When a rocky road is good for business

Like many businesses around the world, the global pandemic and extended lockdowns proved a turning point for Melbourne-based Daisy’s Garden Supplies.

Established in 1975, the family-owned business was set up by Neil and Margaret Mulcahy with a single truck and a ‘can-do’ attitude. Their son Evan started working at the business at age 10, giving the now managing director a 30-year career at Daisy’s.

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, the business was supplying garden and landscaping products for residential, commercial and civil projects from three sites in Melbourne. Demand for their services ramped up as the lockdowns were extended.

“We were so busy during that period, it was quite overwhelming really,” Evan said.

“When we came out of the end of it, we were very, very frantic.”

It was crunch time for Evan, who didn’t want to spend the rest of his life with a phone glued to his ear all week, and with weekends spent driving heavy machinery instead of spending time with his wife and two young sons.

“We needed to restructure what we were doing and how we were doing it,” he said.

Rapid expansion

The stars seemed to align when the business engaged a new accountant, who happened to specialise in family business. At about the same time, Evan’s brother-in-law joined the company as commercial director, bringing with him decades of commercial experience.

With the new team in place, Daisy’s Garden Supplies began a rapid expansion to triple in size within a year.

The new team made several acquisitions. Some new additions were family businesses similar to Daisy’s but without an up-and-coming generation willing to take over, and some complementary businesses that extended the company’s product offering.

At the end of the expansion phase, Daisy’s Garden Supplies had 175 staff at eight retail sites, two production facilities, three quarries and a sandpit.

“The business has lots and lots of moving parts,” Evan said.

“It’s certainly hard to manage for one person, so you’ve really got to rely on your team around you.

“By growing, we’ve been able to have a lot more people – good people – around the table that can help manage the load.”

Before the pandemic, Daisy’s had a fleet of 50 vehicles. Now the company has more than 100 vehicles, including 25 Isuzu trucks in the company’s eye-catching yellow, red, and green signage.

Heavy-duty deliveries

Daisy’s models range from light-duty Isuzu Tippers through to the twin-steer heavy-duty FYJ 300-350.

Evan said the company had a range of different sizes and models of Isuzu trucks, which were mainly used for deliveries of soil, sand, pebbles, mulch, sleepers, pavers and firewood from the retail centres.

Daisy’s models range from light-duty Isuzu Tippers through to the twin-steer heavy-duty FYJ 300-350, with each truck averaging around 50,000 kilometres a year.

Daisy’s took delivery of two additional Isuzu trucks to assist with the increasing demands on the business. First-up was a brand-new FXY 240-350 with a tipper body. Featuring a GVM of 24,000 kilograms and a GCM of 45,000 kilograms, the FXY 240-350 ensures Daisy’s can deliver its heavy payloads with ease.

Powered by Isuzu’s six-cylinder 6UZ1-TCN engine, the FXY also has plenty of punch with power at 257kW (350PS) @ 2000rpm and torque of 1422Nm @ 1400rpm.

The FXY was soon joined by a ‘big brother’ Isuzu, a heavy-duty FYJ 300-350 with a tipper body and a twin-steer front axle, featuring a GVM of 30,000 kilograms and a GCM of 45,000 kilograms.

They heavier trucks are used for bulk material deliveries and for transfer of material between each of Daisy’s yards.

Evan said all the Isuzu trucks in Daisy’s fleet had two-pedal transmissions, so they’re not ‘burning out clutches and gearboxes’.

“We’ve got both AMTs and autos in the fleet and it’s the best and simplest option for our drivers,” Evan said.

“Isuzu is a good product, well-built and reliable.

“We’ve always had a good run out of the brand, and this extends into the maintenance, which we take care of ourselves at our two workshops.”

Vertically integrated

The Mulcahy family’s many and varied interests are reflected in the scope of the business, a vertically integrated setup that makes 95 per cent of what it sells from its own raw materials.

“We bring in raw materials, then we value-add to them with composts and different products and sands,” Evan said.

“We blend and mix all our soils, which we sell to our retail, trade and commercial customers.

“We have a quarry in Porepunkah (in north-eastern Victoria), where we dig out the old tailings from when they would dredge for gold off the Ovens River,” he continued.

“We screen that and produce four or five different sizes of river pebbles as well as a couple varieties of crushed rocks and sands that we sell.”

The Porepunkah quarry was originally a farm, which Daisy’s bought some years ago.

“We’ve also got 26 acres of grape vines on that property,” Evan said.

“We grow five or six different varieties and we make a bit of our own wine that we sell, but the majority of the fruit we sell under contract to different winemakers.”

Even though he inherited a successful business, Evan said he’s proud he’s been able to put his own stamp on it with the recent expansion.

The family business is now ready for the next generation to take the helm if they wish, and if they’re anything like Evan, they’ll get a head start as soon as they can.

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