05 June 2019
P B Donoghue: innovating the waste market
Eithne McGowan is the finance director of family-owned waste and recycling company P B Donoghue, which has seen three generations running the business for over 40 years. She talks about the company’s success, its relationship with B P Collins and being a woman in a man’s world.
How did you get to where you are today?
Even though I grew up in the family business, I thought my career would head in a different direction after I finished my education. But once I started working for P B Donoghue, I just loved the work and have been here ever since.
I’ve been employed in every single part of the business, from operations to administration – basically everything except driving the trucks with the lads. I initially came in right at the bottom answering telephone calls and worked my way up to become finance director, which is where I am now.
I believe that hard work and a very thick skin is needed in this world. The construction sector is very male dominated - only 13% of the UK workforce are female - but I’ve got an amazing team that redresses that balance.
Higher up in the industry it’s even more male dominated – only one in five construction businesses in Britain have women in senior roles. As a woman in a senior position, it’s important to let people know that you’re not a soft touch and I try to be a role model for other women who would like to move up the career ladder.
Hardest part of the job?
There is a huge shortfall of operational staff in the industry at the moment. The construction sector is really suffering with a lack of qualified people due to Brexit. We have a high number of Eastern European drivers, who form the core of our business, but since Brexit, long term employees are choosing to return home as they feel quite unsettled. The biggest challenge is to keep staff levels up on the driving front.
Best part of the job?
Seeing the business grow. My father came to England when he was 16 and started working for a construction firm. He and my mother took a chance and put all of their savings into one lorry. And here we are over 40 years later. It’s a pleasure to watch the business continuing to grow and my father still has a great sense of pride seeing his name above the door.
How have you contributed to P B Donoghue’s success? How was B P Collins involved in this?
I think our greatest strength is the fantastic team that I’ve built up. We value our people and the contribution they’ve made, particularly the operational systems they’ve put in place and the accreditations they’ve helped the company to achieve.
I’m also grateful to B P Collins. who we’ve been working with for four years. They initially advised us on a big claim that a company made against us and we worked very closely with Craig Williams and Rajiv Malhotra, from the dispute resolution team, to overcome that. They’ve been superb. We’ve also worked with Jo Davis on the employment front, who is brilliant too. We see them as a very good support for our business.
What are the company’s plans for the future?
We’ve just invested in a freehold depot in Watford and want to drive it forward. It’s our second depot after Brent Cross. We also wish to keep investing in our recycling services, by keeping up to date with the latest technology, ensuring our workforce is happy and hopefully achieving steady growth.
My son, who has just finished his degree, is now involved in the business. I’m proud to see the next generation coming through who will hopefully drive the company to the next level.
What challenges does your sector face? How do you plan to overcome them?
The biggest challenge is keeping on top of how Brexit will shape the future of recycling.
Compliance changes rapidly too. This year alone, the Mayor of London has already issued new laws around the type of vehicles that are permitted to enter London. It’s imperative that we keep our fleet in line with the new regulations.
If you weren’t the finance director of P B Donoghue, what would you be doing?
If I wasn’t sitting on a beach in Portugal, I think I would have been involved in the fashion industry, as I love shoes and handbags. Who knows, perhaps I would have taken the environmentally conscious recycling ethos of P B Donoghue and been an advocate for upcycling in the industry!