Having grown up in Brisbane, Richard Singer’s first job after finishing his education was at the privately-owned Volvo truck dealership Collins and Davey at Breakfast Creek.
“I’d finished college and wasn’t really sure what career path I wanted to pursue,” Richard says. “I saw a job advertised for a spare parts interpreter, so I applied for it and was successful. At that stage, it’s fair to say, I saw this as a job I would do until I worked out what I really wanted to do.”
As it turned out though, Richard has remained in the trucking industry and, more specifically, for the most part involved with Volvo Group brands, from that day forth.
He quickly progressed through different roles in the parts department and ended up being Parts Manager at the branch.
Eventually Collins and Davey was bought by Volvo Group Australia (VGA), with Richard continuing as Parts Manager at the new company-owned dealership.
“I stayed in that role until 1995 when I was offered an internal promotion to help kick start a company called VMR Truckparts, a wholly-owned subsidiary of VGA that refurbished second-hand Volvo trucks, parts and components,” he says.
VGA started VMR as a wholesale business to supply its dealer network with quality, refurbished trucks to sell. It was also designed to cater for the older vehicle park in Australia, supporting existing customers of earlier Volvo trucks with affordably priced remanufactured engines, transmissions and differential assemblies and other parts which were becoming harder to obtain.
“We would get the majority of our stock through auctions of older traded-in and written-off vehicles and we ended up with quite a good business where we would bring them in, strip them down, rebuild all the components, catalogue all the parts, then ship them off to the dealers for sale,” Richard says.
The business, according to Richard, proved very successful because it filled a niche market for in-demand parts that were getting harder to procure and parts that were no longer supported globally from a remanufacturing perspective.
After his stint at VMR, Richard moved into a role with VGA at a wholesale level as National Parts Manager for Volvo trucks.
He held this position for a few years and then in 2007 was given the opportunity to take a two-year assignment at Volvo’s global headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden.
“I worked on a Retail Development program focusing on the definition of an ideal service and repair process – how customers are received and how the repairs are carried out,” Richard recalls.
“This included an extensive pilot program in South Africa which was a great learning experience.”
He adds that working directly with colleagues in Sweden was a real eye-opener – understanding how their processes work and the methodology behind building the trucks and buses.
Richard regales another enlightening aspect of his overseas sojourn, saying it enabled him to understand first-hand how and why, in his opinion, the Volvo Group has been so successful as a global organisation.
“The company recognised early on that operating solely within its home market was unsustainable, and therefore its focus on global operations has always been strong,” he says. “This is in contrast to some of our competitors with strong home markets where exporting vehicles seems to be a somewhat lower priority.”
After his two-year stint in Sweden, Richard returned to a commercial aftersales role in Australia and was soon working on projects pertaining to the integration of Mack Trucks into the VGA operation following the Renault/Mack acquisition.
“It was a great opportunity to work with the two different brands and navigate the best path for cultural and brand integration,” Richard says. “We were able to consolidate warehouses and introduce economies of scale that assisted in the more efficient operation of the group as a whole.”
Following the integration, Richard was given the opportunity to run Commercial Aftersales nationally for Volvo and Mack, looking after parts, service and technical.
Then in 2010 he took up an offer to move to Beijing and become Commercial Director of Volvo Group operations Australia/Pacific (APAC) covering five brands across the entire Asian market including Japan and India.
“That was a particularly fascinating period in my career, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting my head around the various nuances of emerging markets, multiple brands and cultures,” Richard says.
“It really was an amazing experience to immerse myself in the emerging markets, to find out what makes them tick and to understand how the Volvo Group products fit in.”
From there Richard made the move to Mack’s global headquarters at Greensboro, North Carolina, as Commercial Director specifically for the Mack brand.
“I was responsible for the commercial aftersales functions of Mack in 42 countries, again, a superb opportunity to work within different markets including Central and South America where the Mack brand is particularly strong.”
After that, Richard and his wife decided to repatriate to Australia, predominantly to give their children some normality in their high school years.
At the time there were no suitable opportunities at VGA, so Richard took up a role with the Victorian CMV dealer network, where he was employed for three and a half years running retail branches.
“This was another interesting phase for me as I had previously spent 25 years in the wholesale side of things,” Richard says.
“It was intriguing for me to be able to test the water and adapt the things I’d learned in wholesale to the retail space. I also thoroughly enjoyed the accessibility and close relationships with the end customers.”
According to Richard, this experience gave him a thorough understanding of the pressure and pain points that truck owners and operators experience on a day-to-day basis.
“In a lot of cases, their truck is their only source of income, so if it is not ready to go to work, they might struggle to keep food on the table,” he says.
After this, Richard accepted an offer from Scania to take up a senior leadership role in Brisbane. He saw it as an ideal opportunity to be re-employed in his home state as he had been flying from Brisbane to Melbourne on a weekly basis while employed by CMV Group.
He worked as a Regional Executive Manager with Scania Australia for three years with responsibility for retail in Queensland as well as being a member of the Scania Australia executive team.
By his own admission, Richard has Volvo blood coursing through his veins. As such, while he says he enjoyed his time with Scania, when the opportunity to return to the ‘big V’ presented late last year, he grabbed it with both hands.
“I felt the time was right and I was keen to re-join VGA in a new role, so in February this year I jumped back into the Volvo family as Vice President of Services and Retail Development, and the rest is history so far,” he says.
His comprehensive experience abroad has been a valuable asset that will help him succeed in his current and future roles.
“In Sweden I learnt a lot about the European market, and the pilot we did in South Africa gave me exposure in that market. I also covered a lot of Asian countries during my time in China, following which I was privy to the unique requirements of the good ol’ boys in the US and Canada, in addition to their counterparts in Central and South America,” he says.
“I am very thankful for all the opportunities that have come from working within a global organisation and being able to spend time employed in so many different countries.”