Heads Up

UK plant & tool hire businesses come in all shapes and sizes, but what do the leaders of the National companies think about the state of the industry and what have they learned? Jeff Schofield finds out…


his article is set out as a positive piece in which the heads of three national

hirers discuss their positions and their views of the current state of our industry. These conversations took place separately in mid- July, and I’d like to thank Jeremy Fish CEO of Ardent Hire Solutions, Brian Sherlock MD at Vp PLC/Brandon Hire Station and Andy Wright CEO at Sunbelt Rentals UK for their frankness, openness and insight.

In the first of a two-part feature, we discuss what was learned during COVID and from a welfare and development perspective. We also ask how, in a changing world, our industry can be better positioned to attract and retain the next generation of talent.

I started by asking what customer solution- based innovations and initiatives they were most pleased with that were introduced during the pandemic, and how that might have changed their thinking for the future?

Jeremy said: “The thing that surprised me about the pandemic was the amount of goodwill that it created. We felt we looked after our people very well indeed, we were very sympathetic, caring and understanding and this created a huge amount of goodwill which took me back a little. There was a level of gratitude from people outside of the business that we hadn’t seen before.”

While Brian Sherlock added: “COVID accelerated and fully tested our digital transformation, and we saw very quickly that more customers wanted to transact with us online. We reacted by fully installing our OMNI channel upgrade to the National Customer Service Centre – the vehicle that could not only manage our inbound telephone calls, but increase the number of orders through our website, on mobile, tablet and WhatsApp.

“These digital customers had greater expectations and an anticipation of a new delivery model. We have become more confident as an industry as our customers have in interacting with us via the growing number of digital channels. The pandemic has ensured we have matched more quickly to our customers’ demands and in turn we saw habits changing and we fully expect to see this trend sustained.”

Andy Wright said: “After undertaking a six- month strategic review of the business, we took the opportunity to announce in March 2020, just prior to lockdown, that we would unify the business bringing together all the separate businesses under the Sunbelt single brand and vision.

“The first test for this new plan came when we were asked to put together a whole COVID test site package that brought the whole strategy to life. It allowed us to take the total Sunbelt offer and, working as one, deliver in a highly pressurised environment a capability and temporary infrastructure solution to enable the mass testing programme that was about to get underway.”

An interesting reaction from the hirers on this topic, in the way they were able to recognise, react and reimagine how their teams and customers needed support at the most critical of times in the most unusual of circumstances.

Jeremy Fish CEO of Ardent Hire Solutions

The hire industry has a fine tradition for developing and promoting its people from within. I was interested to find out how this

was evolving and what the industry is doing to attract the next generation of talent.

Brian said: “For me this all starts with identifying and growing our talent – each year we recruit more than 20 new apprentices. It always gives me a great deal of satisfaction when I see, as I have done, many of our apprentices develop into senior positions within the business. Vp have introduced a graduation programme which we trust will attract the next generation of hire leaders. In addition, I am pleased to see a new sales apprenticeship programme that will enable a pathway of personal improvement and career progression.”

apprentice, moved to sales and then into management. I am


passionate that this pathway is open to everyone

Brian concluded this section with a statement that will no doubt resonate with readers: “We want all of the above, but most importantly we want quality people who are passionate and enthusiastic. Once you are in this industry, it grabs you. It’s down to us all to nurture and grow this talent.”


Andy commented: “I am an example of this industry’s ability to recognise something in somebody and then develop it. I started as an apprentice, moved to sales and then into management. I am passionate that this opportunity should be open to everyone.

“There are three things that I look to focus on from a Sunbelt Rentals perspective. 1. Look after our people and teams and provide them with the opportunity to be the best they can be. 2. Look after our customers and deliver a world class experience to them 3. Do it as one team.”

I started as an

14 Executive Hire News - August 2021

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