Southern Fuel & Farm Supplies Ltd was formed in 1994 after the closure of the long established business of Suttons Ltd, Midleton. Maurice Smiddy had worked in Suttons for a number of years at that stage and felt ready to take the jump of going it alone and setting up his own business in the same area when the opportunity came.
According to Maurice while it was a difficult decision and something he and his wife Bridget were thinking about for a while, when the moment came and considering that they had a young family and all the usual pressures of that stage of life, it was really the outstanding support and encouragement they received from family, friends and customers that quickly reduced the early days worry and stress of starting a new business and replaced it with the buzz and excitement of building a business and a top team of people to help it grow and succeed.
We knew we needed to be different in our approach to what our competitors were doing. We knew we needed to bring new ideas and new products to our customers. We quickly realised that we were a small player in a game played by the big boys, the long established players with huge scale and massive resources. But we understood that while we did not have the power and strength of the big players, our smallness gave us some really important advantages. Quick decision making, flexibility, being able to change direction quickly and take up opportunities if and when they presented, listening directly to our customers and suppliers and understanding their needs and aspirations, and finally being there to take responsibility is something our customers appreciated. They could talk to the owner, to the boss. Farmers and domestic customers are the owners and bosses of their own business and households, and most really appreciate being able to talk to the boss, particularly if there is an issue or a problem. We were up for that in a big way Maurice says, and being there and available to listen to our customers has certainly served us well.
Early on advice from Accountants and business advisors – Deloitte to Maurice & Bridget about learning to delegate and about choosing very carefully additions to our team when bringing new people on board was one of the most important things learned at that time. Thankfully we learned quickly to choose wisely and that and the quality of the staff we have here today, from managers to technical sales people, drivers, stores and office people – they are the backbone of the company today and the future of the business tomorrow. Obviously our customers and their requirements are the reason for our existence. This is something we never ever take for granted. It’s a great pleasure for myself, Bridget and the many staff that are here from the beginning to still be dealing with customers that were with us in those early days, and today, to be doing business with them and their next generation is really something special for us. Our own next generation are in the business now, and again that’s a blessing not to be taken for granted and something that makes it all really worthwhile.
Our company is bigger today 20 years later. We have very strong connections with Barrett Agri in West Cork, Imokilly Oil and Jordan Agri in Carlow. The increased purchasing power within the group today gives us a major edge in dealing with suppliers where volume and buying power are vital in being able to pass on value to our customers. The support and loyalty of our suppliers has been paramount in helping us grow our business. like the support of our customers, its something we never ever take for granted.