01 May 2008

Franchise operations haven't so far played a big part in the development of aerial platform rental worldwide-among the exceptions is the RentUp business in Italy-but one man in New Zealand, Ross Pickersgill, is hoping that his Accessman business will grow rapidly through franchising.

Mr Pickersgill is an electrician by trade who first started renting aerials in 1994 from his Christchurch headquarters under the Central Rentals name, changing the brand to Accessman in March 2002. The company now has four locations covering the whole of the South Island-at Christchurch, Nelson (opened in 2002), Timaru (2003) and Blenheim (last summer)-and he says a fifth will follow in Dunedin in around six months time.

The business has been expanding gradually, and now has a fleet of around 250 machines, including units from Niftylift and Skyjack, for which the company is also a dealer.

However, Mr Pickersgill is extremely ambitious for the company and the brand and wants to use franchising as a way of growing. “I want to replicate what we're doing and offer other people a share in our success”, he says. The next target will be the North Island of New Zealand (where major cities such as Auckland and Wellington are located) and from there into Australia.

Accessman is not alone in seeing the opportunities. It so happens that another New Zealand rental company, Auckland-based New Zealand Access Hire, is also now offering access rental franchise opportunities in the country.

Australia may sound like a big step-it already has a competitive and well-developed access rental culture-but Mr Pickersgill has actually set his sights even higher and is not afraid to use the word global; “It'll happen”, he says, “I know the franchise system, I know how much money the franchisees can make. The growth so far speaks for itself-I've got the guts, the drive and the passion.”

Readers in Australasia-and perhaps elsewhere-will be interested to know how the franchise arrangement will work. Mr Pickersgill says he is looking to attract practical people who want to get into the business but don't perhaps have the necessary resources, or straightforward investors. There is an upfront fee of A$100000 (US$76625), of which half is a kind of returnable bond, and then a further A$800000 (US$613002) is needed to invest in premises, equipment and so on. Mr Pickersgill says that Accessman can help companies raise the necessary finance. An additional annual contribution equivalent to 10% of gross turnover is also paid to Accessman.

One of the sources of Mr Pickersgill's confidence is his own background in electrical contracting which has given him direct experience of the benefits of powered access equipment. “We ask the right questions and give the customer what he needs, not what they think they want”, he says. He also says that in the New Zealand market there are not many companies specialising in access rentals.

If the franchise concept catches on there is little doubt that it could have a major impact on the New Zealand access market. However, Accessman's likely progress outside its domestic market is much more difficult to assess. It will clearly take all the guts and drive that Mr Pickersgill has at his disposal.

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