PartsCheck continue to interview women in the industry and hand out some stylish Women in Collision T-Shirts. Here's their chat with Kathy Leaney-Ralph from T&C Smash Repairs in Coffs Harbour.
How long have you been in the industry?
In 2007 we opened as an independent family business, so it’s been 14 years in Administration/Office roles within smash repairs.
What made you join the industry?
My husband Peter and I were looking to secure our future after he had spent 14 years in his family’s business. That is when an opportunity presented itself to buy T & C Smash Repairs in 2007. Tom Ryan (RIP) & Chris McCann (the original T & C namesakes) decided they were ready to retire after 30 years. We were fortunate that Tom & Chris had a solid reputation and it seemed like the natural progression for my husband to start his own shop. Fast forward to 2019 when we branched out into Towing in the form of Towing Coffs Coast (TCC). This has been a welcome diversity for us than just the smash repairs business alone.
What do you like most about industry?
No one day is the same. It can be quite challenging at times, however this makes the days and weeks more interesting really. Basically, 90% of customers initially do not want to visit a smash repairer or get to know us, eventually though they are glad they do.
We have had many lovely regulars over the years, and still do. They even bring their family members in to see us.
As for women in collision, I have meet some wonderfully funny and smart women over the past 14 years. Many of these are trade suppliers (Karen & Karen), FlexiQuotesupport (Jo & Paula) parts suppliers (Karen & Jenny) and sublet supplier (Trishy), plus many more. I thank all of these women for helping to make the sometimes-mundane tasks enjoyable with more than a few laughs being shared over the years. Although I have not meet them all in person, the support from these women has been second to none, especially during Covid19.
What advice would you have for a young lady wanting to join / starting off in the industry?
If they are going to become technicians I would suggest that they should have a strong personality, a hearty work ethic and take pride in completing tasks. They should also be mentally and physically tough as both this trade can be hard work at times.
As far as office or administration roles go, I strongly recommend they are a serious multi-tasker with a friendly personality. There can be multiple sidesto the industry, so you need to be able to deal with many activities at the same time. Experience is not always necessary as sometimes having a blank canvas to work with and to train is perfect because bad habits haven’t been formed yet. In saying that, experience in sales, hospitality or similar is a bonus for customer service, particularly when multi-tasking. You need to be able to hold a conversation with anyone aged 17-70 as that is the demographic we work with.
Currently, T & C and TCC has a team of 4 ladies, Deb Leaney – Senior Administrator Management Officer, Debbie Saville – Towing Trade Account Manager/Data Assistant (, Lindy ’Lundy’ Mills – Front Office Customer Service Manager/IT Guru/Insurance Liaison and myself – I work in both the smash & towing divisions.
Both these divisions include Customer Service/Office Administration/Accounts, so basically I have a foot in each camp as the all-rounder. There’s never a dull moment, that’s for sure. I should also mention our ground staff. These guys are hardworking, they love eating birthday cake and are funny. They make it easier to enjoy coming to work. I know it's ‘Women in Collision’, but I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’tfor the hard workthat they do. Front office (Peter - Owner operator), Panel/Paint/Detail (Craig/Mark/Brad/Brett/Dan), tow driver (Rod). Also, there is my dad – Russ. He is my sounding board and offers years of experience and guidance. My mum Kaye, is our constant. She still cooks for everyone and supports us all in the background. As we all know, working fulltime is hard work and knowing someone already has dinner sorted for you when you walk in the door … now how good is that? I am also thankful for the experience, support and guidance from all our family members.
What do you do for fun outside of work?
Actually, I enjoy the ocean, beach, river and going on our boat or packing up the caravan and getting away for bit of fishing, swimming, camping and the occasional 9 holes of Golf. Not necessarily in that order.
What is your favourite car?
One that works! We have an 80 Series LandCruiser and it’s my favourite car.