We kicked ourselves for not expanding during the boom but it would

first_img Short URL Source: Dylan VaughanMistakes and curveballsWe’re not used to looking back even if we have made mistakes. We’re the type of people who just move on, and so I don’t think any of us have any regrets.Before the last recession, we initially regretted the opportunities to look at different garden centre sites. Back then we felt it was a mistake not to branch out and start to expand the business.These opportunities were being offered to us, and we kicked ourselves for not having the gumption to go for it. But we felt there was just something not right.In the wind up, pre-recession we would have paid an awful lot of money for those sites – every deal would have involved ‘boom-time’ prices. That would have put the business under a lot of pressure today.I think we were very fortunate that when the chance to expand and open a new store in Kilquade, Co Wicklow, came along, it was good value for money.It was an existing garden centre and not one of the greenfield sites that many developers were shoving at us.Another curveball was the plans to develop the M9 motorway. It meant we were literally going to be bypassed as a business.A lot of people said it would effectively close us or would do a huge amount of damage, because there was a perception we relied on passing trade of the N9 – the main road from Dublin to Waterford.That was around 2011, so we had to go for broke and invest millions to redevelop the business or face being squashed.We looked at food as an important part of our business that had potential to grow. We were turning over about €700,000 from the café back then, so we redeveloped the food offering and redesigned the restaurant in the centre.We called the project Rachel’s Garden Café and the name stuck. Today it’s still there and turns over in excess of €2 million. Food is now nearly a third of our business.We did all that in 40 days and people couldn’t believe it because the place changed so much. It’s not a garden centre any more – it’s a destination store.It catapulted the business onto another level and forced us to look at the rest of the operation. The restaurant was now laughing at the rest of the site because of all the investment in it, so we redeveloped the store and looked at what we were selling. Source: Dylan VaughanInto the futureIt’s daunting sometimes, but we love what we do and who we do it for. We’re employing just over 100 people now between the two stores. When I look back at that 1985 time in Carlow, we only had six people.We have lots of scope and potential in Wicklow and the next step is to redevelop that. After that, who knows.I suppose then we’ll have two sites working well and that’s an awkward number, so we’ll probably find ourselves looking at a third site soon after we get the Wicklow one right.There’s loads to keep us busy.Fergal Doyle is the co-owner of Arboretum garden centre and is representing Ireland at the European Business Awards. This article was written in conversation with Killian Woods as part of a series on business mistakes and what can be learned from them.If you want to share your opinion, advice or story, email [email protected] by Fergal Doyle and posted on Fora.ie https://jrnl.ie/3364116 Apr 30th 2017, 7:00 PM Share Tweet Email7 Take me to Fora OUR FAMILY HAS been in the garden centre trade for a long time. We’ve survived flooding, three recessions and even a motorway development that has stolen a lot of our passing trade.My mother Rachel began the business 40 years ago and my dad soon joined her after. She went from a steady teaching job to study horticulture, which was a bit of a risk and not the done thing in the 1970s.In the early 1980s then, they moved the garden centre to a site they had bought from Thompsons Steel Works in Carlow Town. That was when the business really started to grow, and they developed the first concept of having a food offering at a garden centre in Ireland.It’s the norm now, but back then it was only a developing trend in the UK. In between school, myself and Barry would come back and work in the business, carrying compost out to people’s cars, lifting plants and doing whatever needed to be done.As kids growing up, we didn’t necessarily want to be working. We wanted to be doing kids’ stuff, but anyone growing up in a family business needs to chip in. It’s part of family life. Source: Arboretum Home & Garden HeavenMoving aroundThe business has moved around over the years. The biggest high for the business was buying the site in Carlow and then selling that site to Aldi in 1998. Then we moved to Leighlinbridge where Arboretum is today.In 1991 the site was very badly flooded. Banks were tough back then and charging a lot of money for cheques to be written, they weren’t giving loans and weren’t sympathetic to businesses.I remember that being quite tough on our parents – myself and my brother, Barry, would see first-hand that they were under pressure. They kept as much of the stresses of the business away from us as possible, but they couldn’t hide it all.I came across an old photo of the flooded site in Carlow that a family friend had taken – on the back of it they wrote, “Chin up, be positive and you’ll get through it.”That attitude has got us through some tough years and made the good years as good as they can be. Fergal (right) with his parents and brother Barry (left) Source: Michael O’RourkeCork and death’s doorBoth myself and Barry are very different, and that’s what makes us work very well together now that he and I have more or less taken over. He loves horticulture, while my passion is business.I’m four years older than him and went to Cork to study business while he was still in school, and I ended up really liking Cork, so I stayed there.I worked in Preachers Bar in 1996 – that was my first job outside of working for the garden centre. I got involved in other things after that. I went on to manage pubs, I got into music and was DJ in the scene there for a while. But I slowly gravitated back to the family business.I just wanted to come back home. I don’t know what it is in you, there was just a homing beacon in me that made me want to come back to Carlow.I wanted to make a go in the family business and felt the time was right to do so. It literally woke up one morning and knew this was what I wanted to do.I had also been involved in a car accident in 2001. I lost control of the car when I was with another friend of mine.We were on death’s door in terms of being on life-support machines, but we came through that. That was a huge thing in terms of suddenly growing up and thinking, “Right I need to change what I’m at.”I came back after 2001 and started working again in the family business. Not straight into a senior role, I was basically a retail sales assistant on the ground working in our landscape and DIY section primarily. I was made to graft.Our parents never forced us into the business or put us under pressure to take it all over. They encouraged us to do what we wanted to do.I gravitated towards it because I studied business and have a love for marketing and that’s ultimately what I’ve ended up running – the back-of-house financial and marketing side – while my brother is the CEO and directly looks after the operations. ‘We kicked ourselves for not expanding during the boom, but it would have crippled us’ After a life-threatening car crash, this entrepreneur returned home to help run his family business. Fergal Doyle center_img Co-owner, Arboretum Home & Garden Heaven 3 Comments By Fergal Doyle Sunday 30 Apr 2017, 7:00 PM Get Fora’s NEW daily digest of the morning’s key business news: 931 Views Tweet thisShare on FacebookEmail this articlelast_img read more