Donna Mullen carries many titles on her shoulders. Director, mother, company secretary, business owner, and decider of fates, are but a few. She is often the first voice that clients speak to, or the first friendly face to welcome them. She is also the person that really runs the show behind the scenes and ensures that everyone is happy, safe, and gets paid. Donna is also the business owner of Grant’s the Bakers alongside being a director at GM Joinery. Most of all, she is an expert multitasker who loves her job, although it is hard work and no easy feat being the matriarch of a business in a male-dominated industry. We had the chance to sit down with her and learn more.
Q: How did you get into this line of work?
Well, it was my husband’s business which he started in 1994. I used to help him out with some admin tasks and secretary work back then. I was simultaneously running my own business as well though, but I have pretty much been involved in GM Joinery since the beginning.
Q: When did you begin working full-time at GM Joinery?
At that time, my husband had hired other secretaries and I was busy running my own business. The secretary back then was moving on from GM Joinery but it was just before Christmas so we didn’t have much time to fill her space. That’s when I stepped in and took over – just to help out for a few weeks. I ended up staying on as the company secretary since then. That was in 2011.
Q: What does the job entail on a daily basis?
My official title is Director and Company secretary, but the job really entails a bit of everything. Multitasking is my main job. One day I’ll be answering emails, taking phone calls and invoicing clients. The next day I can be hoovering the office, discussing upcoming projects with the guys or taking client meetings. It really depends on what needs to be done that day! It’s hard work but I really like it. A lot of the time, I really am the first point of contact and the decider of fates.
Q: Do you feel that your experience in the industry might be different due to your being a woman?
Most of the time, I don’t really feel like it’s all that different to any other secretary job. If anything, I feel people expect me to be a woman because of the title. However, I have found that some people will discriminate based on the title of Secretary. For instance, I have had phone calls with men who have demanded to speak to someone other than “A daft secretary with no power”. Little do they know that I am also the director of the company and can decide whether or not I believe we should work with them!
Q: What would you say to women wanting to join the joinery industry on the workshop floor?
I don’t see a reason why not to do it! It is a male-dominated industry but that doesn’t mean that women should avoid the job. In fact, I think it would be great to see more women working in the industry.
Q: What is the best part of the job?
I really enjoy the fact that no two days are the same. I have yet to encounter a day that hasn’t been busy, which means I have no time to be bored either. Of course, I do enjoy working with my son on a daily basis as well and I have a really good working relationship with the guys in the workshop. There is so much respect and understanding there – these are guys that have been working with us for a long time and that know the business inside and out. And I love getting involved in the projects – especially when it comes to exciting bespoke projects. It’s really special to see a piece come to life from just being drawings. I will say though, my one pet peeve is the amount of dust the guys drag into the office at times… Most of them know now to take their shoes off now to avoid my screaming at them!
Q: What sets GM Joinery apart according to you?
The company has always had super high standards and amazing service, since the very start in 1994. We pride ourselves on the quality of not only the work being done, but also the level of knowledge everyone that works here possesses. We are especially excellent at bespoke projects – we have got some really interesting pieces in our portfolio. The bespoke pieces are always my favourites, it’s amazing to see unusual and unique pieces come to life from just being ideas.