Relevant Solutions

"Salesforce was a no-brainer. It was the only integrated solution."

David Duren

Relevant Solutions triples earnings by innovating in a critical marketplace.

Relevant Solutions is in the business of keeping other companies running. In practice, that can get a little complex, so CEO David Duren likens his company to a catchall utilities company for the business world. “If you flip the light switch on in your office and nothing happens, you can’t work,” said Duren. Similarly, Relevant Solutions helps businesses worldwide “keep the lights on” and keep running, whether that means getting an air compressor back online or providing long-term equipment rentals. Customers rely on Relevant Solutions so that their productivity in their core business remains strong.

As a leading provider of diversified industrial solutions and services, the Houston-based firm had been doing well in an industry that hadn’t changed much in decades. But company leaders knew their industry was overdue for change. Relevant Solutions itself was originally formed from five small companies that traded on great customer service and product knowledge in a field that deals in decidedly low-tech products. “We don’t really represent high tech. The last significant technological improvement in compressors was in 1958,” Duren said. Duren saw a big opportunity to leverage technology to innovate in his space by streamlining internal operations. Relevant Solutions didn’t reinvent the air compressor; it reinvented how industrial services solution providers do business by collecting and leveraging product and sales data with Salesforce.

Five entrepreneurial shops transform into one $160 million revenue company.

Duren described Relevant Solutions’ five original businesses as lifestyle entrepreneurial shops that always did what was best for the customer, but not necessarily for their own growth and market expansion. The companies had all generated lots of data from their activities, but hadn’t used it to advance their operations. Business processes were manual and inefficient, customer and product information was too often impossible to find when employees needed it, and working with hard copies of contracts and invoices — in triplicate — was the norm. By Duren’s count, those five original companies were running a total of five ERPs, 10 databases, and at least 150 Outlook customer databases. “They were running on individual laptops with no backups,” Duren recalled. “This is an old industry, and technology best practices just weren’t viewed as important.”

Six months after joining Relevant Solutions in 2012, Duren was named president of the company’s instrumentation and automation business. That division had just spent $1.5 million over two years augmenting its CRM system, and it still had to export data from the system out to Excel spreadsheets to work with it. As befitting his computer science and engineering background, Duren wrote a spec describing his dream system. At the top of the list was making sure all functionality, from CRM to calendar, was contained within one app on employees’ phones. “People will not aggressively embrace change and improve productivity if they have to engage in a different process and bounce around from app to app,” Duren said. “Salesforce was a no-brainer. It was the only integrated solution that let us build external capabilities into one common interface.”

Customer expectations are radically changed.

Over the two years since implementation, Relevant Solutions has grown to encompass a total of 11 smaller companies, and is on pace to record $160 million in revenue during 2016 — with an earnings rate almost four times what the company recorded when it committed to Salesforce. Sales Cloud has increased efficiencies, playing a vital part in providing visibility into sales opportunities across the company and making sure that all of the new business units share a common company culture. “Sales Cloud provides the central link to realizing Relevant’s acquisition strategy, as it provides immediate visibility into all of the product lines and value streams for project opportunities,” said Duren.

Since Relevant Solutions counts several very large companies as customers, multiple sales reps are often assigned to the same account. Sales Cloud helps ensure that reps are aligned, have opportunities to piggyback on one another’s sales, and are learning from one another across teams. Employees use Chatter to communicate within their business units and companywide, sharing documents, opportunity updates, and even engineering drawings. And has proven invaluable by pinpointing new prospects and keeping their contact data up to date for use inside of Sales Cloud.

Duren’s field reps rely on the Salesforce1 Mobile App on job sites. Service Cloud and a selection of third-party solutions from AppExchange empower them to provide world-class customer service and seize opportunities as they arise. With the TinderBox app from AppExchange, reps handle sales proposals and contract management from within the Salesforce1 Mobile App, and the ServiceMax app from AppExchange integrates with Service Cloud to provide end-to-end mobile service management of everything from scheduling to logistics and inventory.

For a company that Duren said only put computers on service reps’ desks seven or eight years ago, handling sales proposals and contracts from iPads in the field is a huge leap forward. But Duren and his teams are far from done innovating. Relevant Solutions is leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT) to gather data on its products while they’re deployed at customer sites. QR codes affixed to product assets allow for tagging and tracking that’s used for ordering replacements on-site, dispatching technicians, and leveraging service histories to create early-warning systems for large customers like Honeywell, 3M, and Ingersoll Rand. “We’re not just trying to go out of the box. We’re trying to forget the box,” Duren said. “We want to radically change what customers expect.”

Relevant Solutions