In this exclusive Q&A, we learn about Pirtek USA, a B2B onsite and retail hydraulic hose replacement service. Nick Ridgway, Pirtek USA’s Franchise Development Manager, tells us about the hydraulic hose industry’s recession resistance, how Pirtek is faring during COVID and what’s next for the brand.
Franchise Chatter (FC): Tell us about your background. What attracted you to the franchise industry and Pirtek?
Nick Ridgway (NR): Prior to Pirtek, I worked in service-based businesses for 16 years – most recently at Scotts Miracle-Gro. Before working in service-based businesses, I’d never managed a franchise’s day-to-day business despite my exposure in franchising previously, but I soon realized there were many similarities from my customer service experiences as well. Things like timeliness, providing great service and developing business relationships are skills that transferred from my previous positions.
FC: For those unfamiliar, what is Pirtek USA?
NR: Pirtek USA is a franchise business model focused on on-site hydraulic hose replacement services and over-the-counter industrial parts. We make replacements quick and efficient to get our customers up and running again quickly – minimizing down time and maximizing productivity. Pirtek has been doing this for 40 years and currently operates in 23 countries with over 400 locations worldwide. In the USA, we have 98 locations in 25 states.
FC: What sets Pirtek apart from its competition?
NR: Especially in this industry, you want to provide a positive experience so the customer is satisfied and comes back again when necessary. Pirtek’s top-notch customer service from the request for service all the way to simple invoicing and follow up sets us apart. We make sure to have the necessary part available and show up to relieve an on-site problem in under an hour – creating an efficient, quick and easy process for the customer to get back to work immediately.
FC: How does the current economic state affect the hydraulic hose industry, and how does that illustrate Pirtek’s recession resistance?
NR: COVID has caused tighter budgets across all industries, forcing many companies who use hydraulic hoses to minimize buying newer equipment, thus compelling them to need constant part replacement on older machines. In this vein, our business has shifted somewhat more to replacement on older models without a reduction in our number of clients served in the process. We are no stranger to a constant demand during a recession, making us an essential business for machines to continue working. Despite the pandemic, we are still growing and expanding locations because we are able to operate at our normal capacity.
FC: It seems Pirtek products are everywhere. Can you explain how so?
NR: Pirtek products are consistently used in machinery that you see while driving or walking down the street but probably don’t notice. This is due to our excellent service that fills a customer’s need at the right time and our wide variety of unique products – hydraulic and industrial hoses. Hydraulic hoses are an essential part for machinery that moves, whereas industrial machinery does not move – for simplicity sake. For example, a crane that moves won’t operate without hydraulic power. So when you drive past construction or any moving machinery, you are also passing a Pirtek product.
FC: How has Pirtek fared during COVID, and are there any other related effects to note from it?
NR: The service we provide is adaptable for us to show up on-site or supply curb-side pickups while social distancing, depending on the customer’s need and desire. During COVID, we have stayed strong with none of our franchisees having to close. By the end of 2020, we should be at the same status as last year or even better – proving again our brand is recession resistant.
FC: Who is the ideal franchisee for Pirtek and what’s the industry learning curve?
NR: Our franchisees come from a variety of backgrounds, with only 16% coming from hydraulic or mechanical industries. You don’t need prior technical knowledge to thrive as a Pirtek franchisee. The ideal franchisee has a passion for business, has held leadership positions and is eager to learn. If they have a desire to operate and manage a business, they can be a successful owner with the right learning tools we provide.
In the beginning, Pirtek requires training for franchisees to learn about the product and understand our high-quality customer service techniques, but it’s a fairly quick process to get an owner up and running. Once they know the product and the brand, the learning curve continues to ease. Even after the first few months of taking in new information, you begin to learn more about new machinery, our various products and service that make our brand successful. During the process, franchisees have a great support system to lean on and learn from each other.
FC: How many stores are currently operating and where is Pirtek expanding next?
NR: We currently have 98 U.S. locations and are in the process of signing four agreements. So, we plan to exceed 100 locations by the end of the year. Pirtek has locations globally in the USA, Australia, Asia, Europe, Africa and soon – Canada. We are expanding into Canada and within the USA. Since we are already in 25 states, we want to expand even more to become a bigger national brand.
FC: Tell us about the company’s forward-looking growth plans.
NR: Pirtek has done some great things during COVID that include signing three franchise agreements and opening three locations recently. Meanwhile, the hydraulic service industry is worth about $1 billion and the industrial service industry is $1.2 billion. So, we plan to continue our growth by launching industrial products to become a one-stop-shop for all our customer’s needs. Once our franchisees are able to provide more service, we can cover more ground for our clients. This also provides a large new revenue stream and diversifies our offering.
FC: How can someone learn more about Pirtek?