Aaron Durall - Founder, Reliance Laboratory Testing

Aaron Durall comes from a family that greatly values education and bettering yourself. He knew that going to college was going to be essential to his success. Both of Aaron’s parents went to college and they wanted him to have the same opportunities that they had and more. School was a struggle for Aaron early on, not because it was hard, but because there was no real challenge and he did not see the importance of it. Mr. Durall was always the best athlete on any team he played on and, at times, he placed a higher value on that than academics. Aaron can even remember times when his parents were threatening him with not playing sports if he did not improve his grades in high school. However, sports opened up many doors for him to get an education. Aaron was one of the best high school defensive players in the country, which led to recruitment offers from major colleges all around the country. It wasn’t until being in college that Aaron understood there would be life after sports.

Aaron Durall also learned during his undergrad days that school wasn’t as hard if you had a plan and studied hard. Aaron started applying himself in the junior year of his accounting program and instantly saw a difference. Before then he was just doing enough to get by.  Aaron knew he had a special gift with numbers when it came to business, which is funny because math was not always his favorite subject. Accounting became easy for him and he excelled.

Aaron graduated at the top of his class and got into law school. It was no surprise to him but to anyone that knew him in high school it would’ve been. Most people thought that he would’ve ended up as a professional athlete. Aaron graduated from law school as one of the best students in the country.

Aaron Durall entered the workforce as an attorney but also kept his job running one of the largest healthcare firms in the Southeast. Starting this way allowed him to learn without all the immediate pressures that most attorneys suffer from when first starting out. He was able to successfully run his own law practice but also pursue other business ventures at the same time.

How did you get started in this business?

Having been an attorney on several community boards and projects I saw that there was a lack of laboratories and hospitals to serve rural communities. I was approached by other leading individuals who also wanted to make a difference in the community and it was decided that we wanted to bring a state of the art lab to South Florida to handle testing from all over the world. We would have the best equipment, so the lab would be a one-stop shop for all the testing needed. We wanted to cut out long waits for results and the middleman.

What inspired you to start this business?

The inspiration came from others sharing with me that there was an open void to testing in blood work at first and that it could be a very profitable business if set up and run properly. Because I had worked in the healthcare industry during my college and early law school days I already had some knowledge of this. I recruited the best doctors and laboratory technicians and, with my management skills, we run a reliable facility. I would later work to gain contracts with hospitals and other agencies that need urine and blood testing done.

How do you make money?

After graduating from law school I saw that there was a huge gap in legal services and a disparity between the rich and poor. It was saddening to see that the poor could be convicted for crimes they did not commit and the main reason was simply because they were poor and could not afford proper legal counsel. This led me to turn down working for many prestigious law firms and to start my own private law practice. My small firm took on many clients that would’ve been turned away by others. I limited my case intake so that I could give each case the proper amount of attention. This allowed me to get to know my clients and really work for them. Many times it would be me against the biggest law firms in the country; a modern David versus Goliath. I worked in both the criminal and civil sectors of law. I even offered my services to the Court Appointed Legal Services (working with the Country Courts with defendants unable to afford an attorney). From this association, I was then able to expand and work for other legal services such as the NAACP Southeast Chapter. I used some of my gains to invest in various business holdings.

While in college I had the opportunity to work for a healthcare service business that staffed physicians, nurses, and even home healthcare. This sparked my interest in the medical industry. I saw there was a need for laboratories and accredited hospitals that would service the needs of smaller towns in rural America. When I was finally able to launch a laboratory it became an additional reliable source of income. From there, I started investing in purchasing hospitals that were more like to close do to lack of funding or poor management. This allowed me to use my management and leadership skills to turn these would-be closing facilities into profitable enterprises in the communities that needed them the most.

How long did it take for you to become profitable?

It took about a year. While the staff worked on ensuring that the laboratory would run smoothly, I focused on going all over the country to gain contracts from hospitals and other healthcare facilities to do their testing. I contacted police agencies, hospitals, private sector security companies, and anyone else who had a need to test urine or blood samples. I made sure the facility had everything it needed to be able to perform the needed testing. The one advantage we had was a great staff, a great facility, and contracts for steady work. Within a year we were seeing a facility that had continual growth and a steady stream of revenue. This enabled me to start looking at other investment sources such as hospitals.

Before investing into the laboratory I had always been one to invest in stocks and property. I understood that with property I would utilize leasing or re-selling. I understood how REITS worked and if managed right and marketed to the right individuals I would be able to generate a monthly income that way. As an attorney I would be able to cut down on expense by handling all the contracts, etc. Understanding the management side of the business and having great people around me for the technical or daily operations allow for every business I start to thrive.

When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?

There is always doubt because you see others that success comes easy to. But no one really knows what others are going through. People will always show you what they want you to see. I learned quickly that I wasn’t the only one who has doubt. I knew if I applied myself and followed the right steps, I would always be able to accomplish anything I wanted to do. I knew this at an early age. I didn’t doubt my abilities but the small amount of doubt that I did have mostly regarded the market or the field that I was in.

How did you get your first customer?

My first legal case was a referral from a friend. They had a friend who needed a lawyer but did not have the means to pay one. It just so happens that with a little work this case could easily be won at trial or settled. But that’s the ironic thing about being a lawyer and getting cases: everyone knows a lawyer and everyone knows someone who at some point needs a lawyer. You just have to be the lawyer they know and need.

As for my lab my first customer came from going out and presenting the laboratory to businesses that needed services fulfilled. Because I had worked in the medical field I knew a lot of potential clients and I strategized to gain them as clients. Because they knew me and trusted my work ethics, most gave me the chance to earn their business.

What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?

I never really used any marketing strategies other than networking and meeting other businesses face to face. When it comes to running a laboratory it’s all about your lab’s accreditation and credibility. If you have that you are able to gain business because other companies want the best. So my goal with any business is to have the very best. If that means I have to educate myself more, then I do just that. If it means me traveling to take a meeting in a another state or city I do that too. I did all the little things just as well as all the big things when it came to my law firm, laboratory, and my hospitals. I always thought about the person who needed the services the most and tried to please him/her. I think this has generated great word of mouth amongst people and companies in my industry as well as the general public. I placed great value in the quality of the service being delivered to the consumer. I want my employees to see the way that I do things and follow my example. Leadership has always played a great role in having successful businesses for me. It’s easy for others to want to follow you if they see you are willing to roll up your sleeves and work alongside them. Anyone can bark orders but that’s not a leadership strategy. So outside of word of mouth, I have never placed a lot of stock in marketing strategies.

What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?

Selling entities of my business. It’s always hard to sell something that you worked really hard for. If affects people’s lives whenever there is a drastic change. However, when I did make the choice to sell a few hospitals I own, I always sold to people I knew would be a good fit. I wanted to ensure patients’ well-being by making sure that whoever was buying understood the community’s needs. I think with each sell I have always done just that. It’s hard at times because you get to know people and they never want to see you leave or don’t want change. But change can be good under the right circumstances. The sells for me were personal because I was ready to explore a new chapter in my life with my lab and I thought it would help others too. I think I am like everyone else; I want to be able to take care of my family, parents, and siblings and know that I have contributed to this world along the way.

What do you think it is that makes you successful?

This is easy. Hard work and the will to do what a lot of people aren’t willing to do. Everyone wants to be successful and rich but there are very few that are willing to sacrifice to get to that. Many want to start at a company and their entry position is CEO. They overlook the value of the process of getting to the top. Sometimes you have to work in the mailroom for a while before moving to the next level. We are a microwave society and we want everything instantly. I understand that not everything can come over night. I had a poster as a kid that stated that life is a marathon not a sprint and I’ve come to understand this more and more over the course of my life.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

Seeing how I make a difference in other people’s lives. You see it in movies or even in news stories but you never think you can be that guy. For me when I was running or owning a hospital or my laboratory I would hear directly from staff or patients the appreciation of what I was doing. To know that a hospital I bailed out from going bankrupt and closing was still operating and allowing cancer patients to get treatments means a lot to me. To know that without this facility, the closest hospital to service their needs are hours away. So, when I think about the most satisfying moments these rank right up there in my life.

What does the future hold for your business?

I am getting into more testing for my laboratory. I hope that in the coming months and years we can expand operations and do more testing for more hospitals around the country.

What are you most excited about?

I have a loving wife and children and they mean the world to me. I place a lot of stock in family. I am close with all my siblings and always want to see them having and doing the very best. I work hard so that they can have an enjoyable and comfortable life.

The money I make allows me the ability to help others, give back, and to ensure that people don’t fall through the cracks of life. Our responsibility in life is to help others, or at least that’s what it means to me. There have been those who help pave the way for me in life and it’s my duty to pave the way for others. I want to give them the opportunity to be greater.

What business books have inspired you?

Barack Obama The Audacity of Hope

Randall Kennedy Race, Crime, and the Law and Sellout

Bill Gates Business @ The Speed of Thought

These are just four I can think of readily. I don’t have the privilege of reading a lot and I wish I had more time but law school and practice always had me reading more briefs and law than for pleasure. Running various companies now leaves me with even less time for reading. I tend to remember books I have read in school or what my children are reading for school or pleasure.

What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?

Equipment. I am always trying to have the latest in the industry, especially if it is going to make us better. When our doctors tell me there is a better way for the lab to produce better testing results and it takes less time, I am always interested in investing further. We are constantly upgrading everything.

What is your main mission in life? (Question I made up based on his answer)

My mission would be to leave the world a better place than I found it. I want to help others and most of all I want to be a good husband, father, brother, son, and friend.

I want to be involved in more community issues. I try my best to be politically involved because it affects my community at the core. When I was a practicing trail attorney, I saw so many needs and gaps not being addressed. I have always maintained a fixture in the legal community that addresses gaps in society in fairness among all. I would like to be more active in that regard. We live in a country where there are huge gaps between people of different skin colors and socio-economic positions. We need more advocates who will fight for the little guy or simply for those who cannot fight for themselves. I think my mother instilled that in me and that will always be in me to help others.

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