Alistair Hodge founded Hodge Plant 30 years ago with just one machine. Today the business has a substantial fleet of premium equipment for sale and rent and also operates Duneaton Quarry in Abington.
The firm has experienced steady growth over the past three decades and in 2013 their search for a premium dealership
resulted in them becoming Scottish dealers for Case
Construction – a move which has proved extremely fruitful.
Alistair tells Gary Moug about a lifetime in plant, future plans and an enduring love of motorcycle racing…
Q) What’s the history of Hodge Plant?
A) I started Hodge Plant in 1986, having previously been a machine operator. I bought my first machine – a backhoe loader from Morris Leslie – and became an owner/driver. We gradually grew over the years.
The contracting side of the business went from earthmoving to building wind farms. The plant hire side of things started off with a few machines and grew to over 120 machines. We’ve trimmed that back now to specialise in contract crushing. We’ve been marketing Case machines for three years, which has been very important as it’s given us room for expansion and room to develop the whole company.
Q) What does the future hold?
A) We’re opening a new depot in Nairn to give our customers in the north some comfort that we’re going to have a presence there to back them all the way. We’ve also recently bought a two-acre site next door to our Hamilton HQ. We’ll be building a new workshop there with spraypainting and refurbishment divisions. We’ll also have a manufacturing division and we’re going to start making our own buckets.
We’ve just won a large contract in Ayrshire which takes in five quarries and five crushing operations.
Q) What would surprise people about Hodge Plant?
A) What Hodge Plant succeeds on is that I’m still running it on level terms with all the employees. It’s one big family. Our employees range from one year up to almost 30 years of employment. If you look after the men, the men will look after you. It’s a two-way road. There’s got to be long-term trust. We attract some very good employees because of that type of business set up.
Q) How has the industry changed since you started out?
A) Over the last 10-15 years it has become extremely competitive. There are far more companies now chasing the same thing than what there was.
The Case products help us stand out. Anyone who has tried Case products knows they are very reliable and competitive pieces of equipment. You will only sell a machine to someone if you have the whole package, which is service, backup, sales and quality of product.
Q) What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
A) A guy once told me, and I always remember this, ‘your next job’s only as good as your last’ and ‘repetitive work is the best work you’ll get’. For any business to succeed, I think you’ve got to aim to have two-thirds of your business being repeat business.
Q) What advice do you have for youngsters considering a career in the industry?
A) My advice to any young person starting out in any career would be to do something you want to do and something you enjoy, because if you’re not enjoying it you’ll never succeed in anything. That’s what I always quote to my own sons. I make sure that business does not take over my whole life.
Q) What dealerships do you have?
A) We’re Atlas Copco dealers in Scotland for rollers, which has been very good. We give that as much attention as we do the Case dealership.
Case has now excelled itself, with a lot of input from the Case directors. Scott Freeman (business director for Case Construction Equipment UK and Eire) has backed us from day one. We’re also getting a lot of backing from Jane Whittle (Case’s network development manager in the UK). We now have our own dedicated Scottish business manager for Case, Gordon Wallace, who is going to be based in Nairn.
I’m quite pleased that, after three years of selling one of the top brands, we’ve attracted a lot of big customers. The likes of Gordon Bow, Elliot Henderson and Duncan Plant have came with us and are very happy with what we’re doing. Our Hamilton depot runs five full-time fitters preparing new machines to go out and doing the day to day servicing work.
Q) How are you finding the industry generally at the moment?
A) I think the industry’s looking good. I don’t like short-term views. Long-term views are what I’m into and I think if you take a long-term view, there’s definitely good light at the end of the tunnel.
Anyone who has a short-term view right now when things are so competitive will not have something to build on.
Q) What can we expect from Case at ScotPlant this year?
A) A mindblower of a stand! We’re going to put on a good show. We’ll have a large selection of machines to target every sector in the construction industry.
These shows play a big part – if you don’t attend them it’s noticeable and you’re forgotten about. Our stand is right in the centre of the exhibition ground, it’s massive.
Case always put on a good show at these events. At Intermat they had an absolute showstopper of a stand. They’ll also have a huge stand at bauma.
Q) How do you relax when you’re not working?
A) We’re very active in motorcycle racing. I own and run a race team. We do the Spanish Championship. My son Josh, who’s 14, is going to be the youngest Scottish rider to ever ride in British Superbikes this year.
My whole relaxation is the racing background. I spend all my spare time developing and progressing this race team. Motorbike racing has been a huge part of my life and will continue to be.