After living through a failed assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan and serving as jump team leader, a responsibility of the highest order, as well as coordinating 80 agents assigned to the security detail for President Bill Clinton’s visit to Sydney, Australia, and serving Presidents Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George H. Bush, Reginald A. Ball turned his sights in a new direction.
For 23 years, Ball served as a Secret Service agent for the U.S. Treasury Department. It was there that the Detroit native says, “I could’ve stayed with the steady government paycheck, but I wanted to control my own life.” So in 1997, Ball, 50, retired from the service and created RB Industries, a general-line industrial products distribution company based in Sterling Heights, Michigan. As one of the member/owners of Induserve Supply Buyers Co-op, RB Industries has access to an inventory of more than 450,000 items ranging from hand tools to high-tech testing equipment.
The 30-employee company ended 2000 with revenues of $4.5 million–up from $400,000 in sales in 1998, its first full year of operation.
Today, this former “man-in-black” customer’s list reads like a who’s who in the automotive industry. For example, it serves as a Tier 1 supplier to DaimlerChrysler and General Motors, providing bearings, hand and power tools, and abrasives.
The career transition for Ball was an easy one since he hailed from the Motor City and both his parents worked in the auto industry. However, in the beginning, Ball didn’t even have an office to call his own. He began working out of Larry Gniatczyk’s, automobile, truck parts, and engineering services firm, the Allar Co.
“Although Larry was a colleague and a valuable mentor who introduced me to his circle of clients, companies were not initially knocking down the door to hire my new venture as a distributor,” says Ball.
Unaccustomed to this initial lack of trust from clients, trust which was automatic when he served as a Secret Service agent, Ball attempted to carry his former value system into his own business. “To be worthy of your trust and confidence” is an aphorism he borrowed from his days in the Secret Service. “It’s that simple,” explains Ball of his business philosophy.
That fundamental principle has contributed to his success, as he expects 2001 revenues to top $6 million, serving as products distributor to clients such as Lear Corp., Metaldyne, and Defiance Testing and Engineering.
Ball says that his business is based on a “can-do” attitude. “RB Industries stays focused on solutions and tolerates no excuses–just results,” says the confident entrepreneur. “And in this business, nobody dies.”