Written by Ben Hirst, Managing Director
It was 5am on a very cold January morning in 2008 when Matthew Fray and I opened the door of our small, damp rented warehouse situated in Horbury, West Yorkshire. Horizon Platforms Limited was born and on that first day our fleet consisted of 12 small battery scissor lifts that would be delivered and collected using two Land Rover 4x4 vehicles and two plant trailers.
Recognising that service levels and quality of equipment had been eroded following a number of mergers and acquisitions, Horizon was launched to provide dissatisfied customers with a reliable powered access rental solution.
Those first few months were a whirlwind of long hours, hard work and adrenalin-fuelled focus on bringing our plan to life. The days consisted of a 4am start delivering and collecting our small fleet; the overalls were then exchanged for a shirt and tie, to spend normal business hours promoting our new company to prospective clients. We’d then work into the night completing a mix of driving, workshop and administrative activities.
Within just a few months it became apparent that we had underestimated the size of our opportunity. The fleet was growing quickly, as was the team. We were not just gaining a reputation as a good rental provider, but a good employer too: I am proud to say that most of the seven team members who joined in 2008 are still with us today.
As a start-up business we focused on keeping our costs low. We did not cut corners on anything that added value to the customer, ensuring our equipment, delivery vehicles, website and stationery were of the highest quality. This set the tone of the Horizon brand which remains the same today.
Our first trading year ended reporting a profit, a fleet of 100 machines (50 more than originally planned) and a growing list of happy and loyal customers.
Things were not all plain sailing in the first year however: our warehouse flooded twice, the computer system was nearly destroyed by a water leak and in September the UK descended into recession following the demise of Lehman Brothers. The later had a dramatic effect, with many local building projects being terminated mid-build, the consequence being that a large percentage of our fleet was returned within the space of just a few weeks.
The recession actually turned out to be quite a positive for Horizon. We’d had a great start in 2008 which allowed us to overcome the slight downturn suffered in the final quarter. As we progressed into 2009, it became apparent that the larger national providers were making cuts throughout their operations and thus service levels were reduced.
There have been many big events throughout our history: in 2009 Ruairi Duggan joined the Board to head the company’s sales effort, bringing with him a wealth of experience. This also led to the formation of the Access Alliance – a group of independently run powered access rental companies strategically positioned throughout the UK working together to provide their customers with a reliable national supply of access equipment.
In 2010 Horizon moved to a 17,000 sq ft facility situated close to Junction 40 of the M1 in Wakefield. We used this opportunity to review and formalise the quality management systems we utilised; this allowed us to successfully attain the ISO 9001, 14001 and OHSAS 18001 accreditations.
Horizon opened a second location in 2013. This consisted of a 14,000 sq ft warehouse situated just off Junction 21 of the M6 near Warrington in the north west of England. The fleet by this point was made up of over 500 platforms, with over 40 people working within the company.
Further appointments to the Board of Directors came firstly in 2010 when Lindsay Tarrant was appointed as Finance Director after supporting the business as a consultant since its formation. More recently Kevin Appleton joined as Non-Executive Chairman. Kevin previously held the position of CEO of the Lavendon Group for nine years; at the time, the group was the largest powered access rental specialist in the world. He has added a wealth of expertise to the management team and will be a key contributor to the next phase of the company’s growth.
At the time of writing our fleet size sits at 850 units, our staff team is 85-strong and we’re about to move our Wakefield branch…again.
The story continues...