Suretank designs and manufactures cargo carrying units (CCUs) and tanks for the offshore oil industry. The company is now the world’s largest manufacturer of offshore transport tanks for chemicals, helifuel and acids with a 62% market share and is the recognised leader in this product category.
Patrick Joy is the founder and Executive Chairman of Suretank Group Ltd. He is a Chartered Engineer (University College Dublin, 1974) and also has an MBA (Trinity College Dublin, 1988). Married to Mary, they have 5 children and two grandchildren and live in Baltray. Co. Louth. Patrick’s business is a global business with manufacturing and/or sales offices in Ireland, UK, Norway, Poland, Thailand, China, Australia, USA and Brazil. He spends considerable time each year in the air visiting these countries and also his customers who are to be found in all corners of the world where they are drilling for “offshore” oil. Outside of his large family, Patrick’s main interest is golf followed by rugby, reading and bridge. He has just recently hired a CEO for the business and taken on the role of Executive Chairman which will allow him some more time to pursue these and other interests. He is a Member of Engineers Ireland, The Institute of Directors, Boyne RFC, Seapoint and Co. Louth (Baltray) golf clubs.
Suretank designs and manufactures cargo carrying units (CCUs) and tanks for the offshore oil industry. The business was founded in Dundalk in 1995 supplying these products to the North Sea and revenue in year 1 was € 1 million with 14 employees. Today, Suretank employs over 600 people and revenue is €68 million, translating as an average 20% + per annum growth over 18 years.
Suretank manufactures in 7 countries (Ireland, UK, Poland, Thailand, China, Brazil and USA), has sales offices in Dunleer, Aberdeen, Bergen, Bangkok, Zhongshan, Perth, Rio de Janeiro and Houston and its products are found in all parts of the world where there is production of offshore oil.
Suretank is now the world’s largest manufacturer of offshore transport tanks for chemicals, helifuel and acids with a 62% market share and is the recognised leader in this product category. Most of these tanks are produced in their Dunleer factory where they are building a new technical centre and HQ with 43 seats at a cost of €2 million. They will sign contracts this summer for a 40% expansion of their production space in Dunleer at a cost of € 1 million.
The CCU sector of the offshore market is a higher volume business than the tank business but from zero market share in 1999 Suretank have now achieved 22% market share and established themselves as a serious player.
Since the beginning, Suretank has expanded its business by improving existing products or by developing new products for their customers. They have engineers located at all of their manufacturing locations as well as Aberdeen. All of their sales team are engineers or come from a strong engineering background. In 2010, Suretank set up a separate R & D group based in Dunleer where prototype new products are now first designed and tested. In 2011, they launched a cryogenic (liquid nitrogen) tank and already have established a foot print and started to make a name for themselves as a premium and high quality supplier in this niche area. Last year Suretank designed and built their first offshore refrigerated container and have a number of other products on the drawing board that can be used in the highly hazardous areas on the offshore platforms. Their current 5 year plan is to produce 10% of their revenue from these new products within 5 years.
Suretank’s customers read like a “who’s who” of the oil industry. They include all the major rental companies (Swire, Ferguson Seacabs, Euro Offshore, OEG, Hoover), all the large service companies (Halliburton, Schlumberger, BJ Baker, IKM) and indirectly all the major oil companies. All of their equipment is certified by either DNV (Det Norske Veritas) or Lloyds Register.
– ENTREPRENEURIAL INSIGHTS –
What vision prompted you to start-up your business?
I always wanted to be my own boss and master of my own destiny. I worked for a number of employers and some would say that I was hard to manage! I also wanted to create something that I could say was mine and to be successful.
What were the best & worst pieces of advice you received when starting out?
I hope this doesn’t sound facetious but I didn’t take advice from anybody when starting out my business in 1995. But starting out in my working life, the best advice I got was from my father who told me to go use my engineering degree to start my own business.
How did you secure your first investment?
I ran a BES scheme and raised IR £90,000 to which I added my own savings of IR £ 60,000. I borrowed IR£ 150,000 from AIB and that was the capital for the start up of the business.
What was your “back-to-the-wall” moment and how did you overcome it?
I had up and downs one of which was a 4 month period from November 2008 when no new orders were received (price of oil had collapsed) but I just kept going, knocking on doors and eventually the tide turned and the orders started to come in. We had a 40% fall in revenue that year but we battened down the hatches, managed our costs and still turned a profit.
What moment or deal would you identify as the “game changer” for the company?
The move into manufacturing CCU’s in Poland in 1999 was a game changer for us. It increased our product range and made us more attractive to our customers but because we did it on a subcontract basis, it put no strain on our cash flow and, in fact, in a short while the profits generated allowed us to expand our tank business, move out of rented premises in Dundalk, and build our own factory in Dunleer with minimum borrowings.
What are the biggest challenges you face now?
One of the biggest challenges I now face is to be able to step back and trust my management team and CEO to move onwards and upwards with the business that I started. The business itself is facing competitive challenges now from China and to stay ahead of that, we must innovate, improve existing product offerings, develop new products, stay close to our customers and be best in our class in quality, design and delivery performance. i.e. customer service.
What is your greatest business achievement to date?
Building Suretank into the business it is today.
What top tips would you give entrepreneurs starting out today?
- Get close to your customers, build a relationship with them and give them what they wants not what you have to sell.
- Don’t be afraid to spend money on Sales and Marketing.
- Hire the best people you can afford.
- Don’t sell on price, instead sell customer service.
- Be resilient; you will be knocked back but you must keep coming back.
Were there any early signs that you would eventually follow an entrepreneurial path?
I was always interested in business and from an early age served behind the counter in my father’s chemist shop. I got a great buzz out of selling.
Has your “Irish-ness” contributed to your success?
Being Irish has never been a negative in business except at times in the nineties when Northern Ireland was on the news. Doing business in Scotland and England then was sometimes a challenge and there was one CEO that I could never get close too as a result. However, in all other countries of the world, being Irish was probably an advantage as nobody had any axe to grind with us!
When making a new hire, what key characteristics do you look for?
Educational background, ability to communicate, personality, confidence and ambition.