Meet the entrepreneur who rebuilt a struggling equipment hire business

Southbrook Hire

Through a relentless focus on customer service, Damian Wyatt has transformed Southbrook Hire into a thriving business that now attracts customers from larger competitors.

At a glance

Several Prospa small business loans and a line of credit helped Damian Wyatt to:

  • Rebuild a cherrypicker machine to ensure it met regulatory standards
  • Acquire additional equipment for rental
  • Invest in new office necessities, including a professional-grade carpet cleaner

Damian Wyatt is a master rebuilder. He was part of the project management team working hard to rebuild Christchurch after the devastating 2011 earthquake.

When this job came to an end, he saw a golden opportunity to apply his skills to an ailing equipment hire firm in Rangiora, New Zealand.

After rebranding and renaming the company to Southbrook Hire, Damian quickly identified an untapped market niche: refilling LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) bottles, a staple for barbecue enthusiasts.

“We’re the only ones in our region that do this,” says Damian. “It’s a lot cheaper than someone having to go to a garage and swap out a heavy 9-kilo bottle. They come to us and love the fact that they don’t have to lift a gas bottle – we do it all for them.”

Fast-forward less than a decade, and Damian has polished this once rough diamond into a shining contender in the local equipment hire industry.

Building a solid reputation

Inheriting a business devoid of digital systems, Damian spent a full year understanding the rental demand in the area. “Everything got a paint job,” he says. “I then sold off any equipment that wasn’t popular and bought new gear that people actually wanted.”

His marketing approach was equally inventive. He set up floats in Christmas parades and even decked out a scissor lift as a Christmas tree. “I did anything I could to get locals to know me,” he says.

As well as building a business, Damian set out to build a solid reputation for Southbrook Hire. From day one, he prioritised outstanding customer experience.

“Because I was a small business compared to the other two players in our industry I had to do something different and that was customer service,” he explains. “If you go to one of our competitors at 7.30am to pick up a digger, for example, you’ll be there for 20 minutes doing paperwork and waiting to be hooked up with the equipment. When you come to us, we’ll do the paperwork right there in the yard and you drive out with your digger within four minutes. And it takes around a minute for account holders to return it.”

Big changes to the business

The past year has seen Southbrook Hire soar, spurred by a national corporation buying out two of its rivals.

“Although we’re 25 minutes north of Christchurch, we’re considered rural so we offer more affordable pricing,” says Damian. “This corporation came in and started charging city prices. People round here didn’t like it, so they started coming to us.”

Once primarily serving DIY enthusiasts and a few contractors, the company now enjoys a booming influx of commercial customers.

Southbrook Hire

How Prospa has helped grow the business

Since 2019 Damian’s taken out several small business loans with Prospa, enabling him to expand his equipment inventory, rebuild a cherrypicker to comply with regulations, and invest in office supplies, including a professional carpet cleaner.

He chose Prospa as his main financier when traditional banks weren’t an option. “I was looking to buy some new concrete but the government here brought in a new ruling which meant the banks just weren’t lending,” says Damian. “We approached our bank and even though we had plenty of equity, they turned us down.”

Damian got in touch with Prospa and was “blown away” at how quick and easy it was to get funds for the business. “We sent an email, filed our financials online – which only took about five seconds – signed the documents and got our funds within 12 hours.”

Since then, he’s simply contacted his service agent for future loans and more recently a line of credit. “It’s so easy,” he says.

Quick access to funds helps Damian promptly snap up great deals. “When I see an offer that’s too good to refuse, I need to be able to tell the salesperson that I can have the money to them within a few hours. You can’t do that with a bank.”

“Prospa has given me peace of mind and enables me to run my business smoothly.”

Prospa’s line of credit is now available to customers in New Zealand, and Damian has taken advantage of it to give him even quicker access to funds when he needs them. “I often get people asking for a particular type of equipment to hire and if enough people request it, I want to be able to buy it quickly,” he says. “With the line of credit I can just transfer the money into my account immediately.”

Building relationships is the key to success

Staying true to his roots, Damian intends to keep his business local while maintaining exceptional customer service – even going so far as to add cosy chairs in a sunny spot on the premises.

Key to any business’s success, he says, is building trusted relationships with both suppliers and customers. “I know around two thirds of my customers by name,” he says. “I even know their dogs’ names. It’s the old way of doing things and it works.”

Need flexible access to funds that could help your business grow? Speak with one of our small business lending specialists.

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