THE character Daniel Plainview in the film There Will be Gold said “I'm an oilman, ladies and gentlemen, I just like to think of myself as an oilman.”
And so does John Sweeney.
The popular Clifden native businessman is back in the oil business where it all started for him more than two decades ago. And driving The Oil Company is a challenge that excites him as much now as it did back in those heady days of the late eighties when he set out on the grand adventure that would see him become one of the best known businessmen in the region.
His exposure to the property market and subsequent repercussions have been well documented in the media, and all of these reports referred to the unusual but affable management style of Mr Sweeney, a style that endeared him to his staff, whose loyalty remains steadfast despite the turmoil of the past few years.
It was in 1987 that Mr Sweeney got into the home heating oil business with the Jet brand, and with later associations and acquisitions with Statoil and Rabbitt Oil, his company Sweeney Oil became one of the biggest players in the oil game in the West of Ireland.
“It was a different era then. There was a lot less competition than there is now, but it was an exciting business. We felt then and still feel a strong commitment to quality and ensuring that our deliveries are made on time and to people in places where often other companies would not go up the road to their house, because it was too difficult.
“Because we had that reputation for being reliable and for going that extra mile, many of those customers who we serviced then are now coming back to us with The Oil Company, and also because of the price and value we offer,” he said.
However, when the overall business group found itself exposed to the downturn in the property market, Sweeney Oil was sold to another company who continue to use the name and which retains the right to use the oil-prestigious Sweeney surname until 2012.
As part of the sale, there was a non-compete clause which prevented Mr Sweeney from re-entering the oil market for a certain period and last August he was back, joining The Oil Company and driving its business with the same zest for the service which he always had.
“I always found it a great challenge to meet the demands of the customers and the same now applies with The Oil Company. I delivered oil on the high roads and byroads of Connemara so The Oil Company is determined that we will get the oil to the household or to the commercial businesses when they need it.
And his return to the business was welcomed by the many customers who had been served by him over the years. Even former staff in Clifden gave up jobs to rejoin him at The Oil Company, in the knowledge that his name and reliable reputation will add enormously to the brand.
When I met him at his offices in Galway city this week, Mr Sweeney said that the loyalty and goodwill shown by friends and customers has been a massive aid to him during what have been a turbulent few years.
“I've had a lot of goodwill and support from people. I've been sent best wishes and even Mass cards and after all you've been through, it is that feeling of affection and support that what really matters.
People are what matters. After all buildings and property don't know who owns them. They can't talk to you,” he said.
The dapper businessman is still very much hand on. During our interview, his phone buzzed incessantly, with matters not of high finance, but of oil deliveries, and truck movements and ensuring whether a valued customer got her oil at the time that she was promised.
It was an example of just how back to basics all companies are going to rediscover the qualities that made them work first time around, before the era of the Celtic Tiger.
He says his entrepreneurial spirit has not been dampened by the travails of the boom times. “Not yet, anyway,” he jokes.
On the contrary, he is left with bundles of energy which he is using to drive The Oil Company.
The whole business of selling the original business has led to some confusion in that customers buying from his original company think they are buying from him and supporting him, so to clarify this, his name is widely used to promote The Oil Company.
His photograph, name and contact details are all over the brochure and their email address. When you order oil, the order goes directly to his address ([email protected] ) so that he personally guarantees the level of customer service.
His marketing chief David Hennessy says that John was never afraid to get his hands dirty and his spirit has always been in the oil business.
“John was never too far away from the business at any time, so it is not a big change for him to be so involved again. His name and his energetic presence are driving forward The Oil Company and business is going very well.”
“The Oil Company service Galway city and county as well as part of Mayo and everyone who orders oil from us has a chance to win one of 28 weekends away. So as well as getting top service in price, reliability, and delivery, they now have a chance to win a holiday for themselves,” he says.
So 23 years on from the first time he drove an oil truck, John Sweeney is back at the helm again.
Once an oilman, always an oilman.
You can contact The Oil Company at Galway (091 ) 555999 or at Clifden (095 ) 22636 or by contacting John directly at [email protected]