Member Monday-RDM Industrial Electronics
By Tina M. Wolfe
In the land of plenty the imitable American Dream is often thrown around in motivational speeches and promotional advertisements like candy being tossed out at a Christmas parade. While the Dream is dangled like a carrot hinting at immediate gratification, there are thousands of decisive moments and millions of actions (sometimes over generations) that must happen to culminate in solid, scalable business success.
RDM Industrial Electronics, Inc. is a study in achieving the American Dream. This generational business located in Nebo, North Carolina features all the characteristics of a “feel good” success story and will have you cheering from the sidelines.
The Art of Awareness
In the late 1970s in the sparsely populated community of Pleasant Gardens, Bill Long studiously applied his skills as an electrician at Marion Manufacturing during the week. Weekends were spent with family and presiding over the church he founded, Eastside Baptist, which later became Nebo Crossing. On those Sundays lined up on the pew were Bill’s three sons, Rick, Doug, and Mike. All three boys, like their father, were technologically inclined.
It was while at Marion Manufacturing that Bill took note of the increased use of electronic components replacing traditional mechanical ones. “All the controls … were changing to electronic controls and they had trouble finding someone who could repair them,” said Doug. “He recognized the future in electronics and steered us in that direction.”
Throughout history, we see where providence is often the spark of innovation. Paying attention to trends in your industry is an important part in creating sustainability. Such was the case for Bill when plans were set in motion for his sons. All three boys went on the earn degrees from DeVry University (Then DeVry Institute of Technology) which would become the foundation of a family enterprise.
The Payoff of Planning
Armed with quality educations, the brothers returned to Nebo with a plan. They needed something to set them apart, a way to apply their skills and knowledge in a way that was unique and filled a need. “He [Bill] saw a job, we saw a company,” said Rick. The brothers didn’t just want a job repairing these new electronic devices, they had the ability to build them and to remanufacture them. They wanted to build a company. In 1988 in the basement of the family home, R(Rick)D(Doug)M(Mike) Industrial Electronics was born with three employees. The youngest brother, Mike, passed away and today Doug and Rick serve as co-presidents.
The company started by rebuilding gas pumps and petroleum equipment and has expanded to medical equipment, car wash equipment and other industrial products.
The brothers understood how costly it was for companies to change out large manufacturing machines for the updated electronic versions but necessary to stay efficient. They realized that by providing top quality remanufactured products, they would serve the market well.
Action: The Fuel of Dreams
By placing service above sales in their company’s list of values, the brothers focused on key metrics that would 1. Help the customer 2. Build relationships and 3. Foster innovation. When they started in that basement space, they each had other jobs. It took determination, dedication, and “sweat equity” to build up the company to where it now employs 82 individuals with five locations in the United States. “When you start in the basement, there is nowhere to go but up,” quips Rick. “We’re preacher’s kids and operating with good character and morally sound is key.”
Through the years they’ve gradually scaled up each year building a 35K-square-foot facility in 1995, purchasing a competitor’s business in Lakewood, CO. in 2004, and more recently opening locations in Sanford, FL. (2015), Indianapolis, CO. (2019), and Irving, TX (2021).
“This allows us to reach customers within one to two business days, service the customers better, and build relationships,” Doug said. One way they accomplish these goals is to make sure they have plenty of stock on hand, saying that when they invest in inventory now, putting the customer’s needs before profits, those profits come later. “We stock everything and 85% of our products are same-day shipping,” he added. “We also offer core exchange, where we take the ‘bad’ electronic equipment and remanufacture it to updated standards.” Each product, whether made from scratch (about half of their product line) or refurbished goes through intensive testing standards specific to that product. RDM also goes the extra mile for customers by helping them solve problems. They will reverse engineer a product when needed to help identify an issue and fix it.
Another important factor in their success is that they reinvest profits back into the business through state-of-the-art equipment and top-tier technicians. “The average tenure of our employees is 13 years,” adds Human Resource Manager and Doug’s daughter Shannon Long Dulaney. Technicians also have a standard 10 to 20 years of experience.
Close communication with their customers, using survey monkey and face-to-face meetings is another aspect they say has helped steer their business in the right direction.
Ethics Are Just Good Business
The high ethical standards applied to customer relations and product handling is equally practiced with employees. “We provide a Christian environment through our actions,” says Rick. “This is not your typical plant life.” By living out the very values their father taught them, they have created a vibrant and diverse work culture that operates on respect, kindness, and encouragement for all to do their very best.
“We hire the very best person for the job,” Shannon says. “We have all ages, sex, color, and several nationalities represented.”
The work floor is open which encourages employees to talk and consult each other on projects. There is ample upward mobility within the company as well. RDM offers apprenticeships where individuals will be assigned to work with a degreed technician and get assistance with their schooling.
Another core value of the company is to be good stewards of what they have. This means a 100% recycling system where nothing goes to the dump.
Their Success is Community Success
Giving back to the community is part of RDM’s philosophy. “We are relational and have roots in this county,” said Rick. “Nebo Crossing is our father’s legacy, and we also want to be good community partners.” The company participates in the McDowell Chamber and McDowell Technical Community College’s LINC and CARP leadership and career readiness programs. They also support several local organizations.
Even through the pandemic their sales are up 35% and their growth has accelerated year after year. “We started at the bottom 33 years ago,” Rick said. “What stands out for me is the longevity of it. That is a defining moment. It’s still hard work—it’s not luck.”
“We’re seeing record numbers,” adds Doug. “In 10 of the last 12 months we’ve had record monthly sales.” Keeping the success all in perspective, Doug refers to Scripture (Luke 12:48), “To whom much is give, much is required.” He and Rick understand the responsibility they have as business owners, community leaders, fathers, and friends and take that very seriously. This is the basis to giving back, he adds, “to the community, to the church, to the engineers we were given, to the employees.”
“We’ve been blessed,” says Shannon. “Everyone in leadership knows where the goodness comes from. We try to be good stewards of that.”
RDM Industrial Electronics has consistently implemented and communicated its core values of providence, planning, ethics in action, service, and innovation to create a legacy of their own. With this mindset and organizational excellence, they will continue to grow.
To learn more about the business, visit them at 800-282-5183 or online at rdm.net.