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Having spent some time during the freezing weeks prior to the year end talking to hirers throughout the UK and Ireland, it is pleasing to hear that, overall, 2010 was a better year for most of us. For those who were prepared, the cold weather was a Christmas bonus, and many of you are busily planning for the year ahead.

Amongst the challenges we must rise to, perhaps the biggest concern is the extended credit that many customers are now taking. For many of us, 60-day payment periods, or longer, are the norm for the majority of clients. Digging in and extracting our hard earned cash is paramount if we are to have enough funds to replenish our fleets. Thankfully, despite stories of the odd client going into receivership, most do eventually pay up. Unfortunately we are collective masochists because it appears that, when some good old boy who has taken six months credit does eventually cough up, most of us take him off the stop list and give him credit AGAIN!!

I conducted some research by talking to local competitors and builders’ merchants, which confirmed that there is a hard core of punters who have made credit extraction an art. In many cases the same businesses have been getting away with it for years, but other names are now entering the 60 and 90-day overdue columns for the first time. A weakness in our industry, of course, is that if a bad payer has overrun his limit but still has items on hire, the problem involves both our accounts and hire departments. Snatching back kit does sometimes work, but is not without problems. There is also the infuriating tendency of most late payers to avoid talking about their problems until it is far too late. In this age of instant communication, it seems

impossible to contact anyone with an overdue account! There are also more corporate avoiders sheltering behind complex rules regarding order numbers, and the like.

Collecting our cash is costing us ever more and it is time to hit back. Once we do obtain outstanding amounts from the over 90 day brigade, they are now having their credit facilities withdrawn and put on a ‘cash or credit card payment’ only basis. Pleasingly, we are not alone in this, particularly with the merchant sector. In these challenging times, clients have to realise we are not banks.

And we, in turn, must realise that our ‘best’ customer who actually takes six months to pay and employs an office dragon to query every invoice, but will only answer accounts queries between 2pm and 3pm on days of a full moon, is not such a good client after all. One thing that seems to come hand in hand with the credit malingerers is that they very often enjoy the lowest rates, free transport and - surprise, surprise - won’t pay for damage!


It looks as though the ONLY opportunity we will all have this year to meet up with colleagues and suppliers is the Executive Hire Show, now firmly established as the showcase where deals can be done. Indeed, I have spoken to exhibitors who all confirm that they are at the Show to do business. We must all be aware that stocks of new kit are nowhere near what would be needed even for a modest refurbishment of the national hire inventory, so for the first time in years Crosshire predicts that there will be waiting lists for some of the more popular items of equipment later in the year.


One pleasant fact that emerging from pre-Show marketing is that, during the past year, there have been several new start-up businesses in our industry, who are all enthusiastic about the future of hire.

Most of these hire professionals will be beating a path to the Show. Despite the worst efforts of inept politicians, greedy bankers and late payers, our industry is in good heart.

So a very happy and profitable New Year to you all.

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