“I’m a Lifer”: Kellie Malacos’s Story

Once upon a time, Kellie Malacos considered herself a stalker of Garber Management Group.

Well…we’ll go with ‘persistent.’ And hey, we can’t fault someone who knows what they want and goes after it.

After interviewing for an Accounts Payable job, I joke I was a job stalker,” she laughed. “I took it upon myself a week after my first interview to call and speak to the Accounts Payables Director. I introduced myself and wanted to see if I could set up an interview. She agreed to interview me twice.”

After the second interview, Kellie called again. She knew what she wanted: a job at GMG in Saginaw.

“I followed up with her again and she called me back and offered me a job,” Kellie explained. “It was right before Christmas 2012. I started January 15, 2013, so I’ve been here nine years.”

It is that same drive and determination that has helped Kellie catapult her career, landing her in the role of Accounts Payable Manager. In this position, she helps lead a team to ensure efficient and accurate processing and paying of bills for the entire company.

Why did Kellie keep pursuing a job at Garber nearly ten years ago?

“I knew Garber was a reputable company,” Kellie said. “I wanted job security and to work for a good company in our area. Knowing Garber offered those things enforced it for me.”

Persistence pays off, in more ways than one. Kellie didn’t just get a job. She got a career.

Onward, Upward

Kellie grew up in Saginaw, Michigan: the home of Garber Management Group’s headquarters.

She did not picture herself working for Garber, though.

“I did not have a passion for accounts payable,” she said. “But I knew I was good at administrative work. I wanted to be a lawyer, but I decided it wasn’t going to happen.”

Kellie worked at a courthouse in her 20s as a warrant clerk with a goal of becoming a courthouse reporter. She had two children. Life was moving along.

Then Kellie received a diagnosis that would shift the course of her life and shuffle her priorities.

“When I was 25 years old, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer,” she said. “That’s when I left my job at the courthouse. I had to focus on my life, so I took a gap year. I was going through treatment at the University of Michigan.”

As her treatment continued, Kellie started to heal. She decided it was time to find a job. Her husband worked at Garber, and she wondered if the company would be a good fit for her, too.

“My childhood friend put me in touch with Erika Ardouin, Director of Recruitment at GMG,” Kellie explained. “Erika then reached out to me.”

Kellie landed an interview, but the timing put her in a unique predicament.

“I interviewed 10 days after my thyroid surgery,” she said. “I didn’t want them to see me as a disability. I wore a choker necklace to hide my scar; I was cut open from my ear to my ear. I didn’t want to be completely distracting.”

After following up to show her interest, Kellie was hired as an Accounting Clerk. She quickly proved herself and set new goals.

“I knew early on about career options,” she said. “I liked the idea of leading a team. I really enjoyed what I did. I felt like I understood it well. I liked the confidence of people coming to me. I regularly would chat with my manager and she’d always ask me my goals. I said to her specifically, ‘I want your job someday.’”

After vocalizing her goals, Kellie received support and training to help prepare her for the next step in her career.

“As a leader, we were told to always have someone to be able to replace you if you were not here,” she said. “It’s not a threat; it’s being a good leader. My manager shared with me more responsibility and I started taking over in 2015.”

Kellie continued to grow. In January 2016, Garber created a new position for Kellie. She became the Accounts Payable Manager.

“I had people directly reporting to me and things were being done efficiently and properly,” she said. “I enjoyed it.”

As for her thyroid cancer treatment?

“The first year working at Garber was exhausting because I was going through treatment and taking college classes part-time and raising kids,” she said. “I had radioactive iodine therapy. When I went back in 2013, they said I was a picture-perfect case of treatment. I try not to dwell on it now. I’m fortunate I haven’t had too many difficulties. I have a clean bill of health.”

Leading the Charge

By 2020, Kellie had conquered cancer, worked hard, and taken on additional responsibilities at Garber. She became a team lead, serving as the point person for projects that required some heavy lifting.

Mind you, this was all during the beginnings of a global pandemic.

“In 2020, I spearheaded a project where we converted the entire company to a new purchase order system,” she said. “We hadn’t revamped it in 20 years. I had to do all the training for people. It made the bill paying process all electronic. During quarantine, I was training people from my house.”

Kellie said the added responsibility made her feel valued.

“Garber makes me feel seen through compliments, acknowledgement, affirmation,” she said. “I don’t need to hear it but I get assigned tasks that are a big deal and think, ‘They must respect me and know I can handle it.’ Garber has been very good to me, and shows genuine concern for myself and my family.”

She loves to share her Garber experience with others.

“People always ask me, ‘How’s Garber?’ and I always tell people I love my job,” she said. “They care. They allow me to be a mom and have a career. I can take care of my family and home while still having a great career.”

Thanks to her experience at Garber, Kellie said she’s grown as a person.

“I’ve developed more of a backbone,” she said. “I’m more assertive. I was always a people pleaser and wouldn’t speak up, but I’ve developed my communication skills.”

Now in a leadership role, Kellie helps hire new team members. What she looks for in a candidate – and what she doesn’t consider a requirement — might surprise you.

“I don’t necessarily look for an Accounts Payable background,” Kellie said. “I look for them to have good morals and values. I can tell if they’ll be a good fit. Honestly, I’d prefer a fresh slate and we can train them to do their job. I don’t have a single person on my team who has done Accounts Payable. Our team members previously did professions like run a daycare, be a stay-at-home mom, work at a hair salon….one even once was the mouse at Chuck E. Cheese. We are looking for people with honesty and integrity. If you have those, the rest can be taught.”

Professionally, Kellie doesn’t plan on going anywhere.

“I stay with Garber because I see growth opportunities here,” she said. “I have no reason to leave. I’m all in. I’m a lifer.”

Fast Five

First concert? I’m not really a concert person, but my first concert was Lollapalooza Festival.

First car? 1991 Pontiac Sunbird. Black.

Favorite meal? Carbs! Bread, potatoes, pasta

Three words your friends/family would use to describe you? Funny, caring, assertive

Bucket list item? Tour to Scotland. It’s part of my ancestry. I’ve always wanted to go there.

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Lindsay Henry

Lindsay Henry

Lindsay is the Digital Communications Manager for Garber Automotive Group.

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