Back in 1999, Joshua Bate had just two employees, one full-time and one part-time. It was a challenging period, he recalled, as his company was up against other big Bermuda retailers selling similar goods and had to carve out its own niche in the local marketplace. “We set ourselves apart from the competition by offering people better pricing and giving them the best customer service possible,” Mr Bate explained. “People couldn’t always find the appliances and other goods they wanted in local stores back then, so we provided them with an option to import products from overseas, while saving them money as well.”
That combination proved successful for Joshua Bate Trading Bermuda Ltd, which has grown significantly over the past two decades. Now with around 20 employees based between Bermuda and the United States, the award-winning company specialises in selling building materials, mattresses and high-end appliances from renowned brands like GE, Sub Zero and Wolf. It also aims to offer customers a great quality product they can rely on. “Probably the best thing I did to grow and improve the running of the business was to hire two key persons – Jill Hanson, our Operations Manager in the US in 2003 and Meagan McPeek, our General Manager in Bermuda in 2013,” Mr Bate explained. “They are both extremely talented and strong managers who have been critical to our efforts to expand on the Island.” “Sometimes you can hire people who can do something even better than you can do it yourself. If you can find those people and keep them happy, it’s a win-win situation for everyone.”
Relationship building happens to be one of Mr Bate’s greatest skills. He’s created strong bonds with everyone – from the people he buys from, right through to the end customer and the technicians who help with appliance repair. “I believe that the sun has to shine on everyone,” he said. “I’ve also learnt you have to follow your gut in business because when you don’t listen to your instincts, you almost always get burned. If you think something appears incorrect or someone seems dishonest, you have to take a step away from the situation, so your emotions don’t ruin your judgement, then you can quickly and effectively deal with whatever is happening.”
While having a larger workforce comes with a great deal of responsibility, Mr Bate admits it is also his biggest reward – knowing that he’s able to help people provide for and support their own families. “It feels good to give people a job where they feel valued and are treated well,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s about the people who work for you. They have to feel respected, and their skillset has to be used to its greatest potential.”
We are a company that does whatever we can to give back. It’s why we’ve lasted all these years and why customers are happy to still be doing business with us.
One of the biggest challenges that has hit Mr Bate’s industry in recent years is the notable decline in the number of qualified technicians and tradespeople who can competently work with their hands. “This will become even more of a problem in the future for a lot of industries in Bermuda,” he said. “Young people aren’t learning about the trades, and it isn’t being encouraged for them to train in these areas, but appliance technician work can pay a great wage and is very technically challenging with all the advanced features appliances have today.” He’s hoping young people will continue to see the value in technical work, which is why he launched Bate’s Quality Service (BQS) in 2014. With the help of the Bermuda Government, Mr Bate was able to send two Bermudians to technical school in the US, and he also arranged for on-the-job internship training for the young men.
Determined to give back in any way he can, Mr Bate is getting ready to launch a new charity campaign with Sleep in Heavenly Peace, a US-based not-for-profit, which provides beds for children in need. “As mattresses are still a big part of our business sales, we have decided to team up with other Bermuda-based companies and advocacy groups to identify the need on the Island and to do our part in building bunk beds so that no child has to sleep on the floor,” he said. “We are a company that does whatever we can to give back. It’s why we’ve lasted all these years and why customers are happy to still be doing business with us.”