(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second article in a two-part series examining the rapid growth in a Knoxville-based start-up that launched not quite four years ago.)
By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Bob Wilson, President of RDI Technologies Inc., used to coach entrepreneurs when he ran the Center for Entrepreneurial Growth at the old Technology 2020 organization. So, one could correctly assume that he knows a thing or two about growing a start-up.
When we sat down with Wilson and Jenna Johns, Chief Operating Officer of the company, to learn more about the great growth in less than three years, we came away with a clear understanding that the old adage – “plan your work and work your plan” – was at the heart of RDI Technologies’ success, starting with the leadership team.
“Our skillsets are complementary,” Wilson said with Johns adding, “We know what we are good at.”
Those roles align as follows: Jeff Hay, inventor of the core technology and the Chief Executive Officer, oversees the tech side including the development team and product cycles. Johns is the operations lead in areas like marketing, human resources, and customer support while Wilson oversees sales, partnerships and a growing international focus.
“Execution has been our key growth element,” RDI Technologies’ President explains. “We must and will continue to emphasize that. We’re customer centric.”
To that end, the company has a training center at its West Knoxville facility. After new customers are trained, they receive a business card for every key person at RDI Technologies including Hay, Johns, and Wilson.
“All customers have our cellphones,” Johns adds. “We have a support line, but our customers tend to establish relationships with a key staff member.”
From the official launch date in March 2015, RDI Technologies focused on what Wilson characterized as an “assess, assemble, execute, and scale” process. That meant carefully bringing on the right people at the right time so that costs were not an unnecessary burden against revenues. The goal was always to stay profitable and sustainable. There are now slightly more than 20 employees with more recently added including a Customer Success Manager.
Two strategic investors funded the company when it started, but RDI Technologies has been able to self-fund its growth since August 2016. That’s because the revenue growth has been well in excess of 100 percent year-over-year.
“We are very grateful to our two original investors,” Johns said.
Another key aspect of RDI Technologies’ success has been the systems the company put in place.
“We wanted to be sure we scaled properly, both people and processes, so it was repeatable,” Johns explained. “As we have grown, we want to be sure we are the same type of company in terms of our culture and values.”
How successful has the company been?
“We have named accounts in every country on every continent,” Wilson says. That includes 40 plus countries and growing. Customers include a significant number of Fortune 100 companies in all major markets and industries. Those based in Tennessee include Kimberly Clark, Nissan, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tate & Lyle, and TVA.
Perhaps the most significant reflection of RDI Technologies’ success is the repeat business from these customers and the fact that those existing customers are part of the company’s unofficial sales force with their postings on social media and endorsements through talks or case histories at major conferences.
“We’ve successfully matched-up disruptive technology, with market demand, and execution plans driven by high performing people that operate as a team,” Wilson says.