Rhonda Kelly and Burson Auto Parts are celebrating a fantastic four-decade career

It was 1980 when an enthusiastic and determined 18-year-old by the name of Rhonda Kelly joined one of the first Burson Auto Parts stores located in the Melbourne suburb of Braybrook as a parts delivery driver.
She found out about this role through her sister Lyn, who is still with the company today.
Her car was a Holden Gemini panel van that had a large and distinctive blue “B” on the side, which at the time was the first Burson Auto Parts company logo.
“Joining Burson Auto Parts was like working with family. One big happy family is really the only way I can put it, and I one hundred percent enjoyed it there right from the beginning,” Rhonda said.
“Every day was different, right up until my last day, and I looked forward to every day.”
There were two relatively short breaks in her Burson Auto Parts career, the first when her son Phillip was born (he is now 38 years old) and then with the arrival of daughter Caitlin, who is now 31 years of age.
During this period, Rhonda briefly left Burson Auto Parts to work for one of her customers in the field of credit control. The offer to return to Burson Auto Parts came from Devon Sproul, who was the Altona store manager at that time.
This welcomed Rhonda back to the company, but this time working behind the counter, learning how to successfully run a store.
“To be honest, when I came back, it felt like I had never left,” Rhonda said.
“Everybody knew everybody and they were all happy to see me back and I was certainly happy to be back!”

In all, Rhonda’s incredible career with Burson Auto Parts has totalled almost 40 years, placing her in a very exclusive club occupied by just one other person, the now retired General Manager of Purchasing, Andrew Schram, whose tenure also extended across four decades with this Australian company.
It is interesting to note that when Rhonda started at one of the first Burson Auto Parts stores in Braybrook, Andrew Schram was her store manager.
Aside from Rhonda’s first nine years spent delivering parts to customers and establishing great customer relationships, the rest of her career has been spent behind the counter.
Over her time with the company, Rhonda became one of the longest serving Burson Auto Parts store managers, starting her journey at the West Melbourne store before snatching up an offer to take the reigns of the newly established Hoppers Crossing store, where she would spend the next 25 years.
In terms of career highlights, Rhonda points out that she had never really been anywhere before joining Burson Auto Parts.
Her first interstate and international trips came with the company, attending conferences and training events, going everywhere from Castlemaine Gaol to Thailand and Las Vegas.
“We had a lot of fun, and I enjoyed a lot of opportunities that I otherwise wouldn’t have been given to do things I never would have done,” Rhonda said.
“Whether it was Vegas or driving to local conferences, we had a lot of fun and it was so good to bounce off other people and learn new things as well.
“There were so many great trips, it is hard to single out any one in particular. Vegas of course is one I will always remember, and spending a night in Castlemaine Gaol was also a stand-out.”

Rhonda also highlights the amazing people she has been fortunate enough to work with throughout her career who have helped her on her very special Burson Auto Parts journey.
“I really did just love what I did, every day was something different and it was as much about the people I got to work with as the people I got to work for,” Rhonda said.
“I loved going in every day, and of course there were bad days, everyone has bad days, but I really did love it and I already miss it.”
While being a trailblazer of her own in terms of automotive industry based female management identities, Rhonda takes pride in seeing so many talented females reaching senior levels of company management.
This became particularly evident as Burson Auto Parts grew into BAPCOR, which explains it is the largest automotive aftermarket specialised company in Australasia.
“It has been an incredible journey that I have enjoyed immensely over the past four decades and while we were unsure where it was all headed when BAPCOR was established, it has made this Aussie company become so much bigger while retaining the culture that has made it such a great place to work for so long,” Rhonda stated.
“Along with this growth, I am very proud and pleased to see the calibre of female talent that we have in the company today. I am sure that they will be playing a big part in the company’s future.”
Rhonda was honoured with her induction to the Burson Auto Parts Hall of Fame during the company’s 50th Anniversary Gala Dinner held in 2022, celebrating her outstanding career and dedicated service to the company and its customers.

“That was absolutely mind blowing and overwhelming,” Rhonda said.
“I had no idea that that was happening, I knew they were up to something, but when it all came around I was just so absolutely honoured to have been thought of that way.
“I am just someone who went into work every day and worked with my team and loved what I did, so to be given that honour was wonderful.”
Rhonda’s career with Burson Auto Parts officially ends on May 5, 2023. Having been blessed with two grandchildren, Blake and Marlo, Rhonda and her husband Phil are looking forward to starting a new and far more relaxed life in Far North Queensland, a place where they have both aspired to live for many years.
“It is time now for some down time and some warmth and to enjoy life in a more relaxed way,” Rhonda said.
“I would like to say thank you to Burson Auto Parts; my time with them was terrific from day one to the day I retire, and I am just so grateful to have been given an opportunity to work with and become friends with some of the most inspirational people I have ever had the chance of meeting.
“I have been blessed in my job and I get a bit emotional talking about it, because I am just so thankful to have been given the opportunity and I already miss it.”

For more from Burson Auto Parts, visit www.burson.com.au