Meet Susy and Cathy Imbriglio the proud owners of Imbritech Industries Inc., a machine shop in Laval, Quebec, Canada. Imbritech was founded in 2009 by their parents and Susy as a machining center. Imbritech Industries Inc. offers many services, such as machining, welding, and assembling to various industries. Cathy joined the business in 2012, after a seven-year run at Pratt and Whitney Canada. In 2014 the sisters took full proprietorship of Imbritech and got certified as a woman-owned business. Imbritech Industries Inc. is also certified ISO 9001:2015. With their combination of psychology, business degree, engineering as well as an MBA, Susy’s and Cathy’s backgrounds complement their titles as administrator and production manager respectively.
As women leaders, it is not always easy to find one’s place in an industry dominated by men. “We have to work harder to build our credibility,” acknowledges Susy. “But it’s okay, because we come from strong stock!”
What tips do you have for women who want to take over a family business?
Staying open-minded and keeping the communication open with family members, colleagues and clients is important. Ask for help if necessary. Chances are it is needed, and this will only make you a stronger entrepreneur.
Who are your clients, can you describe them and what they are looking for?
Our clients can be anyone from a large corporation to a small business owner. The industry sectors we work for are the following: pulp and paper, aerospace, hydroelectric power generation as well as tracked utility vehicles. Our clients are looking for custom-made metal parts of high precision and quality. Since all of our products are custom made, this makes us very versatile and capable of working with many industries.
How important is collaboration with other individuals and organisations?
In our field, we do lots of collaborations with other companies. Some customers request specific treatments, for example, heat treating a metal component. Since it is not a service we offer, we use local businesses to help us with particular demands from our clients. We also outsource if needed. We like to think of our competitors as our friends and we help each other out when necessary.
Who started your family business and why?
As young women who were “born” into the machining world, it was often assumed while growing up that one day we would start a family business and follow in our dad’s footsteps. We were introduced to entrepreneurship and industrial manufacturing at a very young age. In 2008, our dad, Benny, approached us with this idea to establish a machining center together. Cathy was working at Pratt and Whitney at the time and was very content with her job. I was working at a consulting firm, raising funds for non-profit organizations and I was ready to embark in this new adventure with my mom and dad. Cathy however wanted to continue on with her career at PWC. In January 2009, Imbritech Industries Inc. was born with Benny as a President, Susy as General Manager and Teresa, our mom, as Administrator. She helped me navigate through the first steps of starting a business. In 2012, Cathy decided to join the family. In 2014, we took over the family business.
What is one piece of advice you have for women going through difficult times?
Stay focused on what really matters and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
What challenges do you face in your work?
The fact that we are in an industry dominated by men is a struggle on its own. We have to work harder to build our credibility. Unfortunately, even in 2021, there is still a stigma when it comes to women in STEM. Especially for Cathy, who still experiences some forms of sexism as production manager at our factory. She is sometimes asked by potential clients to see the “boss” or the shop’s “foreman”. Another challenge is differentiating us in our industry. Our product is not any different from our competitor’s product. It was very important for us to find a way to stand out. We aim at giving the best service to our clients, by being transparent, communicating often with them and keeping a good relationship.
Please tell us how you are helping women.
In the past, Cathy has been involved with the YMCA, helping young girls learn more about STEM. Unfortunately, there is this misconception that any field in manufacturing is a “dirty job”, manly and uninteresting. We have been invited to many events in the past, as speakers and as guests, and we have made it a point to discuss with other women, and men, about machining and our manufacturing world.
To what do you attribute your success?
We were both “thrown” into this company with not much entrepreneurship experience. By asking lots of questions and surrounding ourselves with the right people, asking for help, always keeping the conversations flowing, we have attained success in our field. We are both goal-oriented and have established short-term as well as long-term goals for our company. I believe that by staying focused on our goals we will continue being successful.
What have been some of your failures and what have you learned from them?
It’s important to understand that in any business you will fail at one point. Failing is not a bad thing, it’s a redirection, and it forces you to look deeper into difficulties that may need immediate attention. As for us, we have had two tough years in 2016 and 2017. We lost a key employee to an injury. At the same time we had invested a large amount of money in new equipment, which this employee was being trained to work on. For about 6 months this machine just sat idle in our shop. At the same time, we had one of our key clients who slowly stopped sending us purchase orders for lack of work on their end. As our bread and butter, this affected us tremendously, as we had to diversify and look for new clients. We learned a few things from this. We decided it was time to train our younger employees to make them more flexible in our shop. It’s important to take the lessons that come with failure and grow from them!