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Rising Through the Ranks

06/04/2017 | General

Pirtek has helped cure one man’s wanderlust whilst providing him with an opportunity to own not one but two dedicated Hose Centres of his own.

Andy Connell left college with all the qualifications he needed to become a plant fitter, an ambition he was to satisfy with Kent-based plant dealer Ernest Doe & Sons Ltd.   But even though his educational career had led him down a spanner-wielding path, Connell’s true passion remained elsewhere.   “I always wanted to be an HGV driver,” he remembers.   “For as long as I can remember, I had wanted to be out on the road, on my own.”

He got his chance. In 1995, Andy joined Digby International Transport and spent the next two years trekking across the highways and byways of the UK and much of Europe.   “But being an HGV driver is the job of a single man,” Andy says.   “And when I met the lady that would become my wife, I knew that I needed a more stable job, one that would keep me closer to home.”

Good Books

Andy recalls speaking to a friend who suggested that he try to find a job within the Pirtek UK network, calling upon his plant fitter skills to earn a place as a Mobile Sales and Service Technician (MSST).   “I approached several Centres including both Pirtek Kidderminster and Pirtek Birmingham,” he says.   “For a long time, neither was hiring but I badgered the owner of Pirtek Birmingham and he eventually gave me an interview before taking me on as an MSST in 1997.”

It was a job that would satisfy Andy’s desire to be on the open road whilst making maximum use of his skills and keeping him in the good books of his wife Lyndsey.   “Management was not my forte and I never really considered a career progression in that direction,” he says.   “I was quite happy when I was promoted from MSST to Senior MSST.”

The Pirtek career ladder was not quite satisfied with Andy’s progression yet.   And in 2001, Andy – together with the former Pirtek Birmingham Centre Manager Andy Rogers – made the giant leap to business ownership, purchasing the Centre from former Licensee Roger Wynne.

“It was a massive step but in many ways it played to our strengths,” he recalls.   “Andy Rogers was very sales oriented and his wife dealt with the financial side of the business, leaving me to continue largely as senior MSST.”

While the leap from Senior MSST to co-Licensee was good news for Andy and for Pirtek Birmingham’s customers, it was not greeted as such by several of Andy’s former MSST colleagues.   “Some of the other MSSTs resented me switching from being their colleague to their boss,” he says.   “We lost a few of the team and that was a really challenging period.   But we stuck with it, recruited sensibly and strategically and ultimately emerged stronger.”

Expansion Trail

In 2006, Andy and his wife bought out his partner Andy Rogers to become sole Licensees of Pirtek Birmingham, leveraging his excellent relationships with local companies such as Smurfitt Kappa and the local demolition community that includes Armac Group, DSM Group and Coleman and Company to establish a thriving business employing 15 staff and backed by eight mobile service vans.

Andy Connell is keen to stress, however, that owning a Pirtek franchise requires a great deal of hard work and dedication.   “There are rewards to be had with a Pirtek franchise but you have to be willing to devote your life to reaping those rewards,” he insists.   “If you think you can switch off your phone at 5pm on a Friday and then switch it back on at 8 am on a Monday, then a Pirtek franchise is not for you.   But if you are willing to work hard, put in the hours and listen and respond to your customers’ needs, then it is a great business to be in.”

 

That hard work was not sufficient to put off Andy Connell, however.   In 2008, he and his wife bought the nearby Pirtek Redditch, adding the likes of Marubeni-Komatsu to its impressive roll-call of blue chip customers.   “Pirtek Redditch was struggling but I could see it had potential,” Connell says.   He was right.   When he purchased the Centre, it operated just one mobile service van.   Today, it requires four to satisfy local demand.   “The secret to running multiple franchises is having around you a dedicated and reliable team that share your passion for the business,” Andy insists.   “I am fortunate that I have a great team of people around me that allow me to concentrate on running and growing the business.”

Flushed with Success

Not surprisingly, competition in England’s second city is fierce and Andy Connell and his team are constantly seeking new ways to provide customers with reasons to entrust their hydraulic hose repairs to Pirtek Birmingham.  

One of the most successful has been the introduction of a mobile hose flushing service.   “We were asked by a customer to quote on a significant quantity of hose assemblies to be made for an installation they had a contract for, but a special request was made for all the hose assemblies to be flushed to a particular NAS cleanliness standard,” he says.   “We initially struggled to find a suitable supplier to carry out this job for us, so had the idea that we would look to provide the service ourselves.”

Andy reports that the principle is straightforward.  Oil is passed turbulently through a newly-made hose to remove contamination, a major cause of hydraulic system failure.   “When a hydraulic hose is cut particles of rubber, fibre and possibly metal are generated and this can contaminate the inside of the hose,” Connell explains. We connect newly made hoses to a specifically designed flushing rig and the hose is flushed until the desired cleanliness level is reached on the inbuilt laser particle counter. We can also use this type of equipment on newly installed Hydraulic Ring main systems,” he explains.   “Some of our competitors might be able to sell the hose cheaper but no-one else offers this value-added service.”

Despite his protestations to the contrary, it is clear that Andy Connell is far more of a businessman than he might have you believe.   But that doesn’t mean that he isn’t hands-on.   “Given the choice of handling invoice queries and checking stock lists or being out in the van, meeting customers and resolving problems on site, I would take the van option every time,” he concludes.   “I have a desk but I don’t sit behind it eight hours a day and I take any opportunity I can to get the overalls back on.”

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