Louth bespoke furniture maker plans further expansion outside of Ireland

Inside Track: O’Connors of Drumleck MD John O’Connor on what sets his business apart from rivals

O’Connors of Drumleck managing director John O’Connor: ‘Something’s only a mistake if you do it twice.’

O’Connors of Drumleck managing director John O’Connor: ‘Something’s only a mistake if you do it twice.’


John O’Connor is managing director of O’Connors of Drumleck, designers and manufacturers of bespoke fitted cabinetry and furniture, characterised by luxurious materials and finishes. The business was founded in 1988 by John’s father Peter. His brother Peter jnr handles much of the manufacturing side of the business.

What sets your business apart from the competition?

We are true bespoke furniture manufacturers. Our showroom, design studio and manufacturing facility are all located in Drumleck, Co Louth. Our reputation has been built on quality, and clients can see this when they visit our showroom.

Because we do everything from start to finish, we have control at every stage of the process, including design concept, solid wood production, panel production, finishing, delivery and installation. Often a design evolves and changes for various reasons but we can adapt to our clients’ needs because we do everything under one roof.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?

My father has always been keen on modernisation and always advised us not to be afraid to reinvest in the most up-to-date technology. In the woodworking sector, technology can be alien to many, so it is the machinery and the manufacturing technology we have here that gives us the edge.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in business?

I have made plenty of decisions that didn’t necessarily have the desired outcome. With a bit of experience, I now appreciate that you make hundreds of decisions each year and can’t expect to get every one right. Something’s only a mistake if you do it twice.

And your major success to date?

Being commissioned to supply and install custom kitchens in 215 luxury apartments and penthouses in Chartered Land’s Lansdowne Place development in Ballsbridge, Dublin. This was a major endorsement of our ability and it has been a pleasure to collaborate with London-based interior architects Goddard Littlefair to design these luxurious kitchens.

The standard of the complex means that we were able to incorporate finishes such as solid dovetail jointed drawers, natural stone, burnished metals and luxury finishes on a scale and quality which, I believe, has never been delivered before in the Irish residential apartment sector.

We have also recently collaborated with an exciting new Irish brand Curator Paints in which we developed and manufactured high-end display stands that will be showcased in stores throughout Ireland and the US in the coming months.

Who do you most admire in business and why?

I admire what the Pratt family did with Avoca. To transform a small business reliant on footfall in a rural setting into one of Ireland’s best-known retail chains is a phenomenal achievement. Despite diversifying into different areas and the recent Aramark buyout, the business never forgets its focus on high-quality ingredients and products.

Based on your experience in the downturn, are the banks in Ireland open for business to SMEs?

During the downturn, we were not reliant on bank borrowings. We have a good relationship with Bank of Ireland and they have aided us with online facilities, helping us streamline payroll and FX banking.

What one piece of advice would you give the Government to help stimulate the economy?

As a medium-sized company, you are governed by all the rules and red tape expected of a much larger company but it can be difficult as a small or medium enterprise to deal with all the bureaucracy involved. I’d suggest better supports for businesses who want to expand.

What’s been the biggest challenge you have had to face?

Maintaining a high level of customer service whilst expanding can be all-consuming. Maintaining a good work-life balance can also be challenging.

How do you see the short-term future for your business?

The future’s positive with plenty of work in the pipeline for both private and business clients. We have had a busy start to 2019 in Lansdowne Place where we have already started fitting out the kitchens as the residents move in.

We are a growing company and are looking to expand further into markets outside of Ireland. We are currently quoting on some big projects in the UK and our facility has doubled in size over the past year.

What’s your business worth and would you sell it?

Business worth is very subjective; I am aware of the book-value of the business. However, that doesn’t account for knowledge accumulated over 30 years and the skill and dedication of our staff. I would not sell the business as I love what I do.