Business profile: On The Way RV

By: Peta Stavelli

On The Way RV is a business built on customer service and innovation. Peta Stavelli talks to Mal and Alisha Brady about their thriving company.

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It’s been 11 years since Alisha and Mal Brady joined the respected Mount Maunganui company On The Way RV. In that time they have grown the business through innovation and seen many changes to the RV industry, but have always remained customer focused. Their work values have earnt them a great reputation and frequent repeat custom, which has not only stood them in great stead but also prepared them for exponential growth.

Alisha and Mal took over the business from Alisha’s father, Bert Dove. Bert, a builder, and his wife Helen had formed the business after bringing back a couple of fifth-wheelers from the USA after a trip to visit family. At the time, fifth-wheelers were not really known in the New Zealand RV market and Bert thought he’d keep one for the family to use and sell off the other.

These vehicles had left-hand passenger doors and were being made to comply to the Australian market. Such was their popularity that it led to a fledgling business which grew like topsy, to the point that Bert and Helen asked Mal and Alisha to join them.

At the time, the young couple were living in Auckland where Mal – who has a degree in composing and conducting – was teaching music, writing some award-winning musical scores, and performing with the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra. Meanwhile Alisha had recently given birth to the couple’s second child and was working part-time in the finance industry.

The Kiwi couple had met through mutual friends in New York where Alisha – whose degree is in business and finance – was working for stockbrokers, BT Alex Brown. At the time Mal was based in Chicago, where he had gone to buy recording gear for his film and television work.

When the Bradys moved to ‘The Mount’ – as the relaxed seaside community is best known – Mal was appointed assistant principal of Mount Maunganui College and the pair joined the family business as shareholders, working part-time. As the business grew, so did their commitment and in 2012, Mal and Alisha took over from retiring Bert and Helen as full shareholders.

"And off we went," says Alisha, who is grateful every day for her banking background as the company juggles buying recreational vehicles in foreign currencies.

On The Way RV has continued the way it began – as a fifth-wheel specialist. The company sells several brands, including fifth-wheel brands – Sunliner from Australia and the Ultima from the USA. The company also stocks the perennially popular folding caravan, the Eco Tourer; and new-to-the-yard Bailey Rangefinders, also from Australia. It continues to promote the UK-manufactured Bailey caravan; USA-built Camplite caravans, and recently added Auto-Trail motorhomes to its stable.

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"We understand fifth-wheelers, it has been our forte for quite a while," Alisha explains, "But we’re very customer focused, so we have built a range of exceptionally high quality vehicles to best meet the individual needs of our customers."

Being focused on its customers has not only meant expanding its stock range, but also expanding its staff. Rhys Hunter, whose background has been in the boating arena, has recently joined the team to offer technical assistance, customer service, and also work part-time across sales. Rhys has joined Leon Clarke who has a high reputation for detailed technical expertise.

Alisha says the rapid growth of the past few years has been hard on Mal and they are delighted to welcome Rhys to the team as he shares their values of customer service. They are also advertising for a new salesperson to join the team; although Alisha admits they are almost running out of room at the current site where three are employed just looking after the workshop side. She says they would also like to be able to offer some retail space in the future. 

"The workshop team are proud to do installation of accessories and self-containment to a very high standard. Little details mean a great deal to customers and we aim to help them enjoy their experience even more. I think a measure of our success can be seen in the repeat custom which has always formed the backbone of our business. People on the road are our best advertisement, really."

Alisha and Mal are also converts to the lifestyle. They’ve had some fabulous family holidays off-the-grid in the Bailey caravans, but recently enjoyed their first motorhome trip.

They recently traded a motorhome and headed away for a short trip and downloaded the new NZMCA app which helped them locate a freedom camping spot near a freshwater stream not far from Katikati.

"It felt like we were a million miles away," says Alisha, who admits they are seduced by the RV lifestyle, but just need more time to enjoy it.

During the past 11 years, the couple have seen unprecedented growth and change in the industry.

They have seen technological advances, changes in construction methods, and a change in demographics.

"Many of these changes to the product offered to New Zealand consumers have been led by imported vehicles and we’re extremely pleased to have always had the choice of what we consider the best brands from around the world in each category."

For the first time, On The Way RV has new motorhomes on the lot. The company chose the Auto-Trail brand after receiving so much excellent customer feedback about the brand.

"We’re very happy with the product and the service we have received from Dan at Auckland Motorhomes."

More changes are in the pipeline, but for now, the On The Way RV team is keeping a firm eye on the future, while continuing to build on their past reputation for quality and customer focus.

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