The SAP Group celebrate 40 years in business this year so we felt it was time to catch up with company Managing Director Geoff Moran to find out what they’re about.
To this day, the SAP Group remains the only Irish Landscaping and Grounds Maintenance company with dedicated horticultural professionals and H&S experts to ensure they meet all requirements of the customer.
Indeed SAP offers its clientele a one stop shop in operating three core divisions, which are landscaping construction, grounds maintenance and winter services.
Geoff Moran is currently Managing Director of the company and illustrated to us what exactly they do and how they’ve grown up from the foundations.
“We’re established since 1976 and we’ve been an incorporated company since 1981,”explained Geoff.
“We’ve 140 employees here at the moment and that number can fluctuate from time to time depending on how busy we are.
“I’m the MD here and my background would have been in building; I’m qualified as a Quantity Surveyor.”
The SAP Group itself was first established back in 1971 in Carbury near South Allenwood and takes its name from this beginning, South Allenwood Plantations being abbreviated just to SAP.
Initially, there were four partners but in the early years this reduced to Tom Walsh and Jerry O’Reilly, who together directed and managed the establishment and growth of the business.
Come 1976, Jerry and Tom responded to clientele needs by expanding the business into contracting so as to provide a turnkey service for customers.
The company’s first large contract was to landscape the Central Bank of Ireland in Sandyford and since that time the company has gone on to Landscape and Maintain some of the most recognisable and significant sites in Ireland.
The significant increase in the level of contracting via the company’s growth saw SAP establishing the SAP Grounds Maintenance division to provide post-contract maintenance to its clients by 1976.
It was a move which marked a very different strategic approach to its competitors, having committed to developing a separate and standalone resource of talent and assets to undertake their maintenance works. This structure ensured that service to their maintenance customers would never be compromised by demand or pressures from landscape installation works.
Following the economic downturn of the 1980s, SAP’s shareholders saw the genesis of what would be Ireland’s longest sustained period of economic growth and their forecasted tree requirements led them to investing and moving their Tree Nursery into a more appropriate location.
Quality development and increasing the range of the SAP offer would be too problematic in Carbury, so Tom Walsh and Jerry O’Reilly finally settled on a location in Cahir in the Golden Vale renowned for its alluvial soil quality. There, they secured the initial 60-acre farm of what is now a 310-acre investment.
Over the space of five years, SAP established 70 poly-tunnels and the largest containerized production facility in Ireland with a capacity of 15,000m2 under cover and 30,000m2 external production.
By the millennium’s turn, SAP acquired another 103-acre nursery at New Inn for the production of semi-mature trees up to 65-70cm girth.
In 2001, SAP established its first overseas subsidiary – SAP Holland BV – an international plant and tree trading company based in the Netherlands. The company is based in Zundert along the Dutch / Belgian border and has 15 employees and sources trees and plants from Holland, Belgium, Italy and Germany and supplies Wholesale Nurseries and Landscaping Groups throughout Europe.
One year later the nursery developed the largest containerised tree production facility in the country to provide trees for out of season planting. This was later extended to include a 10,000 tree unit for airpot-grown semi-mature trees. Today, the Group has a total of seven individual nurseries on 310 acres in South Tipperary producing trees from root stock to large semi-mature trees.
SAP Landscapes moved to a purpose build facility in Maynooth, Co Kildare in June 2004, with the 6.4-acre site containing modern offices, warehousing, a Mechanics facility, environmental management areas and a 1.3-acre section for the storage and growing of Specimen mature trees in airpots.
2008 saw SAP develop a Winter Maintenance service covering; Snow Ploughing, Weather forecasting and Alerting, Salt spreading and active proof of Service delivery. They have continued to invest in Winter Services equipment and today, they are the largest private Winter Services Contractor in Ireland.
Two years later, the group went online with the establishment of SAP Market the online trading portal. The website (sapgroup.com) provides their wholesale customers with access to 35,000 trees, plant and shrub lines, real-time availabilities and a choice of specification according to the client’s budget. The site is the first portal in Europe to offer the trade buyer real-time choice and availabilities. The site is also actively used by SAP’s clients’ sales force in the preparation of project estimates.
2010 also saw the Group open its first Trade Cash & Carry in Ireland (Cahir) offering Cash and Carry Sales to Landscape Contractors and other Trade Customers.
Today, SAP Landscapes is the largest Landscape and Ground Maintenance Contractor in Ireland.
The company’s growth and success is always fuelled and underpinned by its commitment of delivering customer expectations no matter the size of project. This slavish commitment to service delivery is verified by SAP’s unrivalled awards history issued by both the Association of Landscape Contractors of Ireland and Bord Bia.
“In 1991 this company’s turnover was £600,000 and last year it was €8.5million,” outlined Geoff.
“The downturn from 2007 was immediate and really harsh but we got through it. The whole demand for landscaping curtailed but we kept a solid relationship with our contractors and things have turned around again.
“Our maintenance division was not effected during the recession – between 2007 and 2015 our turnover grew from €2.3million to €5.7million.The maintenance market is a very resilient one and we’ve customers that go back to 1980.”
So what’s the secret to SAP’s success over the past 40 years? Geoff says trust amongst their customers has been paramount to the company’s growth.
“Things that we try to focus on are being very reliable in our service delivery,” he said.
“We have a great team of lads that are realistic and try to deal with the issues. I think more than anything that people just value our professionalism.
“During the downturn it was all about price for customers but now, more than ever, I think they appreciate reliability.”
Taken from Building Ireland magazine, May/June 2016, Vol 2, No 2