“That Sounds Like Better Math!”
Alan Branson had never given much thought about the quality of his water. It was never on his radar that water from one place could have a completely different texture and taste than the next. But once life moved him to a little farm in Texas, Branson became submerged into that new reality. This farm’s water source came from a well on the property. It did not take long for him to recognize how unusual the water felt in his new home.
Branson noticed that the water was making his skin feel rough and itchy. Whenever he took a shower, he only felt dirtier. At the time, Branson was also working in the fire department, where one of his new neighbors (Graham Parks) worked as well. The neighbor had heard him speak of how awful the water at his farm was and knowing something that Branson didn’t, the neighbor told him to go with him to this small-town fair to meet someone.
At the fair, Branson was introduced to the man from whom he bought his first water softener. He didn’t know much about it, but after the system had been established, he was hooked. Branson had a new-found love for how the contraption worked and was fascinated by the wonder that it did to make his water go from grimy and hard to fresh and smooth. He knew in that moment he needed to find a way to get involved. Shortly after his interest sparked, Branson began working part-time with the water softener company.
Years went by. Branson had worked for three businesses in the industry, all of which shut down due to tax and accounting problems. He knew that if he wanted to work for a responsible and reliable company, he was going to have to branch out on his own. He said to himself, “If a company would maintain and service the equipment so the customer was always happy, they would tell everyone they know. They wouldn’t buy another one in five years, but those they tell would. That math looks better to me and I can feel good about what I do.” And thus, Aqua Sphere was born.
Branson started Aqua Sphere in 2000. Despite the fact that he “didn’t have a clue how to run a business,” he always knew he was building something that would make a difference. Branson realized that businesses in the water quality industry in his area knew how to sell the products, but few knew how to fix them. He founded the company with the goal of being dependable and accommodating, the flip side of what he had been taught: “Offer a product, sell it, done.”
Branson knew there was no such thing as a product that doesn’t need maintenance or service, unless it was throw-away, land-fill fodder to begin with. “The answer is the technicians, not the product,” he said. With an engineering background and the drive to serve his customers, Branson learned and taught people how to renovate these water quality systems. To build his company he had to work every position imaginable; sales, service, installer, receptionist, mechanic and custodian. He worked day and night for many years, testing water, selling equipment, making repairs, doing maintenance, while keeping records and analyzing data, to build a company that could solve any customer’s water problem and keep it solved. He created Aqua Sphere “to make [the customer’s] water the way they want it to be.” A single product cannot do that, but a well-trained water treatment specialist with access to all technologies can.
Today, Branson’s attraction to the water quality business remains the same. “I just love what we are able to do for our customers,” he says. “We get to use biology, chemistry and engineering on a daily basis to improve the quality of people’s lives and support special industries.” Branson believes that the key to a great life and a rewarding career comes from the desire to want to enhance the lives of both clients and employees. “The most rewarding thing for me is to watch my team members grow,” he says. “We constantly train and develop them, and I get to see them become some of the best professionals I have ever known. It is a real blessing to have a part in their lives and careers. I get to pass on to them what so many have done for me.”
Branson also attributes a large portion of his personal success and growth to his dad, his wife Tammie, his awesome team and the relationships he developed working within the Texas Water Quality Association. “They are such a magnificent group of successful people who took the time and effort to aid and mentor me.” He doesn’t believe the industry would be the same today without them.
Aqua Sphere is a multi-generational, family-owned business. Branson’s wife holds the title of VP. Other family members in the corporation include their daughter, Toni Pina (Administrative Executive) and son-in-law Zack Johnson, who oversees the service and installation side of the company. When Branson was asked what he considered to be the best and worst situations he has encountered in the industry, his simple answer is “working with family.” As most people would likely attest, Branson says working with family is just as much a blessing as it is a challenge.
Because Aqua Sphere is such a close-knit, family-oriented business, it can be very difficult trying to find the right people to add to their team. “We have implemented a very drawn-out, in-depth hiring process, which helps us make better choices.” Branson only wants the best for his team and therefore the employees are all very well-trained; technicians are licensed by the state of Texas. They even do a once-a-week training day where everyone learns something new so they can remain informed and diverse.
Aside from the blessings, there have been no shortages of tribulations that Aqua Sphere Inc. has faced and overcome. 9/11 and the Great Recession of 2008 were some of the most noteworthy trials. These days with COVID-19 prevailing, there have been many never-before-seen hardships, but Branson believes that as they have survived before they will certainly endure again. “We have been able to survive by the grace of God, keeping our noses to the grindstone and adapting to provide the best service we can during those times.”
With a great team and goals to continue growth, they are excited for the future. “Our plan for the future is to continue our normal growth pattern by continuing to provide the best service possible. Our customers know they can trust us and depend on us to be there for them, so they tell others. This is what drives our growth. It also creates more great careers for more people and the team grows as well.” For the future of the industry, Branson believes that “it is important that we as water treatment specialists continue to be more professional in every way. New technologies and products are great, but they must be properly applied and professionally maintained in order to work properly and I think that is going to become more and more apparent as we move forward.”