Joel Raney followed his passion and built Raney’s Inc. from the ground up.
From Startup To Success
Almost eight years ago, Raney’s Inc. was forming without anyone knowing. Mark Raney, the owner of Raney’s Truck Center, hired his nephew, Jacob Chak, to sell some of his old inventory. Jacob began listing the parts online and watched them sell quickly.
Mark’s son, Joel, had started taking classes at the University of South Florida to earn his master’s degree after having no immediate success in his job hunt due to the market recession. He previously graduated with his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. Always being close to his family, Joel came home to visit Jacob one day and found out what he was up to.
“It just had that start-up feel to it. And my passion has always been business and working with people and building something,” Joel says. “I liked engineering because it was challenging, but I was much more passionate about business, and this gave me an opportunity to get a little bit involved.”
Shortly after, Joel found himself driving back and forth from Tampa to Ocala between classes and dealing with customers, while Jacob handled the data management part of the job. Business was slow, and Joel realized his full involvement could mean the difference between failure and success for the young company. He had to make a decision, and he finally dropped out of his master’s program to fully invest in this new business venture.
“I don’t think I ever really saw how much it could be. It just kept growing and growing,” Joel says.
Meanwhile, Joel’s dad was their biggest supporter. He had a small space available that Jacob and Joel leased from him to set up shop. Mark shared his knowledge and experience from running Raney’s Truck Center with the two young men, helping them with operations and their first few hires.
Jacob and Joel began planning to turn the business into its own company in 2011, and Joel remembers one specific customer steering them in the right direction. His name was Eddie Cruz, and he was looking for parts that neither Joel nor Mark carried. As Joel searched for the parts, he realized they could expand. Because they were running an online business, it wouldn’t be difficult to bring in parts from more suppliers.
“That’s when we really shifted to our own identity and figured out the path we wanted to go [down],” Joel says. “Eddie Cruz kind of took us there.”
Raney’s Inc. became official in 2012—just a year and a half after clearing out Mark’s overstocked items. Joel explains that his dad’s business involves everything needed to keep semi-trucks running, offering a service center, more than 20 repair bays, mechanics and the parts necessary to keep the trucks running smoothly. Raney’s Inc., however, is all about customizing semi-trucks.
“These guys spend all day every day driving across the country in these rigs. So, we sell all the products that make it look good, that will keep them on the road as far as collision—bumpers, hoods, headlights. And then, driver comfort’s big,” Joel says. “That’s the passion of our company and our customers—tricking out their trucks, making them look as unique and cool as they can.”
Raney’s Inc. sells mattresses, Bluetooth headsets, apparel, steering wheels and, overall, chrome everything. They work with manufacturers on customizing parts, and they work with drivers who show their trucks, as well.
Working At Raney’s
Joel credits his dad for believing in him and supporting his business as it’s grown.
“He helped steer us,” says Joel. “He’s a visionary, so he always saw and believed how big we could get.”
Mark supported them for the first two years, and even though they run similar businesses, they’re not competitors. Rather, they support one another. Raney’s Inc. now serves customers worldwide, with more than 100 different suppliers and a team of more than 50. Raney’s Truck Center is a locally based company with an 80-mile radius of service and a smaller list of suppliers. Although Raney’s Truck Center is not an online retailer, it welcomes trucks on-site for servicing, parts and repairs. Joel and his dad are able to refer customers to each other based on their needs.
The fun and flexible workplace philosophy at Raney’s Inc. was inspired by Zappos’ founder Tony Hsieh’s book Delivering Happiness. Joel looks for passion and family spirit in all of his team members in order to run a productive business that truly cares about its customers. For Joel, it’s all about providing a great customer experience and maintaining a family environment.
Because Raney’s is all about ‘chroming out your truck,’ employees are lovingly called “chromozonians.” Raney’s Inc. maintains flexibility and work-life balance, taking each team member’s life into account. They keep things fun with frequent events and activities, too. Recently, chromies celebrated National #Selfie Day and Pina Colada Day (virgin, of course), and they love breaking out the costumes when they can.
“We want people to come here and know that we don’t just care about their production; we care about them as a person,” Joel says.
Inside the 125,000-square-foot warehouse that Raney’s Inc. calls home, meeting rooms, departments, inventory storage and the break room have been remodeled and redesigned with a modern, functional look. Exposed rafters and black, white, red and gray colors stay constant throughout the building, and construction on their new retail store is almost done, with a goal to open it early next year.
Perhaps the most exciting area is the large break room, complete with a professional kitchen, indoor park-like play area for visiting children and lounge area for chromies. There’s also a wheel for team members to spin when they’ve met goals or accomplished something extraordinary. Dinner, movie tickets and a paid day off are among the prizes.
“I would say [it’s most important] that everyone’s happy. I can come to work, and I see everyone sitting down together, talking, having a good time, laughing, enjoying what they do,” Joel says. “I don’t ever want to have a company where people are just there going through the motions. We want people to know here they’re making a difference, they’re impacting people’s lives, they’re helping our community, they’re helping each other. That’s definitely what’s important to me.”
A Day In The Life
‘What’s a day like for you?’ might be the question Joel dreads most.
“Oh no, that question. I just never know how to answer that question,” he laughs. “It changes so much every day.”
At the end of a 15-minute tour around the building, Joel scrolls down his phone’s lock screen, revealing an endless stream of notifications. Phone calls, emails, messages—for him, they never stop. He deals with each department, overseeing every aspect of the business, every day. He’s clearly passionate about what he does, and seeing his team excited to come to work makes the stress, time demands and sense of responsibility to support his work family all worth it.
To other aspiring entrepreneurs, Joel suggests only doing something they’re truly passionate about.
“I would say they also need to understand just how much work it is,” Joel says. “They have to understand they have to be in it for the long haul.”
Now 29 years old, Joel doesn’t work the endless hours that he worked at the very beginning, although he is always available to his staff and customers. It’s a tough balance, but, when he does have free time, he enjoys spending it with his almost-2-year-old son, Carson, and his wife, Jenni, who is famous at Raney’s Inc. for her baked goods.
If Joel could do it all over again: “I don’t think I would change anything because it’s all been a learning experience,” he says.