Q&A: Simon Tomblin
16 April 2021
Simon Tomblin is managing director of the award-winning independent Rocket Rentals of Slimbridge in Gloucestershire, which hires an extensive variety of plant and equipment and opened a dedicated tool hire activity two years ago.
Busy – we’ve had a fantastic start to the year considering the pandemic.
What products are in particular demand at the moment?
It’s busy across the board but hire periods are often shorter. People are still cautious about costs and kit is in and out of sites all the time. That puts pressure on our workshops and transport fleets to turn things round quickly.
What is your standout memory from the past 12 months?
How everyone in the team has coped with Covid-19. We sanitise every machine and sticker it up before every hire and we’re scrupulous about that. We bought special fogging machines to treat the premises and the trucks. We’ve had some staff who’ve had to get tested after getting track-and-trace alerts, and all our 22 personnel have embraced the idea of protecting others by protecting yourself.
What are the main challenges facing your business or the wider industry?
Product availability and hire rates. Many manufacturers are quoting very long lead times. I hear of ongoing global disruptions to supply chains because of the pandemic and yet demand is rising. And the issue of hire rates is a perennial problem.
And what are the biggest opportunities?
Those that come from being a family business and being able to make snap decisions. Never say no! We’re flexible. If we re-hire equipment, that can show where demand is and when we see long-term opportunities we’ll buy more machines – if we can get them!
What one thing would make business easier generally?
Getting a proper return on investment. A lot of buyers just look at the bottom line. They don’t think about, say, whether a machine might come with a quick-hitch or a mechanical one, which has implications for efficiency. They don’t see the added benefits. Our telehandlers go out with 360 degree cameras as standard because we think safety is paramount.
What annoys/frustrates you?
Hire rates and the different service levels people are supplying.
What was your favourite school subject?
Archaeology. I did it at A-Level, primarily because I thought that going out on digs, trowelling and brushing away at artefacts would beat sitting in a classroom any day.
If things had been different, what other career might you have chosen?
I am glad things were not different: I live and breathe this industry.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given, or that you would pass on to others?
You are only as good as your last hire!
I’ve heard that you brew your own beer. Tell me more.
I am an avid fan of real ale. I brew beer at home and, as a bit of fun, I had some 4.2% pale ale bottled by a brewer in Frome and badged 'It’s Not Rocket Science'. I’d love to set up a micro-brewery when time allows.
Any other special interests outside hire?
Land Rovers. I’ve always loved the concept of a dual-purpose vehicle basically designed for farmers. I own a few early ones and it’s sometimes good to just turn the clock back and get into one with wind-down windows and no climate control. I’d love to have a Series 1 which was the very first model they brought out.
What’s the oddest or most challenging hire request you’ve ever received?
Around the 5th of November we do get a lot of spoof calls - for rocket hire.
Do you follow a particular sport and/or team?
I’m mad about rugby and Gloucester Rugby Club, who we sponsor. When I used to play I was a number eight.
What’s your favourite music?
Anything easy listening. Probably Simon and Garfunkel.
What new skill or interest would you like to learn?
I wish that I had paid more attention in school, especially foreign languages. They would be really useful on holidays and at overseas machinery exhibitions.
Finally, what’s the secret of success?
Hard work prevails.
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