James Yerbury, owner of Robuk Engineeringhas been in the trailer building industry for almost 20 years, with extensive experience spanning the whole spectrum from the workshop floor to the boardroom. Formerly, he held prominent positions with several leading trailer manufacturers.
“I started out on the floor and worked my way up through the echelons of engineering, drafting, sales and management,” says James, adding that dealing with issues at the management level became for him frustratingly all-consuming, which ultimately led to his decision to exit the previous company he worked for.
“When I left, I was looking forward to having some time off for a while but I was soon approached by a former customer who wanted some equipment built in a hurry due to a rollover. I’d also had quite a few other people contact me wanting to know what I was doing, so I could see there was potential for me to start my own business.”
He put it all on the line in order to finance the business start-up, right down to selling the family home, boat and his prized Datsun.
“I secured a loan from the outset to start the business which was paid back in the first six months while my home was on the market,” says James. “The house sold in November last year and I’ve thrown everything at the business.”
Meanwhile, during this time, the hunt was on for Robuk to find a much larger facility to accommodate his burgeoning business, culminating in the lease of a suitable shed in the transport-centric Brisbane suburb of Hemmant.
This was the catalyst for further growth in the business and the hiring of more talented Brisbane-based team members who hadn’t been able to come onboard when the company was based at Gympie.
“I wasn’t able to get all the employees I needed while we were in Gympie, but after we moved the business to Brisbane, I took on more people who I know and trust with what they are capable of doing, and we also have some younger guys who have really stepped up and taken charge of their areas,” says James. “Knowing that we have employees who are actively working to build things the right way and staying back late to fix something if it isn’t right, that’s the sort of team we have amassed.”
Design of a different kind
James didn’t start his trailer building career by doing an apprenticeship after he left school. In fact, he went to TAFE and completed a Graphic Design course, specialising in animation for video games, but ended up leaving that field for financial reasons.
“It didn’t pay well enough, I was earning almost twice as much after I started on the tools,” says James. “It was easier to get a job on the tools than it was in the design field and when you’re a young kid you want to spend money, have cars and hang out with your mates, all that sort of stuff.
“I started down that avenue and once I got into it I really enjoyed it. Then when the opportunity arose to transition into drafting, my background in design really helped in terms of picking up and understanding the software.
“On the other hand, having the practical knowledge from having built trailers gave me a strong connection with the guys on the floor, it was easier for them to approach me than others in the office to help resolve issues because I’d been there and done it myself.”