SoCal Niche Market: High-End Custom Homes
By Donna Kreutz
Joyce Takeda got into the water business 20 years ago when she met someone at the gym who persuaded her to work for him. She was a bookkeeper for a large grocery company, as well as running the gym Pro Shop. The man needed help running his water treatment business in Costa Mesa, CA, so she agreed to help. “After four years, Water Techniques acquired that company and me with it,” Takeda said. She’s been there ever since, serving as General Manager, Director of Operations and now Director of Project Management. “I just grew into everything.”
Takeda is known for her dedication to the water treatment industry and for her lighthearted sense of humor. She grew up in SoCal and loves to be at or on the ocean. Some of her high-end clients are building homes on bluffs overlooking the Pacific near Dana Point, where Takeda likes to take long hikes.
She works long days, starting at five a.m., helping schedule installs and supporting the company’s residential and commercial Project Managers. “Our service and installation vehicles travel throughout six traffic-congested counties in southern California. Yes, it’s tough. We cover a very large and densely populated area. This requires extreme coordination of service routes and installation jobs to ensure they are as efficient as possible. Working with high-net-worth clients also requires that the products and services be absolutely ‘spot on’ with respect to quality and professionalism.”
Another challenge Takeda routinely deals with is managing long-term projects. “Because a major portion of our business is centered on water treatment systems for very large homes (typically in excess of 10,000 square feet) we have to endure the lengthy sales cycle for a home that can take three years or more to build. This requires project management by our sales people and a very disciplined program to track the progress of the home as the construction progresses. We have developed work sheets, change-order forms and checks and reminders in our computer systems to monitor all this.”
All about relationships
Water Techniques thrives thanks to long-term relationships. “We do very little advertising and promotion of the company. Instead, we concentrate our efforts on building relationships with custom-home builders, architects, plumbers and interior designers, which then brings repeat business to our company,” Takeda says.
“We recently got back into the commercial arena and have been very busy in designing and installing systems for large hotels and hospitals.” Takeda said Water Techniques got those contracts again because of relationships. “That’s not uncommon. Once you’re in the water industry, you’re in it,” she said. “At Water Techniques, we have people who have been here forever and the people who do leave always want to come back. Yes, this business really does get in your blood.”
Takeda provides complete support for the technicians, installers, customer-service team, custom homebuilders and on-site superintendents. She holds a C-55 California Contractors License in water conditioning. She also supports the water treatment industry, serving on the board of the PWQA and previously on the executive committee as Secretary-Treasurer, Vice President, then President for the 2012-2013 term. She makes sure that Water Techniques employees receive extensive in-house training, with manufacturers and through WQA. “We currently have employees working on their WQA certification.”
Management team of six
Takeda is one of six members on the Water Techniques management team. The others are: Martin Lieberman, COO; Mark Wakefield, Vice President; Ana Aguilera, Human Resources; Lily Simpson, Customer Service Manager and Miguel Amezcua, Service Manager. Water Techniques is owned by Los Angles real-estate mogul and philanthropist Sam K. Freshman, who carries the title of Chairman but relies on the management staff to run the day-to-day operations of the company
“We provide our customers with complete and fully operational water treatment systems that solve water quality problems and concerns,” Takeda said. “We encounter high municipal water hardness, typically ranging from 16 to 38 grains per gallon with TDS counts as high as 800 ppm. In addition, our southern California water supplies are treated with chloramines. We treat the water with whole-house filtration using a blend of medias, including catalytic carbon, whole-house softening or conditioning and water purification using reverse osmosis followed by re-mineralization. Our niche is in the installation of centralized water purification systems using dedicated distribution to multiple points of use throughout the home or commercial structure.
“In our marketplace, we see an increase in customer awareness and concern over water quality. This has and will continue to increase the demand for water treatment products.” Looking ahead, Takeda said, “New technologies will always be developed that can improve what we provide to our consumers. I wish we could see a lot of this heading away from Internet sales (which has totally confused the customer with misinformation, poorly made products and lack of service) in the future. Further consolidation really does not have a major effect on our custom-home niche market” but it will impact others in the water treatment industry. “Internet sales will affect the retrofit market and existing home market in a negative way by lowering prices and putting more of the mom-and-pop operations out of business.”
Water Techniques staff believes in not only serving its customers but also its community. “We support a non-profit called SPIN (Serving People in Need), an organization committed to helping the homeless and working poor. We’ve done this for a long time,” she said.
As a long-term water industry partner, Takeda understands the reality of the modern world and how what she does will create a lasting impact. With humor and determination, she makes every moment, every sale and every water treatment system count. And while the niche market which she caters to has its own demands, Takeda carries with her one basic truth. Her livelihood is making differences, both large and small, in her world.