seward, Former Client
Aligning ourselves early with Bluebox, and entrusting the team to guide us through their process proved to be a highly rewarding investment from all viewpoints. Bluebox’s support significantly enhanced both the value of our business and its ‘saleability’. I would highly recommend Bluebox to business owners contemplating an exit in the next two years. The earlier the engagement the better so far as I am concerned.
Mike Minett, Former Client
We began working with Bluebox in early 2015 through their Blue Diamond Programme, as we were contemplating an exit. We found that the process focussed our minds on the key areas of growth in the business, and prepared us well for the inevitable rigours of due diligence. During the sale process itself, the advice offered by the Bluebox team was invaluable. We found them to be helpful, straightforward and honest.
David Stokes, Former Client
When selecting our adviser, it was extremely important that they had access to international buyers and were experienced in cross-border M&A. The team at Bluebox proved to be invaluable by identifying a strategic acquirer from America who was not known to us and by negotiating an excellent deal for all parties. I was also impressed with the process management from Bluebox, which ensured that the deal was closed in a timely fashion.
Jeff Weinstein, Former Client
When I first engaged with Bluebox, I was hesitant as to the benefits of using an advisor to firstly, find a buyer for my business and secondly, to get a deal over the line. However, now that the deal has completed with KPM, I can honestly say that the finer negotiation points handled by Bluebox and their overall management of this process has been nothing short of first class. I would be delighted to recommend Bluebox’s services to any entrepreneur contemplating the sale of their business.
Bill Ballard, Former Client
Bluebox worked closely with us over the following six months and helped us to implement some key initiatives which made InferMed a more attractive acquisition target. Once we decided to sell the business, the Bluebox team were very diligent in ensuring that no stone was left unturned. They negotiated expertly on our behalf to ensure we got the best deal possible.
Alan Montgomery, Former Client
The pre-sale planning programme that we signed up for with Bluebox made us develop our strategies and focus on the bigger picture. It proved to be a very rewarding investment from all viewpoints and significantly enhanced both the value of our business and its ‘saleability’. I would highly recommend Bluebox to business owners contemplating an exit in the next two years.
Nigel Parsons, Former Client
I have experienced first hand the value that can be created through highly structured pre-sale planning. It amazes me that it is not something that everyone does. It is so disappointing to see around 90% of transactions collapse before they complete and pre-sale planning will not only enhance your price, but also significantly enhance your chance of a closed deal.
James Caan, Investor
We worked incredibly closely with our advisers who provided expert knowledge of the sale process with which we were not familiar. We were truly delighted with the results.
Marten Nielson, Former Client
We appointed advisers to manage the sales process after we had received a number of unsolicited approaches for the business. I was incredibly impressed by the immense value that could be created by expertly negotiating with a group of already interested parties.
Paul Duckworth, Former Client
I was delighted with the service that the team offered and their real attention to detail. The deal was not without its complexities and it was reassuring to have such experienced advisers assisting me throughout the negotiations.
Peter Bennett, Former Client
Truly delighted with the way my sale process was managed. The fact that the team I worked with achieved such a great multiple is testament to their experience and their ability to create some true competitive tension.
James Averdieck, Gü, Former Client
The team at Bluebox provided invaluable support in negotiating this complex transaction. Their access to international purchasers, and exceptional knowledge of cross border M&A ensured that the deal was concluded efficiently, achieving a highly successful outcome for us all.
Jon Parslow, Former Client
“We selected Bluebox after a fairly long round of evaluating potential advisors because of their scientific, yet challenging approach to maximising value. During our initial meetings they showed us how far short of “ready” we were and consequently we completed more preparation in the early stages which meant we were equipped for what was to come. We were delighted with our choice of Corporate Finance partner. I do not hesitate in recommending Bluebox for any SME to consider.”
Simon English, Former Client
Bluebox provided invaluable advice in managing the negotiations with incoming investors. Their skills in handling these discussions were evident from the outset and the vital interface that they provided between the incumbent team and the incoming investors was truly beneficial.
Henry Braham, Former Client
Bluebox have a professional, dynamic and experienced team that is greatly assisting me with my focus on my exit within the next 24 months. Their structured approach is very refreshing and their ‘Blue Diamond’ programme is adding immense value.
Matt Evans, Former Client
The team at Bluebox provided me with a seamless service from the start of the engagement until our deal was completed. Attention to detail was commendable and their understanding of corporate M&A very impressive. I could not recommend them highly enough.
Victor Lewis, Former client
Having tried to sell my business previously – and failed – I was only too aware of the importance of pre-sale planning. This is a talented team offering a service that most people find out about, but too late.
Simon Hulme, Former Client
Bluebox are a quality outfit. Their access to International acquirers and relationships with the highest quality domestic investors was impressive. My shareholders and I received excellent service from start to finish and it was refreshing to be dealing with a senior team throughout the sale exercise.
Michael Clapper, Former Client
I cannot recommend the team at Bluebox highly enough. Their expert guidance throughout the entire sale exercise resulted in my shareholders securing an excellent deal with which the entire team was delighted.
Mark Rodol, Former Client
I’m really pleased with the service Bluebox provided. The team demonstrated excellent knowledge of the process to follow and led negotiations for the hospital in a way that allowed us to ensure we received appropriate value whilst focusing on reputational risk. Communication and service were of a very high standard.
Steven Davies, Former Client
With Bluebox’s expert advice we were able to find the right buyer that will benefit our business strategically. We’re delighted with the outcome and look forward to starting our new chapter
Clive Hillier, Former Client
The advice offered by the Bluebox team throughout the process was invaluable to the shareholders. We strongly believe that participating in Bluebox’s pre-sale planning programme was a significant driver behind the success of the deal. Their project management and negotiation skills throughout the sale process itself resulted in an exceptional deal being delivered to all parties involved.
Harpal Singh, Former Client