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Plant hire focus: Closures

How the current situation has affected business models

Surviving a slowdown is about understanding your business, according to chief executive Steve Corcoran, and Speedy has had to make some tough decisions to get to the heart of the company. After predicting a 17 per cent slowdown, Speedy announced last November it would save £24m by cutting 492 jobs and closing 38 depots.

“You need to understand the critical underbelly of the business,” says Mr Corcoran. “Things that you had built in for growth or speculatively, you now have to bring into question.”

One thing the plant hire industry has struggled with recently is exactly how the market will perform in the coming months and years. Mr Corcoran says Speedy set its stall out with its prediction of market performance and decided to alter its business in one go, rather than continually adjusting it to accommodate fluctuating market predictions.

“If you have been overly pessimistic, you can always rebuild it,” he says. “I don’t see salami slicing the business will do much good, and it’s not good for the business or the employees that you are continually stripping layers off it. We’ve tried to be quite pragmatic in our approach and to do it in one hit.”

This might sound a hard nosed approach, but Mr Corcoran says it has limited the damage on morale within the company.

“The key thing is to protect the integrity of the business,” he says. “Those people who are not affected have some assurance that their jobs are safe. If they think that they might be next, it really affects morale. We told staff that there would be some impact and that it would be harsh, but those that remain can have some confidence in their employment position.”

Alongside depot closures, Speedy decided to reduce the size of its fleet by 260. Like fellow large plant hirers Hewden and A-Plant, the company is holding auctions to offload excess kit.

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