Return On Relationships: How We Built An 8 Figure Biz By Word Of Mouth

John D. Bruno and Mike Crosby built what is now Key Metal Refining LLC (KMR), into a successful eight figure business buying used catalytic converters and recovering Platinum Group Metals (PGMs) from them.

The company has been able to grow in spite of industry consolidations, fierce competition, and shrinking margins. Company President John D. Bruno and Purchasing Manager Mike Crosby credit the company’s success to forging long-term relationships with their clients, who in turn spread the word about KMR to others.


This approach is commonly referred to as relationship marketing. Forbes defines relationship marketing as “a strategy designed to foster customer loyalty, interaction and long-term engagement. It is designed to develop strong connections with customers by providing them with information directly suited to their needs and interests and by promoting open communication.”

Crosby said

For me, it’s not just about the transaction. I try to schedule extra time with my customers so that after deliveries are done, we can talk about sports, family or whatever.

Bruno also demonstrated Key Metal Refining’s approach stating

We understand how important cash flow is to our clients. We try to minimize their trucking. If they send us a truckload of material, we’ll send it back full with something they want, or we’ll buy a multitude of items from them in order to reduce their trucking costs.

He goes onto say

We buy items, not just catalytic converters, and wholesale them to other suppliers virtually at break even cost. Some of the guys may have batteries, rims and other pieces to sell, sometimes even entire cars.

We help them out any way we can so that they can continue running and growing their businesses. They don’t have to worry about cash working with us, which is an important bloodline for their businesses.


KMR’s clients have responded in kind. Word-of-mouth referrals have allowed KMR to grow into an eight figure business—without a marketing budget.

Understanding the long-term return on relationships Crosby noted

We’re not trying to dominate the market by getting every mom and pop business to sell to us, leaving nothing for core buyers. We believe that helping the middle man build their businesses helps us.


In 2001, prior to the establishment of Key Metal Refining, Bruno founded Key Engineering Solutions. Key Engineering Solutions was selected to work with a consortium of industry leaders Toyota Tsusho America, Inc., Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo K.K., Dowa Metals & Mining Co. called Nippon PGM America.

Bruno designed and built a sampling operation for Nippon PGM America in 2004.  The plant is located in Burlington NJ.

After construction of the plant was completed Bruno was asked to stay on as General Manager of Operations, working there for six years.

The trust he developed proved to be profitable, when in 2016 Bruno approached DOWA, an owner of the world’s largest PGM recycling plant (Nippon PGM Co., LTD (Kosaka, Japan)), to partner with Key Engineering Solutions. Their mutual respect and trust in one another led to the formation of Key Metal Refining LLC in January of 2017.

Speaking to the power of relationships, Bruno said of DOWA

The thing I like about partnering with DOWA is that they’re honorable people – which is rare in this industry.

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