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Hiring out the heavy machinery that builds the nation’s infrastructure

Plantforce

Starting from scratch

Claire Trott started her plant-hire business in 1999 with just three machines and a lot of ambition.

“Back then I had two excellent job opportunities from successful plant hire companies, but I didn’t want to go into a corporate environment,” explains the managing director of Plantforce, which now employs 380 people from four depots across the South West and Midlands.

“I wanted to create my own company and focus on building something from scratch.”

Plantforce supplies heavy equipment and machinery for major construction projects, including the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station and the HS2 railway.

BGF on the board

To boost Plantforce's expansion plans, Paul Oldham, a regional director at BGF, joined the company as non-executive chair.

BGF Talent Network  

Outgrowing the depot

Believing strongly that “a healthy work culture fosters great team work”, Claire’s first move was to create a collaborative environment where people could learn and feel supported, challenged and rewarded. With the team in place, together they grew the company organically, focusing on technical innovation and providing excellent customer service.

By 2009, the business had expanded to 500 machines and outgrown its depot in Yatton, Somerset, so the team moved to a new depot just outside Bristol. From there they continued to focus on providing technical innovation and quality service to the construction and energy industries, while opening three new depots in Exeter, Bridgewater and Birmingham, with the latter two specifically aimed at servicing the nuclear power station Hinkley Point C (HPC) and the rail project High Speed 2 (HS2).

With so much growth taking place, Claire decided the business needed external backing. “We had been working on the HPC project since 2010, but it really started to ramp up around 2016. We could see mid-term projects growing, and we were looking to future projects like HS2 too, so we knew we needed investment and a partner going forward to help us – not just financially, but to provide support and knowledge.”

BGF's investment has helped Plantforce to...

Expand into the compact machinery market.

Develop a clearer corporate structure.

Win a major contract after the collapse of a competitor.

Opportunity knocks

After meeting with BGF, Claire was immediately put at ease. “They were approachable and proactive,” she says.

In August 2018, BGF invested £4.7 million. Since then, Plantforce has successfully expanded into the compact machinery market and acquired a major new contract following the collapse of a competitor in January this year.

“Because we had the funding in place, we were able to negotiate with the administrators and the client, and take on all the equipment and operators within a week. We were ready when the opportunity presented itself.”

We had been working on the HPC project since 2010, but it really started to ramp up around 2016. We could see mid-term projects growing, and we were looking to future projects like HS2 too, so we knew we needed investment and a partner going forward to help us – not just financially, but to provide support and knowledge.

 

Claire Trott, managing director of Plantforce

£4.7m

Invested by BGF.

A new perspective

As well as helping the business expand into new markets, Claire says the partnership with BGF has helped the company develop a clearer corporate structure.

“We have structured board meetings now with a non-executive chair, Paul Oldham, who’s been very helpful. We have a new commercial and financial perspective on things, which is great.”

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