There is no magic formula to running a successful business but passion and enthusiasm go a long, long way. James and Joseph Butler – the founders and directors of TFM Ltd. (Templetuohy Farm Machinery) – possess these qualities in abundance and this is one of the main reasons why their renowned John Deere dealership has developed into one of Ireland’s leading suppliers of farm machinery.
TFM Ltd. is Ireland’s premier importer and supplier of John Deere farm machinery, with five branches located in Thurles (Templetuohy), Clonmel, Portlaoise, Enniscorthy and Ballycallan, offering sales, service, parts and repairs.
As well as John Deere, they also hold agencies for many other leading brands of agricultural equipment, including Sauter front linkages, Lemken tillage equipment, Caterpiller telehandlers, Roland trailers and farm yard manure spreaders, Schafer Lader loaders, Tulip fertilizer spreaders, FELLA and N.C.
The business was established as Templetuohy Farm Machinery in the townland of Barna, near Templetuohy, County Tipperary in 1982 by brothers James and Joseph Butler. They secured the John Deere franchise in ’83 and have become synonymous with John Deere over the intervening three decades.
This has facilitated the sale and service of a wide and varied range of agricultural machinery and equipment including tractors and loaders, self-propelled forage harvesters, combines, sprayers, mowers and balers. The genesis of four additional outlets in counties Tipperary, Laois, Wexford and Kilkenny means TFM now boasts comprehensive coverage of the surrounding areas. From their most-recently-acquired branch in Ballycallan, County Kilkenny (which was purchased from Comerfords), TFM are also agents for Bredal fertilizer spreaders and Bogballe fertilizers.
TFM Ltd. operates a specialised computer package for the agricultural trade, which links all five branches. This link provides staff with instant information in relation to parts and products stocked in other branches, enabling them to provide a faster and more efficient service. They also have a direct link to John Deere HQ which allows them to order parts and products via the internet 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, facilitating a 24-hour service on parts ordering and availability.
The mission at TFM Ltd. remains to meet customers growing needs and requirements, to provide a reliable service and to continue to offer a wide range of products at competitive prices.
Offering sales and service in all the main product lines including tractors, combines, green crop equipment, sprayers and AMS precision farming systems as well as support programmes such as PowerGard maintenance and protection, TFM carries over €2.4m worth of parts in stock, with a 90% fill rate and a 99% next-day parts delivery service.
Reflecting on the establishment of the company, group sales manager Pat Costello notes: “James and Joseph set the business up in Barna, close to their home place, 31 years ago and the head office is still based there. Today, James is managing director, while Joseph is a director and also manages the Clonmel branch. As well as having a great knowledge of the agricultural machinery sector, both men are extremely passionate about what they do. This keen interest in the business comes from the top and is evident throughout the company, across all five branches.”
This is not a market where a quick sale will suffice. Back-up service is vital as farmers are utterly dependent on their machinery for their livelihoods. “Service is very important,” Pat confirms. “Selling the equipment is only the first step of an ongoing relationship. You have to provide an excellent service. To this end, we are very fortunate in that we have around 30 people working in the workshop side of things, each of whom is fully-trained and specialises in their own particular specialist area.
“The industry has become very high-tech and our staff have developed accordingly. We have excellent individuals here, including at least one guy who would be a dedicated specialist in a particular product. We also have a low turnover of staff and most of our employees would have at least 20 years’ experience. I’m here since the early ‘nineties myself and we find that the young lads who come in don’t want to leave.”
As well as offering quality machines / equipment, where John Deere / TFM really comes into its own is with its exceptional parts service. “During February to September of last year, which is our peak season, we had 97% of the parts that people needed here on the shelf and we were able to supply 99% of the remainder the following morning,” Pat reveals. “This means that if you buy John Deere and deal with us, you are practically guaranteed to have parts the following morning.”
It’s not hard to see why TFM has developed into Ireland’s most-popular importer and supplier of farm machinery. They have passion, experience, reliability, excellent staff, a strong product and an unrivalled back-up service. With a fleet of 20 service vans out on the road, nothing is ever left to chance in the ongoing quest to ensure complete customer satisfaction.
“When we get a call, we will go out to the farmer’s field to repair the machine on-site or we will take it in to our workshop –whatever it takes,” Pat continues. “That’s what you have to do in this business. A farmer cannot afford to be down a machine, it’s as simple as that. And we understand this fully. James and Joseph come from a farming background themselves and they can fully emphasise with what the farmer’s needs and requirements are.
“If we can’t fix it immediately, then we will replace it for a day of two until we have it running again. Whatever it takes. The owners are 100% committed to this business and they invest a lot of money back into it to ensure that we continue to provide the best service possible.”
Offering a wide range of new and second-hand machines for sale and for hire, TFM covers a wide catchment are that includes counties Limerick, Waterford, Tipperary, Kilkenny, Wexford, Wicklow, Carlow, Laois and Offaly.
Looking to the future, Pat concludes: “We are very optimistic. We have a very good product in John Deere and great people working in the company, with a wealth of experience and young people coming along as well. The owners are very passionate about farm machinery and this is the business they want to be in. We are expanding all the time.
“The next generation of Butlers is already involved in the business and the directors have built up a very strong team. There’s money being invested back into the business and, all in all, we are in very good hands.”
TFM Ltd. (Headquarters)
Barna, Templetuohy, Thurles,
Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 1 No 1, September 2013