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Hire & Rental Australia



If there’s a statement that sums up Mark Burton best, it’s ‘if you say no to me, I’m going to say yes’. Mark and his wife Trish have been running Barossa Valley Hire in South Australia for 30 years. It’s a business that’s grown from one small hire shop providing jackhammers and hand tools to home handymen to five separate businesses servicing customers across the Barossa and metropolitan Adelaide. The Burton’s hire journey started inauspiciously, with Mark simply helping out a neighbour. “The little hire place across the road from where we lived was run by a truck-driver and his wife,” recalls Mark. “I used to go over on weekends and tinker, and we became good friends.”

“When he decided to go on holiday, I took a week off work to look after the business. We would do two hires in a day if we were lucky, and I remember saying to Trish that I couldn’t do this full time because it was so boring.” But when the owner of Complete Hire said he wanted to sell the business, and with Mark looking for his next job opportunity, they decided to take a chance, knowing that everything the business owned, fitted in a 6 x 8 metre shed. Despite their accountant telling them there was no money in the business and that they’d never survive, they decided to forge ahead, eventually securing a bank loan for $50,000 to buy the business.

Mark and Trish took over on 1 February 1994 and six weeks later, their second child, Travis was born. It was a tough first two years. With high interest rates on their loan and Trish at home with Travis (and Blake, then 18 months old), Mark worked relentlessly. The focus was on surviving, paying down debt and putting food on the table. He says it’s because they’d always been taught that if you can’t afford it, you don’t have it. “In the early days we’d save, buy, save, buy. We’d only give ourselves money to feed our family and everything else went back into building the business,” says Mark. “So, there were times when we’d ask ourselves, ‘what have we done?’”.

A year into the business, Mark went back to the bank to borrow an additional $50,000 for their first piece of access equipment, a trailer mounted cherry picker. When that request was denied, they approached a family member who loaned them the money. The next challenge came a year later, when the South Australian government required operators of high-risk access equipment to be trained and licensed. With no alternative but to do the training, Mark gained qualifications as a competency assessor, opening up a new avenue for generating business income. He became the first person in South Australia to develop a training program for access equipment over 11 metres and only the second person registered with SafeWork SA to provide training and issue licences. However, their big break in hire came when they were asked by a customer if they could supply 15 x 12 metre steel scaffolding to a winery. True to form he said, ‘yes, no worries’. “The winery couldn’t believe they’d finally got someone to the Barossa to help,” says Mark. “They told everybody and that really got our business going. Our confidence started to build as more wineries came to us, to the point we were sub-hiring so much equipment it was ridiculous.”

It also became the basis for their business plan to grow as quickly as they could by always going the extra yard for customers. “It’s about supplying a service and helping fix someone’s problems,” says Mark. They now run five businesses — general hire, event party hire, sand and metal, access
hire and a liquid gas business delivering 45kg bottles to households. They’ve also been publicly recognised, winning small business awards in South Australia and becoming the first company to
be inducted into the South Australia Great Hall of Fame. In 2007 and 2010, they also won the HRIA rental company of the year, the first South Australian company to do so.
Mark says it was great to receive recognition for what they’d achieved with their business. “You’re usually head down working all the time so to have others recognise how good you are, meant a lot to all of us, not just our family but our staff as well.” While Mark is the public ‘face’ of the company, he knows it’s always been a team effort with Trish. “The reality is, none of our success would
have happened without her support and hard work,” he says. “If anyone deserves the accolades, it’s Trish.”


They’re now looking to downsize over the next 12 months to focus on the fundamentals, general hire and access. Mark says they need to scale back to grow. “It sounds counter-intuitive, but sometimes you need to become smaller to maintain your focus on growing what’s important.” He’s also keen to finally gain some balance in his work and life. “I’ve got to learn to let go and not feel like I should be at work,” says Mark. “I need to get that in my head.” It’s because Mark doesn’t know anything else but work. “We’ve always wanted to build a legacy for our kids,” he says, “that’s the long-term plan. But the only way they’re going to succeed is if I get the hell out of here!”

Now, looking back on 30 years of business, Mark says he still loves the industry. He recalls attending his first industry convention as a ‘back shed guy’ and being amazed that

some of the big players in the industry were happy to engage with him. “I sat at their table over lunch and thought I’m so far out of my league, but I was in awe of these guys,” he says. “They were presidents of the industry and never in my wildest dreams did I think I would one day end up with that position.” But he did, sitting on the South Australian Executive Committee for over 25 years,

becoming South Australian President for four years and finally, President of the HRIA, a role he held until 2022. “When I took on the role of national president, I strongly believed that I could make a change,” says Mark. “I’m so passionate about the industry and even though the industry has given us a lot, you’ve got to give back as well. That’s why I loved being on the industry boards. I learned a lot but also believe I provided good input and was able to push through issues that I felt were important.” “To be able to do what we’ve done and create a great business, but to get to where I did with the association and become national president, that’s a massive achievement.”


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