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CROSSHIRE THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX


Although most of our industry appears to be finding an improvement in business, there is little doubt that hire periods are shorter and pricing more competitive than ever. Many smaller hire companies are finding themselves excluded from doing business with sites that open up in their area because of the exclusive supplier deals that are negotiated by larger competitors. It is not uncommon to find a site where the staff would prefer to hire locally, but are simply not allowed to!


However, rather than struggle against this fait accompli in the traditional market place, I am pleased to see that some enterprising independents are looking to create business in new and previously alien markets. Twice this year I have been briefed by EHN’s Publisher to prepare material for publication featuring dynamic and successful independents in two very different parts of the country. They were both


considerable buying power still rests with the traditional ‘trade’ workforce. So make their life easy and throw in free coffee, offer clean toilet facilities and the like, and they are more likely to choose your outlet rather than a competitor.


Hire-It! Kidderminster, winner of the Executive Hire Show Passionate Hirer Award 2010, sponsors several sports clubs in its local area.


known to be engaged in widening their customer base by a combination of new products and services. My efforts in bringing these stories to you were frustrated by both companies declining the opportunity to explain their success, on the grounds that they did not want to put their heads over the parapet and reveal too much about their latest projects. Nevertheless, this is proof indeed that thinking outside the box and looking for different opportunities, instead of chasing traditional markets that have become stagnant, does pay dividends.


One hire outfit I know recently started to ask customers why they did not buy consumables like drill bits and abrasives from them when they hired machines. The main reason many gave was that, as they had already visited the nearby general building merchant (having passed it first) they had picked them up there. When questioned further, many admitted they only went to the merchants for a small number of traditional items such as sand, gravel or cement. The hire outlet decided to stock such materials, plus a few well chosen merchant lines, and made it known that tradesmen now only needed one stop for their daily requirements. Consequently, takings on consumables have trebled in six months! Now that really is a result. Most of our customers want an easy life, and


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Furthermore, the recent fine weather filled the car parks of our local garden centres to overflowing, proving that there is disposable income to be tapped into there, too. Some such facilities make an attempt to offer a limited hire service, but invariably concentrate on their core business. Those selling ‘heavy side’ items like slabs, edgings and decking are supplying people who may need items in our inventory as well. I know of one hire company that purchased some hanging baskets and flowering tubs to brighten up its exterior showroom image. A chance conversation between the owners of a local garden centre and the hire shop led to an exchange of


display boards and leaflets on each other’s premises, which has proved mutually beneficial.


Many of the workers and site supervisors in our town tend to frequent a small circle of clubs or pubs in their spare time. Banter in our showroom during the recent football World Cup revealed that, although they work for different employers, most tradesmen know one another and talk about work in their leisure time. So we have decided to sponsor a darts league this coming season in a club used by many of our clients’ staff - I know of other hirers who sponsor local football teams and sports clubs. Such initiatives do not cost the earth and can generate loyalty.


As I write this, the pundits have surfaced again to talk about ‘double dip’ recession. Well, I reckon their self-motivated ranting is best ignored. It’s time to move on and our industry has started to make progress again, with many outlets cautiously re-equipping for the future. Some of you have already identified new ways of increasing business without joining the pointless rate war being waged on most traditional construction jobs. Giving service and support to our customers and community surely must be a better way of securing our future.


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