Miami Smash is a prestige workshop on the Gold Coast with BMW, Porsche and Subaru approval. It's a family owned business established 33 years ago. Like many women in the industry, McHugh didn't set out to be involved in the smash repair business but is very happy that she is.
McHugh's background was in mortgage loans and, apart from helping with the accounts, she had little to do with Miami Smash until she had her family.
"That was when I became more involved. That's the way of family businesses - they suck you in!" McHugh said.
McHugh has run the panel shop herself for the last four years, while her former husband, Jamie, runs the caravan and motorhome repair shop down the road. As well as completing a diploma of business, McHugh has been involved for a number of years in the Axalta Performance Coating Lean courses and 5S workshops. Her role includes human resources, marketing, business development, setting KPI targets, ensuring profitability, securing suppliers and discounts, submissions for work with insurance companies and vehicle manufacturers.
Reviewing OH&S and procedures is another task along with providing guidance and support to the management team to ensure a "harmonious and productive work environment".
While pitching for the RACQ and NRMA contracts she made the decision to split the shop into a rapid repair stream and a conventional repair section in order to be able to achieve the throughput needed for the contracts.
"I visited a lot of shops to get ideas and it's working out really well. We do a lot of heavy hits, both prestige and mum and dad cars, so we had to separate the express repairs. Now we repair around 25 cars a week on the express side with a turnaround time of 2.8 days."
Like many shops in Queensland there's also queue of hail-damaged cars waiting to be fixed up. Miami is booked out until September for hail jobs.
McHugh is passionate about the industry and about her shop but she doesn't pretend it's easy. "A smash repair shop is unique in many ways but it is still a business selling a product. You have to offer the right product at the right price with the right processes to make sure you make a profit.
"You have to keep moving forward. You have to change
and always try to come up with new ways to keep the business profitable.
"Having the right team who support me and take ownership is a key factor to the success of the business. I have an awesome team," she said.
Being female in a male-dominated business doesn't even register on McHugh's radar as an issue. Her concerns are about locating quality staff, especially panel beaters and has, like many others in the industry, relied on importing talent through the 457 Visa system. McHugh likes to network with other repairers attending seminars and industry events whenever possible. She likes checking out other people's shops and processes and enjoys the many challenges of running a busy shop.
"I love this business. I work six days a week, you don't do that unless you love it."