Ready Bus Lines exits according to plan
Minnesota Coaches acquires the 62-year old company for purposes of location and expanded services
By David Hubbard
When Tom Ready took over his father’s Ready Bus Lines, La Crescent, MN, in 1975, which Joe Ready established in 1952 with one school bus, he knew he would eventually have to work on an exit plan. Maybe not in full detail, but something to remind him early on that he wasn’t going to be at this forever.
It was always Ready’s plan to make a transition of some kind once he turned 60, which came around in March. He says he started thinking seriously about this move five years ago.
“I wanted to make sure the company would go out on top,” Ready says. “I never wanted this to be a case of having to sell or liquidate due to financial pressures at the time.”
At this point, Ready says he launched a campaign to double the size of his company over the next five years.
“If I could accomplish that, I felt the business would be profitable and more attractive,” he says. “Then I could see if anyone in the industry was interested.”
That person turned out to be Pat Regan, owner of Minnesota Coaches, Hastings, MN, his family’s 60-year old business with facilities in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, Faribault, Farmington and Fergus Falls.
However, before Ready and his wife Kathy made any decision, they first discussed the proposition over with their son Dayton, in the event he wished to continue in the family business. Dayton’s interests, like his father’s, also lie in finance and accounting, though he had worked at Ready Bus off and on for years, mostly in the maintenance department.
“Dayton was at the age he was thinking about his future career, and it was not in motorcoaches,” Ready says. “But we did want to have his wishes and choices involved in our decision to sell the business.”
Ready says while he and Regan had met and talked on and off in the past, their conversations turned serious last summer.
“Pat was looking for other strategic locations in which to add a new dimension to his business,” Ready says. “Our specialty has always been long distance extend coach tours, while Pat has typically run shorter one-to-two day jaunts. He saw this as a way to grow into new locations and add another service to his company.”
In the transaction, the company keeps its name and Ready stays on as general manager. He did not divest every division of the former entity. He sold only the hard assets of the school bus and motorcoach operations, which totaled 100 vehicles and an assortment of shop and office equipment. He retained the Ready Driver Academy and Ready Travel and Logistics, continuing to educate drivers and handle the arrangements for convention and student groups.
“In our decision to sell the company, we weren’t looking for who would offer the highest price,” he says. “We wanted that special person who would make this fit and work for everyone involved.”
The critical provision was that the new owner also retain the Ready employees on board. He says it was especially important that his longtime employees feel secure in this transaction and able to carry on in their work and their lives.
Now it is a matter of helping to coordinate this effort with Minnesota Coaches.
“We are certainly learning from one another,” Ready says. “We are interacting in every area of the operation, such as trading buses back and forth for more efficiency, as well as creating more work for our drivers.”
As for the daily grind, Ready says he is now giving a little more attention to his duck hunting.
“Working for a big company is a new twist for me,” he says. “My greatest feeling of relief is to not have to cater to the accounting side — the notes, debt payment, account payables. They’re now all handled in the home office. It is a good feeling to collaborate with Pat and his team. It used to get kind of lonely, working all hours to keep it all together.”