Edenderry man on his way to the top of the ‘Claas’
Growing up alongside his brother on his dad’s 160ac beef farm in Edenderry, Co. Offaly, Trevor Tyrrell (pictured above), CEO of Claas UK Ltd, spent most of his summers drawing silage and baling.
“Richard is older so he always bagged the best jobs like driving the trailed forager, so our dad, Arthur, always let me operate the small square baler for contracting jobs. He let me keep most of the money, which I used on all the usual teenager things – including my first car.”
He didn’t know fellow Edenderry man, William Judge, who has gone on to become sales manager for Massey Ferguson for the UK and Ireland, despite living less than a mile from his home.Also Read: Edenderry man lives childhood dream at Massey Ferguson
“William is a good 10 years younger than me – I turned 50 last year – so we wouldn’t have met at school or anything.”
Trevor attended St. Andrew’s College in Booterstown from 1978 to 1984, sitting his Leaving Cert in subjects that included physics, biology and German.
“It was those three that probably helped me most in getting a place at Silsoe College, Cranfield – formerly the National College of Agricultural Engineering – for a degree in agricultural technology and management, and subsequently a job as an intern with Amazone at its power-harrow and drill factory in Hude, Germany and then – when I graduated – with Claas UK.
“My upbringing made the choice easy for a career in agricultural engineering and my parents supported me a lot in choosing a university,” Trevor explained.
“At that time, the only degree choices were at Silsoe College or UCD. The facilities at Silsoe were far superior, and again the choice was easy,” he contended.
The job at Claas came about unexpectedly.
Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you need to make your own luck. I only went along with some older MSc students for an interview at Claas UK – just for the interview experience. My credentials didn’t meet the minimum requirements in the advert.
“The job was for a ‘product manager designate’ to replace the incumbent product manager when he retired 18 months later. So I was a bit surprised the next day when I received a phone call to come back for a second interview, which led to the job offer.
“I thought I must have left something behind that they wanted me to pick up, but as it turned out I was the only one from a farm, and the only one able to speak German,” Trevor explained.
“Being an experienced baler and forager driver also helped as the job was to look after Claas’ growing range of Jaguars, balers and ‘Green Line’ machines. We launched the new Jaguar 800 range that went on to become a best-seller in the UK and Ireland, and finally worldwide.
“The CEO at that time, Clive Last, was a great mentor and guided me through the ranks,” Trevor said. “Having become sales and marketing director in 2002, we grew our market share in Lexion combines to over 40% and maintained Jaguars at over 50%.
“Along the way, there were other temptations and job offers, but Claas is a great company to work for and, in 2008, I was offered a job in the export division in Germany looking after northern Europe – from Ireland to Finland.
During this time, we set up Claas Ireland as a division of Claas UK and introduced Claas Finance to Ireland, all of which has been a great success.
“This led to my position today as CEO for the UK and Ireland and I maintain an interest in our export business as regional director for Australia and New Zealand. Despite being very different in some ways, those markets have a lot of similarities with the UK and Ireland, and many employees move back and forth from ‘Down Under‘, which makes it very interesting,” said Trevor.
“Today I am visiting the farming business that bought our first Torion loading shovel in the UK, and presenting a cheque for £27,000 to Macmillan Cancer Support, all raised by our employees doing great charity fundraising events over the past year.
“I travel a lot and love learning how farmers bring their produce into the food-chain and energy markets. What I like least is airlines that don’t give good customer service – not mentioning any names Michael…!” he laughed.
Major redevelopment is underway at Claas headquarters in Saxham, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk. “We have already completed phase one – our new training academy – and the demolition for phase two is also complete. The construction company will be on-site in early February to build a new Manns of Saxham facility – our biggest dealer branch.
“We hope that the academy will attract more young people into our apprentice programme and graduate trainee schemes – and, of course, help us to sell more tractors than William does!”
Working for a family company is great, he said. “They invest for the very long term; every employee is treated like one of the family.
“Last year our wholesale turnover in the UK and Ireland was £170 million; Claas Finance did £160 million and our owned retail dealers in England turned over £150 million.
Claas Ireland represents between 15% and 20% of our business each year.
“Our key products in Ireland are the Arion tractors, Lexion combines and Jaguar foragers. Machines cannot physically get much bigger; even delivering them is becoming a massive logistical exercise – so we need more and more automation to allow the operator to do more work more easily.
“I don’t see fully-autonomous vehicles becoming very common in Ireland in the near future, due to our road and farm infrastructures,” he said.
The implications of Brexit meanwhile are, he said, as yet unclear. “Germany and France need to support Ireland fully in the future, and in every way possible. We still don’t know what the outcome will be, but Claas will remain flexible in order to continue to improve our service levels.”
‘Life is a journey’
Married with two children and one grand-daughter, with another on the way, life is busy for the Edenderry native. “We all spent last Christmas in Ireland with my mum and my brother’s family, which was great.
“Ireland has changed so much in the past 30 years, and has transformed from a relatively poor country into a leading member of Europe with high-tech industrial and financial companies helping to bring much-needed employment across the country. Long may that continue.”
It’s an enviable role and lifestyle, so what advice does he have for those keen to follow in his footsteps?
Life is a journey so work hard; look, listen and learn. Take every opportunity to improve yourself. My top tip is that people are all made the same, so you can do anything anyone else does – if you put your mind to it.
“Don’t be scared to ask lots of questions. Make sure you ask every question you can think of before setting out on any new venture or you may get lost. You need to understand everything you do, so you need to ask lots of questions from those with more experience.”