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Steve Corcoran is transforming Speedy into an international service provider.

“A new hire market” “

Our ambition is to be not only the biggest, but also

the most respected provider of hire services in the UK, respected by customers, suppliers and, most importantly, our own people. Our aim is to be the Tesco of the hire industry. We are driven by what we want to achieve. We want to add value to customers by taking away their risk, thus improving their productivity. We want to be valued and trusted by suppliers and help each other to grow. Suppliers are important allies in our development - not to be used and abused, but driven to improve.

This is the encapsulating quote from my last substantial interview with Speedy Chief Executive Steve Corcoran in September 2005. The article outlined for the first time Steve’s plans to transform Speedy from a national equipment hire company support services company with a £1bn annual turnover.


In 2006, Speedy bought LCH Generators for £54.6m and Lifting Gear Hire for £14.3m. In June 2007, it acquired Hewden Tools for £115m and, at that point, the £1bn beckoned. When the recession first hit in the middle of 2008, Speedy was still on a huge growth path and the UK’s No1 hirer has struggled since then to align its cost structure to match current market conditions. Over the last two years, Speedy has taken £76m of costs out of its business, made 17% of its workforce redundant and closed 20% of its depots.

Robert Aplin talks to Speedy Chief Executive Steve Corcoran about the hirer’s recovery and its progress towards becoming an international service provider.

Meeting up with Steve Corcoran in November at an analyst’s presentation of Speedy’s interim results and following that up in the week before Christmas with a detailed interview, he is adamant that “Speedy is very much on the mend.We acknowledge that we have had a disappointing 24 months, but this is backward looking. After three consecutive quarters of growth, we now have momentum and a platform for long term progressive growth.”

Re-positioning within the hire market

One of the key reasons for his increased confidence in 2011 is the way that Speedy has re-positioned itself within the hire market. “If all we do is buy a hire product, all you get is someone who does it cheaper. Hirers buying second hand kit and renting it back has dragged us all backwards and almost killed the industry.You certainly can’t get a return to warrant re-investment on this basis.

“If we do not want customers to own equipment, we must ensure that we are offering them more than just a product, because, if all we are offering is a product, someone will undermine that.We need to add value to what we do.Why do customers hire? They don’t want the risk of ownership, they don’t want the capital cost, and they don’t want the operational costs of staff, transport and spares. They certainly don’t want the cost of legislation, especially in terms of environmental compliance and sustainability.

“Hire, in isolation, does not absolve our customers of these risks. If you give equipment to someone who is not qualified to use it, there will be a loss of production, or damage to the machine, or injury to themselves or others, which will incur the customer with another unwanted cost.

“Hire, in isolation, does not absolve our customers of risk.”

“As an industry, we must look at the range of services associated with hire to ensure that the value of hire is recognised. Customers need guidance on what assets to use and where to use them, in training on the use and operation of the equipment and the selection of that equipment. If we can achieve this, customers get the value they want because they have de-risked. The key to the future is how we adapt and extend services around the hire offering. This is how we are building Speedy into a fully-fledged service operation.

See us on stand A58 at the Executive Hire Show

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