Property plunge pays off for P.

By Pauline Scott When P. Burke forfeited his permanent pensionable job with the Department of Agriculture to set out in the world of self-employment as an auctioneer in 1996, many people thought his move was ill advised. There were already three auctioneers in the town, but the Ardsallagh native was determined that there was room for a fourth player. Twelve years on, there’s absolutely no doubt but that it was the right decision to make and the timing was very fortunate, as he was just settled into the business by the time the property boom took off in the late 1990s. Now, with 12 years in business done, P. is looking forward to lots more challenges in years to come. You could say it’s a case of ‘lots done, more to do’ for the Ardsallagh native! A son of Frances and the late Seán Burke of Ardsallagh, P. grew up at Athlone Road, Roscommon. Indeed, his life came full circle recently when P. his wife Bernie and their family moved back to Athlone road, in a newly constructed house just a few hundred yards from where he grew up. P.’s late father Seán was a native of Brideswell and when P. took up a job in the Department of Agriculture, after doing two years at agricultural college in Athenry, he was following in his father’s footsteps.  He spent over a decade working with the Department of Agriculture, work which subsequently stood him in good stead, giving him a good understanding of all matters agricultural, be it forestry land prices, or the vagaries of Irish land patterns and of course, he also got accustomed to dealing with local farmers and learned at first hand their ability to drive a hard bargain! His career with the Department started with P. working as a meat inspector at Hanley’s in Rooskey. He went on to work on grants for farm buildings with the Farm Development Service, before moving to Kepak in Athleague where he worked for a few years before taking a career break and also taking the plunge into self-employment. ‘I started in Lanesboro Street in 1996, where Keenan’s butchers is located. We also do insurance and we are a general insurance agency with Hibernian. I started off with the insurance and residential property. That was before the property market lifted off, about a year and a half before the property market took off.’ P.’s wife Bernie was very supportive to P. when he started off. She also runs her own business, Bright Spark Boutique at the Square, Roscommon, which is very successful also. It was hard work at the time, you could be working sixteen hour days. There was one girl and myself and it was hard going. At the time when I started there were three auctioneers in the town and I was the fourth and now there are nine in the town.’ However, he also acknowledges that he was fortunate to have been in situ before the property boom of the late 1990s gained momentum. ‘It was a good time for me to start, it was a great time to get going and get organised.’ In 2000, the business progressed further, and P. made a move to Goff Street, and also took the Sherry FitzGerald franchise. The premises he purchased was formerly John Nerney’s electrical shop.  The official opening of the new premises at Goff Street was performed by the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Brian Cowen TD, who P. hopes will be the next leader of Fianna Fáil. P. is well pleased with his decision to opt for the Sherry FitzGerald franchise, even if his political hue is slightly different from that of the FitzGerald family! This is strictly business and a good business move for the Roscommon man. P. has established an excellent working relationship with Mark FitzGerald and Philip Sherry, built on mutual respect and understanding. Franchises ‘You had all the different franchises at the time and I thought Sherry FitzGerald was the way to go. I did that because I saw the advantages in their computer systems and database. They have a system that is operational between all the 120 offices in the country. There is a good network and I felt that clients wanting to buy here in Roscommon would be referred to us, so we work as a network.’ ‘Training is another advantage of being part of the Sherry FitzGerald network. All the staff are trained in various aspects of the business on an ongoing basis and are kept updated.’ Being part of a franchise also allows P. to access computer systems and software which would be impossible for a single operator to establish. ‘We have an intranet computer system between the different offices, as well as the internet sites and we don’t charge anything for clients to put their properties up on that.’  Internet is a key tool for property, a fact recognised by P. and properties on the books at P. Burke’s are advertised on Daft, myhome and Sherry FitzGerald’s own website. Apart from the obvious advantages of being part of a franchise, there are other less obvious advantages, including being part of a brand recognised nationwide. There is also a level of professionalism required by all franchisees and their staff, set out in a strict Code of Conduct which has to be strictly adhered to.  While he enjoys being part of a network, P. also likes the fact that he still owns and runs his own business. ‘Being part of a network, you’re not on your own, you have a team out there, but we are still running our own business.’ A new legislative based code of conduct for auctioneers is due to come into effect in June and Sherry FitzGerald P. Burke has signed up to it and are looking forward to its implementation. No successful business can stand still and P. has lots of plans about how best to progress the business in coming years. Among the plans on the cards are an upgrade of the office, new computer software and an improved website. ‘We are always updating and looking at ways we can improve the office and innovations we can make.’ ‘I’m very happy with the way it has gone for the last number of years. It has been successful and we have done a lot of major projects around the town and I’m looking forward to lots more challenges in months and years to come.’ Apart from running a very successful business, P. is also very active in the local community. He is a former President of the Junior Chamber in Roscommon and the Chamber of Commerce and is also a former President of the Lions Club. He is a member of the County Development Board, where he represents employers and business. He is also an active Fianna Fáil member and was Director of Elections for Fianna Fáil in Roscommon Longford constituency in 2002.  He now holds the position of Chairman of the Fianna Fáil Dáil Ceanntar in Roscommon. He is also a member of the Board of Roscommon Credit Union. He ran unsuccessfully for a council seat and asked about his plans for next year’s local elections, an elusive P. said, ‘I haven’t made a decision on that yet.’