Growing up in Waco, Texas, Stan Lueck always had a knack for environmental science, especially soil and water.
He pursued his career interest in the late 1970s and early 80s by earning a Bachelor of Science degree at Baylor University, and then undertook graduate studies in chemical engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington. Following his passion, he continued to hone his expertise as a technical professional, engineer, and entrepreneur.
“Our family lived on a rural farm raising cattle and hay, which gave me great exposure to science and mechanics — something that I’ve always had an interest in,” Lueck says. “After my college studies, I worked for an environmental consulting company, but after a few years, I thought, why not go bigger by starting my own business?”
After starting one business in the early 1990s, opportunity came knocking again when Lueck founded RODI Systems in 1995. As president of the Aztec, New Mexico-based firm, he grew the business, molding the company into a worldwide leader in the design and fabrication of high-performance water treatment systems.
Today, his firm supplies world markets with its technologies, and a product line featuring large, high-end water treatment systems, and smaller testing units. A large portion of the company’s business is seawater desalination treatment technology and portable self-contained treatment systems housed in intermodal shipping containers.
“For me, the real passion is to be able to build things, make them work, and send the equipment halfway around the world,” Lueck says. “At the same time, we’re also contributing to the quality of people’s lives by giving them access to clean drinking water. So, it’s a very fulfilling job.”
Export Help from the U.S. Commercial Service
RODI’s first foray into exporting began in the late 1990s. In more recent years, the firm has stepped up its export expansion, increasing its global presence in the developing world by targeting municipal governments and industrial users in markets throughout Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America – places where the need is especially prevalent.
However, successful exporting often depends on overcoming initial challenges, as Lueck can attest.
“One of the ongoing issues we faced in expanding our export sales was mitigating potential risk,” he says. “We were looking for advice and assistance in answering questions which would arise. It was about that time—about five or six years ago—that we received a call from Robert Queen.”
At the time, Queen had just stepped in as the new director of the U.S. Commercial Service in New Mexico. His office is part of the global network of the U.S. Commercial Service that helps U.S. companies export. This network includes 100+ offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries.
Starting with that phone call, Queen was reaching out to businesses and looking to see how he might assist Lueck with his export planning.
Says Queen, “Our assistance to Stan has ranged from finding out the best infrastructure trade leads and events to pursue, to checking out potential foreign partners — all of which requires due diligence.
“For example, in researching a lead Stan had found on the website, we discovered the buyer’s address was false. As a result, we helped Stan avoid a potentially costly mistake. Stan has also sought guidance on ensuring that shipping and logistics go smoothly without delay.”
Queen says he takes a collaborative approach to export assistance by engaging with his domestic colleagues or trade experts at U.S. embassies abroad, who have an ear to the ground in their respective markets. He says a large share of inquiries from exporters involves assistance in resolving trade problems, which may arise during the export process.
However, careful export planning in advance is key to minimize potential problems. RODI exports range anywhere from two to four high-end units a year worth upwards of more than $1,000,000 each, so, as Queen says, “we work with Stan to get it right the first time.”
In addition to his business clients being just a phone call or email away from help, about once each quarter Queen hits the road, driving hundreds of miles across New Mexico to visit rural-based business clients such as RODI, which might otherwise not have easy access to face-to-face export counseling. This is just one example of how the Commercial Service continues to extend its reach into traditionally underserved rural areas.
“Checking with the Commercial Service ahead of time gives us a presence in foreign countries when we don’t have one,” said Lueck. “It can be incredibly difficult and expensive for us to do on our own, and we might have to travel, so it’s a huge cost and time savings. Just recently, we were told that an overseas project we wanted to pursue was not what it appeared to be.”
More Export Sales, More Company Growth
Leveraging U.S. Commercial Service export advice, trade show support, market intelligence, and other outside resources, Lueck sees new export opportunities on the horizon and is moving ahead with greater confidence.
He also says that without exports, his company wouldn’t be where it is today, with sales to more than 40 markets — including countries such as Indonesia, South Africa, Brazil, India, Sri Lanka, Oman, Canada, and Kuwait, to name a few.
“Exports now account for 80% of our overall sales, more than doubling from just a few years ago,” he says. “As a result, we’ve been able to boost the bottom line, sustain a steady workforce of 14 employees, and recently tripled the size of our production yard here in Aztec.”
Lueck also encourages those U.S. businesses that have not yet exported or may be selling to only one or two markets, to consider their export potential.
“I would say it’s something you should definitely look into,” he says. “It’s a bit of a learning curve, but the potential rewards are well worth it — and the Commercial Service is available to assist.”
Taking Advantage of Resources
The federal government’s export assistance portal offers digital support and additional resources; it can also help users locate local and overseas U.S. Commercial Service offices.
Also helpful are the Exporting Basics video series, which reviews all steps involved in the exporting process and outlines the available export resources, and the Country Commercial Guides, which offer the latest market intelligence on more than 140 markets.
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