Over the past 30 years and counting, Tom Riordan Farm Buildings has established a firm reputation as one of Munster’s premier erectors of all kinds of sheds and agri buildings, providing bespoke one-stop shop solutions with everything handled in-house from start to finish. We travelled to the picturesque village of Bruree in County Limerick and interrupted Tom’s busy schedule to find out more about this industry-leading, family-run enterprise.
Since its genesis in 1989, Tom Riordan Farm Buildings has set the standard when it comes to constructing high-quality agricultural buildings, delivering products and service levels that simply cannot be beaten. Covering the entire Munster region from his base in Bruree, Tom boasts a wealth of experience as a fabricator / erector and this is backed up by genuine passion and enthusiasm as well as the keenest attention to detail.
A comprehensive range of farm buildings is provided through one point of contact – from groundworks to installing doors and mats – which results in a steady flow of business through repeat custom and positive referrals. The ten-strong team are kept busy all year around and the order book is decidedly healthy, with Tom Riordan Farm Buildings totally booked out this side of Christmas.
One of the key strengths of the business is that they provide a one-stop shop solution, which goes a long way towards simplifying matters for farmers: “It’s certainly easier for farmers to deal with one person rather than getting in different people for steel and concrete, etc. which can often turn out to be a disaster,” Tom notes. “The farmer is spending a lot of his hard-earned money in one outlay and he needs to get not just a good product but also good advice.
“I really think it’s important to realise and respect the money that farmers are investing into their buildings. In return for that, they deserve the best product and service. Once he gets a robust and high-quality building that’s finished well, then he’s happy out.
“I don’t come from a farming background myself but I have seen people making huge mistakes with their farm buildings down through the years. Putting that experience to good use, I’m in a position to provide very good advice and it’s then up to each individual farmer to decide whether or not to take that advice on board.”
As a family business, with Tom’s wife Carmel involved as well as their four sons, Tom Riordan Farm Buildings prides itself on providing a personal, transparent and friendly service. “We are direct and open,” the amiable Tipperary native confirms. “Anybody who is thinking of getting some work done can call to our house and I will go through everything with them in detail. When we sign up the contract, I’ll specify what the payments are going to be, outline exactly what they are getting for their money and give a precise timeline, that way the customer knows what the outlay is going to be and what the payment schedule is. It’s important to be upfront with people. The way I operate, everything is on the table from the word go and there is no hidden agenda or hidden costs.”
Indeed, it’s no exaggeration to point out that Tom’s reputation as a man of integrity, honesty and dependability precedes him. “We don’t need to advertise because we are well known for the service we provide. Word of mouth has been very important in the growth of the business. We have around 200 core customers and I’d say that if you were to ask any of them where they got my number from, they would tell you it was a referral from a previous customer.”
Tom was only 15 when he set out on his current career path by joining O’Dwyer Steel in Dundrum. “I served my time as a fabricator of sheds and industrial buildings but I was anxious to get into the erecting side of it because I really like working at heights,” he reflects. Having worked as a sole trader for more than 20 years, he established a limited company three years ago as staff numbers had risen in response to demand for his services.
Today, Tom Riordan Farm Buildings specialises in erecting a full range of agri buildings from start to finish, from initial dig out to slats, tanks, sheeting, cubicles, barriers, mats and doors. “Everything is done in-house,” he states. “The only thing I don’t do is the electrical side of it but, if a client is happy for me to do so, I can bring recommend electrical contractors to look after all the electrical work.”
From his dealings with the agricultural community down through the years, nay decades, Tom has nothing but respect for farmers. “To be fair to them, they are very decent people. They have been my bread and butter for years now and I find that they are very fair to work with. When it comes to payments, etc., they are solid people.”
It goes without saying that Health & Safety is a major consideration. To this end, Tom ensures that all his erectors are fully trained and regularly upskilled, while the recent acquisition of a new rotary teleporter at a cost of €200,000 underlines his commitment to getting things done safely, efficiently and professionally. “It’s a large investment alright but safety is critical and we make sure all our men have their manual handling, harness and Safe Pass training. It’s vital that you keep on top of this.”
Are there any particular types of structures / buildings in big demand at present? “New cubicle areas and calf sheds are huge right now and we do a lot of them from January until April. There are a lot of more stringent stipulations about calves now and the directive that they have to be kept for 28 days instead of 14 places a huge burden on farmers. So facilities for calves are huge and we already have a lot of those booked in for the four months after Christmas.”
Standard or bespoke buildings can be provided. “Most of them are 76×40, five or six bays with pens at both sides and a walkway down the middle. A 40ft wide shed is very economical to buy, run and clean. But we can do anything from 10ft to 100ft wide or long – it doesn’t matter to us, we are equipped to get them done,” says Tom.
While a small amount of industrial work is undertaken, Tom estimates that some 90% of his trade is in agri buildings. “Our nature is such that we hate to let anybody down, but the vast majority of it is agriculture,” he continues. “We cover most of Munster but we try to keep within a 50km radius of Bruree wherever possible. We’re centrally located in the middle of Munster and can be in Cork in 50 minutes, although we’re working mostly in Tipperary and Limerick at the moment. “We don’t need to go far. If you can look after your own area, then you should have enough work to keep you going. You’re as well staying local. It’s nice for your workers if you can start every day at 8am and get finished by 5.30, although obviously this won’t always be the case.”
A self-confessed workaholic who isn’t averse to putting in 90-hour weeks, Tom likes to keep himself busy. Meanwhile, Carmel handles the admin side of the business. “We have a lot of work ahead of us and won’t be taking on anything this side of Christmas. Even for next year, there are a lot of enquiries coming in already, so it looks like we’re going to be staying busy.
“Going forward, I’d like to stay in the farming side of it as much as I can. Unless there’s a real slowdown, I can see myself doing this for another 30 years. We’ll do a bit of industrial, too, but it’s going to be mostly farm work. The work used to be seasonal but we are now flat out all year around.
“Carmel is a huge help and I’m also lucky to have good lads with me, which makes a big difference. They are divided into crews and they can each take on responsibility and get their work done to very exacting standards. They are happy in their work because I’m fair. They know what needs to be done in a day. If you are fair with people, then they will in turn be fair with you. I believe we’ve got that balance right and there’s a good working relationship and will-do attitude amongst the staff.
“I’d like to go back to a point I made earlier because I think it’s important to reiterate that farmers deserve a first-class service,” Tom concludes. “What’s crucial to me – and something I have always been very mindful of – is that when a farmer spends a lot of money then he needs to get the best advice. It’s something he doesn’t always get. They are good people and they are straight. If you give them a quality product and a good service, they will not only do business with you again but they will also let others know.”
Indeed, as a direct consequence of this approach, the quality workmanship invariably provided by Tom Riordan Farm Buildings is now one of Munster’s worst-kept secrets!
Tom Riordan Farm Buildings Ltd.,
Tel: 087 648 4125
Email: [email protected]
First published in Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 8 No 4, December 2020