Op­er­a­tor Pro­file: Bran­catella Plant Hire

Bran­catella Plant Hire has hit its 45th year in the con­struc­tion in­dus­try but it hasn’t al­ways been a ride in the park for the fa­ther-daugh­ter­run busi­ness

Earthmovers & Excavators - - Contents - This ar­ti­cle has been re­pub­lished with the per­mis­sion of www.brisve­g­as­ma­chin­ery.com.au

We caught up with Leisa Stone, the daugh­ter of Vito (Bill) Bran­catella to hear about how Bran­catella Plant Hire came to be, which was, ac­cord­ing to Leisa, very hard work, long hours and a will to suc­ceed.

WHAT KIND OF BUSI­NESS IS BRAN­CATELLA PLANT HIRE?

Bran­catella Plant Hire is a wet hire earth­mov­ing busi­ness op­er­at­ing through­out south-east Queens­land. Half of our busi­ness comes from gen­eral hire and the other half is civil con­tract­ing works. Start­ing out with just a back­hoe, the Bran­catella fleet is now made up of ex­ca­va­tors, track load­ers, skid steers, back­hoes, graders, drotts, bob­cat com­bos, rollers, trucks, wa­ter trucks, truck and quads and float hire.

HOW DID BRAN­CATELLA PLANT HIRE COME ABOUT?

Con­struc­tion machinery wasn’t what most would have guessed my fa­ther, Bill would get in to, es­pe­cially be­ing a hair­dresser by trade. When Bill and Denise moved up to Bris­bane from Mel­bourne back in 1968, he was work­ing three jobs to sup­port his soon-to-be fam­ily of three. Bill was cut­ting hair by day and clean­ing of­fices by night. Dur­ing one of his clean­ing shifts, he was in the laun­dry room and got talk­ing to another gen­tle­man. He asked him what he did for work and he in­formed Bill he laid new sewer mains for the coun­cil, earn­ing him money Bill had never dreamt of. There hap­pened to be a job go­ing which the gen­tle­man was happy to put Bill’s name for­ward for and the next week he hung up the scis­sors and be­gan his first labour­ing job.

Bill moved around a bit; work­ing for the coun­cil he learned how to op­er­ate an ex­ca­va­tor. He then moved onto de­tail­ing cars for a stint – to a fore­man for a pipe-jack­ing com­pany and fi­nally work­ing as a back­hoe op­er­a­tor for a gas com­pany. Af­ter a year op­er­at­ing the back­hoe,

Bill was given the op­por­tu­nity to pur­chase the used ma­chine. He ap­plied to a num­ber of banks to get the fi­nance but was re­fused each time due to no col­lat­eral.

Fi­nally, Bill caught his break; NAB was will­ing to give him a chance. They loaned him the money for the back­hoe and V & DM Bran­catella was born.

HOW HAS BRAN­CATELLA GROWN?

Once Bill had that first ma­chine, he didn’t stop, work­ing seven days a week more of­ten than not. He would al­ways be look­ing for more work. Even­tu­ally, he landed a con­tract with one of the gas com­pa­nies, who were look­ing for two ma­chines. So he went back to NAB and got a loan for a sec­ond ma­chine. From there he con­tin­ued to ex­pand, slowly grow­ing the Bran­catella fleet. The or­gan­i­sa­tion cur­rently has a hire fleet of more than 80 ma­chines.

Run­ning a busi­ness is hard and if you want to see re­sults you have to work hard

HOW DID YOU COME TO WORK IN THE FAM­ILY BUSI­NESS?

It wasn’t un­til I was about 20 years old that dad asked if I would be in­ter­ested in help­ing him and mum. The busi­ness had about eight ma­chines at that stage and they needed a hand with an­swer­ing phones and do­ing the ac­counts ... both of which I had no ex­pe­ri­ence in. But just like dad, I was a hard worker and never turned down a chal­lenge. Know­ing noth­ing about ac­counts when I started, I’d spend hours teach­ing my­self ev­ery­thing, how to do profit and loss state­ments, in­voic­ing and writ­ing up new plans to buy more equip­ment. I started out just want­ing to help dad but then I could see great po­ten­tial and wanted to grow it. I had grand plans which dad didn’t al­ways lis­ten to. It was a tough sit­u­a­tion, be­ing a girl in an Ital­ian fam­ily; tra­di­tion­ally women weren’t meant to work but I didn’t let that stop me. I got some things hap­pen­ing with dad’s ap­proval and we grew the team from my­self and another ac­counts lady to eight of­fice staff and pur­chased sev­eral more ma­chines and trucks.

HAS IT BEEN AN EASY RIDE SINCE START­ING OUT?

Ab­so­lutely not. In 2012, the busi­ness took a hit due to the GFC. I had left the busi­ness a few years prior to pur­sue other ven­tures but came back as soon as dad asked for my help. I looked over ev­ery­thing and saw there were many is­sues across the board and a lot of changes had to be made and fast. We looked at ev­ery­thing: changed fuel sup­pli­ers, grease sup­pli­ers, parts sup­pli­ers. It was a tough year but within 12 months we were able to cut thou­sands of dol­lars of ex­penses just by look­ing at the small things. By the end of 2013, the busi­ness was well and truly on the path to re­cov­ery. We were back in the game.

Since then, the busi­ness has con­tin­ued to flour­ish and we now have a fleet of over 80 ma­chines and trucks, in­clud­ing: ex­ca­va­tors, track load­ers, com­bos (mini-ex­ca­va­tor and track loader), tan­dem tip­pers, truck and dogs, truck and quads, semi tip­pers, wa­ter trucks, mox­ies and floats for hire.

WHAT AD­VICE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN LOOK­ING AT START­ING A CON­TRACT­ING BUSI­NESS?

Run­ning a busi­ness is hard and if you want to see re­sults you have to work hard. Don’t just take any work that comes at you; be smart in your deal­ings. We have turned down nu­mer­ous con­tracts be­cause we have re­ceived bad credit in­for­ma­tion. We are very strict with our terms and be­cause of that strin­gency we do cost our­selves cus­tomers and work at times, but it’s bet­ter to be safe than sorry.

Cus­tomer ser­vice should also be a pri­or­ity. We like to en­sure we can pro­vide the best ser­vice be­fore we overex­tend our­selves by tak­ing on work we don’t have the ca­pac­ity to fill right then and there.

Many busi­nesses are too quick to ex­pand and that is where you can run into trou­ble.

WHAT DO YOU REC­OM­MEND LOOK­ING FOR WHEN BUY­ING A MA­CHINE?

It is about so much more than the price you pay for a ma­chine. To us, it is the af­ter­sales ser­vice that is the most im­por­tant. That means more to us than any price you pay for a ma­chine.

Bad af­ter­sales ser­vice means down­time, loss of work and more. It’s not easy to find out what a busi­ness’s af­ter­sales ser­vice is like, so ask those in the in­dus­try who have pur­chased from them and find out how quickly they re­spond to is­sues, can they get a tech­ni­cian on site within a rea­son­able amount of time, and do they have a well-stocked spare parts depart­ment.

Those sorts of things could cost you more than the sav­ings you made on buy­ing a les­s­ex­pen­sive ma­chine.

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