Working Hard and Endless Passion Drives Success
REL, Inc. is a family owned company, based in the small town of Calumet, MI in Michigan’s Keweenaw peninsula. The company got its start back in 1981 as a local job shop. In 1990, REL Machine, Inc. was established by a father and son duo – Robert and Josh Loukus. It wasn’t until 2006 when REL, Inc. was finally founded.
Throughout the years, REL has expanded from a local job shop into a reputable OEM that uses innovation and the latest technology to solve challenging problems. Developing a successful company was not easy. According to Josh Loukus, there are 3 critical components to business success that he has discovered while working to build his company.
Business Success Formula
In order to succeed every business needs a “passionate pervert”. In other words, not just anyone is cut out to run a successful business. You must be passionate about making your business grow and you must have a dream for the future of your business.
- Timeless Investment:
What many people do not consider is the amount of time that is put into running a business. Time must mean nothing to you. When you have your own business, you cannot just forget about it when 5 pm rolls around. You must be prepared to be working early mornings, late nights, weekends, and holidays. Business success does not happen overnight but with countless hours of effort, your business will eventually create enough inertia to get it to where you want it to go.
Success requires focus. This focus requires you to understand what product or service you are providing and what the market needs. In order for your business to take off, you cannot just sell what you think the market wants. You have to really listen to your customers or clients and learn the problems that you can solve for them. Being in a niche market can help your business to succeed by avoiding being overshadowed by big competition, especially for a small business that is just starting out.
All in all, Josh’s philosophy towards success in business is
“If your heart’s in the right place and you work hard, you will succeed.”
The Path to Success for REL Inc.
In Josh’s case, his passion was boundless, and his dreams were big. In REL’s beginning stages, Josh’s ultimate dream was for his machine shop in the tiny town of Calumet, MI was making equipment for big companies, like GE.
REL started out as a machine shop and built equipment for other companies on the side while doing R&D for their machine equipment. With countless hours put in and years of effort REL was able to transition into an Original Equipment Manufacturer that makes innovative products for material testing, non-destructive testing, and material handling.
Their top product lines are their Glo-Black Lights, Split Hopkinson Pressure Bars, and Fluorescent Penetrant Inspection Equipment. REL’s products can now be found all over the world – and even in space. REL created insulation material for NASA that was a part of the patch kit on the international space station.
Throughout REL’s history, scaling was a difficult challenge. The biggest change that Josh noticed throughout the scaling phase was that people started to want to work for REL the company, not just for Josh Loukus – and that is when the true REL brand started to develop.
Another challenge was getting the people within the company on board with the vision and the goal. The employees who are invested in the company need to make money to support their families. If the company that they have decided to work for suddenly tanks – there goes their way of feeding their children.
The biggest thing Josh has done over the years to get people internally to be on board with REL’s goals is by never being outworked by his employees. Josh makes a point to work harder than anyone else who works for the company to prove that the company is going to go somewhere, if only by sheer work ethic.
When others see how much time and work is being put in by the president of the company, that speaks volumes. People truly start to believe in the company’s goals and vision. For Josh, the fear of failure has been a huge drive for his work ethic.
Creating Cash Flow
In REL’s case of being an OEM, they sell costly highly specialized systems where a purchase order can take a whole year to be finalized. Going a whole year without cashflow is obviously a business model that is not sustainable. Creating multiple cash flow streams has been huge for REL’s success in business.
The Glo-Black lights are their cheapest product line with the fastest turnaround time. Their SHPB run a little more on the expensive side while the FPI equipment is by far the most expensive product that REL provides. Having different product lines with varying turnaround times and price tags helps drive REL’s business success.
In the quest to develop products that would bring in cash flow for the business, REL had to really try to understand what the market wants. As a niche market OEM company, REL had to create a successful product that solved a problem for their customers.
REL’s LED Glo-Black lights were created to be used for FPI & MPI testing. Now they realize that there is a much bigger demand for their lights than they had originally thought. With more stringent standards developing for forensic, power generation, automotive, leak detection, and machine shops, many applications are now requiring non-destructive testing to be performed. Getting their lights to these new clients has proved successful not only for their light product lines but also for their FPI equipment.
Companies who originally purchased their Glo-Black lights from REL are now coming back full-circle and purchasing large, expensive FPI systems from REL. This has shown the company some interesting insight on the life cycle of a customer and has confirmed the idea that it is much easier to sell to an already existing customer than a new customer.
Refining the Marketing Process
Marketing has been a necessary component for REL’s growth over the years. The types of marketing that have been successful for REL’s journey include:
- Creating Internal Marketing Messages – REL has found success in marketing over the years by developing its own internal marketing messages. When the message is coming from people within the company it is much more genuine and reflects what the company really is. Hiring someone to create marketing messages has not been as successful because they do not truly understand the vision of the company.
- Website – For REL, their biggest marketing tool has been their website. If they were to invest in only one form of marketing, it would be working on improving their website.
- Social Media & Email Marketing – Putting out messages on social media has helped REL stay relevant to their customers and other people within their industry.
- Trade Shows & Word of Mouth – Going to trade shows and meeting new people has been successful for REL. At trade shows they have been able to showcase their products and at shows customers can truly get a feel for what their products. Trade shows have also helped spark word of mouth marketing that brings leads in.
- Giving Away Free Stuff – REL developed a high strain rate testing software that they were originally planning to sell to customers but instead, they decided to give it away for free. It may sound crazy to spend a lot of money developing software just to give it away, but it is actually a successful marketing tool. When people who use their software need a Split Hopkinson Pressure Bar system, they turn to REL and purchase from them.
- Joining Committees – Being on committees that govern the specifications for SPHB and FPI systems ensures that REL is always on top of the latest changes in the industry and is involved in the community that utilizes their systems.
By figuring out which marketing strategies worked for them, REL was able to grow as a company. Creating products that help solve problems for people and then spreading the word about them has been important for their company’s growth.
If you are looking to succeed in your business venture, keep in mind that you must be passionate, be willing to sacrifice your time, and truly understand what your customers want.
If you are interested in learning more about REL, Inc., check out their website! https://www.relinc.com/