Rebecca Labillois
Rebecca Labillois
Owner: Terry and Kathy Malley
Established: 1979
Q and A Session with Kathy Malley, Malley Industries Inc.

Q: How did you choose your business name?
KM: The company bears the family name, Malley. It was founded by my husband, Terry, along with his parents Maudie and the late A.J. Malley. It began as Malley Enterprises. They were involved in manufacturing truck campers, van conversions and had a small store selling automotive accessories. Over time, the slate of offerings included wheelchair accessible vehicles and ambulances, as well as commercial vehicle conversions. Malley Industries was incorporated in 1985. The two companies operated concurrently for a few years before being rolled into and operating solely as Malley Industries. For many years, the company was known for its custom manufacturing. Since moving to a newly-constructed factory in late 2010, the corporate focus has shifted away from custom to more repeatable manufactured goods.

Q: Can you describe your primary business activities?
KM: We manufacture ambulances, wheelchair accessible conversions for individuals and special care facilities. We also manufacture plastics which is primarily targeted to the automotive sector.

Q: What markets are you currently operating in?
KM: Ambulances: North America, sold through dealers in the United States & Ontario. We supply Ambulance New Brunswick and sell directly to other Canadian ambulance service providers. In this category we also manufacture Patient Transfer Units, which are sold within Canada and the U.S.

Wheelchair Accessible Conversions: This includes Paratransit conversions for accessible transportation service providers and lowered floor conversions on two minivans for taxi, care service providers and personal use. The market for these conversions is primarily throughout Canada.

Our Thermoformed Composite Plastics division manufactures components for our ambulances as well as our wheelchair accessible conversions and produces partitions, wall liner kits and other products for the North American automotive sector through major aftermarket companies. The bulk of this business goes to the U.S.

We have recently sold an ambulance to Israel and have product in Puerto Rico, Mexico as well as a few other countries.

Q: What markets are you targeting in the short term?
KM: Our objective is to continue growing our ambulance business and plastics business in North America and will broaden our Canadian sales of wheelchair accessible conversions.

Q: What are your greatest achievements?
KM: I would say marking our 40th year in business despite many serious setbacks (a plant fire in the mid-1990s, several economic downturns, and the death of company founder in 1999).

The development of a “game changer” ambulance design that has been embraced by Canadian and U.S. buyers due to its lightweight and spacious design that provides a very safe and operationally cost-efficient product. Ambulance innovation in the U.S. has been stagnant for more than 30 years. Our products are recognized as market disruptors.

Q: How does being a woman impact your journey as an entrepreneur?
KM: The concept of being a woman entrepreneur does not really resonate with me. I’m an entrepreneur who just happens to be female.

I have not experienced the glass ceiling in my professional career. Admittedly, I’ve come across some men who believe that it’s man’s birthright to be the boss, but I’ve encountered an equal number of women who have garnered top role because they met the “female” quota rather than being the best person suited to lead. What I mean by this is that with both genders, there are leaders among us who should not be in leadership roles. These are the people who demand rather than earn the respect of those who report to them.

The biggest challenge I’ve faced as a leader is dealing with people who are limit testers. I find this personality type frustrating to deal with because they push their agenda and don’t respect that others may have a different, equally valid or even better way of doing things. These people often like to behave like they are the boss even though they may not be. I believe in fostering a culture of teamwork and mutual support. Some people believe the word “team” has “I” in it and this can cause unnecessary friction in an otherwise collaborative work culture.

Q: What are some pearls of wisdom for women interested in starting or expanding their business?
  • Be positive and passionate about what you are doing. If you don’t have the passion for it, don’t do it.
  • Be patient. Things never happen in the optimistic time frame you expect them to. Success is often attained by the dogged determination to just keep showing up.
  • Be practical and frugal. Resist the urge to treat yourself or set yourself up with the very best of everything. Mind your pennies, particularly in the early years.
  • Be humble. So many entrepreneurs get caught up in the “Great I Am” thinking if they are getting a lot of attention for their successes. There’s a fine line between being proud of what you have accomplished versus making others feel that they are less capable than you.
  • Be assertive. This one is hard for some women. Demonstrating a balance of openness, flexibility, honesty and fairness are the keys to authentic leadership. If you earn a reputation for this, you will win in the end. I have been in business for a long time. There are very few instances where I’ve pulled rank. I have done it, but our staff know that I respect their opinions and ideas.
  • Be good to your people. You will benefit from treating them like family. The most heartwarming thing happened this summer at our annual staff appreciation BBQ when a long-time employee hugged me and said “thank you for feeding my family for the past 35 years”.