News for Tool Hire, Equipment Hire & Plant Hire and Rental Professionals

Q&A: Iain Anderson

16 October 2020

Q&A: Iain Anderson

To start off this new Question & Answer series, who better than Iain Anderson, Joint Managing Director of GAP Group, the family-owned national hire business which celebrated its 50th Anniversary last year. The company has 146 locations across ten divisions.

How’s business?

It’s bounced back better than anyone could have imagined. Our revenues in September were only 1.4% lower than in the same month of last year. It’s challenging: in many cases hire periods are shorter and there is a lot of hard work involved in maintaining and moving machines, but the team have responded magnificently.

What is your standout Covid-19 related memory or experience?

Sending home all 120 staff here at the Glasgow headquarters on 23 March, armed with laptops so they could continue working. Normally it’s such a busy atmosphere, but it became like the Mary Celeste. We have 40 of those people back now, roughly half of whom work in our GAP One national hire service call centre.

What legal or regulatory change would help your business or industry generally?

Infrastructure services and utilities should work together and talk to each other. When we open depots, like our Tilbury ‘super centre’ last year, it typically needs input from telecoms, water and electricity services, but the discussions involved in gaining approvals for earthing rods, wayleaves and the like caused frustrating delays while they decided issues like access.  

If I gave you £5,000 to invest in your business, how would you spend it?

You invest in whatever brings the best return. I’d probably spend it on training our people.

What about £50,000?

Same answer.

Who or what inspires you?

Success inspires both me and Douglas [Iain’s brother and also Joint Managing Director] and that’s probably best measured by GAP’s growth, new divisions and promoting people from within.

What annoys/frustrates you?

People who start a job but don’t finish it.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

“Keep it simple!”

What new skill would you like to learn?

To play the piano.

How do you relax after a hard day?

One of my outside interests is property renovation. It’s really satisfying restoring something to its former glory.

What was your favourite school subject?


If things had been different, what other career might you have chosen?

Perhaps I’d have stayed selling used equipment with Scot JCB in Glasgow, where I gained experience of plant before joining the GAP family business.

Do you follow a particular sport and/or team?

The Scottish rugby team. And I love watching tennis. I was lucky in being allocated tickets in the Wimbledon application draw this year – I hope they remain valid for 2021!

What is the biggest challenge facing your business or the wider industry?

Recruiting great people.

And what’s the biggest opportunity?

I see huge potential for our new Tanker Services and waste water division.

What’s the secret of success?

Never give up. We all have bad days and face challenges, especially surrounding Covid, but you must remain confident and optimistic. Keep focused on the customer and “stick to the knitting” – concentrate on what you know.   

Finally, is there anything you would like to add about the business, the current trading outlook or future plans?

Douglas and I are confident that we have the right management team in place to drive GAP forward, based on the third generation [including Douglas’s son, Mark, who is Managing Director – Plant & Tools North; Karen Greenshields, the daughter of Douglas and Iain’s sister, Maureen Smith, who is MD of the Lifting, Survey and Safety Division; Iain’s son James is Regional Operations Director - London North; and his daughter Nicola is General Manager at the Sighthill depot, Edinburgh]. We have a great Chief Operating Officer in Chris Parr and the entire GAP team has proved itself to be able and adaptable in these challenging times.


I am constantly adding new content. If you subscribe FREE using the form below, I'll send you my weekly bulletin summarising the latest hire industry stories - and I'll also send you a PDF of 10 fascinating interviews with national and independent hirers, giving their views about business and their secrets of success!