The Women in Smash Repair (WISR) panel, made up of last year's finalists, has chosen the first of five finalists for 2015. Donna Robson of Queensland truck repair specialist The River Group is highly valued for her versatility, people skills and keen industry insight.Even though she is known as 'she who must be obeyed', Donna Robson is a warm, highly capable and vital staff member at multi-site truck repair specialist The River Group.
Her official title is Queensland claims and fleet manager but her actual role is far more diverse. Business owner Russ Hill puts it beautifully.
"Donna oversees business administration and staff across five sites. She will pitch in to any role necessary from PA to CEO. She cooks the snags at the workshop BBQs and specilaises in trauma therapy for hard done by staff."
Robson helped her husband to run a panel shop before joining The River Group in 2012. She started as one of the receptionists and her role grew with the business.
"As the new shops opened in Townsville, Mackay and on the Sunshine Coast I trained up the staff," Robson says.
Her main role is to run the large fleet accounts ensuring these customers, whose business is essential to the group's profitability, are happy. This means scrutinising every communication, invoice and estimate as well as building relationships with key personnel.
Hill also values her great instincts and intelligence. "She has
a good ear, thinks before she speaks, knows enough to be silent when it really needs saying (or she'd love to say it), and the timing to let loose when the opportunity arises," he says.
"She has spent the last few years training other staff, nurturing our juniors, going toe to toe with tradies when required, and keeps the owners in check. She is a really good sounding board. She will also take constructive criticism on the chin and improves with the feedback.
"If we could bottle her passion, energy and care factor and sell it, we'd all be rich. Donna has the ability to talk to customers, find out what they want to hear, tell them and then deliver that back. She can write a quote, process a job, has a good enough eye for detail and knowledge of the industry to see when something is right or not and the ability to get things right whilst keeping staff on side. Donna is very much a visionary and keen to embrace new technology and persuade staff to buy in," Hill says.
Robson also develops the female staff in the company. "As the manager of all our reception and sales staff who are all female. I like to think that I strive to ensure they are as heavily involved in their sites as possible. Also, that they feel they are
a vital part of our company, ensuring that all staff have the respect for them that is deserved.
"My position allows me to help change the 'boys club' mentality which is nearly extinct in our company. I try to inspire our female staff and give them the assurance that if they wish to move up in the company, the training, support and positions are available to them."
Robson is also involved in organsing marketing material for the company. Last year, she and another employee devised
an effective billboard campaign in North Queensland and the Sunshine Coast (pictured). She then ensured that all other marketing materials reflected the new branding devised for the campaign.
What does Robson like best about the job? "I enjoy working with our team and I enjoy the variety the role offers, as well as all the travel to Northern Queensland. I come in and who knows what I'll end up doing - fleet work, accounting, estimating, sales?"