In the first of our new ‘Platform People’ series, we hear from Mark Watters, founder of Shareplant, the peer to peer construction plant and tool hire rental platform.
“I believe that people are increasingly realising that our assets remain unused for much of the time, we don’t need to own as many things and we can rent things when we need to use them. This frees up cash for other things and, in the case of Shareplant, frees up capital investment to be spent elsewhere in our client’s businesses to help them grow in other areas.
I remember when I first heard about peer-to-peer platforms. I was on holiday in America and I was reading about the new upstart companies such as Airbnb, Uber and Lyft. It wasn’t really big in the UK then and it felt really new, fresh and exciting.
I’ve been part of the engineering and construction industry for over thirty years and I’ve been intrigued by low equipment utilisation factors and spare capacity. I see it everywhere – idle machinery on construction sites and in owner’s yards. To me, the use of assets should be maximised – they are here to work for the owners and earn them money – period!
Until now, it’s been difficult to resolve this without spending a lot of time trying to manually rent out spare equipment to friends and contacts. Shareplant solves this – it provides a way for owners of equipment to rent out their idle equipment to people who need it. It also provides flexibility in that the rentals can be with or without an operator, rented by the hour, day or night. We also provide the option for rentals with or without delivery.
The idea came to me while I was reading about Uber, Airbnb and Lyft on holiday. The ‘Eureka moment’ came to me whilst immersed in a glass of wine by just substituting the term ‘accommodation’ with ‘equipment’ into the Airbnb model. Of course, it’s not as simple as that because we are dealing with many different sizes and types of mobile equipment plus health and safety regulations, logistics etc – so we had to find solutions for those as we built the platform.
Interestingly, my customers are now starting to think outside of the box and they are now coming up with underutilised, money earning assets themselves for rent. For example, many construction companies own equipment storage yards. Sometimes these yards are not fully used so some of my clients are now renting out part of their yard space on Shareplant. Some are even advertising spare offices or desk space! It’s really got people thinking differently.
A typical day for me doesn’t start at the crack of dawn as it does for some entrepreneurs: I’m more of a night owl. The first thing I do in the morning is walk my dog, Baxter, or go to the gym. Then I get home and have breakfast with my family – that’s a real bonus having spent many years leaving for work early or away on business. I get to my office at about 8am and check emails and other correspondence that might have come in overnight. I then spend the morning working on blog articles, social media posts and email marketing. Generally, I spend the afternoons on client meetings or travelling to events to promote Shareplant. Evenings are then spent catching up again, but that is also when I am most creative and come up with new ideas for Shareplant.
One of our objectives is to build a community of trusted equipment sharers – we call them our Shareplant Tribe (find us on Facebook). Trust is so important in the sharing economy – especially with high value and complex pieces of construction equipment.
The construction industry is such a large, complex and diverse industry. There are literally tens of thousands of companies and hundreds of thousands of people to reach who hangout in different places. To grow our community, we use all marketing channels, including social media, to find them and let them know how Shareplant can help them to maximise their equipment utilisation.
Sharing equipment doesn’t only financially help business owners, it also provides huge environmental benefits by being able to find and rent equipment local to the construction project – rather than transporting it miles and miles, which is what currently happens. This reduces carbon emissions, wear and tear on the road infrastructure and congestion in our cities. We are passionate about the sharing economy and really do believe that we can make a difference to the world”.