The value of service: Mike Potts, CEO at Lavendon Access Services (UK)
By Maria Hadlow19 April 2011
Mike Potts the new chief executive of Lavendon Access Services (UK), is committed to raising rental rates in 2011, but plans only modest spend on new equipment.
"Obviously the market is very competitive and we need a reason for putting rates up," he said. "Andy [Wright, chief executive international operations and previously in Mr Potts role] and the team have achieved an amazing amount in a short space of time," and Mr Potts says that he wants to build on this: focusing on service, reliability and safety and using this as the basis to increase rental rates.
Mr Potts, a Cambridge University engineering graduate, has had spells at Metal Box, Shell and Courtaulds and gained an MBA at INSEAD, the internationally renowned business school.
For the past seven years he has been CEO of Vendia, a private equity backed European-based supplier of food and beverage vending services. Mr Potts speaks French, Spanish and a little German.
Kevin Appleton Lavendon Group chief executive said, "Mike comes with an excellent business pedigree and a strong track record of achievement. He absolutely fits the mould of top quality, people-oriented managers we look for. I am confident he will fit seamlessly into the organisation and will seek to build on the solid foundation that Andy has created in the UK business," added Mr Appleton.
Mr Potts aims to deliver a "world class performance," in service and delivery, "A hired piece of capital equipment can be on the critical path of a project," he said, "brake down or late delivery can have a serious knock-on affect.
"Lavendon is probably one of the best, but I'm sure it could be even better, we should strive for Japanese levels [of performance]. The size of the company means we can do that together with our excellent team of engineers."
In terms of safety Mr Potts is committed to increasing levels of safety both internally and to customers. He cites the work being carried out on developing accessories for Lavendon's aerial work platforms such as pipe and sheet carriers, and into collision and trapping avoidance. "These are huge areas of development," he said "and justify higher pricing."
Mr Potts was not prepared to talk figures when it comes to investing in new fleet, "There will be some replacement and a little growth, "he said. "The fleet is not old and we have a very strong in-house engineering base which means we can keep the machines running well and longer."
In his first five weeks in his new role Mr Potts has had to contend with takeover bids from TVH and then TVH and Ashtead. He admitted that a lower share price will always make a company vulnerable to this type of bid but said that the shareholders came to a quick conclusion on who they wanted to back. "The shareholders had faith in future returns," he said, "which was reassuring for everyone.
"They accepted that Lavendon has a strategy and that [share] value should increase in the foreseeable future."
Over the last few years Lavendon has actively acquired UK rental companies eventually settling on a model which has two brands operating in the UK: Panther and Nationwide. Panther operates on a local level and includes the AMP, Kestrel and Higher Platforms businesses. Nationwide Platforms encompasses The Platform Company, Rise Hire, Wizard Workspace and Skylift businesses and works on a national level.
"At the moment this is a model that works, " he said, "I'm not sure it's the right solution for the future, but for now we will stick with it."
The EPL Skylift truck and van mounted division is, Mr Potts admits "a different type of business."
Mr Potts is impressed by how cohesive Lavendon Access Services UK has become in just three years. Since his appointment he has been actively visiting the company's depots and says that he has noticed high levels of team spirit. He believes that the corporate-wide initiatives such as TechX (on going technical excellence), Training and the Safety programmes encourage unity within the depots.
These initiatives do add costs to the business, but Mr Potts denies that this is any impediment to Lavendon's business, "Programmes such as TechX are reason's that we should be able to command higher prices for our service," he says.
"As the biggest [access rental company] in the UK, there is a need for us to lead the industry - and we have the resources to do that."
On prospects for the rest of 2011 Mr Potts says, "Our larger customers seem to be doing better than the smaller ones, but the general forecast is, that in the UK, 2011 could be a worse year than 2010 because of the Government cuts and rising steel prices.
"January was a good month for us, probably because the bad weather in December meant work had to be postponed, but I am cautious about the rest of the year."