There are a few tried-and-true ways to grow your business:
Keep up with latest trends;
Discover new markets.
RLE Industries of Fairfield discovered one more: Be willing to sell the company.
The company did just that in 2000, selling it to investment banker Scott Koenig. The infusion of cash enabled RLE to transform itself in time for the green energy wave.
RLE, which designs, manufactures and installs lighting fixtures, is now a $6 million-a-year business that hopes to grow to $10 million in revenues in the next five years with the growth of LED — a movement the company has been out in front of.
Of course, this was all part of the plan when Koenig bought the company from COO Louis Bani and CFO Morris Ashkenazy, with the understanding both would stay on in their roles.
“I see a lot of growth opportunity and ways the company can advance and be a bigger part of the industry,” Bani said.
Koenig, the CEO, agrees.
“The good thing about lighting is it's always the low-hanging fruit. It's always giving you the best payback,” he said.
RLE does design and installation work for clients in the tri-state area and sells lighting fixtures throughout the U.S. And while LED is still a small part of the company's revenue, it is the fastest growing area. Koenig said LED could be 40 percent of the company's revenue this year and could hit 60 percent by 2016.
Switching from fluorescent tubes to LED fixtures, he said, is a no-brainer.
“(Companies) are always interested in making sure they include the lighting component in their entire energy solution because it makes it more justifiable to move ahead with their investment,” he said.
Koenig said the company is thriving by putting LED light fixtures in supermarkets, commercial buildings and schools — or anywhere businesses want to save money on their lighting.
He said for a hungry energy-user such as a supermarket — which may need to keep the lights on 24/7 — the roughly $60,000 upfront capital investment to convert a store to LEDs can be made back in a few years through lower energy bills and rebate programs utilities offer to promote conservation.
“(Companies can) see a 50 percent reduction in electricity for the same amount of light,” Koenig said. “What we are selling is payback — your electric bill is actually coming down.”
And plenty of big businesses are buying. Koenig said RLE's customers include ShopRite and Whole Foods, as well as school systems throughout New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.
And while Koenig loves big clients, RLE is eager to work with small companies, too.
“The big guys are less inclined to pay attention to a 100-fixture order, but we will.”
Koenig said being a manufacturer and an installer, which is not typical, is another advantage for the company. It helps put RLE ahead of the competition — a competition Koenig said is growing because of LED.
“When a new technology comes in, you have to establish your beachhead and come up with new products, either before everyone else does or at least in step with everybody else,” he said. “So it's exciting, and the trick is to stay on top of the changes that are taking place.”
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