Midas touch

Wizard Workspace is one of the UK’s leading providers of short, medium and long term rental of aerial work platforms, associated industry products and services

Wizard Workspace has worked wonders on the Independent Access business, focusing on core markets and putting the firm back in the black three years after it went into administration. Not content with saving the company, Wizard directors have invested to ensure growth in mechanical and electrical and fit-out markets.

Wizard, which took over the company in 2004, had to redefine its customer base focusing on clients who pay strictly 30 days. This involved, in one case having to remove machines from the site because of slow payment. This is an issue that plagues many of the industries smaller to medium sized players. Andrew Fishburn, Wizard’s sales & marketing director, criticised the payment practices of some large companies, which he said were causing unnecessary anguish: “In every business cash is king, you can’t function without it, yet many large contractors take far too long to settle debts and pay bills. So we need to be focused on this even if it involves
refusing to deal with companies or worst case, equipment removal. This was a risk as they were significant turnover for us. Apart from delayed payment you can spend too much time and effort managing these accounts and chasing debt.”

Wizard Workspace Apr May 07 bHe continues: “I think the problems Independent had with customers not paying sufficient and in some cases delaying payment is a sector problem. When you deal with construction companies who are always waiting to be paid it can be difficult getting money from them. Although our equipment is vital nowadays to get people working safely at height, a lot of customers tend to pay their suppliers in terms of priority, (materials first for example) – unfortunately access suppliers are not top of the list. We have a huge amount of capital invested in the business. Profit is one thing, but cash is king. If you don’t actually have cash coming through the door then you can’t pay your bills. A lot of companies in this sector suffer from delayed payment and insufficient margin and that places huge strain on the business.”

After taking control of costs and reducing debts Wizard is now in the black and has ambitions to continue growing a now successful business. The company is aiming to for a profit of over £1 million this year alone, which is a fantastic transformation. “We have had a lot of hard work to do since 2004 and have transformed the company,” explains Andrew. “We have taken unnecessary cost out of the business and put back its focus. In addition, we increased investment in the fleet, improving our service provision and standard of our equipment, simple changes but essential in this sector, particularly if you want to succeed.”

Having world class equipment is highly beneficial, even if the initial cost is greater, long term benefits pay huge benefits.

“We are thankful to have fleet brand leading equipment like JLG and Genie,” says Andrew.

Tighter cost controls introduced by Wizard saw it centralise its hire control department situated in Norwich. This is served by a series of logistical centres within the UK: “We are a national company that can respond to people as if we are local, which is what people want. We listen and have a can-do approach, Clients want the advantage of having a national network, but the benefits of being able to speak to somebody locally who can fix their problem,” says Andrew.

“We kept the base in Norwich because the people there have proved to be very loyal and hard working. The decision to consolidate has turned out to be very beneficial and played a big part in the transformation of the company. Our people are highly motivated and want to do a good job. They do get challenged and they do get stretched, but they also get rewarded.”

An innovative company, never afraid to think outside the box, Wizard is claiming a first for its industry with the launch of a direct debit scheme, which will allow it to take payment from its clients every month. This is a measure taken by the company to ensure payments are made on time.

“There will be incentives for customers which sign up to this scheme, it is a very different way of working eliminating debt chasing which is time consuming for both parties. It’s early days, so we’ll have to wait to find out how successful this will be,” says Andrew.

Wizard is also spending £4 million in the next year on machines, particularly small electric machines. Its first batch will see 100 Bravi ‘Whizz’ powered personnel lifts and 100 JLG 2030 es scissor lifts added to the 1300 strong fleet. The investment, which focuses on low level access needs, will not be to the detriment of the big boom fleet, but will address the changing needs of the consumer: “We know where our strengths lie and so are targeting investment towards machinery that is relevant to these particular needs. We see the market shifting very much towards focusing on what we call low level access, so the Whizz lies between a scaffold tower and a 20-foot scissor and is aimed at firms that use podium steps – it fits perfectly with this changing trend.”

Concluding, Andrew, who outlined a number of challenges facing the industry, called for manufacturers to be more innovative in order to meet the demands of specialist contractors: “There are plenty of good handling devices but often access machines are built without the necessary capacity to aid construction work. Cladders, for
instance, need a purpose built machine that will unload panels from the lorry as well as put it on the wall. Meanwhile we will continue to make all aerial working easier, no matter the requirement. I think the future is bright with increased focus in working safe at heights and increased pressure on productivity.”