Trade focus: Stretching right across the ‘sunny’ south-east

Agriculture is constantly evolving; trying to discern the future is a question of picking out trends.

Although ‘digitalisation’ of just about everything has prompted the greatest attention, there are other ‘currents’ which are just as noteworthy in their own way; one of them is the expanding role of women in the farming world.

These two trends come together rather neatly with Murphy’s Motors, which recently held an open evening in its showrooms at Glenmore, Co. Kilkenny.

Owned and managed by Bernadette and Richard Murphy (pictured below), it is a forward-looking New Holland dealership with a strong awareness of how technology shapes both the product and the commercial aspect of running a business.

Murphy's Motors

The traditional division between such a partnership would be centred on the men doing the ‘oily stuff’, while the women remained in the background attending to the paperwork. There are no such barriers, or even the sight of a ‘glass ceiling’, here.

Bernadette is very forward in marketing the firm and ensuring that it is run as a warm and welcoming family business. Richard is in charge of sales and servicing. With the increasing reliability of tractors comes the realisation that looking after the customer is just as important as looking after the machine itself.

Attending to the customer has moved on from issuing the occasional news-letter. Today, a much greater level of involvement is engendered through the web and social media in particular – an area of engagement which Bernadette feels is vital, whilst at the same time needs a big commitment of time and energy.

Presently, she is looking for someone to help with this web marketing aspect of customer relations.

Murphy's Motors

Yet, despite the advance of the internet, personal contact is still very important – a fact that could hardly be denied as visitors arrived at the recent ‘open day’. It was 10:00pm that night before the last had left for home.

Richard and his sales staff were kept busy throughout and concluded several deals – helped, no doubt, by the offer of a free front loader with every tractor sold by the evening’s end.

Murphy's Motors

The healthier milk price has also been a great boon for interest in new tractors over the past year; two apprentices were taken on last summer to help with the increased workload.

From a product point of view, it is unfortunate that the word ‘technology’ has become associated almost solely with electronics. For instance, New Holland’s take on the ‘twin-clutch’ method of gear-shifting saw it fare well in the ‘Tractor of the Year’ awards.

It is mainly a mechanical innovation – invented in the 1930s long before the microchip appeared on the scene.

As the crowds milled around at the aforementioned ‘open event’, admiring the tractors on display, it was obvious that farmers and contractors (and their staff) actually enjoy the working relationship with their machinery – a point not lost on New Holland itself.

Murphy's Motors

The association between New Holland and the Murphy family goes all the way back to 1960, when Richard and Bernadette’s grandfather created ‘Murphy’s Motors and Agricultural Machinery’. Soon afterwards, the fledgling company picked up the Fordson agency for the area; it has stayed with the marque ever since – making it one of the oldest, if not the oldest, Ford/New Holland dealers in Ireland.

Murphy's Motors

Tragically, the family suffered the premature loss of the second generation when the siblings’ father died in a car accident. That was in 1974 and it was Peggy Murphy, their mother, who stepped into the gap and pulled the business through, bringing Bernadette and Richard on board in 1982.

New Holland is still the company’s major franchise. Together, they appear to have flourished over the years. A new extension was opened in 2006 to accommodate the larger tractors and extra work the business was gaining.

Staff numbers have also increased; 13 are now employed at Glenmore; one or two have served the family for over 40 years.

Liam Hayde, New Holland’s area manager for Ireland, was on hand during the open evening; he made several pertinent points about where the company is headed.

He noted that New Holland is locked in a battle, with the likes of Massey Ferguson, around the higher reaches of the new tractor sales league in Ireland – despite the many cheaper brands now available.

Murphy's Motors

The enduring popularity of New Holland, he says, is down to it being a known quantity and having a good resale value. For the future, he is targeting growth in the large tractor sector (180hp and above).

There was also talk that the first FR920 forage harvester, producing 911hp, has been sold to a contractor in Co. Limerick – or is in the process of being wrapped up. Expect to see it at Grass & Muck 2018 in Co. Tipperary. All of a sudden, his growing interest in the 200hp tractor sector makes more sense; such prime-movers will be needed to keep up with a harvester like that.

Murphy’s Motors is not just focused on New Holland; it’s also an agent for Krone, Abbey, Tanco, Quicke, Kidd, ProDig and others.

Murphy's Motors

The latest agency to come its way was Shelbourne Reynolds – of Suffolk (England); Murphy’s Motors will cover the south-east with the focus on hedge-cutters.

Is there scope for more? Forestry machinery is one area where the company sees potential for expansion.

When asked what it is the single most important factor in a business of this sort, both Bernadette and Richard unhesitatingly reply that it is teamwork. That, apparently, is what drives it forward. Investing in the work-force and keeping everyone trained and up-to-date, they say, is what ultimately pays dividends.

Murphy's Motors

The rate at which the generous pile of sandwiches was depleted (at the ‘open day’) suggests that their customers are either incredibly hungry or, more likely, are significant in number.