One young woman has approached the road transport industry from a different angle to most, and it’s paying dividends for both her business and her customers’ slick-looking trucks.
The great thing about road transport is the variety. There is so many different areas within our industry, from drivers and loaders to allocators and managers, store people and office workers to salespeople and detailers. Therefore, when I’m looking for volunteers for my ‘Woman in Trucking’ profiles there is a vast array of options.
For my second Woman in Transport feature I decided to step away from the driver’s seat side of things and look into affiliated businesses. I got very lucky when I met an extremely motivated and driven young woman who has built a very successful business that caters to a tremendously important aspect of our industry, making sure our trucks look cool!
Maddison Lawrence is the young lady that I’ve lined up for this story and Slick Azz Protective Films is the business that she started. The Brisbane-based company specialises in applying paint protection film to heavy vehicles. It’s a high-end film that shields the vehicle from the wear and tear of the tough industry we work in. The bonus side being it makes maintaining shine and cleaning trucks a hell of a lot easier.
The question is, how has a 27-year-old woman, with no family affiliation to transport, managed to not just break into the transport industry? But thrive and fall in love with it. Easy really, she’s a bloody hard worker.
Maddison is a self-confessed gypsy. Born in Gladstone but raised throughout Queensland, the transport industry was never really a goal for her.
“Everyone asks if my dad’s in transport and stuff like that. There’s no family history at all,” says Maddison, laughing as she adds, “My dad is a scientist, he’s the most impractical person ever.”
Ending up in the transport game was purely a result of Maddison’s larger goal. “I just wanted to run a business,” she confesses.
At the completion of high school Year 12 her father offered some sound advice. “Dad said don’t go to Uni to learn business, do something and learn business firsthand,” Maddison recalls. “My mum had a car detailing contract that she’d been wanting to sell so I took my savings and bought that.”
In comparison, at the end of my school years, my life savings – bearing in mind I was a lot like Maddison and I’d been working since about age 12 – would barely have stretched to a happy meal. An indication of Maddison’s character was she’d saved 11 grand and used that to buy the car detailing contract. Even back then it was evident Maddison had her head screwed on right.
Slick Azz Detailing was her first official business and Maddison would eventually grow beyond the fleet car contracts she had and end up with mobile detailers in Brisbane, Rockhampton and Emerald. She wasn’t just the manager though; Maddison was very much a hands-on boss, contorting herself amongst the fleet cars and cleaning up with the rest of her employees.
Maddison ended up living back up in Rockhampton when she got Slick Azz detailing started there. The self-confessed country music girl was happy in Rocky as well, until a call from Jason Ryan at Viking Trucks on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast offered a new opportunity and would throw her into the transport industry.
“I’d detailed a couple of trucks for Jason while I’d been living in Coolum,” Maddison explains. “Then he rang when he’d just picked up a contract to refurb some trade-in Volvos. He asked if I’d move back and detail the trucks.”
That job had her detailing around 10 trucks a week. “It was just me doing the trucks and they were used, so they were gross,” Maddison admits with a laugh.
It was hard work, as any detailer will tell you, but Maddison was growing a solid reputation for the work Slick Azz Detailing was doing on heavy vehicles. Her affection for heavy vehicle and the transport industry had developed to the point she started focussing Slick Azz Detailing on trucks, picking up work at Brown & Hurley as well.
As if cleaning them wasn’t enough, another example of the opportunities within our industry blossomed soon after when Maddison got a chance to become Maddison Lawrence, Used Truck Salesperson.
“Jason just said to me one day, you’re here enough, do you want to have a go at selling trucks?” Maddison tells me with a smile. “I was like, ‘yup’. I was 20 or 21 … real young. I didn’t know what about trucks.”
I’m not sure if it was just youthful enthusiasm or Maddison’s natural optimism but she jumped into the new challenge with the gusto of truckie in a chrome factory.
“It took me awhile, it took me a long while, but I finally sold one,” Maddison says. “I still remember my first customer, he’s now a customer here at Slick Azz.”
There really isn’t a great number of female salespeople and Maddison found her first hurdle when the phone calls would come in asking to be put through to the ‘salesman’. In her effervescent voice Maddison would say “yeah, that’s me”. Nine times out of 10 this was greeted with an initial, “What?” but that shock never lasted long.
“I always had good intentions and that’s what really mattered,” Maddison says. “If someone asks me something I didn’t know, I’d say ‘I’m really sorry, I don’t know, let me get back to you’. I’d go find out and ring them back.”
Maddison took to truck sales like a duck to water, though she admits her day-to-day memory is shocking, although she was great at recalling which truck had which running gear and so on. Again, when a question stumped her, she went and learnt. It wasn’t all smooth sailing though. Maddison recalls an incident at an auction where her lack of industry experience had her looking less than professional. “I mainly dealt with Volvos, everything I dealt with was like FM or FH. I didn’t know Kenworths, so when a guy was asking me about a 409 I thought he was telling me the part number or something.” ‘Yeah, but what type of truck?” she kept asking him. His reply was a vert curt, “A bloody Kenworth 409″.
However, Madison says it was a fun job, I really liked it and I really liked the people,” she admits. She adds that she encountered the occasional person that didn’t want to “deal with a chick” but it was rare.
I couldn’t write this without including one of Maddison’s more embarrassing truck sales stories. It all stemmed from a customer requesting a bit more information on a truck he was looking at. As Maddison had already said when she wasn’t sure of the answer, rather than offer salesman BS, she would go off and find the right answer.
“I was very good at regurgitating information,” Maddison recalls. “So I rang the service department, ‘Gotta find out blah blah blah’. The service department told me, ‘It’s got a bit of a knock in the engine’. I didn’t really realise that’s not a good thing and went back and told the guy.”
Maddison soon realised her mistake when she got a call from her boss. “Did you tell the customer there’s a knock in the engine? Why would you tell someone that?” It’s laughable now but Maddison admits in the beginning she never understood a lot of what she was regurgitating so had no idea what information to withhold. Funniest part of the story, she still sold the truck to that customer. Honesty does work.
What Maddison also learnt from her time as ‘the chick on the coast that sells trucks’ was that she loved sales. Slick Azz Detailing was still running but Maddison was looking for something else. The goal now was to combine the two – detailing and sales. She took her biggest grievance in detailing and went about trying to find a solution to sell it, which was chassis rails. “I was so sick of cleaning f#%kin chassis rails, worst job and they never look clean.” So Maddison went looking for a rumoured spray-on product that would protect chassis rails.
This would eventually be the birth of Slick Azz Protection Film. Maddison wanted to find a product she could sell to make detailing trucks easier, a product that wasn’t reliant on labour. With her usual gumption and lack of fear she boarded a plane and went off to a trade show in China, aiming to find this magical chassis cleaning spray. Like the Loch Ness Monster, cheap fuel or a smooth border crossings it turns out the chassis cleaner didn’t exist. However, she did stumble across the paint protection film.
In a short space of time she learnt as much as she could, finding out it was a product that had been being used on high end luxury cars for years. When she questioned the companies over there about putting them on trucks they looked at her like a dog learning algebra. However that didn’t dissuade her, she could see a market for it “When I was selling the second-hand Volvos they were just peppered in stone chips on the front” she recalls “and I thought why isn’t this stuff being used on trucks”
The next few days at the trade show where a whirlwind. With a huge language barrier, zero comprehension of the technicalities of the product she wanted and no idea how to install it, she threw herself into it. For the record that’s her summation, not mine. “I knew nothing about this product, like absolutely nothing. I’m like, ‘You got the clear wrap? Can I be your Australian distributor? It’s pretty much how it went down,” Maddison laughs.
The irony is, after a lot of translation issues and frustrating meetings, Maddison met the CEO of the US manufacturer Flexishield.
With some sample rolls and Maddison’s connections in the transport industry, Maddison was able to test the product out. As she believed, it worked a treat. Slick Azz Protection Film was underway.
First task was for Maddison and her crew to fly over to Flexishield’s US plant and learn how to install it. Like other manufacturers, Flexishield had primarily been using its product for the luxury car market, never once thinking about the truck market.
“They actually thought I was a bit crazy wanting to put it on trucks,” Maddison admits. “I was mainly looking at the cab-over problems and they don’t have a lot of cab-overs in America anyway.”
Maddison and her crew were trained up on installing the product by the team there. With bags filled with the Flexishield product, the team flew home to hit the ground wrapping.
The transport industry can be a very tight knit community, it’s who you know and word of mouth, so with the contacts Maddison had accrued through her detailing contracts she slowly started to get a few people willing to try the product out on their trucks.
One of her first trucks was the stunning Viking Truck build show truck of K.S. Easter Transport. After word got out, a few working trucks started turning up. When those guys were suddenly racking up thousands of kilometres without faded paint, dull bull bars or bucket loads of stone chips, business began picking up further. The booking sheet at Slick Azz Protection Films was filling up quick. Pretty soon the small workshop they had rented in the Brisbane suburb of Wacol became too cramped and a newer bigger area was needed, allowing the team to build a dust free area so they could expand into the car and 4WD market as well.
“It’s a lot of work,” Maddison says. However, the trade-off is the amazing transport people she meets. “A lot of my customers have become good friends, they take as much pride in their trucks as I do in my work.” She also admits getting excited when a new truck gets dropped off. “We get the blingiest cool trucks; I love that.”
The process involved is extremely time consuming, a standard bull bar can take up to 10 hours to do, with another two hours cutting out the film. Wrapping tanks is an hour to 90 minutes. Getting a bonnet done can be an eight-hour job.
“We try to do it as seamless as the cars,” Maddison explains. The level of attention to detail is rewarded with repeat customer getting more and more done with each truck they send through. “We have one customer that just says, ‘Wrap everything, wrap it as if it were your own truck’,” Maddison laughs.
The company is now in its fifth year and there is never an empty shed. Another point I need to make is the majority of Slick Azz staff are women. In a way it’s a deliberate yet not intentional move. Maddison has just attracted a lot of women who are keen to get involved. They all love the hands-on aspect of working in the transport industry and Slick Azz Protection Film has been a way for a lot of these women to be a part of it.
The lack of male influence may also be swayed by the high-energy social media presence from the Slick Azz team. Hell, they even tried to talk me into being a part of one of their TikTok dance videos. No one wants to see me dance.
Maddison is a great advocate for the transport. In a male dominated industry she has been met on every level with respect and admiration and although it was tough at the start, whether it be selling a truck or wrapping a truck, she notes that once people realise she had as much passion for her area of the industry she was welcomed with open arms.
I think that’s the best part of our industry. There are so many roles available, and Maddison Lawrence has shown that women can succeed and ‘shine’ (pun intended) in any of them. Slick Azz bro.