Union Leasing Focused on Steady, Sustainable Growth
Photo courtesy of Union Leasing.
Union Leasing can trace its roots to the earliest days of the fleet leasing industry. The company was started in 1955 by Lawrence Faul under the Faul Group. The company continued to grow and, in 1989, Larry Faul Jr. sold the business to the Sasser family, who was looking to diversify its portfolio of rail-focused businesses.
Sasser Family Holdings is a fourth-generation, family-owned business dating back to 1928. Union Leasing now exists alongside Chicago Freight Car Leasing, CF Rail Services, CF Asia Pacific Group, NxGen Rail Services, and Xcēd Aviation Services in the Sasser Family Holdings portfolio.
To learn more about Union Leasing and its future plans, Automotive Fleet interviewed President Kent Boskovich. Below are excerpts from the interview:
AF: How are you positioning Union Leasing for the future and what is your strategy to get there? Specifically, what are your short- and long-term goals to grow Union Leasing?
Boskovich: Our goal for the long-term future of Union Leasing is steady, sustainable growth while maintaining our agility and responsiveness to our clientele. Their needs play a significant role in our long-term strategy. By listening to the challenges they face, we are able to evolve without losing the personal touch we pride ourselves on. Our short-term goals are focused on year-over-year growth by growing with our current clients and welcoming new clients organically and through acquisitions. We are augmenting our position as a leader in customer service and satisfaction by investing in our internal technology, front-end processes, and staff to ensure we can always support the high level of customer service Union Leasing is known for.
AF: With Union Leasing’s focus on small- to mid-size fleets, what are your initiatives for new products, technology investments, and service offerings to better serve this market?
Boskovich: Union Leasing’s technology investment will support our clients in ways they find valuable without adding unnecessary complexity to their jobs. We are very intentional about continuing to service the small- to mid-size fleet market. The size of their fleet may not require a dedicated fleet manager, so they often rely on us to function as an extension of their own staff. This means we will continue to listen and evaluate the addition of product and service offerings that add value and resonate with them. For example, adding a flexible-term rental offering via our acquisition of Express 4x4 Truck Rental addressed a specific need of many of our clients. It all goes back to our core purpose of “delivering superior customer service and expertise to help our customers better serve their customers.” And, with our Net Promoter Score hovering above 77, we feel that Union Leasing is on the right track.
AF: How does the acquisition of Express 4x4 Truck Rental fit within your strategic growth plans? Does Union Leasing have an appetite for additional acquisitions?
Boskovich: The acquisition of Express 4x4 Truck Rental is a perfect example of our long-term growth being fueled by our focus on our clients. Our growth strategy includes diversification of assets and markets, as well as pursuing clientele that value stability and high-touch customer service. On its own, Express 4x4 Truck Rental is a premier truck rental provider in a variety of markets that compliment Union Leasing’s client-base; this broadens our reach and ability to serve those markets. The addition of a flexible-term rental service also provides Union’s existing clientele with a shorter-term, scalable solution for fleet needs that may be contingent on fluctuations in their individual markets.
Additional acquisitions are certainly part of Union Leasing’s growth strategy. However, we intend to be pragmatic and diligent in evaluating any potential opportunities. We place the utmost importance not just on financial performance, but also on ensuring a good cultural fit for the personnel and clients involved. Customer service is a primary tenet of our core values, and we will not dilute those values to achieve growth via acquisition.
Photo courtesy of Union Leasing.
AF: How does the Union Leasing vehicle portfolio break down between open- and closed-end leasing? How does it break down between cars and trucks?
Boskovich: Our fleet is currently comprised of 45-percent passenger vehicles, 42-percent light-duty trucks, and 13 percent medium-duty trucks. Our leasing portfolio is now about 96-percent open-end TRAC leases, with the balance being closed-end. The closed-end leasing percentage is down from roughly 10 percent two years ago as a result of Union Leasing’s departure from the government fleet market. Exiting the government fleet market was not an easy decision, particularly because we were able to develop some great relationships, but we found that Union’s culture of high-touch customer service and personalized attention didn’t reconcile with the highly commoditized climate of government purchasing.
AF: Union Leasing is owned by Sasser Family Holdings. Could you provide AF readers with background on your parent company and how it assists you in better serving your fleet clients?
Boskovich: Sasser Family Holdings is a fourth-generation, family-owned business dating back to 1928. Our founder, Fred H. Sasser, left his job at Mather Stock Car to start his own company focused on moving refrigerated goods out of Chicago’s sprawling stock yards. While many businesses were crippled by the Depression, he saw an opportunity to serve the needs of his cash-strapped clients by providing quality refurbished used railcars and parts to them. Because of this keen focus on the needs of clients, the business survived, allowing growth and diversification in the rail industry.
As the company grew, it became evident that there was a need to be able to diversify outside of rail to offset economic downturns and continue to be able to provide consistent service to clients in good times and bad. Building off the expertise in leasing and managing transportation assets, under our current CEO, Fred R. Sasser, Union Leasing was acquired in 1989.
Union Leasing now exists alongside Chicago Freight Car Leasing, CF Rail Services, CF Asia Pacific Group, NxGen Rail Services, and Xcēd Aviation Services in the Sasser Family Holdings portfolio. These businesses are leaders in providing commercial and industrial-focused rail, ground support, and vehicle transportation equipment solutions.
Being part of a larger, privately-owned, global organization holds many advantages for us and our clientele. The diversification of the holding company’s asset types helps insulate Union Leasing from the financial hardships faced by many of our competitors in the event of a down market. We also enjoy the benefits that aren’t often seen in a smaller organization, including the pooling of internal resources, guidance of diverse experience, and an extremely competitive cost of financing due to our collective global volume. The biggest advantage might just be that by being part of a family-owned company, particularly one that focuses on stability for future generations, we are able to take a long-term view on how we grow and how we meet the needs of our clientele. The combination of these factors plays a major role in helping Union Leasing succeed as we grow our niche of the fleet management marketplace.
AF: What is the history of Union Leasing? What is the company’s origin and how did it evolve to its current position in the marketplace?
Boskovich: Union Leasing can trace its start to the earliest days of the fleet leasing industry. We were started in 1955 by Lawrence Faul under the Faul Group. The company continued to grow and, in 1989, Larry Faul Jr. sold the business to the Sasser family, who were looking to diversify their portfolio of rail-focused businesses. Like the other companies in our family of businesses, Union Leasing has grown through listening to our clientele and supporting our relationships in good times and in bad. This focus has allowed us to evolve in to the full-service fleet management company that we are today.
I joined Union Leasing in 1998 as a regional sales manager, and then advanced to a management role before being named president in 2007. During my tenure as president at Union Leasing, we have grown our team, client-base, and have evolved from a fleet leasing provider to a full-service fleet management provider, but we have never lost sight of the most important thing — the human face of fleet management, our people, and our clients. One accomplishment I am most proud of during my time at Union Leasing is the commitment we have made to put together the best group of people in the fleet management industry. It is that commitment to our people that has elevated Union Leasing to its current position in our marketplace.
Photo courtesy of Union Leasing.
AF: What do you see as being the top four trends currently facing small and mid-size fleets, and how are these trends going to play out in the future?
Boskovich: We are seeing a few primary trends as we continue to evaluate the needs of the Union Leasing client-base. These are not exclusive to the small and mid-size fleet segment, but the most important trends for us are the ones that affect our clients.
- Managing growth effectively: Managing the growth of their fleet, keeping an eye on fleet costs, and making proper decisions for the future of their fleet can be an overwhelming task for our clients. We continue to see our clients moving towards a total outsourced model for their fleet management needs, which we have positioned Union Leasing to provide.
- Looking for more than a vendor: At Union, we talk a lot about building relationships with our clients and being a partner to help them grow their businesses; and this is not just lip service. The more our clients look to Union Leasing as an extension of their own staff, the more intimately we need to know their business. This type of relationship is mutually beneficial and allows us to help our clients succeed. This is not just being reactive to our marketplace, this is our core purpose; “delivering superior customer service and expertise to help our customers better serve their customers.”
- Increased sophistication: With all of the resources and technology available to our client-base, they are growing increasingly sophisticated in their approach to evaluating fleet management solutions. Gone are the days of making decisions based on the amount of a lease payment; our marketplace is looking for more knowledge and experience, combined with a partner that is willing to put some skin in the game to help them prosper.
- Changing of the guard: As is the case in most industries, Union Leasing is seeing the difference that the change in generations is bringing to the business world. As our clientele transitions to a more data-driven and technology-fueled generation, Union Leasing must also evolve. While the changing expectations of the next generation represent a challenge to some, we see it as an opportunity for an agile organization like Union to grow and innovate so we can continue to exceed those expectations.
AF: What keeps you up at night in terms of the fleet marketplace? Do you have any concerns?
Boskovich: I consider myself lucky to honestly say that I sleep very well at night. I believe Union Leasing is in an excellent position to overcome the challenges we may face, both in the short- and long-term, because we have the best team in the industry. Every member of our organization is empowered and focused on delivering superior customer service and expertise to our clientele. By every measure, our team achieves that goal time and time again.
AF: What differentiates Union Leasing from other fleet management companies? What are the ideals and business philosophy that drive you and Union Leasing?
Boskovich: The people — our experienced and knowledgeable team, and our clientele — are what set us apart from other fleet management companies. We believe in building long-term relationships with clients to ensure we understand their unique needs and provide the flexibility to meet them. Our strength is customizing our product and service offerings, and supporting them with a dedicated team whose sole purpose is to ensure client satisfaction. That client satisfaction bolsters our ability to keep our clients from commoditizing their fleet decisions, and takes a page straight out of our organization’s core values. Every interaction is guided by our 87-year-old core values of integrity, customer service, teamwork, and adding value. These are the values by which we measure our own success. We could exceed all of our revenue projections, but if we aren’t living up to those values, we aren’t living up to our own expectations. In our last client satisfaction survey, 100 percent of Union’s responding clients said that our core values were important to them. Knowing how important these values are to our organization and how hard we work to uphold them, it’s no wonder that we continue to succeed in our marketplace.