Q&A: Jason Fielden
4 June 2021
Jason Fielden is a director of EPS Hire Centres in Yorkshire. It has depots in Sowerby Bridge and Mytholmroyd, the latter having re-located to a bigger site two years ago, which they have largely built themselves. The business was founded by Jason’s parents, David and Gillian, in 1989 and he joined the company in 1998.
First of all, what’s this I hear about you being on TV recently?
The Mytholmroyd depot appeared in the comedy show ‘Meet the Richardsons’, episode 4, series 2, which was filmed about six months ago and screened in April. In the story, Jon Richardson comes in to hire a floor sander and wants the biggest, ‘manliest’ one possible. You can see me briefly advising him on what he really needs. There are some great shots of the shop and the yard. Jon lives in Mytholmroyd in real life.
How did you get into the industry?
My parents had a skip hire business in the 1980s called Enterprise Skips and Waste. Dad bought an excavator to handle the material. Most of the customers were builders who kept asking if they could hire the machine. He added more kit and eventually founded Enterprise Plant Services (EPS Hire) in Sowerby Bridge, opening in Mytholmroyd in 1998. That’s when I joined, having done a three-year CITB course in plant maintenance. Within a year I was thrown in at the deep end to run the Mytholmroyd shop.
How’s business generally at the moment?
We’re really busy. We’re a small family business and the hours we’re working are almost ridiculous. We’ve taken on three people in the past 12 months which has helped. During the lockdowns, people have been spending massively on doing up their homes and gardens, converting garages into offices and, even, laying Astroturf.
What products are in particular demand?
Floor sanders at weekends, compaction plates, mixers, excavators – they’re constantly out. As soon as they come back you have to test them and get them straight out again next morning.
Has anything surprised you?
The demand for diggers. We’ve always tried to have enough to meet steady demand but this year we’ve had to buy three new machines, with another three on order. We have 14 now, all Takeuchis which are unbelievably reliable.
What were your most recent three hires?
A floor sander, a telehandler plus a diesel mixer for a new-build project, and two excavators for a house refurbishment.
What’s the oddest or most challenging hire request you’ve ever received?
There have been quite a few. Just after Christmas we supplied Acrow props and scaffold planks to strengthen the cellar ceiling under a living room to take the weight of a birthing pool. People have also hired excavators to bury pets in back gardens. And we often hire out our telehandlers for moving furniture through windows. Many homes in our region have very narrow stairways and so removal companies often hire a machine plus a driver for an hour or so.
Anything else unusual?
A surprising hire was supplying a compact spider lift for cleaning a shopping centre’s glass roof down in London. The mall’s manager had seen pictures of our machine online installing Christmas lights and insisted that we supplied it. We initially tried to source one locally for him but no one in the capital seemed interested in hiring out a machine for a short period. So we priced the job with reasonable travel costs and the customer said we were still considerably cheaper than a local quote they eventually found.
What annoys you?
Not getting the same standard of service from others that we pride ourselves on giving. Sometimes we try to re-hire equipment for jobs outside our area – like the London shopping centre – but often other companies don’t seem interested. We jump on things and act on them.
Any other frustrations?
Traffic jams. There are temporary lights on a flood defence project near us and they’ve been there for two years! It infuriates me when I get stuck there and a 10-minute delivery ends up taking an hour. And there’s usually no one working. OK, it’s essential work – but two years? Someone’s making a lot of money, but who pays for our time? And another thing...
...DPFs (diesel particulate filters) and engine management systems on vehicles. I’m sure that our modern small-engine vans use twice the amount of fuel than our old ones did when fully loaded, and hirers invariably have to use their delivery vehicles at capacity. And having to park up and wait while you run the engine for half an hour just to clean the DPF seems crazy and uneconomical.
If things had been different, what other career might you have chosen?
I like seeing the results of my efforts, so maybe a landscape gardener. In hire you’re always thinking about the next job, so any sense of achievement is short-lived.
What was your favourite school subject?
I liked geography. We did a project on flooding in Sri Lanka and that made me interested in how other countries develop. I also liked maths because I knew that would be useful.
What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever been given, or that you would pass on to others?
Don’t quit, keep at it. If things take longer, don’t worry as long as you do them right. There’s no substitute for hard work. We feared the worst when Covid-19 struck but initially we continued with building our new Mytholmroyd depot (pictured below). We’re glad we did because things bounced back quickly and we've really needed the larger premises.
Tell me a surprising fact about yourself or the business.
We still have our very first customer from when we started EPS Hire. We also believe we were the first hire company to buy a high-tip dumper – a Lifton LS750 in 1996.
Do you follow a particular sport and/or team?
Sheffield Wednesday FC. Three seasons ago we lost in the Championship play-off final, the next year we were beaten in the semis and this season we were relegated. A complete disaster, but I’ll stay loyal.
What new skill would you like to learn?
I would like to speak Spanish which would be useful on holidays.
What’s the secret of success?
Something my Dad says is: don’t wish your job was easier, just wish you were better at your job. You can’t be successful without putting in hard work.
What would you do if you won the lottery?
I’d buy a crane. I’ve always been fascinated by them. When I was a boy I saw one working on the big North Bridge in Halifax, hired from Baldwins. It was named Rosie and there was even a documentary made about it. I made a Lego version, took a picture of it and sent it to Baldwins. They replied with a great big information pack on all their cranes. So if I won the lottery I’d pay off any equipment finance and then I’d buy one, probably a Liebherr. I’m not sure I’d trust all our customers to hire it though!
● Read about some of the projects that have been keeping EPS Hire busy here.