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000898 - Ten Years of EHN 23/11/09 13:25 Page 1
Ten years after
Alan Guthrie looks back over a decade as EHN Editor, and gives his personal
assessment of the major developments that have taken place in our industry.
As I joined EHN ten years ago (it was 8 November 1999, to be Of course, reporting on the development and maturing of our industry
precise), some thought the world faced disaster. This had nothing to do has been one of EHN’s key roles. As we entered the new millennium,
with my professional merit, although perhaps it is best to let others be HSS was the UK market leader in tool hire, and in 2000 it introduced
the judge of that. The reason for concern was the millennium bug, or four new initiatives: Safe & Sure, Workshops, One-Call and Hireweld.
Y2K problem, with people fearing computers would not rollover to the Others (including the rapidly expanding Speedy Hire) looked on with
year 2000, and cause massive failures of global corporate systems. interest, as the flagship company explored new markets. However, its
then MD, the legendary Lister Fielding, observed in June 2001, ‘It is
As it turned out, no significant quite likely that HSS won’t be the leader forever. It has no divine right
computer problems occurred, to it. Equally, it is not rational to be market leader and marginalize
and in this regard Crosshire, one’s own profitability in the process.’ It was nearly three years before
a constant feature of the last EHN confirmed that ‘Speedy makes it to No 1’, the heading to our
decade, was yet again right Tool Hire Top Ten survey in January 2004. Incidentally, it was in that
to have been sceptical about same issue that we reported on the Management Buy In that took
the whole business. In a HSS back into private ownership.
spring 1999 issue he had
observed, ‘the cynical might
Speedy’s remarkable expansion
declare that some such as Speedy’s expansion under John Brown, who retired in 2005 to be
the computer industry appear replaced by Steve Corcoran, had been remarkable. Indeed it was set
to have a vested interest in to continue, with acquisitions such as LCH Generators and Lifting
trying to extract money from Gear Hire. Hire had certainly come a long way from simply supplying
us all to correct a problem tools. In September 2005, Steve Corcoran envisaged a company with
EHN reported on Speedy overtaking HSS as they caused in the first place.’ a potential £1 billion turnover, describing Speedy as “the Tesco of
market leader in January 2004.
A prophetic statement that hire.” Nevertheless, he conceded, “Our biggest competitor is the well
today has ramifications far beyond the computer industry! managed, local independent.” As if to prove the point, Richard Coffey,
MD of Supply (UK) responded in the next issue that, in his view,
However, in those days, before the mass adoption of Microsoft’s rather than Tesco, “it might even be that a truer analogy might be
Windows, many companies had no computer at all. ‘Many hirers are Microsoft,” limiting the customer’s power of choice.
still not computerised and find it difficult to make the decision to take
the plunge,’ EHN reported in June 2000 when assessing the subject. And this proves a key point. While EHN, as the Passionate Voice of
By January 2003 we were able to report that ‘virtually all hirers’ now the Hire Industry, duly reports on the market leaders, we vigorously
had computers, but some are not obtaining the full benefits’. champion the
Fast-forward to December 2007 and hirers could achieve efficiencies dedicated
through modules for customer relationship management (CRM), independents
GPS tracking technology, web portals and the like. they compete
with. In
Agent of change in hire
Indeed, the Internet is another agent of change in hire. In January 1999, during
2000 we gently explained what e-mail was, and suggested that a period of
‘a good-looking and easy-to-use web site could be a deciding factor industry
for new customers.’ Indeed, when discussing the subject again in consolidation,
September 2007, we suggested that 85% of businesses were now an article
found on-line via search engines. Certainly, the vast majority of hirers heading
featured in EHN now have good web sites, illustrating how hirers can asked,
Supply (UK) championed the cause of good independents in our
embrace change and maintain control. ‘“Where are October 2005 issue.
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