Having been a fixture in the business set up by her father, Mario Gauci, since she was a young girl, Sharon Gauci has climbed the ranks at Burmarrad Group, culminating in her appointment as CEO in 2019. Now, together with her father and siblings, she’s got her sights set on further growth, while retaining the company’s hard-earned position as market leader.
Sharon Gauci, CEO of Burmarrad Group, speaks of her role with humility, describing herself as part of a team first and foremost, a team which is united by one common goal: to continue growing what has been built, improving the quality of their service for better value for money for clients, all the while diversifying further. “As CEO, I take every decision with responsibility, in the best interest of the team, our clients and the company,” she smiles.
Burmarrad Group is a family business, established in 1984 by her father, Mario Gauci, and its origins, Sharon says, are humble. “My father’s family were in farming. As a teenager, he used to work in the fields with my grandparents and was also involved in poultry-growing and processing – it was a very different line of work,” she explains.
That all changed one fateful day when, as Mario stood in his father’s fields opposite what is now the Burmarrad Group premises, inspiration struck as a truck transporting cargo passed by. “He thought to himself that, in Malta, everything must be transported by road; we don’t have trains or other means of transport. So, he founded Burmarrad Group with a partner, and travelled to the UK to visit vehicle auctions, trying to find suppliers. It was much harder at that time, before the internet and mobile phones existed, but he just went and did it,” Sharon says with admiration.
Mario and his partner would go on to import trucks and heavy construction machinery for 15 years, growing Burmarrad Group into a trusted market leader and pioneer in the local automotive industry. After that, he decided to take over the company entirely, and since then, with the help of Sharon and her siblings, has continued to grow and diversify the business.
“We started the importation of used vehicles from Japan and introduced corporate rentals and leasing, and today we run a fleet of over 1,000 vehicles,” Sharon explains, adding, “we also introduced an in-house service centre, where we service and maintain our fleet and vehicles belonging to third parties. It’s also worth mentioning that our company is ISO:9001 certified.”
The secret to their success, she maintains, has been adapting to market trends and understanding clients’ needs by offering a hassle-free, tailor-made service and product, while always keeping focused, and investing and seeking opportunities for growth.
Sharon herself has been involved in the business from a very young age – accompanying her father to work since she was a girl. At the age of 16, she joined the company officially on a full-time basis. “I must confess, it wasn’t an easy task at the time – going into a business that was considered to be a man’s realm. I started off by selling spare parts and tyres,” she chuckles, recalling, “clients would come to the shop and wonder if I was able to help them with their requests! I was willing and eager to learn, and I did.”
Nothing deterred her from learning the ropes of her father’s business, including joining him at the docks to receive cargo when the company imported vehicles from the UK, and helping to clear large trucks from customs. She even went as far as to fill the role of truck driver when the need arose!
And, when her father decided to buy out his partner in 1999, her siblings joined too, carrying on his vision. “Together with our father, we set a strategy to evolve further, while keeping the focus on the automotive industry,” Sharon maintains, proudly attesting that today, “Burmarrad Group is the market leader when it comes to vehicle sales, leasing, rentals, maintenance and repairs.”
In 2019, 25 years after joining the company, Sharon was appointed CEO by the Board of Directors. She acknowledges the Board members’ support and belief in her ability to move the Group in the right direction. “I do my job with passion, commitment and determination, and keep the strong family values that were passed on to me by my parents – if it were not for my family, I would not be the person I am today,” she says.
Pausing to pay tribute to her mother, the CEO affirms that, despite never being involved in the direct running of the business, she was instrumental in Sharon and her siblings’ success. “She is the backbone of our family and does everything for our children as well as ourselves – she’s a very dedicated person, who helps us to focus on the business,” Sharon reveals, with gratitude.
Speaking of the joys and challenges that are inherent in her role, Sharon lists meeting people, particularly clients, and understanding their needs, among the elements she enjoys most; as well as having clear, straightforward discussions with her team. “I’m very frank, sometimes too frank,” she smiles, admitting, “I love being surrounded by my team of dedicated employees, my family being supportive of my decisions, and going into new business ventures. My role gives me the opportunity to look into new business prospects, grow bigger and better, invest, take on new challenges, and never give up.”
One unexpected new challenge, however, was dealing with a worldwide pandemic within a few short months of being made CEO. Reflecting on the onset of COVID-19, Sharon says, “we had to take a long, hard look at ourselves, to reorganise and adapt to the situation. When the pandemic hit, most of our clients were affected, and some decided to terminate or pause their lease agreement in order to cut costs. That was what affected us most. Otherwise, things kept going in the workshop – we are service providers after all – nurses who worked as frontliners needed to rent vehicles, food and goods needed to be delivered… we never stopped.”
To make up for the loss in business, the CEO says that the team was quick to seek out new opportunities, and introduced fleet maintenance agreements that saw the company take over clients’ fleets. “This way, our clients could put their minds at rest that their vehicles were being taken care of, and this has since generated new revenue for the Group,” she explains, revealing that, as a consequence of these decisions, the company was able to retain all of its personnel in the most difficult of times.
Moving forward, the pandemic continues to be a burden, with the CEO highlighting delays in supply for new vehicles as an ongoing issue. “There is a shortage of supply, as well as a huge increase in the cost of supply, apart from delays in shipping. At the same time, the request for used vehicles sales has increased, and this is an opportunity for us,” she explains.
This year will also prove an exciting one for the Group, as it prepares to move to new premises in Marsa. “This was a challenging decision for the Gauci family, whose members were all born, have lived and worked in Burmarrad their whole lives,” reveals Sharon, explaining that the company is shifting the operation in its entirety to a state- of-the-art and much larger facility where it will be closer to the community in a more reachable, central location.
“Despite all the challenges we faced with the pandemic, the Group decided to move forward and invest €12 million in the new facility, where we will be able to focus more on the quality of our work, so as to remain market leaders,” she says, excited about the next big step in the company’s journey.
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