Hertfordshire based company keeping it in the family

Steve Mitchellin Industry News

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Hertfordshire based and family owned, John O'Conner Grounds Maintenance is a respected market leader in public sector specialist grounds maintenance - it was the first organisation of its kind to be awarded Land Based Investors in People accreditation by Lantra, and its apprenticeship scheme has been highly commended by the National Apprenticeships Service.

It was also recently judged Employer of the Year Principal Award Winner in BALI's 2013 National Landscape Awards.

The company landed new business and extensions to existing client contracts worth more than £27m in 2013, and many of these employ a wide range of John Deere turf equipment from HPX Gator utility vehicles, which are used for all the company's line-marking contracts, to commercial walk-behind and ride-on mowers, as well as both compact and bigger utility tractors.

John O'Conner's core business areas are housing associations and trusts, local authorities and corporate business premises. John Deere equipment is also extensively used for mowing large parks and public open spaces, highways and educational premises, and John Deere Financial programmes are adopted when required.

"As an established contractor, we have found that municipal and corporate clients appreciate our specialist sector knowledge and experience," says operations director Neil Cain.

"A key part of this is the relationships we have built up over many years with our suppliers, including John Deere, with service back-up and support provided by the company's regional dealer network.

"John Deere tractors have been a part of our machinery fleet since 1990, and when we renewed our Aylesbury Vale District Council contract in 2013 for example, we bought two large John Deere utility tractors for use with side-arm flail and trailed gang mowers.

We've also been increasingly specifying John Deere turf equipment for a range of amenity grass cutting and grounds maintenance contracts throughout the Midlands and south of England.

"Since the first wave of local authority cutbacks started to kick in, we've been conducting large-scale trials looking at different ways of cutting grass, comparing flails with rotaries and cylinders, to assess how we can work smarter while also cutting costs wherever possible.

"In another good example, when we won the Midland Heart Housing Ltd contract in 2013, the client had decided to save money by replacing its traditional cut and collect approach using walk-behind mowers with a cut and throw system, with fewer cuts in longer grass, but this was leaving a messy finish.

"Our suggestion was to use John Deere commercial walk-behind rotary mowers with mulching kits, which have seen customer satisfaction levels maintained or increased, but operating costs reduced. Due to this success, we've rolled out a similar approach into our educational

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contracts, which have a lot of similarities with housing association areas.

"As far as John Deere is concerned, we've found that the product is right for our business, as well as the dealer back-up, service and operator training. Both the machines and specification improvements the company has introduced are meeting the best value requirements for our existing and new customers, and are helping us to identify and apply cost savings where necessary.

As a result, John Deere has certainly picked up the lion's share of our new customer orders for the last three years."


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