How a vision to build a multinational operation providing cranes, access equipment and loading platform solutions became a reality.
The Preston name has been synonymous with the construction industry for decades and continues to push boundaries and be a significant player in the hire and rental category.
Markus Preston, group managing director, acquired ownership of the business in the early 2000s with a fresh vision, ambitious goals and strong determination to expand. At the time, the business was largely focussed on the hire of their SuperDeck Retractable Loading Platform System and only operated within NSW. His vision was to build a multifaceted, multinational operation providing customers with a large range of cranes and access equipment to compliment the well-established and respected SuperDeck System.
Fast-forward eighteen years, this vision has clearly been achieved with Preston Hire (Australia) having a large group of highly skilled staff, a significant fleet of mini and larger hydraulic crawler and mobile SuperCrane’s, a variety of SuperElevate access equipment units and Australia’s largest fleet of SuperDeck’s. It is an impressive feat. Yet their outfit also extends beyond the borders of Australia, with Preston Group also operating internationally in New Zealand, North America and Europe under the Preston Hire and Preston Rentals brands. They also recently launched SuperService – their access and heavy equipment specialist mechanical service business in Australia and have plans for New Zealand to open later in the year.
At this stage, Preston Hire (Australia) is the largest operation within the group, with the largest fleet of diverse specialised equipment. Operating using a hub and spoke model with the head office providing major resourcing, training and daily support to the five branches, each branch is then responsible for being experts in their market and fostering and growing local relationships and business opportunities.
“I’m really proud of our branch network, which allows us to service any location in Australia. Over the years, we have consciously expanded and tailored our product range to broaden our customer base and make us a multi-industry service provider. We work closely with clients in the construction, civil, road and rail, telecommunications, infrastructure and residential industries,” said Preston.
Group general manager, David Serg, has also played an important role in the growth of the business. Serg attributes a key component of the success to having clear business values that contribute to the culture of the Preston Group.
“Our workforce is the face of our business. We ensure that our staff and their livelihoods are at the heart of every decision we make and in return ask that they always represent the Preston Hire brand with enthusiasm, professionalism and have the ‘Preston vibe’ in their customer dealings,” he said.
Preston agrees saying “We have a solid approach to how we deal with our customers. We teach our sales teams to ‘Sell the problem you solve, not the product.’ We want our staff to be problem solvers and encourage them to listen more than they speak. Their goal is to satisfy customer needs, not to simply push a product. We think teaching our staff this quality will help makes us a humble and helpful organisation.”
Serg said he loves the passion and commitment that the Preston staff have for the business.
“We refer to it as having “yellow in your veins” said Serg. “Despite our diverse geographical locations, we regularly bring all staff together for training conferences, inspirational experiences and festivities to ensure teamwork, comradery and to make sure the Preston ‘vibe’ is always present. Over the years, this has become a much larger affair with the increased number of personnel.”
It is refreshing to see the leadership approach and passion that these industry personalities have for what they do. Internally, Preston and Serg are often referred to as the “Batman and Robin” or the “Dynamic Duo” of the business. Their diversity of skills, experience, age and preferred approach to business challenges can at times differ greatly, yet combined they are a force to be reckoned with. Each has skilfully found a delicate balance to compliment the other. Their mutual respect coupled with a shared passion for pushing the Preston brand forward has played a significant role in the company’s successes to date.
In the interest of growing the group and building solid foundations for the future, much effort has been made in developing a strong leadership team across all facets of the business. From operations, human resources, finance and branch management, building a strong team has allowed the business to move away from a single leader approach and future growth will be supported and nurtured by the entire team.
The new appointment of Andrew Lambert as general manager of Preston Hire (Australia) is testament to this approach. Recognised as an exciting addition to the local team, Lambert brings with him experience from SkyReach and Kennard’s Hire and will lead the day to day operations of the business from June 2019.
According to Preston, there have been a number of key strategies that have seen the business succeed in an increasingly competitive market.
“We have always wanted to stand out from the crowd and demonstrate our ambition to be unique, think differently, and put customers first,” he said.
“From a functionality point of view, we believe our SuperDecks are the best in the industry, but we haven’t rested on our laurels. We have maintained a humble identity and focussed on ways we can offer an even better service to our customers.”
Preston Hire purposefully moved away from being a product only offering and consciously moved towards a service offering built on trust and respect.
“We recognise our SuperDecks are positioned in prime real estate on building sites. They not only reflect the quality of our own brand, but how we value the appearance of our customer’s sites. So, every Preston Hire SuperDeck is inspected, repaired and freshly painted before being delivered to a new job, ensuring consistent, clean and respectable equipment is always supplied,” he said.
Building the profile of the business and increasing awareness of the Preston Hire brand have also been key strategies.
“Preston Hire had previously been described as the ‘industry’s best kept secret’ so we took actions to change that,”said Serg.
In 2016, Preston Hire embarked on a three year partnership with Australia’s leading motorsport category – the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship. As naming rights sponsor of the Team 18 vehicle, Preston Hire Racing was established, taking the brand to an enormous audience at a national level.
“We were seeking a platform that would allow us to connect with our customers in a unique and dynamic way, engage our staff, and deliver mass brand recognition,” Preston said.
Preston also mentioned that Preston Hire Racing led to thousands of people being exposed to the campaigns yellow and black branding and connected the logo at the racetrack with the equipment on construction sites.
“The racing enabled us to share unique experiences with customers and form really valuable and rewarding relationships,” Preston explained.
“Our staff wholeheartedly embraced the team atmosphere, wore their race shirts with pride, and cheered on the success of the team and driver. Preston Hire Racing played a major role in us standing apart from competitors and starting new conversations with customers.”
Behind the scenes, Preston Hire has invested in safety measures and technology to help maintain the fleet and improve support and service levels for customers.
“We identified that not many crane companies have ISO Quality Assurance. We work incredibly hard to maintain and continually improve our processes and procedures to ensure this internationally recognised quality assurance certificate will always be held by Preston Hire. Safety is at the core of our business and we confidently communicate that we are internationally recognised as having best practice, which helps to set us apart,” said Preston.
“We identified the need for an easier way to improve visibility across the multiple work sites we were servicing and the multitude of crane movements we have each week. With a commitment to safety, efficiency and making our customer’s lives easier, we needed a solution,” said Preston.
“The company’s partnership with Teletrac Navman started in 2008, when one of its larger cranes was legally required to enrol in the Intelligent Access program. Conversations led to the trial of an in-vehicle unit installation to test the accuracy of the data it collected and potential fleet management technologies that could improve other aspects of Preston’s day-to-day operations.
We were so impressed with the results we installed DIRECTOR software across all of our service cranes,” Preston said.
“The technology allows us to track all of our cranes, including movement and on-site activity. DIRECTOR gives our management and admin staff access to a range of data, such as work hours and the condition of its internals. This enables us to stay on top of maintenance, safety and continued delivery of great customer service.”
Mike Thomas, Preston Hire’s operations manager said, “When we send out our equipment and operators, we want to ensure they’re safe at all times.”
“That’s why we opted to install the most advanced units in our cranes to record anomalies, such as overriding. We want to know that our people are safe,” Thomas said.
Another technology innovation introduced at Preston Hire is the application of a QR Code to every machine within the fleet providing a link to a live information portal. The portal holds information about that product, the service history for that unit, specifications of the model and other necessary information so the operator is completely educated on the machinery they are operating.
Preston said future growth is very much the priority for the company, along with ensuring that it maintains superior service, product and quality in all that it does. With over 20 years experience, the Preston team have learnt that quality and safety will always remain key to their success.
“Looking ahead, we strive for the continued growth of our people and our product offering. We will listen to our customers and always work to meet their needs,” he said.
“From a group perspective, we will be looking at continuing international expansion in markets we deem ready for the Preston spirit and the way we do business. We are ready to continue levelling up!”