AFTER Federation of Small Businesses research highlighted the challenges many firms face working in the public sector supply chain a family-owned hire company says Scotland’s councils must ensure they give local players a fair share of contracts.


Hayley Shevill.



What is your business called?

Arvill Plant and Tool Hire.

Where is it based?


What services does it offer?

Originally, we hired out power tools and drills, then bought our first digger. Now we hire out machines of up to 13 tonnes.

To whom does it sell?

We provide self-drive machines to civil engineers, landscape gardeners, general builders and construction companies. In the construction sector, we supply major players such as RJ McLeod and I & H Brown, the civil engineers, BAM Nuttall in railways, Mackenzie Construction in housing and infrastructure and Farrans, the UK and Ireland building giant. Local builders have been with us from the start and some 10 to 15 per cent of our business is with the public for DIY projects.

What is its turnover?

£2.8m in the year to October 2017, up from £2.5m the previous year. We are forecasting £3.1m this year.

How many employees?


When was it formed?

My father, Arthur, started the company in 1985. He had been working in Saudi Arabia and came home to spot a gap in the market for a reliable local hirer. At that time there were no B&Qs and the DIY hire market was in its infancy. He worked out of his garden shed and scoured the liquidation sales to build up stocks of saws and mixers and so on. The family all pitched in, with my mum, for instance, doing the invoicing.

Why did you take the plunge?

From a young age I was encouraged to form my own career path, but I think I always knew my vocation was to work in our family business. My father was my role model in life; I felt enormously proud and inspired by what he had achieved through honest hard graft. At 17, I enjoyed working during my summer and Easter holidays and it was at that time that I became more familiar with machinery and discovered my new passion, whilst learning the fundamentals of the business.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

I did a Bachelor of Education degree at Glasgow university and became a supply primary school teacher. Supply teachers don’t get paid for holidays so I ended up working back at Arvill and my dad started me on the selling side. I suppose I had an intrinsic motivation about working in the company which I didn’t get from teaching. Although I felt passionate about the teaching profession I became a little demotivated with the lack of job opportunities at that time, the constant curriculum changes, politics and the paperwork. I joined Arvill in 2014 as the field sales rep for two years, familiarising myself with the construction industry and our customer base and was appointed Commercial Director at the end of 2016.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

My father had savings from working in Saudi Arabia, plus he had a second job so didn’t take a salary in the early stages of the business being set up. He ploughed everything back into the business.

What was your biggest break?

When I picked up RJT, I & H Brown and Farrans as customers. I usually work from sales leads and cold calling is not my favourite aspect of my job, however, I converted these big companies just by dropping in and explaining what we could do for them. They have become regular clients and the connections have led to other substantial jobs.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

I love the people, both staff and customers.

What are your ambitions for the business?

My sister, Amy, who is our HR manager, has two children and works part-time with us. As her family grows up, she will want to become more fully involved with the business. Although our personalities are different, we share many of the same qualities, particularly with regards to our passion for the future development of the business.

We have a mutual respect and a desire to see each other succeed and grow, a desire strengthened during time spent working on a growth strategy, when we attended the invaluable ‘Building for Growth’ course run by hub South West last year.

What are your top priorities?

Diversifying our offering and buying innovative new machinery in order to attract a wider pool of clients. I spend a lot of time filling out forms to get onto approved lists, supervising training and attending corporate Meet the Buyer events. We are also recruiting, with a priority being another new sales executive.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

The Scottish Government has tried to make public sector procurement open to more local and smaller companies, but the good intentions at Holyrood are taking a remarkable time to translate into action. We have to jump through hoops with Public Contracts Scotland, but councils still seem to have their favourites, usually big, national firms. Out of 33 councils in Scotland, our conversion rate has been poor, and this is something we need to work on.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

Not to take things personally. Resilience is key, particularly as a young woman within a heavily male-dominated industry. Some guys think you don’t have a clue, so they feel entitled to make off-the-cuff comments which you have to shrug off. I try to change perceptions by exceeding expectations and delivering what they need before they know they need it.