For Pirtek, becoming the number one provider of hydraulic solutions and on-site repairs in the UK hasn’t come without effort.
For Pirtek, becoming the number one provider of hydraulic solutions and on-site repairs in the UK hasn’t come without effort. But the company’s formula for success is rather more than that, as Managing Director, Chris Stuckey, explains to Elite Franchise.
With an undergraduate degree in Metals Engineering from Swansea University, followed by an Engineering Doctorate (also at Swansea) - sponsored by British Steel - and subsequent MBA from the London Business School, it could never be said the building blocks for Chris Stuckey’s future career weren’t put in place.
In 1997 Chris joined Harsco, a global industrial solution provider to the metals and mining industry, as a business development manager in their Metals & Minerals business. “During my time at Harsco, I had two overseas assignments in Australia and the UAE and managed a full range of business functions, including the development of strategy, customer engagement, portfolio management and new product innovation,” he says.
Chris subsequently moved to Brammer Group, where he managed the European and Middle East Key Account, providing an integrated procurement service from a value-added distributor. The customer relationship involved embedded resources in the customer’s facility to deliver lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) and continuous improvement with 98 dedicated personnel.
From there he moved to Pirtek where, today, he is Managing Director.
As Chris describes it, “Pirtek is a brand that’s known and trusted worldwide. We exist to solve our customers’ problems and to minimise their downtime, helping maximise their productivity and efficiencies.” He adds, “We are a service first enterprise delivering a comprehensive range of hydraulic solutions, products & services directly to our customers. With our unrivalled coverage and expertise, we provide the right quality, at the right time, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
With 86 local service centres up-and-running and over 350 mobile service units on the road, undertaking more than 350,000 jobs a year - ranging from emergency on-site hydraulic hose replacement to system build consultations and preventative maintenance programmes - the company certainly has scale. “Our nationwide force of technicians serves our customers through our cutting edge IT field management system,” as Chris puts it, adding: “We support customers in a wide variety of industries, including: Agriculture; Automotive; Construction & Plant Hire; Defence; Environmental Services; Food & Beverage; Manufacturing; Marine & Offshore; Material Handling; Mining & Quarrying; Pharmaceuticals; Transport & Logistics; Utilities.”
Yet with service centres also in Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands, there is the inevitable question - given the company’s pan-European disposition - as to how Brexit has impacted the business. Forewarned is to be forearmed, of course, and as Chris is quick to point out, “we have spent a considerable amount of time and resources to plan for the impact of Brexit on our business to ensure we can continue to support our customers.” He adds, “to ensure we have continuity of supply, we have increased our product stock levels in the UK, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. As a result, we’ve seen minimal impact on our stock availability and have been able to continue to meet our customer’s needs. However, higher transportation costs and more complex customs paperwork have impacted imports from Europe.”
The other elephant in the room of course has been the COVID-19 global pandemic and its ramifications for Pirtek’s UK operations. As Chris explains, “we reacted quickly in the beginning to manage our supply chain to ensure we supported service centres and organisations relying on our services and products. This was essential and allowed us to continue delivering on our customer promises around emergency support, expertise and value,” adding that franchisees also maintained the operation of all branches and mobile services throughout this period, “in spite of the challenging financial circumstances.” Whilst the company’s business evidently focuses on machinery, Chris is also quick to point out that Pirtek is a people business; “I know our team has missed seeing many of our customers face-to-face over the past year and are excited to meet up again when it is safe to do so.”
Franchisees are an essential component of the company’s business model, given they and their teams “are the customer-facing part of the company and responsible for delivering our service promise,” as Chris describes it. He further notes, “our Franchisees are members of their local community and provide a tailored service to their own mix of customers. It is not only important for our business to have this local knowledge but also for the Franchisee to be supported by the technical knowledge and procurement expertise of an international organisation.
“As the Franchisor, our role is to support every single Franchisee on a day-to-day basis. That support may relate to anything, [though] most commonly [it’s] sales, operations, marketing and commercial advice.” Pirtek currently has 42 Franchisees in the UK & Ireland, a number owning multiple franchises, operating the 86 service centres.
For those interested in becoming a Franchisee, the first and obvious port of call is to register online https://www.pirtek.co.uk/become-a-franchisee and fill out the contact form. “Then, we set up a 1-2-1 Discovery Meeting online to explore opportunities within the Pirtek network,” says Chris. “After a successful Discovery Meeting, we would work with a potential purchaser and their legal and financial advisers. We would then start the process of providing more detailed information following the completion of an NDA or Confidentiality Agreement and meeting with professional Advisers (including funding partners) and accounting and legal support,” he adds.
Following this, prospective Franchisees will visit Pirtek HQ, where they’ll meet the support team, before meeting other Franchisees to get first-hand feedback on the whole process. Once the potential Franchisee has secured the required level of external bank funding, they will be required to complete paperwork (including the Franchisee Agreement and the Sale and Purchase Agreement), according to Chris.
After this, the new Franchisee will then start an intensive training programme, receiving training and ongoing support in all areas, from hydraulics to business management. “Once training is complete, new Franchisees are ready to join the Pirtek family and take ownership of their very own service centre,” says Chris. Given the 24/7 nature of Pirtek’s business (hydraulic emergencies can take place at any time of the day or night) successful Pirtek Franchisees are likely to be hard working and committed, according to Chris, adding that “strong leadership is imperative due to the nature of the business and structure of the operation. An understanding of the industry isn’t essential, but certainly helps.”
“Pirtek is and has always been seen as a supportive Franchisor. We have an ‘all for one’ culture which creates incredibly strong bonds between Franchisees and adds to a real sense of family within the whole organisation,” Chris further notes. Support also means not only easy access to experts across all aspects of the business, but also guaranteed customers from day one, meaning a customer base will not have to be built up from scratch. “We have an extensive list of National and Regional Customers across the UK and Ireland. These customers represent a significant portion of each service centre’s business, with which we already have a trading history, contracts and service level agreements,” says Chris. They are managed by a dedicated National Sales Team, with a member of the team apportioned to each of the company’s territories across the UK and Ireland.
As Chris explains: “Aside from regularly bringing new customers on board for our Franchisees, the National Sales Team provides sales training to Franchisees and their Local Sales Teams,” adding “All our technicians, managers and incoming Franchisees complete an intensive City & Guilds accredited induction training programme taught by approved trainers, with 50 years’ experience of working with Pirtek between them; in addition our trainers are NEBOSH qualified to give competent Health & Safety advice and training.”
Meanwhile, a central marketing function ensures all Franchisees are supported in digital and traditional marketing. Virtual meetings and training events are delivered every month to ensure every Franchise and centre has access to the information they need, and that local marketing is optimised, according to Chris.
From a costing standpoint any would-be purchaser of a Pirtek franchise will need to pay a franchise fee on completion of the purchase of the Pirtek business and commencement of the initial training. Additional fees include legal and accounting costs payable by the purchaser for professional financial advice. Meanwhile, purchaser and vendor will equally share the costs of Pirtek`s solicitors in producing a sale and purchase agreement. Clearly, the purchaser will also need to ensure sufficient funding is in place to cover the agreed purchase price, as well as any working capital requirements necessary to cover the first year’s trading of the business.
Signing-up to a company means signing up to its core values and Pirtek is no exception - its values revolving around the four key areas of ‘expert’, ‘fair’, ‘fast’ and ‘supportive’. As Chris puts it, “expertise is underpinned by our unrivalled technician training and development, as well as our marketing leading QHSE credentials and decades of experience as a leader in the industry. We are fair and honest with customers and never use subcontractors - what you see is what you get. We are fast, in terms of our service and this is all a result of our investment in national coverage - our infrastructure of centres, mobile service units and the work we do with our brilliant logistics partners. We are supportive with respect to employees and customers. This is also clearly a value that sits at the very heart of any proud franchise business.”
It’s clear customers appreciate Pirtek’s offering and its values as they keep coming back, as Chris explains, “from industry leading training, providing us with the most qualified engineers on the market, to a one hour on site ETA and the highest first-time fix rate in the industry, our services are the most reliable and of the highest quality on the market.”
Leadership is similarly important when running a business and in Chris’ case it’s all about knowing the strengths and weaknesses of his team in order bring out the best in them, making the most of everyone’s strong points, while helping develop any weaknesses. “I strive to lead by example and steer the direction of the team and company towards continued success,” adding “I measure personal success through growth. As long as I’m continuing to improve myself, my skillset, my knowledge and my sense of fulfilment, I consider myself to be successful.” Indeed, beyond the obvious measurement of success, such as commercial KPIs, Chris gauges Pirtek’s fortunes through a number of factors – one of the most important being feedback from franchisees, PUK&I staff and customers.
It’s a formula likely to stand the company in good stead when the ‘COVID economy’ eventually returns to some semblance of normality.