Horizon Platforms are a lead rental solutions provider in the powered access sector. In 2021, ownership of the business transitioned to its employees through an employee ownership trust. Read the story of how we came to be and what our journey has looked like, to become one of the UK’s best providers of powered access rental solutions.
Once upon a time...
Horizon first opened its doors on a very cold January morning in 2008. Ben Hirst and Matthew Fray ran the business from a rented warehouse in Horbury, West Yorkshire. On that day the fleet consisted of 12 small battery scissor lifts that would be delivered and collected using two Land Rover 4x4 vehicles and two plant trailers.
The business was born out of recognition that there is much more to providing platforms for hire than moving metal. Since that very first day, Horizon has prided itself on providing rapid, reliable powered access solutions.
Within a few months, it became clear that we had underestimated the size of our opportunity. The fleet grew quickly and so did the team. Horizon saw its team grow to 7 in 2008, with many of those still with us today.
The culture and ethos at Horizon also took shape, with a relentless focus on delivering a reliable and quality service.
The culture and ethos at Horizon also took shape, with a relentless focus on delivering a reliable and quality service. This led to the business growing its fleet to 100 machines, 50 more than originally planned, as it kept up with demand from delighted customers.
To help the business grow further, Rory Duggan joined and became joint-majority shareholder and board member. His sales experience gained from years of working in the industry would help the business continue to expand.
In 2010 the business moved to a new home. A 17,000 sq ft facility situated close to Junction 40 of the M1 in Wakefield. We used this move to formalise our quality management systems and successfully attained ISO 9001, 14001 and OHSAS 18001 accreditations which we still hold today.
After 2 years of continued growth, 2013 saw Horizon open its second location in Warrington near the M6. The team had grown by this point to over 40 people and the fleet was now at 500 platforms strong.
With this continued growth, the board felt it was time to bring in Non-Executive support. Fortunately for Horizon, timing could not have been better as Kevin Appleton, previously CEO of the Lavendon Group, one of the largest powered access specialists in the world, was now on the market. Kevin joined Horizon as Non-Executive Chairman and continues to support the business with its ambitious growth plans.
Our culture generates a great sense of pride within the team from offering such quality of service.
Our culture generates a great sense of pride within the team from offering such quality of service. So when we ran our first Net Promoter core survey and hit an NPS of 75, we were over the moon. Our score was higher than some of the world’s best-known brands such as Amazon, eBay and Apple. We still pinch ourselves now when the results come out!
Over the next few years, we continued to grow and were becoming tight on space. It was in 2016 when our next phase of our growth took place and we moved into our purpose-built super depot. A 47,000 sq/ft giant in Normanton, Wakefield, it is a testament to what Horizon always strive to be, a leading example of delivering excellence to the customer. This space had our engineers drooling with its brand new PDI bays and organised charging stations! Open plan office space for sales, customer service and operations gave our work family the space they needed to grow.
More key appointments were made to board in 2017 with Adrian Bleasdale, Operations Director and Tanja Willis, Finance Director joining the team.
Horizon become the first rental business in the world (yes, you read that right!) to achieve IPAF Rental Plus Gold status.
Continuing with our thirst for excellence, in 2018 Horizon become the first rental business in the world (yes, you read that right!) to achieve IPAF Rental Plus Gold status. This was a huge achievement for the team and set the standard for the industry. Furthermore, our NPS held strong at 75, which further demonstrated that Horizon really were one of the best powered access providers.
From 2018 onwards, the team and fleet continued to grow. We added advisory expertise in Marketing and Sales in the form of Bryan Lawrie, who is the Sales and Marketing Director at Arco. The following year would see Marco Maccio join the business and eventually the board as Marketing and Digital Director, helping to build strategies to support growth and enhance Horizon’s digital capabilities.
Little did we know, but 2020 would be one of our most challenging years in existence. With the world experiencing the coronavirus pandemic, Horizon had to make the tough decision to close down our Warrington facility. We will always be grateful to the former team for the years of dedicated service they gave us. Following this incredibly difficult time, the remaining team pulled together and were able to deliver a better financial year than in 2019. A phenomenal achievement and dare we say it, the whole experience created an even closer team. To further strengthen the executive team, Tom Matthews joined as Sales Director and David Webster as Finance Director, taking over from Tanja who now becomes an independent director of our Employee Ownership Trust (EOT).
Right now, in 2021, we enter the new phase of our journey, moving the business into employee ownership. This will see the original majority shareholders, Ben and Ruairi, sell their shares to the EOT, and all Horizon employees becoming beneficiaries of that trust. Both Ben and Ruairi continue with the business to help oversee what will be an exciting period of growth for Horizon.
We know the future will be challenging, but watch this space as carry on with our journey and constantly strive for delivering excellence and the best customer experience anywhere in the industry!
The story continues...
By Ben Hirst, CEO