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Executive Report:

“Service is our business”

Promoting a policy of working together has proved an important factor for success for an independent hirer in Bathgate. Alan Guthrie reports.

Six years ago, John Cranston sought a new business opportunity. Having previously had a successful career in the packaging and optoelectronics industries that took him throughout Europe and the eastern bloc, he wanted to work in a varied and rewarding environment near to his native Edinburgh, and bought Bathgate Hire Centre, located approximately halfway between Glasgow and the capital.

“The business was ideally placed to benefit from the positive prospects for the local construction industry, and I had a thorough knowledge of power tools and equipment from having been involved in boat restoration and undertaking extensive home improvement projects,” says John. “We rent our premises, which accommodate our hire and retail operations and amount to 2,500ft2, as well as offices, plus a 1,000ft2 yard.

Rejuvenated hire fleet

“When I acquired the business, following the previous owners’ retirement, it enjoyed a good reputation in Bathgate and the surrounding area, but the first task was to rejuvenate the hire fleet as well as streamlining our retail offering. There was no computer system in operation, so we installed HireMate from Advatech (which is now part of the Iris software group). We serve tradesmen, businesses, the local council and private individuals within a 15-mile radius, which takes us up to the western edge of Edinburgh. We know that our response times and delivery resources would be stretched if we went into the capital, and we will not compromise our levels of service,” says John.

In fact, service is a key concept behind Bathgate Hire Centre’s operation and its team of six personnel. “Providing service is our business, in terms of good advice to customers and the right equipment. We do not have individual job titles here, each one of us being designated as a Customer Services Team Member, with certain specialities. However, we are all trained to do each other’s tasks as far as possible, so that we can always respond quickly to customers’ needs.

“We talk to our customers about their businesses and the equipment they might need in the future. This gives us an indication of possible fleet additions and also builds relationships, as we become part of the client’s service team. We have just bought a Compac post hole borer from The Hire Supply Company, for example, to meet a landscape gardener’s need for such a machine for a large contract he had coming up, and we know that other contractors are looking for equipment like this. We also offer commonly requested items like Calor Gas and roofing felt to provide a single source of supply, and we have recently installed secure storage units in our yard, which we hire out to customers with limited space of their own. This has all resulted from customer feedback. We want to create an atmosphere of working together, so that customers want to keep coming back to us.”

The hire fleet is comprehensive, including Wacker compaction plates, Atlas Copco breakers, Belle mixers, Stephill generators, Obart pumps, Camon grounds care equipment, Turner Access towers, mini excavators up to 2.5 tonne from JCB and Volvo, Terex rollers, and Seddons tracked dumpers. The company also offers Makita power tools and Efco garden machinery, and it has been appointed as a distributor for both these latter ranges, as well as being a dealer and authorised repair agent for Indespension trailers. “Much of the equipment we buy is powered by Honda petrol engines, and this is a deliberate choice as they are so reliable,” says John Cranston. “We also offer a lot of machinery in our shop, and during particularly busy periods when items may all be out on hire, we can quickly take an item from stock and add it to our fleet so that we do not let the customer down.

“Independents will compete effectively against the nationals if they recognise that they can be in a better position to control their business. They can listen to local customers and make appropriate decisions quickly. This might mean investing a relatively higher proportion of profits back into the business, such as extra machines for the fleet, but it will improve the overall quality of equipment and service that we offer.”

John Cranston says there is, however, one particular issue that is of concern, namely the theft of equipment that has been hired to a customer who then absconds with it. “If the item had been stolen from our premises after a break-in, then that would be a criminal offence and the police could investigate it. However, because there is a signed hire agreement, or contract, in place, it is regarded as a civil matter and the police technically have no crime to deal with. Trying to trace people and then pay legal fees to take them to court involves considerable time and resources, and the costs will often outweigh the value of the stolen goods. In some US states, such theft is regarded as fraud, which is a criminal offence, and, surely, pressure should be exerted on the government in this country by hire industry associations and organisations to improve the situation here?”

T 01506 633830
W www.bathgatehirecentre.co.uk

Executive Hire NewsArchivesJuly 2008Executive Report › “Service is our business”

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