Uddin takes helm at Bermuda Gas

The Royal Gazette Oct 14 2011
By Alex Wright

Bermuda Gas will be focussing more on the commercial side of the business as its seeks to take advantage of new opportunities and come out of the recession in a better shape.

That is according to Judith Uddin, the company’s new general manager, who took over the role in August, having spent four months in an acting capacity.

For Ms Uddin, who is a Bermudian, it has been a swift rise to the top, having started out as an assistant financial controller with the company in 2009 and moved up the ranks from office manager to vice-president of operations and administration.

Beginning part-time she found that she couldn’t do things by halves and now finds herself running the company.

“It is an exciting opportunity,” she said. “Obviously coming through the ranks at Bermuda Gas I had a chance to get my feet wet and being in the acting general manager position for four months gave me a certain level of comfort knowing that I had the support of the staff which has really helped but the role has not been without its challenges.

“It has been a whirlwind really, but I have learnt a lot working in the different departments during my short time here.

“I know all of the 50 employees and because of our size it is a nice family type environment which I think works well.”

The biggest immediate change facing the new incumbent who took over from Damon Wade following his departure to the newly-formed Bermuda Environmental Energy Sustainable Group will be the consolidation of the business all under one roof.

The services, sales and supply chain departments will move into a custom-made new showroom, warehouse and offices at the former Federal Express building in Serpentine Road, Pembroke at the end of next month which will come complete with indoor and outdoor working kitchens to demonstrate the company’s appliances and products and showcase new items as well as a working fireplace and having the capacity to host various events and functions. Its distribution plant will remain at its current site.

The company will leave its existing showroom and bill payment centre on Church Street prior to the opening but plans to set up a bill payment kiosk in the city centre which will be shared with other Ascendant Group companies as soon as it finds the right location.

“One of the challenges in the past has been that the business has been in four different locations and that is an issue when you talk about communication throughout the group,” she said.

“This is also an opportunity for us to reach out to our customers with a higher level of service in that we will now be a one-stop shop to meet all their needs from taking care of any issues they may have to showing them and selling new appliances.

“Another test of course has been the current economic climate with gas sales down on last year, businesses shutting, less people using the product and becoming more conservative while the price of fuel has risen greatly.

“But despite this we have worked hard and made the conscious decision to ensure that we don’t pass on all of these rises to the consumer during these tough times.”

Indeed, during the first half of this year Bermuda Gas’s profits fell 40.5 percent or $252,868 to $369,948 from $621,816 for the same six-month period in 2010. Last year the company reported that net earnings had risen 3.9 percent to $1.32 million from $1.27 million the year prior as an additional 9,512 pounds of propane were sold.

But despite the turnaround in fortunes, Ms Uddin has achieved a considerable amount during her brief spell at the helm, including being the driving force behind Bermuda Gas becoming one of the first companies on the Island to convert its fleet to propane-injection powered vehicles and she has plans to grow the business in the future.

One of those opportunities is the commercial market which provides the company with its biggest volume of business and she intends to capitalise on that through the implementation of new technologies. KitchenAid is the latest line to come on board with the manufacturer’s representatives coming over to train up the sales staff on the new products.

Bermuda Gas has also been leveraging the help of its sister companies Belco and PurENERGY Renewables in the provision of the Grand Atlantic development’s energy system with the installation of underground tanks at the property the first such project that the Ascendant Group has collaborated on as a whole.

However while progress has been steady on the business side, Ms Uddin admitted that there was still some work to do from an educational perspective in selling propane to Government and businesses as a cleaner and greener solution.

As the economic downturn continues to bite, Ms Uddin said the company has been cutting its cloth accordingly.

“We are tightening our belts just like everyone else,” she said. “We are doing what we can to cut costs across the board without impacting our people.

“Thankfully we have been able to maintain our staffing levels and not have to make any redundancies.”

Prior to joining Bermuda Gas, Ms Uddin was the assistant general manager and financial controller at Bermuda Creamery Ltd for 16 years and ran The Lemon Tree and Beau Rivage with her husband Lee.