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Interview with Robert Kahn – President of Reliable


Robert Kahn Headshot

At Detailed Image we are lucky enough to work with some awesome companies in the detailing industry that produce impressive waxes, polishes, microfiber towels, etc. There are always great minds behind the scenes helping these products come to life and in this article we are excited to introduce you to one of those great minds, the president of Reliable, Robert Kahn.

For those of you who do not know about Reliable they make some impressive products including top notch steam cleaners.  Reliable was founded all the way back in 1955 by Milton Kahn, the father of now president Robert Kahn. Reliable started off by selling used sewing equipment out of a garage and is now located in a modern 20,000 square foot facility.  Their products are available online, in catalogs, and from resellers across North America, Asia, and Europe. Reliable still offers top of the line sewing equipment and fabric care products, but they also offer high quality steam cleaners that are sure to make us detailers happy. Read more from Robert below and see how this family business has produced so many successful products!

How did you begin with Reliable?

I guess you can say I was born into this job. The company was started by my father Milton in 1955. I started working Saturday mornings when I was 13-years old. I officially started with Reliable after I received a BA from the University of Toronto and traveled the world for a year. My first job in 1983 was visiting garment factories and providing labor saving solutions that would reduce production costs. I learned a very good lesson from those years; I had to uncover the issues my customers were having and I had to be realistic when evaluating a solution. Garment factories in those days were notoriously careful with their expenditures so I needed to be very sure that the solution I was recommending had a real payback. And believe me, if they didn’t products would quickly be sent back.

As the President of Reliable, what are the main areas of Reliable that you focus on?

My strength has always been in the sales/marketing side of the business. I’m responsible for new product development and I take that job very seriously. As a company that’s active in multiple market categories (steam cleaning, garment care, sewing, lighting) I get to wear many different hats. My focus is always on offering the best products in the categories we’re in. That means I spend a lot of time with our engineers working on how to improve our technology and a lot of time with our sales-marketing team to make sure we’re meeting the demands of our customers. After 34 years I’ve realized business can be a game of inches. You may think you have the right recipe for success but there may be one small thing in the product that doesn’t resonate with the customer. It’s my job to find out what that is and correct it.

What are some of Reliable’s most notable achievements?

Over the course of 61 years in business we’ve had many and I’m not trying to side-step the question, but the single thing I’m proudest of is that we have several key people who’ve been with us for over 40 years. They’ve worked for two generations of my family. I discovered early on in my career that there’s nothing more important than the people that work here. They are in every sense of the word family.

From a product side, I think we were very bold in 2004 when we introduced our first steam mop. This was at a time when no one had ever heard of steam mops, let alone been bombarded by them on late night infomercials. We were the first in the wave of consumer steam products and say with no regret that we were copied by many much larger companies.

A year later we introduced the Velocity iron a patented steam iron for the home that redefined the performance from a consumer model and was instrumental in our growth for the next 10+ years.

If you had to pick one unit to recommend to an auto detailer which one would you select and why?

For light commercial use (a couple of hours a day), I think the Brio 500CC steam cleaner is a remarkable machine and a fantastic value. We’ve put so much into this product and the price point is really incredible.

First of all, for any serious work tool you have to have an auto-refill system so that there’s not down time waiting for the boiler to pressurize other than the original start up. This is key.

Second, we use a really high end stainless steel boiler tank for this model. The shape of the boiler and the quality of the construction is absolutely paramount when you are discussing steam quality. You can disregard all of the other so called “must have” features; if you are starting with an inferior steam boiler you’ll never get consistent, quality steam. The Brio 500CC has 5-bar pressure, but the real story is not the maximum pressure (which is all too commonly exaggerated by manufacturers) but how long it stays at or near 5 bar. Really this is an incredible achievement for a steam cleaner that is this affordable. Of course we used our Brio Pro 1000C model as the benchmark for testing so the performance needed to be “near pro” level.

Third, we use Italian and USA made components for all critical functions of the Brio 500CC. There was no skimping on quality.

Four, you can’t have pro performance when you’re using accessories from a $299 model. The 500CC’s accessories are exceptional and professional grade.

Five, we added our EMC2 feature at no additional charge for the Brio 500CC. EMC2 refers to Electromagnetic Mineral Crystallization Chamber, which reduces internal boiler scale build-up, lengthens the life of the boiler tank and leaves less particulate residue. Typically models using this technology start at well over $1,000.

We even added an adjustable steam volume control to the handle, making it easy and fast to change the pressure to best manage the work being done. The only thing we didn’t add was a hot water rinse function (which combines cold water and hot water to help rinse off areas like tire rims) and the ability to “piggy-back” to a larger water source like on our Brio Pro 1000CC with optional 1000CT trolley with a 1.3 gallon water bottle. In those cases and in cases where the machine is needed to be used all day long, we do recommend our commercial models like the Brio Pro 1000CC/1000CT and the Tandem Pro 2000CV with vacuum extraction.

I know you were really excited about the accessories currently offered with the 500CC and other high-end models.  What makes these accessories unique and beneficial to detailers?

In my opinion, the accessory kit is one of the most important and too often overlooked part of the steam cleaning purchase. You really can’t blame consumers because obviously you can’t feel and touch accessories through a computer screen. But I’m always wary of manufacturers in any product category that replace quality with quantity. The number of accessories that come with a steam cleaner (usually in the form of many brushes) is far less important than the quality of the design and how easy the accessories are to use in real life cleaning situations. For example, the accessory kit on our $499 Brio 500CC uses the same design as our Brio Pro 1000CC. Yes, we produce them in China to allow for the amazing price, but the design of the accessories is identical. The consumer gets the advantage of our large manufacturing power and most importantly, they are getting a real upholstery tool with clips for a towel that actually works and they get brushes that won’t melt the first time they are used.

Are there any new models, accessories or features coming out that you can share with us?

As I mentioned in my answer above, we recently updated our tooling to provide an adjustable steam volume control for the Brio 500CC. As for new models, we are near the completion of our 2016/2017 product mix goal which is to have four steam cleaner models, two in the housewares and light duty professional category and two in the commercial category – although there is some overlap between the two categories, we sell the Brio 500CC for light commercial use and we sell the Brio Pro 1000CC for home use. We’ve actually reduced our model line-up in the last two years by 50%. We had too many models and it was somewhat confusing for our customer to identify which was the best model for them. Our belief now is to make the feature/performance of our current four models very clear and easy for customers to decide on the best solution for their needs. Once decided to use steam to clean, we would like to make the model decision as simple and straight forward as possible.

As you can see, Reliable prides themselves on high quality products, great prices, and amazing customer service.  If you are looking for more info on the Reliable Steamers, check out the review of the Brio 500CC Steam Cleaner by Zach McGovern of Attention to Detailing. We want to thank Robert for his time and if you have any questions for him please leave them below!

2 comments on Interview with Robert Kahn – President of Reliable

  1. Greg Pautler says:

    Thank you so much for sharing with us! I’m excited for more and more detailers to starting using Reliable products I know they are going to love them!

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