After more than 30 years in the equipment hire industry in Port Macquarie, Peter and Trish Holmes know what it takes to build a business.
“Living on a knife’s edge is something you need to become comfortable with, you’ve got to be prepared to make mistakes (sometimes, big ones) and learn from them, and above all, willing to just give it a good, hard crack.”, reflects Peter.
The long-term success of their businesses ‘Loo Loos Toilet Hire’ and ‘Coastal Hire and Sales’ is credited to two guiding principles; great quality products and brilliant service.
Throughout their history, the business has committed to ensuring same day turn-around of hire items, and supplying fully maintained, safe equipment. They also pride themselves on their ability to be agile, responding to market needs in real time.
In true entrepreneurial style the Holmes’ saw an opportunity when legislation was passed in the 80’s stipulating that any building site with the sewer connected was required to have a sewer connect toilet hooked up.
At the time, Peter and Trish were running other businesses when they identified a gap in the market that they could fill immediately. They decided to get into the portable toilet business.
Loo Loos Toilet Hire started out small, with the purchase of 25 plastic shells in 1987 from a Sydney based hire company. They were then converted into sewer connect toilets. All of the toilets were painted red.
They offered free trials to six of the biggest building companies in town, and from there the toilet hire business snowballed.
Peter smiles fondly as he reflects on memories from those early days, “the ‘loos’ were delivered in the tray of our red XF Falcon Ute.”
He and Trish – and their 3 kids – were all working the business hard, putting in long days and physical labour to keep up with the immense growth occurring in Port Macquarie at the time.
Eventually the Loo Loos inventory included 120 sewer connect toilets, and in 1999 in the lead up to the introduction of GST in Australia – and the resulting construction boom – every toilet was out on hire with a waiting list that continued to grow.
At this time Peter and Trish “splashed out” and bought 10 new Formit PB15 toilets from Pat Keenan. This started a relationship that endures to this day.
When asked about their proudest moments in the business, Peter and Trish agree that securing the large Surf Life Saving Carnival at Bonny Hills Surf Club in 1998 was a turning point for Loo Loos in event hire.
“We secured a hire of ten of our new portable toilets – which were all delivered two at a time in the back of our red ute, with each trip around 30 kilometres”. Loo Loos then built a trailer with a boat winch which carried about 5 toilets – what an upgrade!
“Eventually in 2005 we took a leap of faith and purchased a brand new 16t Fuso truck that could carry 20 toilets AND IT HAD A HIAB!”
Other proud moments include the Air Show at the Port Macquarie Airport in the late 80’s, as well as securing a contract with Ironman Australia, when it first came to Port Macquarie in 2006.
In discussing the Ironman event, Peter explains “We pushed really hard to secure that event, and have done every Ironman Port Macquarie for the past 14 years, because of our quality and our service. Our staff have been brilliant in offering planning support, and delivering great service to Ironman and every other major event in Port Macquarie and surrounds”.
After the ongoing success of Loo Loos, Peter and Trish were searching for other opportunities. In 2006 they seized the chance to purchase Coastal Hire and Sales, a well-established Port Macquarie hire business specialising in site buildings.
They eventually sold all of their other businesses to focus solely on equipment hire under the Coastal Hire & Sales banner. In 2010 Coastal Hire started building their own site sheds locally in Port Macquarie and by 2011 their site building inventory had reached 180 sheds of all types and sizes.
In 2011 the company expanded to a second branch in Tamworth N.S.W. This branch is consistently growing.
Consistent with the initial approach to meeting market needs, Coastal Hire has embraced any opportunity to expand its product range and in recent years has branched out into access equipment, earthmoving, generators, trucks and trailers, as well as a range of smaller tools suited to tradespeople and home renovators.
Coastal Hire continues to be locally owned and operated by the Holmes family. The business employs 14 locals.
Peter and Trish are now retired and have passed the reins on to a full-time management team and board of directors whom they consult with on a regular basis. Peter and Trish are still completely vested in their business that they have built from the ground up.
They are proud of their legacy and of the people they have employed (many long term) and the extended ‘family’ they have built around them. They stress that it is imperative to create a good staff morale.
Peter and Trish are generous with the business knowledge and say “there are a few challenges facing those looking to get into the hire game these days; with WHS requirements, safety legislation, tax obligations and skilled labour shortages just some of the considerations.”
Coastal Hire is a big sponsor of sport and community organisations and see that as an important part of being a good corporate “citizen” – they are proud to be locals supporting locals.
Peter says, “Joining the H.R.I.A. has been one of the best decisions we have ever made. The benefits have been enormous from meeting other industry members to the huge amount of help that is available with membership”.
What’s Peter’s advice for those starting out?
“At the end of the day, it’s all about return on investment. When you make a decision, ask yourself, what will my return on investment be and how long will it take me to get that return?”.
It’s clear that in the case of Coastal Hire and Sales, that return goes a long way beyond dollars and cents.