When it comes to endorsements for your business, you can’t beat a Royal seal of approval from the Queen.
That is exactly what Romsey-based SHB Vehicle Hire and Management has – it proudly holds a Royal warrant for the supply and maintenance of the golf buggies used in the grounds of Buckingham Palace.
In addition, the SHB buggy is a familiar sight at Heathrow, the Farnborough Airshow, top hotels and at various music festivals where celebrity guests are whisked around. One was recently seen on the BBC’s Our Dancing Town programme – even Simon Cowell uses one to get around The X Factor set.
The buggies are just one arm of SHB’s impressive fleet of more than 15,000 vehicles, ranging from specialist transport for traffic management and road works, HGVs, refrigerated and agricultural vehicles to buses, cars and 4x4s.
Customers can be assured of 24-hour repair and maintenance every day of the year, and this commitment to first-rate customer service has earned SHB a reputation for excellence.
In fact, award-winning SHB Hire offers Europe’s largest 4×4 hire fleet and the UK’s largest buggy and ATV fleet.
SHB has more than 700 employees, runs its own apprenticeship scheme, and has 15 depots around Britain. It is the short-term hire vehicle supplier to Network Rail and last year it acquired Acklea, Britain’s leading traffic management vehicle specialist.
In its Romsey workshop, SHB now builds unique highways maintenance trucks with crash cushions, in addition to bespoke vehicle designs for customers.
At the heart of the company is the drive and business acumen of its chairman, Mike Street, who works closely with his son Paul as managing director, and has steered the company to become the multi-faceted enterprise it is today.
“We’ve had a lot of luck and good people working with us, but it’s been hard work,” said Street.
Street’s interest in working with vehicles and his entrepreneurial skills emerged at an early age. Street’s father ran a family building business, The South Hants Building Company, founded by his grandfather in 1923.
Street spent much time after school and in the holidays working on the building sites and booking the plant on and off sites. This developed into hiring out the equipment to other builders when there was a demand.
After college, Street joined the company and mainly concentrated on the hire side of the business, including platform hoists which were in great demand. The company’s transport fleet were Land Rovers which were used for pulling trailers.
In 1968, Street realised other civil engineers had a need for Land Rovers, which were in short supply, so he bought his first one for £150 and hired it out for £7 a week.
This was a boom time for building motorways, A roads and cross country pipelines, so Street built up his Land Rover hire business to meet demand. Once he was known for being able to supply the vehicles, people came to him – soon he was hiring out 40 Land Rovers in a day on big contracts. He also provided maintenance and repair services.
Lorries, tractors, vans soon followed and, on January 1, 1979, Street launched SHB Hire, with the former building company operating separately. In 1986, he successfully acquired 4×4 Hire – his biggest competitor – and the company continued to grow nationwide.
After the 2008 recession, SHB still turned a profit, mainly through vehicle sales and by taking over assets and contracts from other hire companies that had folded. From there, the fleet expanded massively.
Street said: “Customer service is the most important part of our business – we are proud of our reputation for quality. We run the most diverse vehicle hire fleet in the country – and our hire rate reflects the value of the service we provide.”