20 Years at the Top
News release date: Wednesday 26 November 2008
Pirtek UK might be celebrating 20 years at the top of the hydraulic hose replacement sector, but the company is still on the expansion trail.
It’s 1988 and the UK is witnessing its first ever Comic Relief “Red Nose Day”, cinema audiences are flocking to the year’s big movie, Die Hard; while in Dublin, an unknown Celine Dion is winning the Eurovision Song Contest. Meanwhile, in London final plans are being laid for the launch of Pirtek, a company that would become the UK’s premier supplier of on-site, emergency hose replacements.
In the following two decades, that start-up company would enjoy a rise to undisputed market leadership that was every bit as stratospheric (and, possibly, unexpected) as that of the little known French-Canadian songstress who won the Eurovision crown for Switzerland.
From its humble beginnings when it had just three vans operating from a single Hose Centre in London’s Park Royal, the company has enjoyed 20 years of consistent growth. The company has just opened its 92nd UK and Ireland Hose Centre, in Chesterfield, and the number of the company’s familiar “mobile workshop” vans recently topped the 400 mark.
With such a significant number of businesses across the country, there are regular opportunities for new franchisees to come on board, either by opening in a new territory or by taking over an existing franchise.
“Prices vary dependent on the size of the business and assistance is given with arranging finance, but in general liquid capital of at least £70,000 is required. As active members of the British Franchise Association, Pirtek are previous winners of both the Franchise of the Year and International Franchise of the Year trophies,” explains Alistair Wiggins, Pirtek’s Business Development Director. “We are looking for talented and experienced people to join a winning team as the franchisee of a Pirtek Centre. They should ideally have experience of management in finance, sales, distribution or engineering.”
This is not, however, always the case. One highly successful Pirtek franchisee, Craig Harrison, started his working life as a miner and through hard work and total commitment is now running three Pirtek Centres in the North West of England. He was awarded the coveted title of Pirtek Franchisee of the Year in 2008.
Whilst some Pirtek Centres have had a number of different owners, some of the earliest Centres are still operated by their original franchisees, notably Teesside, which has been run by Eian and Joyce Dobbing since 1991. Another Centre in the North East, Tyne and Wear, has been going even longer. It was opened by Alan Maidwell in 1990. Alan, who is 74, has no plans to retire and is opening a second Centre in Newcastle this year.
The Pirtek operation moved into Continental Europe 10 years ago and there are now over 60 Pirtek Centres across Belgium, Germany and Holland - and there are business opportunities there too.
Like all the best ideas, the Pirtek concept is a simple one. The business is based on a Service Centre with a trade counter, which runs a number of mobile workshops that provide a rapid response mobile hose service with the service standard of ‘Anytime Anywhere ETA one hour’. By having a team of mobile workshops operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week the quality of service and customer response levels are much higher than businesses running a single mobile workshop.
The hose market in the UK is estimated to be worth over £600 million per annum and Pirtek is the market leader in on-site hose replacement. By offering a nationwide service, Pirtek has become very popular with national companies that appreciate the consistency in terms of product, service and pricing that the business offers. On the other hand, local businesses are well looked after because Pirtek franchisees are themselves owner/managers of local businesses.
Because of the huge variety of applications involving hoses, Pirtek Centres serve a wide range of customers in sectors from agriculture through construction to industry. Whilst some sectors like plant, construction and waste are found across the country, others like defence, rail and marine have been identified and developed by those Centres where the relevant operations are located. Indeed, there is hardly an industry where Pirtek does NOT have a presence.
Pirtek runs a well-established national accounts programme. This ensures that Pirtek Centres enjoy market demand on a daily basis. Centres do, however, have the responsibility of developing their local market to maximise the full potential of the ever-expanding Pirtek product range.
A good example of a Pirtek national account customer is Veolia Environmental Services, the leading waste management supplier to local authorities and commercial businesses. Pirtek supports Veolia throughout Great Britain and Ireland, whether it is at the depot or in the field, providing 24-hour support to the company’s 4,000-strong vehicle fleet.
Functioning bin lifters at the rear of a wagon are integral to removing the refuse on Britain’s streets and Pirtek are experts in completing full replacements of hoses on these units. Pirtek also works with Veolia to ensure that sites are left as clean as possible after hydraulic spills, using products from Pirtek’s oil spill and containment product range. Any redundant hoses are also removed for secure disposal.
Pirtek’s Total Hose Management programme has also been implemented on the tanker hoses at Veolia. This enables a full preventative planned maintenance programme for tankers to be carried out that significantly reduces vehicle downtime.
Pirtek supports its franchisees with a custom-built Training Centre in Birmingham. National Training
Manager Martyn Smart and his team provide a wide variety of courses for Pirtek personnel. These include induction courses for new Mobile Sales and Service Technicians (MSSTs), leading to City and Guilds qualifications and courses for administrators using the fully-equipped computer training room. “These training courses are a vital part of the Pirtek support programme,” Smart says. “By training staff at the National Centre we ensure that the same high standards are maintained across the network. We also pay particular attention to the health and safety aspects of the job.”
Computer training is particularly relevant for staff, both in the Centre and in the field, as Pirtek has recently completed the introduction of a £6.0 million IT system called Pirtek Virtual Office (PVO) which represents the most important step change in the company’s history. Aimed at improving customer service and satisfaction, as well as the performance of the franchises, the PVO has changed the way in which Pirtek operates. All jobs that are carried out and all customer contacts are now managed and controlled electronically using mobile PDA technology backed by franchisee-managed servers and a centrally linked hub to control information flow. This enables the Pirtek franchise to efficiently manage customer breakdowns and sales calls, enabling them to optimise the utilisation of staff. The customer benefits because jobs are signed for electronically at the site where the work is carried out and the invoices are submitted within minutes of the job being completed by email or fax.
The Pirtek brand has been one of the strongest elements of the business since those early days in Park Royal. Marketing support for franchisees has always been a crucial element of the package and today’s marketing programmes reflect that. As well as running a website at pirtek.co.uk, the company also uses an intranet to communicate information to its franchisees. The 800-page Pirtek catalogue shows the size of the Pirtek range and being a regular exhibitor at trade shows in specific industry sectors has also helped build the brand.
A customer recently said: “Pirtek is as well known in the hydraulic hose replacement market as easyJet is to the public.” The most recent brand building exercise has been the sponsorship of two Team Eurotech cars in the British Touring Car Championship. The father and son team, Mike and Andy Jordan, have been hitting the headlines and receiving media attention in this the 50th anniversary season of the championship. As well as seeing the cars on ITV’s extensive race coverage, the team has also been the subject of a 10-part ‘fly on the wall’ documentary on Sky TV called ‘Everyday is Raceday’, with plenty of visibility for the Pirtek logo.
Of course, the most visible sign of the Pirtek brand is on those 400 mobile workshops that act as moving advertising hoardings as they respond to the next emergency hose breakdown.
Further information on the Pirtek franchise opportunity is available from:
Alistair Wiggins, Business Development Director 020 8749 8444
Pirtek UK Ltd, 35 Acton Park Estate, The Vale, Acton, London, W3 7QE