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E.T. assembles its team

Bolton-based E.T. Hire is set for the next phase of its development following a management buyout. Alan Guthrie discovers more.

Identifying and employing good people is obviously a crucial factor for business success and this has been proved once again by recent developments at E.T. Hire. The company has been acquired by several of its key personnel in a management buyout (MBO) that brings to fruition plans for a smooth transition devised over several years by its previous owner, Richard Fairfield, who will remain for three years as Financial Director.

Tool and equipment hire company, E.T. Hire, was founded in 1989 jointly by Bolton-based trailer manufacturer, Indespension, and Richard Fairfield, who was Indespension’s Commercial Director. This followed the success of an initial pilot project near Leith (where Indespension had one of its national sales outlets), reflected by the operation’s name which stood for Edinburgh Tool Hire. Richard Fairfield acquired Indespension’s shares in 1993 when they decided to concentrate on their core activity. By 2003 E.T. Hire had outlets in Edinburgh, Livingston and Glasgow north of the border, as well as in Bolton and Manchester. Four years later, the Scottish depots were sold to Hire Station for £1.1m. New, larger premises were purchased in 2008 and the Manchester business was amalgamated into the Bolton site, leaving E.T. Hire as the one-depot operation it remains today.

Concentrating on one location

“In a sense, we were starting again from scratch,” said Richard Fairfield, who previously worked for the private equity specialist, 3i, after completing an MBA at Manchester Business School. “I wanted the business to retain its focus on hire and to concentrate on one

location, and I planned to build a team that I could eventually pass the company on to, especially as my children had career interests outside this industry.

The hire desk area - with patriotic bunting for the recent FIFA World Cup.

“In 2008 I appointed Marcus Gunning as Sales Director. He had worked for E.T Hire some years previously, but had left to join Indespension as he wanted the challenge of working in a larger, national business. However, I held him in the highest regard and I saw him as integral to developing the company. I told him of the potential opportunity in the future if and when I sold the business.

“We grew steadily, and we were in a strong cash position following the sale of the Scottish depots, which helped us during the recession. In 2014 we identified an opportunity for supplying and erecting aluminium tower systems. Towers were obviously popular in the hire fleet, but there was also demand for non-standard configurations which we believed we could establish as a niche operation. We launched a service, which we branded as Site Access Services, offering a complete design-and-build operation. I am a qualified PASMA instructor, and Marcus has completed the PASMA Professional Riggers course, and demand grew quickly.

Grasping the opportunity The E.T. Hire team: from left, Richard Fairfield, Marcus Gunning, Stuart Bailey and Ian Hartrick. 21

“Later in 2014, we were asked if we were interested in being a sub- contractor to provide towers for a large city centre project. We decided to grasp the opportunity, invested £250,000 in new specialist kit as well as recruiting five additional contracting personnel, and we never looked back. While some hire companies might try to compete by

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