Back to the floor
10 September 2020
Operating with a skeleton staff meant that Neil Bravery, managing director of Skipton Hire Centres, spent a considerable part of the lockdown period back making deliveries and servicing kit in the workshop.
And despite the initial business uncertainty, he tells me that he relished every minute of it.
“Early on we decided to furlough staff and temporarily close our Ilkley and Northallerton depots, as their customers could be serviced from our Skipton and Ripon locations respectively.
“Business went ballistic”
“It was deathly quiet to start with but then the sun started to shine and people on furlough began building, painting gutters, cutting hedges and laying patios. If we’d sold paving, we’d have made a fortune! It just went ballistic.
“I took my suit off, put on my hi-vis jacket and steel toe-capped boots, and became Ripon’s delivery driver and workshop assistant for five weeks. My fellow director, Richard Palmer, did the same role at Skipton.
“We couldn’t furlough ourselves, so we said to the depot managers: we’re working for you, so what do you want us to do? It’s all part of being a team and getting through this together.
“In my long career, it was the weirdest time ever. I remember driving down the A1 and not seeing another car. It was as if Armageddon had happened. There was no one else around, simply me in a Transit van doing a day job. And all the customers were just so glad we were open for them.”
More staff steadily came back and the depots re-opened. SHC also started sending a weekly newsletter to old and recent customers about equipment they might hire for projects, and Neil says this has led to a lot of repeat business.
Serving the NHS
During this period, the company supplied a Brendon hot pressure washer system to a local NHS hospital for three months, free of charge.
SHC has kept buying equipment for the fleet to meet demand, including two Altrad Belle high-tip dumpers (which Neil describes as "bomb-proof"), Kubota 0.8-tonne minis, Wacker compaction plates and Fuelboxes from New Era Fuels, which customers have found to be a convenient way of buying diesel for hired machines.
“No one really knows what the future holds but it’s all positive at the moment. Builders are busy and there are no longer shortages of materials like bricks, plaster and glass.
“Let’s all make it through safely to the New Year and then get 2021 off to a fresh start,” says Neil.