A company with an open door
John O’Conner is a privately owned company with people at its heart. We are not hide-bound in hierarchy; if you need to speak to one of the company’s Directors, the MD, or even the Chairman, it’s a matter of picking up the phone – or walking into the company offices.
Founder John O’Conner’s down-to-earth, entrepreneurial spirit forms the core of our company culture. We have evolved a practical, systems-driven approach, making us nimble on our feet, ready to adapt to new challenges and methodologies and quick to respond to problems on the ground.
Chat to any of our management personnel, from the Chairman and MD down, and you’ll find they are horticulture people through and through.
Unlike almost all of our competitors, our directors involve themselves in the contracts and attend monthly meetings with clients. That close link between management and staff ‘on the ground’ is key to John O’Conner’s continued success.
Why clients stay with us for the long term
Many of our contracts are in their second or third term. Why? Part of the answer is in our externally verified systems which help deliver continuous improvements, resulting in financial savings, increased workforce productivity, greater sustainability and customer satisfaction.
John O’Conner clients include:
- Alexandra Park and Palace Charitable Trust
- Aylesbury Vale District Council
- Buckinghamshire County Council
- Central Bedfordshire
- Chiltern District Council
- East Hertfordshire District Council
- East Sussex County Council
- Harpenden Town Council
- Hertfordshire County Council
- Hertsmere Borough Council
- Isle of Wight Council
- Leicestershire County Council
- North Hertfordshire District Council
- Rother District Council
- St Albans City and District Council
- South Buckinghamshire District Council
- Wycombe District Council
- Affinity Sutton
- Amicus Horizon
- South Anglia Housing Limited
- Hightown Praetorian & Churches Housing Association
- London and Quadrant Housing Association
- Moorlands Housing
- North Hertfordshire Homes
- Riversmead Housing Association
- South Anglia Housing
- Thrive Homes
- Watford Community Housing Trust
- Cranfield University
- London Academy
- University of Hertfordshire
- Plus over 500 schools and colleges
A simple company vision
- To be recognised as the best grounds maintenance provider
- To remain a family company
- To continue a programme of controlled growth
John O’Conner cares deeply about the development of its people. It is a founder member of the National Contractor’s forum, set up in April 2009 as part of CABE’s Space to Grow strategy to address the skills gap in our industry.
Employees can take advantage of a structured programme of vocational courses in conjunction with the Institute of Groundsmanship. All staff have the opportunity to undertake Work Based Diploma training, receiving support and guidance throughout the year via line management and assigned tutors.
In September 2013 John O’Conner was awarded the prestigious B.A.L.I Principal ‘Employer of the Year’ Award. We also won this award previously in December 2008.
In September 2013 the company won the prestigious ‘Apprenticeships Regional Newcomer Employer of the Year’ recognising the achievements of the country’s most outstanding Apprenticeship employers.
In 2011 we were the first organisation to be awarded Investors in People accreditation by Lantra.
In 2009 the company won the Hertfordshire Business ‘Training and Development’ award, recognising “exemplary commitment to staff development and training.”
This tells you much about relations between John O’Conner management and staff. Put simply, John O’Conner’s family ethos engenders a spirit of fun and teamwork. John O’Conner people like where they work and generally strive to do their utmost. That means added value for our clients.
At this stage, around 25% of the workforce has either achieved or is working toward a level 2 or level 3 Work Based Diploma.
“I would like to congratulate John O’Conner. Through the proactive training and education provision delivered, the staff are able to demonstrate the skills and workmanship required to meet the demands of the industry.” –Ian Lacy, Head of Professional Services, IOG.
Who is this John O’Conner guy?
John O’Conner is a ‘large as life’ person who still shapes the vision of the company.
Originally from a farming background in Surrey, he moved to Essex at the age of 18 and joined what was then the GPO, training as a telephone engineer.
After relocating to Stevenage as a newly-married man in 1961, John started by doing gardening jobs in his spare time. On hearing that Bedford GPO used a contractor for grass-cutting, John submitted his own bid, and secured his very first commercial contract.
Entrepreneur with a spirit of adventure
Early success fuelled his ambition and he took on more grounds maintenance work, targeting local authorities. The business grew steadily and John left the security of his GPO position and started employing people to help him.
John purchased land in Welwyn where he built the machinery workshops. Shortly after, he purchased a nearby office facility. Although grown in size, both facilities still serve the company today.
John has always had an active interest in nautical history and is an acknowledged authority on William Bligh, of Mutiny on the Bounty fame. In 2005, he visited the Pitcairn Islands on a research trip and was marooned there for five weeks by heavy storms.
Against local advice, John convinced the captain of an oil rig boat to take him on a three week trip to New Zealand, from where he could fly home.
On his return, he received a call from a friend who needed help bringing his 50ft yacht from Boston, Massachusetts, to the UK. John flew out, became the third crew member, and working shifts of three hours on, six off, brought the boat under sail across the Atlantic.
John O’Conner operates contracts throughout the South of England, Greater London and the Midlands. All contracts are delivered by directly employed staff working from local office and depot facilities.