In Conversation with United Fuels

United Fuels is a fuel distribution business based in Skipton, North Yorkshire. The business was established in 2018 and is proud to be an independent fuel distributor.

United Fuels

Claudia Weeks, Community Content Lead for Fuel Oil News, spoke with James Ferguson, Managing Director at United Fuels.

A day never to be forgotten

The United Fuels team are delighted to be celebrating five successful years since launching, and James reminisced about the very first day in business: “We started with a 4-wheeler, a driver (my brother-in-law), myself, and another office member (my nephew) and a whole lot of enthusiasm!

“I will never forget the first day that we opened for business. We all sat watching the phone at 8am and waited for it to ring.

We had done some hefty leaflet dropping announcing our opening and so it was a great delight (and relief!) that, at 8.07am on our first day, we received our first order!

“Since then, we have grown to six tankers, a handful of office staff and still have the same enthusiasm we had when we started.”

The impact of Covid

The coronavirus pandemic hugely impacted all businesses, but it was especially challenging for businesses in their infancy, as James explained: “Just as we thought things were starting to go well, Covid 19 arrived!

“Businesses were shut overnight, which massively affected our commercial growth plans. It was an incredibly challenging time for us all.

“It felt like the biggest milestone for us, as a business, when it was over and, thankfully, the customers we had started to engage with didn’t forget us! Since then, we have seen a steady increase in volumes year on year.”

The team is United

Claudia asked James to tell us more about the team at United Fuels: “Back in 2018, we started with three staff and one truck. We now have ten members of staff and six trucks!

“From day one we had a real ‘one family ethos’ mentality and this still maintains today. Our staff are the backbone of the company, and we all work extremely well together.

“However, I am very much an ideas man. I’m very happy, but rarely satisfied! When I come into the office and say “I have a new idea!”, I can see eyes rolling and giggles as to what it might be this week.

“I do encourage my team to challenge my ideas and to share their ideas collaboratively which always makes for an interesting debate in the office! I’m lucky to be surrounded by such a fantastic team.”

Customers get a personalised service James explained more about the location of the business: “Skipton is local to where I live, and it is the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales, so it was an obvious choice of location to launch the business.

“I love dealing with customers on a personal level and I want to maintain that discipline. We don’t want to be an over commercialised company and I think the vast majority of customers see the value in dealing with a smaller player in the industry.

As a smaller business, customers know that they are getting that personalised service. On occasion, it is the MD himself delivering the fuel!

“Customers choose us as their supplier because of the team we have at United Fuels. Our people make the difference. From our drivers to the office staff, we get to know our customers and enjoy building those relationships with them.

“We feel that we are part of the community and we have enjoyed going to many weddings, christenings, and, sadly, even funerals, of our customers. Our customers matter hugely to us.”

The most memorable day

Fuel Oil News asked James to share his most memorable day at work: “I have to say that there have been plenty of memorable days although one day does stand out.

“I received a phone call about 4.30pm to say that an elderly couple, one of which was on end-of-life care, had been let down by their supplier and had no heating for the night.

“It was October 2022, and the temperature was below zero. After hearing their plight, I jumped in a truck immediately and drove two hours to get to them. When I arrived, I didn’t realise just how poorly one of the individuals was and he was being kept warm by blankets. I delivered the oil (at cost) and they wrote a letter to me a few days later telling me how they couldn’t thank me enough. It was incredibly touching and meant a lot to help out.”

The industry

“I must say that the most enjoyable part of operating in fuel distribution is that no two days are ever the same. The challenges are daily, which certainly keeps me busy, and it means that every day is interesting.”

When asked about his proudest accomplishment in the business, James replied: “It has to be creating job opportunities and seeing my team grow with the business.”

And, when asked the best piece of advice he has been given in this industry, James laughed and said: “Ears! Mouth! – It’s best to use them in that order!


The future for United Fuels

“We are excited for the future of United Fuels. We know that we are in an ever- changing industry so will have to adjust plans accordingly as time goes by, but our plan will always be to grow organically and keep our company ethos. We will never compromise our service to customers and never choose growth over that.

“Now we need to celebrate our 5th anniversary in business, and we have plans for a big staff curry night!”

Enjoy your celebrations United Fuels. We look forward to catching up with James and the team again soon.

Image credit: United Fuels