Where Earthmovers Go to Grow

Arrow-white Customer Profile: Atom Heavy Hire


Nov 14, 2019

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6 mins read

Stu Cowdell spent the first 20 years of his career building a technology business with two partners. Having successfully sold that business, he was looking for a new opportunity, when spotted a gap in the market in Auckland for a niche, heavy equipment rental business with a strong customer focus.


“My brother has a busy, well-established earthmoving business and from time to time when he needed specialist equipment he would hire it in,” he explains. “I set up Atom Heavy Hire specifically to meet this need.”

Starting with a single Padfoot compactor, and benefitting from some good timing that saw subdivision development boom in Auckland, the machine was hired out after just a week, and wasn’t returned for 18 months.

“Based on this success I bought a 5.5 tonne excavator, then, after talking to lots of contractors, we came up with the urban digger concept for 5.5, 8 and 14 tonners,” he says. “We provide diggers for many jobs in central Auckland and, because of this, have a range of excavators designed to work in the restrictions of the urban environment – all have zero swing so they can work in confined spaces and are fitted with rubber shoes so they are able to be driven on asphalt.”

Atom Heavy Hire

Stu also quickly realised the various advantages that come with having a late-model fleet: “I soon learnt about the downside of machinery ownership and suffered some losses due breakdowns. Consequently, all the Atom Heavy Hire machines are either new or near new and still under factory warranty, meaning they’re fully supported by the manufacturer.”

Not only does this provide Stu with some peace of mind, but his customers also benefit from the reliability and advanced technology that comes with a new piece of kit.

Further to this, his machines are all fully compliant with New Zealand health and safety regulations, something else Atom Hire’s customers don’t need to worry about. It’s worked in Stu’s favour too – he has gear on a contract in Puhoi, north of Auckland, purely because his gear enabled a contractor to respond quickly to a contract tender that needed gear that met specific requirements.

Atom Heavy Hire 2

With this focus on quality, Atom Heavy Hire offers heavy machinery manufactured by the big guns: Cat and Komatsu dozers and diggers, as well as Sumitomo diggers, and Cat and Sakai compactors. Also on offer is a wide range of attachments from Attach2.

“My very first excavator has an Attach2-supplied hitch on it,” he says. “Paul Thompson [Account Manager at Attach2] was very helpful, providing support and advice, and the quality of their gear is second to none."

“I’ve gone on to buy countless hitches from them – the tilt hitches on the 14 tonners are very, very popular with my clients. In fact, they will select my machines because they have them on them.”

“And the Attach2 range of grab buckets for the 5.5 tonners through to the 23 tonners are particularly good for clearing trees and demolition work.”

Stu says the combination of price, service and availability is why he chooses to partner with Attach2.

“They’re really good to work with. I guess they share the same business philosophy as me.

While good quality gear is a very important part of the equation in the equipment rental business, customer service is equally important.

“I’ve brought certain practices across from my previous business, one of them is a real focus on customer service: saying ‘yes’, and answering the phone,” he says. “I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten a job simply because I’ve answered the phone when a customer has called looking for gear!”

Having a close working arrangement with customers works well for Atom Heavy Hire, and consequently, Stu says he’s moving more into longer-term hires.

“Regularly, a client will take a machine for an entire season or a whole contract. I have many machines out working with my customers’ logos on them, not the Atom Heavy Hire logo.

“I work closely with my clients, provide the machines specific to what they need, and they take them for the entire contract. However, if the contract is cancelled or things change, they can simply send the machine back. No problem. It’s a low-risk option for them.”

Stu’s plan for Atom Heavy Hire is to become “the be the best hire company in Auckland, not the biggest.” And with his dual focus on quality and service, it seems it will be an achievable goal.


Written by Mary Bell
Photos and Video by Simon Johnston

Customer Profiles Couplers Buckets Grabs Hire

Simon joined the Attach2 team in 2018 and is well known for pointing a big camera around in addition to typing, lots of typing. He has a varied background in construction and management and is passionate about using his experiences to see businesses succeed through excellent visual and text-based communications. And yes Simon wrote this in 3rd person about himself."

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