Research and learn. Never stop learning.
Aaron Durall grew up with a family around him that greatly valued education. He knew quite early on that if he wanted to be successful, he would have to go to college. From an early age, school was a struggle for Aaron. Not because the material was difficult, but because Aaron felt as if he wasn’t being challenged. The lack of a challenge had Aaron feeling as if it wasn’t important.
Aaron joined a number of sports teams during his school years and excelled at each one. He was easily the best athlete and outplayed other students. Often, Aaron Durall placed a higher value on sports than he did on education! Due to his skill, Aaron received recruitment offers from numerous colleges across the U.S. It was in college that Aaron realized he wanted more than just success in sports.
In college, Aaron worked hard. In his accounting program he excelled, and it was clear that he had a gift for numbers as well as sports. Upon graduating from college, Aaron was accepted into law school, eventually graduating and becoming a practicing attorney. Striving to achieve even more, Aaron soon began to start businesses in an attempt to give back to his community and communities around the country. His most recent ventures have been making healthcare facilities more accessible to rural and poor Americans.
Where did the idea for Reliance Laboratory Testing come from?
We wanted a name that ensured accountability and trust. The definition of reliance is dependence on or trust in someone or something. So, when we were looking for a name, we knew that reliance was perfect. We knew we could be dependable, and we knew that we could be trusted. We also wanted to keep it simple. We are a laboratory testing company, so we just used what was easily understood with a word that embodied all that we would be in testing. Thus, Reliance Laboratory Testing was born.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I arrive to work early because we are working with companies and hospitals all around the country; we have to be ready to operate when they need us. Because I hold my employees to this, I have to lead by example. I always want to be in the office or in touch with my staff to find out our daily needs, problems, or anything I can assist them with. When they see me doing it, it comes second nature for them to do the same. I try to return all calls immediately, reply to emails, and maintain the operations of the company. Being on top of everything leaves me without surprises or problems and allows me to address any issue. When I am not physically in the office everyone knows I am just a phone call away.
How do you bring ideas to life?
A lot of times I have been enlisted in the industry I am working in and opportunities arise from within them. I am then able to research and make decisions with a well-informed team that I have formed around me. Some ideas are set in motion and some are simply scraps. Because I have been privileged to be around a lot of intelligent people, I have had the opportunity to see first hand what brings something to life. I am able to ask key questions like: “how?”, “why?” and “when?”. Simple questions and honest answers can give one a lot of foresight into a course to pursue. A lot of the time people don’t get this, so they take an idea and force into a Startup. It’s doomed for failure because it wasn’t tangible or did not have foresight into the pitfalls or shortcomings within the industry they are trying to work within.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Technology and how it can help the masses. I am not the most technical person, but I get the ins and outs of the tech world. I understand in my industry that it’s essential to be at the forefront in terms of technology. Many times, those who want to hold firm to the old ways end up being passed by. So, it excites me seeing what the future can hold for laboratory testing. To know that we could get to a place in time where we are either solving medical crises or diagnosing them better so we can provide better medical care is amazing. It means a lot to me that my business is one of the key innovators in this area.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I think from having played sports all my life, I am competitive and driven. I hate to fail and that pushes me. It allows me to put in the work needed to improve my weaknesses and strengthen my strengths. Many will just focus on what they do best. I want my weaknesses to become my strengths. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Through sports, I learned this quickly, so I try to apply that to everything I am working on. It allows me to be very productive because I am willing to outwork everyone; work longer, harder, and make the bigger sacrifice for the goal I am working towards. Many want it all handed to them on a silver platter. I see it time and time again when I am either mentoring or working with other companies. They look for the shortcut or the path with least resistance but sometimes you have to face the harder road and the resistance to get further ahead down the road. There are no shortcuts, except those to failure in my opinion. And everything takes time and too many times people are not patient.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Rome wasn’t built in a day. If I could go back to my earlier educational years, middle and high school, I would tell a younger me to apply myself more. To get focus sooner in what you want to do in life. My parents always asked me what my goals were. Short term, mid-range and long-term and I would always have some common catchy goals, nothing of real substance or thought. It wasn’t until I was in college that I put everything together. But if I could go back and have a one-on-one talk with myself like in the movies it would be to enlighten myself about the future. It might not have made a difference but who knows? Plus, you tend to know yourself better than anyone else does and therefore you should be able to give better advice.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
That I am in general one of the smartest people in the room and very knowledgeable on a vast number of subjects. I could foresee when the bubble in real estate was going to be an issue. I understood online trading was going to be stable in finance because it provided a better way. I understood that investing in companies like Yahoo and Cisco System was paving the way to the future and that the technology would be dominant in every industry eventually. How apps were going to be dominate and that it would not just be for computer tech geeks but for everyone. If you were not evolving and learning how to mainstream technology into your business, you were going to fall to the wayside. I did not run out telling that to the masses or really anyone. Those who I did tell were skeptical and were very unwilling to change or adapt. The proof in the pudding for me was investing my own funds into these ventures. It was those that always helped me get ahead. It was like running a race with inside knowledge or being giving a 50-yard head start in a 100-yard race. Pretty hard to lose that.
I also could foresee that the judicial system was not a fair system across the boards. I saw how different races were being harmed because of laws that were being passed unilaterally. A lot of people told me I was wrong and that these laws would actually help a lot of people. These laws in fact imprisoned many more people than they ever helped because they were prejudiced and unbalanced. They targeted a group and set them up for downfall. The people drafting these laws to be passed were too blind to see the greater harm they were imposing. Some of the worst laws passed appeared to help on the surface but instead created great problems. When it’s the poor being subjected to problems, not as many people will care. No one cares when there is overcrowding in prisons and jails because no one thinks they or their loved ones will ever be there. It’s not until problems start affecting the masses that people in charge take notice.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Research and learn. Never stop learning. They used to say that in school: “You will always need to learn.” Nothing truer than that statement. I spend a great deal of time reading how things need to be and how they are changing. If you don’t take the time to educate yourself within your industry you will become a dinosaur really fast. Everything advances and nothing stands still, especially time. If you are not willing to learn and continue learning you won’t make it. You might for a minute, but without growth and new knowledge you will become old really fast.
I also recommend that people network and learn from others. Get sound advice. It’s good to know what other experts think. Going to reliable college professors or leaders in the industry is key. People are too scared to ask for help, but what they don’t know is the greatest business leaders all did. Great men and women seek knowledge, help and understand how to apply those in making sound decisions and running a business.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Face to face meetings. Trust. Completing whatever I said I was offering. Your word is everything in business. Even with a virtual world and a great deal of business being done through email or over the phone companies still want to look you in the eye and see who you are. They want to know that you’re going to do what you’re saying you are going to do. The willingness to take face-to-face meetings gave me a huge competitive edge over all of my competitors. Most wanted to sit in their luxury offices, take half days, and think an email or phone call was going to get the business done or forge new business. Not likely. CEOs, CFOs, COOs, all want to put a face to their business accounts and partnerships.
I also focused on the companies no one wanted to offer services too, because they did not have the big budgets to waste money. I started giving the small companies the same service I would to my corporate accounts and they quickly helped me grow my business because no one was catering to them. I ended up having 100% of that pie and not having to share that market with anyone else.
I see value in everything. You have to see the diamond in the coal. I am also very detail-oriented. I don’t overlook the little things; I pay more attention to them. It’s the little things that make one’s business successful. Most only want to give their full attention to the big things. It’s always the little things that bring down a company. For example, getting an oil change for your car. Very simple and not expensive at all. But a lot of maintenance issues that lead to major problems started with not taking care of the vehicle’s fluids. People overlook smaller things, so I place an emphasis on those smaller things. You address the big things too, of course, but it’s just as important to keep track of the little things.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Not seeing the warning signs or thinking that I could reinvent the wheel. I had to learn that the hard way with hiring people. I was too trusting, and still am today to some extent. I take people at their word. Many times, people will tell you anything to have a job.
I’ve learned to place a great priority in having a very low turnover with my employees. You want your company to be consistent and dependable and high turnover never completes that task. In fact, it only makes it harder and worse most time. Knowing when it’s time to move on from something can be hard too. It can be hard to know when to cut ties with businesses.
I had to learn to stop taking things so personally and it’s still one thing I work on, but when it’s your company it is personal and any attack on it seems like an attack on you.
I have had to learn that I can’t do it all. I needed to learn to have the best people in place and to let them do their job. Too many times ownership tends to run with a micromanagement style and that never ends well. I wanted to turn this weakness into a strength and that started with the people I was hiring. I only hired the best of the best. I valued their opinions and trusted their ability to do their job. I wanted to allow my team to grow and make mistakes on their own. It’s all just part of the process.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Never give away an idea. If you are not ready to finance an idea or project don’t tell others because then it can become their money-maker instead of yours. Too many times great ideas become someone else’s bread and butter because you were not able to fund it. Sometimes you have to wait for your dreams to take off. Invest in yourself.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Towards a vacation. Everybody needs rest. You can’t just work, work, work especially working 24/7/365. When I was a full practicing attorney, I never slept or rested. It was all about doing what needed to be done for the clients. I learned really quick that you will burn out fast by living like that. It’s not healthy and it will be the downfall of your business. Taking care of your health is key and that requires taking time to get away and recharge.
You are not going to have a business if there is no you. Nothing but work will hinder your health, cause stress, and even resentment amongst your family and loved ones. They want time with you too.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
When I was practicing law and in law school the one database and software that was key was law journal of all the legal proceedings and cases: Westlaw and LexisNexis. I would add to that a reliable computer and variety of software. I personally like Apple and their MacBook Pro series and Office Business by Microsoft. Those two basic tools can run any business’s daily operations. There are a vast number of other services and software that could help but those are the few that I love using and are helpful.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Business @ The Speed of Thought by Bill Gates
Technology is going to always be the gateway to better understanding things and forging ahead in business. Everything advances, everything gets better, and you have to have a working understanding of this. We do things today that they were not capable of doing 20 years ago. Bill Gates expresses to the business community how we are in a growing new era of economic growth and that we have to stay ahead of the learning curve. To fall behind can cause irreversible damage or result in your business going under.
He also reveals to the world how information flow and use is important. Uniting systems can help companies develop a greater infrastructure that helps to maintain a stable foundation, increase efficiency, and prepare for growth. He outlines his own personal company, Microsoft, and shows how he was able to achieve success and how your business can do the same. His one quote, “How you gather, manage, and use information will determine whether you win or lose.” This quote is used in many universities as the base of succeeding in business.
What is your favorite quote?
Just Do It!- Nike
It’s simple and straight to the point.
• Be willing to fail to succeed
• Effort is not always good enough, you have to be willing to work 100 times harder than everyone else
• Never stop learning, always look to educate or re-educate yourself
• Surround yourself with smart people who understand your mission and goals
• Nothing is overnight. Success takes time
• Never give up and never let others tell you what you can and cannot do in life. Many love putting the fires out when they pertain to your dreams.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.