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CROSSHIRE:

ABSORBING DEVELOPMENTS

Whenever a big shake-up occurs in our industry, the phone starts ringing as the proprietors and senior staff of hire companies around our part of the country solicit each other’s opinion as to what the perceived effect will be. I have no doubt that many of you will have spoken to someone who has concerns that the recent Speedy/Hewden deal might be detrimental to them. As both of these large concerns have several depots in my own patch, I was not surprised to find myself dragged into such speculation several times in the past month.

Change in a dynamic industry is inevitable and, whilst I think that the informed comment contained in EHN and some other journals is worthy of note, the most important advice must be for each of us to concentrate on our own businesses. Big takeover deals are not new and, if history teaches us anything it is that, whenever a deal of this size takes place, the predator can sometimes get a good dose of operational indigestion! The well known fact that the Hewden Tool Hire operation was fairly heavily snarled up both physically and electronically with its other group hire operations will make separation and integration that little bit trickier.

Whilst senior staff reorganise and regroup, customers and staff of both outfits will fidget and opportunities will be created for a competitor – and that’s you and me, folks! Many of us will remember some of the big A-Plant deals of the nineties, the culmination of which was the Sheriff acquisition; more than one senior Ashtead executive confided in me much later that absorbing such large multiple depot groups really did knock them back big-time! In fairness, it must be said that the benefits are probably now coming home. It is interesting to note that access hire leader, Nationwide, has taken a slightly different approach with some of its recent takeovers by ‘bolting on’ businesses and leaving them with their own identities, as in the case of Panther Platforms.

Back at the coal face, our driver Rocket Raymond informed me that his mate who worked for Hewden was looking for a job. My response was that, because most people are either human or politicians, the former will naturally become concerned when change occurs. Given the number of people affected, Speedy managers will have to run themselves ragged to keep staff informed and happy, but in reality only a few worriers will make much noise and even fewer will walk of their own accord. Why should they? Speedy is market leader and can offer greater career prospects than most of us.

I am not so sure where all this leaves HSS, which has probably got a lot more to lose than any independent in our ever-changing marketplace. Its new owners face a monumental task in bucking the trend of history. In the past 60 years, no company that has lost its position as market leader in our industry has ever regained it, and most have found themselves changed beyond recognition within ten years of such decline.

Crosshire wishes all the team members at both Speedy and HSS well in the future. Their challenges are immense, but our market continues to grow, and if both independents and corporate groups continue to show the professionalism that has been evident in recent years, then our industry has a bright future. Mind you, we really do need a little bit of common sense when it comes to hire rates if we are all to maintain this momentum. Leadership in pricing policy can only come from the very largest of operators in our industry. I suspect that a few quid more on every invoice would not go amiss in some corporate headquarters at the moment! So how about it, gentlemen?

Executive Hire NewsArchivesAugust 2007Crosshire › Absorbing Developments

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