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SPOA: A family affair

 

By Mike Travers

 

 

When Mark Anderson rose to address the 360-strong audience at the Scottish Plant Owners’ Association annual dinner last night (Friday) the occasion held more significance than simply a new president making his debut speech…he was carrying on a family tradition.

The 34-year-old has become the third member of the Anderson family to wear the association’s chain of office, following in the footsteps of his grandfather Gordon, who held the post from 1966-68, and father Douglas (1998-2000). And they’re big footprints to fill: the first was a pioneer of the earthmoving and plant hire industry in Scotland, a founder member of the SPOA and formed Gordon Anderson Plant Ltd; the second, along with brother Iain, has led the transformation of the business into the UK’s biggest independent hire group, with eight divisions and more than 1,800 employees, and now better known simply as GAP.

Mark stepped up to succeed Graham Bow (another family affair; his father, Gordon, is also a past president) and becomes the figurehead as the organisation continues to spread its influence further afield. “Some of the outlying regions perhaps have seen us as a bit Central Belt-ish,” he says.

To tackle that issue, the association, which represents around 300 businesses, has held committee meetings accompanied by a mini exhibition in Inverness, and there are plans to organise similar events in Ayrshire and on the east coast. Mark’s vice-president, Callum Mackintosh of Highland Hammer Hire, gives the SPOA proper representation in the north for the first time while a new committee member, Alan Redpath of Duns company Redpath Tool Hire, extends the reach further south. Other new faces on the committee are Stuart Gardner of AB2000 and Paul McCormack of Blackwood Plant Hire.

And that makes three. Mark Anderson.

“It’s an interesting transitional time. Most of the SPOA businesses are still family-owned so change comes in waves. The likes of myself, Graham Bow and David Jarvie at Jarvie Plant are all within 10 years of each other and it’s because our parents all started businesses around the same time. All of us have young kids and if they come into the industry you never know, it could go to a fourth generation.”

Further evidence of the old (ish) making way for the young team is the departure from the SPOA committee of stalwarts and former presidents Adam Bruce and Marshall Carmichael, two of the longest-serving members. Both are in their 70s and in last night’s speech Mark paid tribute to their contributions to the industry and to the SPOA over decades of service.

Meanwhile, the new president has much to occupy his mind in the coming months. “We have a challenge with the operator card schemes and that creates a degree of uncertainty. We have the likes of IRFS 16 [the new leases standard which came into effect on January 1. Almost every company uses rentals or leasing to get access to assets and will be affected by the new standard]. Some of our members see that as a big challenge.” Given his accountancy experience – he worked for Price Waterhouse Coopers – he’s better placed than most in the industry to understand the ramifications.

Grandfather Gordon (top) and father Douglas.

Neither issue is likely to have a great impact at GAP – it doesn’t employ operators and purchases all its assets – but Mark is aware they are of crucial importance to many SPOA members. The leasing standard could, he believes, create “some disharmony” in the market and funding could dry up to a degree.

He’s also keen to continue the initiatives introduced by his presidential predecessors, such as a wider geographical spread, exhibition stands at regional meetings, and management training for directors, managers and supervisors. Operator cards will continue to be a topic for debate.

Mark has plenty to keep him busy in his ‘real’ job at GAP but he will be more than a man with a chain around his neck. He is there, he says, to get things done. “There’s no point in sitting on a committee and not taking action. I think for an organisation such as ours to carry on for this length of time is pretty impressive. There are no paid positions here. Everyone does it for the love of the industry.”

 

 

The real job

 

Mark joined GAP in 2008, initially working on tenders, and pre-qualification questionnaires, before moving on some years later to take charge of the major accounts team. In 2016 he took on responsibility for the company’s plant and tool depots in Scotland.

The entire UK depot network then became a single operation and again responsibility was put on Mark’s shoulders. He was appointed to the board in 2017.

He has been operations director and more recently managing director for the company’s booming vehicle hire division, overseeing its headquarters move from Glasgow to Clydebank. It’s an impressive operation with an in-house team carrying out everything from design and print of vinyl wraps to fitting cameras and lights, from bespoke fit-outs to ladder racks.

 

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©Scottish Plant.  Article posted 2/2/2019