Petrina White of Cramp Bros Bodyworks has powered on with the business after her husband's death.
Cramp Bros Bodyworks is the longest running bodyshop in Hobart, Tasmania with Petrina White at its helm as owner and director. White entered the industry 25 years ago when she purchased Cramp Bros Bodyworks with her husband in 1990.
Fourteen years later, her life and role in the business took an unexpected turn.
"Sadly, my husband was diagnosed with cancer in 2004 and to focus on his recovery, we enlisted the assistance of our manager, Roger Noy, to continue the daily operations of the business. Roger was outstanding in this role and I am fortunate to still have him in this role today. My husband lost his brave battle in 2006 and I then became the sole operator of the business."
Since then, White works across all aspects of the business and says she has picked up new skills along the way.
"Over the years I have learnt how to quote and clients are often surprised when I accompany them to the quoting foyer armed with my camera and notebook. I've even taken on the detailer's role and can now say that I am quite capable of cleaning cars – although I am somewhat 'vertically challenged' so reaching the roof can be a battle."
Reaching the roof isn't the only battle White has faced throughout her many years in the industry. In fact, she believes that Tasmania is doing it tough in terms of keeping up with shops across the rest of Australia.
"In Tasmania, I feel there is a lack of access to training to keep our staff fully up-to-date with the latest technology. With the ever-changing composition of vehicles, it's no longer a simple matter of 'banging out a dent'. It is of the utmost importance to me that my staff are always up-to-date with the changes in the industry, not only to increase efficiency, but also to protect their own safety."
White has sought out opportunities to develop the skills of her staff and has been a member of the Tasmanian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (TACC) since 1994. Today, three apprentices from Cramp Bros have been awarded 'Apprentice of the Year' by the TACC and White has also been honoured as the 'Host Employer of the Year' by the organisation.
Following the death of her husband, she has also engaged with Cancer Council and donates funds from the business to the charity. Last year she was even profiled in its publication on her work in the smash repair industry.
Over the next five years, White believes it will be time to put the brakes on.
"In five years time, I hope to be winding down to retirement. I will have worked in the industry for the majority of my working life by then and will most definitely be ready for a sea change."
When asked what changes and challenges the industry will face over the next few years, White believes technology will open the door to new innovations and even create employment opportunities in the field.
"In five years I see the industry becoming quite different. With all the changes in cars and the technology involved I believe there will be new career paths for IT people just to manage computer-related components in cars."
As a Women in Smash finalist, White says it's the staff at Cramp Bros that have offered support over the years and given her momentum to fuel the business.
"I have faced some significant personal difficulties over the last two years, with both my mother and father passing away. The team have supported me not only on a professional level by completing excellent work, but also on a personal level as I have faced the grief of my strongest advocates passing away in such quick succession. The loss of my parents has been overwhelming at times, but the team at Cramp Bros have supported me every step of the journey."