Andrea McCarthy from McCarthy Panel Works is one of the last finalists announced for the 2016 awards sponsored by NRMA.

Andrea McCarthy's career in smash spans two decades at McCarthy Panel Works in North Mackay, Queensland. Coming from a retail background, McCarthy believes customers are at the core of the business.

“I try to bring my retail experience to the shop - customers are everything. Even though we're not a recommended repairer, we still get those returning customers because of the service we offer.”

McCarthy has worked her way up in the business, taking on a range of roles and building a rapport with external forces such as the Motor Trades Association (MTA) in Queensland.

Despite her success, she's a firm believer that when it comes to women in smash, the head count could be higher and beneficial to the industry.

“I think the role of women in smash repair could be much greater. Whether it's on the shop floor, or in the office, or as a parts manager.

“Women can often approach decisions from a different angle and I see it on the board of the MTA in Queensland. When there's an issue raised women can often say, 'what about this?' or 'how about looking at it from this perspective?”

McCarthy sits on the committee as the National Auto Collision Alliance secretary. As she explains, the position is a way to stay up-to-date with industry development as well as having being able to have her say.

“I enjoy receiving and providing input at the meetings and believe I am able to bring a different perspective to the committee not only because I am a woman, but because I can highlight issues that face regional areas, that vary from metro areas.

"Parts supply is a perfect example of this and the difficulties faced regionally in receiving parts freighted long distances and the damage this can cause. I regularly attend benchmarking workshops with AkzoNoble and this enables me to address problematic areas within my organisation and to fine tune areas that may already be doing okay, whilst learning what other like-minded businesses are doing within their organisations.”

Aside from being an active member within the Queensland smash repair scene, McCarthy has also undertaken tertiary courses to boost her business skills.

She has completed a Certificate IV in Business Management and boasts the 'Green Belt' training on workshop efficiency. A juggler of roles also has McCarthy heading up the shop's HR sector.

McCarthy's advice to other women working in the industry is simply to be authentic.

“Just remember who you are and what you want to get out of the industry and your business. It's all about doing the job right, remaining true to yourself and most importantly, don't be swayed by outside forces.”

Looking to the future, McCarthy says she'll focus on developing what she does best within the business – service.

“We focus a lot on training with organisations like I-CAR as a key part of the business. There have been a lot of changes over the years with technology and insurance companies and we just want to keep doing what we're doing and keep our customers happy.”

Despite gearing up for industry-wide changes over the next five years, McCarthy is confident that the right approach to business will ensure longevity for the little guys.

“The industry has changed a lot over the years and what I see happening next is more businesses consolidating. In the long run though, I definitely see a place for independent businesses – there will always be a place for us.”

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