Today you’d struggle to find an Australian who didn’t recognise the signature orange signage of Kennards Hire. So what’s the story behind the great Australian family business? The company’s owner Andy Kennard and director Angus Kennard recently joined Peter Switzer on Sky Business Channel’s SWITZER.
Now in its 67th year of operation, the business started out in Bathurst as a one-man band fronted by Walter Kennard.
“He was a true entrepreneur. He would see opportunity, gaps and needs and he would just fill them in,” says Andy. “He was a rural supplies agency in Bathurst.”
After multiple requests for the use of the concrete mixer he had on hand, Walter decided to begin hiring it out to people. Once the business began to grow, sons Neville and Andy took over operations.
“He said ‘I think it’s time that you took over’,” recalls Andy. “There were young bucks coming through with more energy and drive and he said ‘you take it’.”
A stage of growth
Since its early days, Kennards has seen rapid growth.
“There was certainly growth in the 70s and 80s and we started a number of different businesses, a number of specialised hire businesses and that’s when self-storage started,” says Andy.
“The growth really happened from about 1995 when we brought in the first outside CEO of Kennards Peter Lancken … he saw the opportunity to consolidate the industry nationally and so we did a lot of acquisitions in the 15 years that he was there so we grew probably five times in that 15 years.”
Now with more than 149 branches in Australia and New Zealand, the business has a strong foothold in the industry, thanks to strong identification with the market.
“People these days want to get a lot of these assets off their balance sheet and so hiring provides a good option, a good alternative to that. There’s always a lot of other issues as far as maintaining the equipment and storing the equipment,” explains Angus. “In the mid-2000s there was a bit of a phase with shows like The Block and people were doing home renovation … but that’s probably only 20 per cent of our business.
“A lot of the business comes from trades and the man-in-the-van and that’s our bread and butter – of servicing those customers,” he says.
The strength of the Kennards brand has far exceeded expectations, says Andy.
“It’s grown far bigger than I ever imagined or could ever imagine. In the 70s and 80s when we grew it, it was very structured and slow and we didn’t like debt and we kept it within our capabilities. Then when Peter came on board he saw the opportunities,” he says. “It’s all due to our people … we’ve now got an external CEO, an external chairman of the board and we have an external formal board that really contributes so much to that.”
“We’ve had fantastic growth over the last 15 years. We’ve doubled in size every five years,” he explains.
As for the future, Andy sees the business simply improving on its already strong position in the market.
“We’ve got the people, the structures, our systems are quality and our culture is really there and we see there’s no reason for that to change,” he says. “We’re not going to go and be treading on other people’s toes. We see an avenue where we can grow within our own area of business, knowing that Kennards has 80 per cent in the trade and smaller builder market and we’re going to continue in that area.”