Let’s start at the beginning… Mac Hobbs of Hobbs Recovery

Mac Hobbs has been actively involved in the industry since he was a teenager. As well as director of Hobbs Recovery Services in Eastbourne, he is currently chairman of the Institute of Vehicle Recovery, and a director of the Eastbourne and district Chamber of Commerce. An animal lover, his menagerie of chickens, two deformed cats and, soon to be added, some goats and sheep. He also has a rescue dog which he firmly believes is the only autistic retriever in the country – full of energy but totally mad! So what’s the story behind this keen aficionado of the recovery industry?

Let’s start at the beginning Mac…

What was you first paid job, if not to do with recovery, how did you break into recovery?

My first paid job was aged 13 when I worked on an Ice Cream van. My first real paid job was at 16 when I started work as a panel beater.
I got into the recovery industry when working as a panel beater, helping out on the obligatory Land Rover with Harvey Frost Crane and ex army Scammel Explorer. It still had the gunners hatch so we used to shoot pedestrians with a water pistol on our way to jobs. Great fun!

And your current job title?

Director of Hobbs Recovery.

Mac Hobbs

Mac Hobbs

How long have you worked in the recovery industry?
It’s really been 36 years. I first got involved with the industry when I was 15, working (unpaid of course!) for my Dad. I served my apprenticeship as a panel beater with Caffyns a large Leyland, Rover. Jaguar and Rolls Royce dealer. I then spent some time in other areas of the motor trade before forming Hobbs recovery Services with my then partner in 1989. (We are celebrating 21 years this year)

How many vehicles do you operate?

16 trucks

What was your first truck?
A Leyland Road Runner Beavertail

What was your favourite truck?
There are two really my first new truck which was a Mercedes 814 tilt and slide and my ford F450 with century underlift and top boom. Nice truck good equipment.

What was your worst buy?

I bought a side loader for a particular contract which was cancelled before it started. Fantastic engineering but very specialised.

What was the best time to be in breakdown/recovery?

The 1980s. It was a different world then. There was less regulation and vehicles were much easier to repair.

What do you feel is the most positive thing about the recovery industry?

The generosity and friendship. Most people in this business will help each other out. I had a recent example when a friend died unexpectedly while he was staying in a hotel in Staffordshire. I needed to get his car back quickly for his wife, so I called Davis Motors in Stafford, and asked if they could help even though it was Monday morning they collected straight away. I think that summarises the majority of operators in this business.

What frustrates you about the industry?

The complete lack of cohesion. Our relatively small industry is represented by several trade organisations they appear to be so busy looking out for themselves and fighting each other for members that they forget they are supposed to be representing the interests of their members. Regretfully they’re more like trade unions that trade associations.

What changes do you expect to see over the next few years?

I expect greater regulation and legislation, such as MOT’s being introduced for heavy trucks. Market forces will prevail, and customer demands will become greater, so I can see a need for formal training and accreditation for everybody in our industry.

What’s the most important lesson you have learned in life?

Never neglect your family. They are there to support you when things get tough, and to share in the good times.

What tips for someone starting out today would you have?
Don’t do it! Seriously though, make sure that you do your homework and are fully prepared. There’s more to this business than just loading and driving a truck, and you never know what surprises are around the corner. If you’re not fully prepared for the unexpected, then like ‘Sod’s Law’ it will happen.

What’s the biggest cock-up you’ve ever made?
We had a job recovering a vehicle from Beachy Head which went terribly wrong, because we weren’t properly prepared. We learned from the experience, and it’s a mistake I’ll never make again.

Do you have any hobbies outside work?
I enjoy playing golf, though I doubt I’ll ever get down to 16 handicap again. Riding my Harley Davidson is a joy and the rest of my time is spent looking after my collection of animals. Apart from the chickens, cats and the soon to arrive sheep and goats I also have the only autistic Labrador in the world. He’s so full of energy and absolutely mental, but I wouldn’t change him for the world.

Bella the autistic Lab!

Bella the autistic Lab!

Who do you think has been (or is) our best prime minister?
It’s a toss up between David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill.

What kind of car do you drive?
A VW Touareg. It’s the best driving 4×4 by far.

Do you have a favourite car or one you would like to own?
I love Jags, and my next car will be an XKR convertible.

Who in business do you most admire?
Alan Sugar. I like his ethos. He says what he thinks and thinks what he says, but he’s straight forward and honest to himself and to others so you know exactly where you stand.

What was the first record you bought?
Brown Sugar by the Rolling Stones which I bought from Boots in the days when they used to sell records.

What is your favourite film?
It’s got to be either ‘The Italian Job’ (the original) or ‘The Godfather’

What is your favourite food?
Anything Italian

What is your favourite place, anywhere?
Almeria in southern Spain. I have a house out there and always look forward to getting back there.

What alternative career would you have favoured if it had not been in the motor trade?
I would love to have been a chef (a fairly recent discovery) or a writer

If you could have a wish, what would you change most in our industry?
More cohesion. If we can get everybody working together, focussing on the needs of the operator and our customers, we’d have an industry we could be even more proud to be members of.

Mac Hobbs