Water Conditioning & Purification Magazine

People

Saturday, April 24th, 2004

Giles recognized at meeting
Carroll Giles, of Dayton (Ohio) Sofwater Co./EcoWater, was honored at EcoWater Systems’ international dealer convention. He was honored as a vice admiral in the company’s Admiral’s Club, a program recognizing water treatment professionals for their sales performance. Dayton Sofwater has been providing residents and businesses throughout the Dayton area with water treatment and purification sales and service since 1939. The dealership’s 35 employees provide comprehensive solutions to a variety of problems.

Zenith adds consultant
Bath, U.K.-based Zenith International Ltd. appointed Stuart Banham as operations consulting director. Banham has been working with Zenith since 2000. He’s a chartered chemical engineer who gained managerial experience in the Australian food industry before moving to the U.K. as a management consultant. Former operations consulting director Duncan Finlayson remains a director while working closely with Water & Environment under Peter Easton and Banham. The Water & Environment department is involved in numerous projects focusing on source development, management and protection for companies in the bottled water, food and drink and other industry sectors.

ZENON crew up by two
Kent Miller and Paul Schuler, who have over three decades of combined sales experience in the water industry, joined ZENON’s municipal division. Miller, as vice president of municipal sales and marketing, assumed responsibility for the company’s U.S. municipal sales as well as its sales representative network. With over 20 years in the water industry, Schuler, as regional manager of the U.S. Northwest, will focus on developing this market as one of the fastest growing regions for membrane technology. As vice president of sales and marketing at USFilter for several years, he excelled in driving sales over $100 million. With 13 years in managing sales, marketing, operations and strategic planning, Schuler comes to ZENON from Ondeo Degremont Inc., where he was the western region business manager in Portland, Ore.

Goulds hands out awards
Victoria Schmidt, Wayne Markus and Van Johnson, of Seneca Falls, N.Y.-based Goulds Pumps Water Technologies division, were named winners of the Golden Eagle Award for their sales and marketing accomplishments. Schmidt, a regional sales manager representing the Latin American market, launched the company’s popular Goulds Professional Dealer Association program for dealers and distributors in Puerto Rico, Mexico and Costa Rica. She received a degree in interdisciplinary engineering and management from Clarkson University in 1992. Markus, a product specialist, has been with the company since 1978. Finally, Johnson—also a product specialist—has been with the company in various capacities since 1966 and owns a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the Rochester Institute of Technology.

United Pipe shuffles board
Portland, Oregon-based United Pipe & Supply, a distributor of irrigation, pumping, waterworks and HVAC equipment, elected Patti Ramsey as chairperson. The board also promoted CFO and vice president of operations, Charlie Zupsic, to president and CEO. Zupsic holds a bachelor’s degree in management from Yale University and a master’s degree in marketing and finance from Columbia University. United Pipe’s new board members are Joe Goecke, retired president and COO of Valmont Irrigation; Wayne Miller, retired president and CEO of Century Rain Aid; Stuart Hall, retired president and CEO of Liberty Northwest Insurance, and Bob Joseph, of Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt. Founded in 1953, United Pipe & Supply has 24 sales and distribution centers in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, serving an area from northern California to Canada.

BevExpo greets new leader
BevExpo sponsor IAFIS has named Stephen Schlegel as its new president. IAFIS, the International Association of Food Industry Suppliers, is based in McLean, Va. Schlegel was previously chair of the IAFIS board and vice president and director of corporate development for Hixson Architects/Engineers, a firm that engineers beverage and food processing facilities throughout North America. He has been both an exhibitor at Worldwide Food Expo and co-chair of the Worldwide Food Expo Executive Committee.  

Batkin added to board
Little Falls, N.J.-based Cantel Medical Group Corp. announced that Alan Batkin has been elected to the company’s board of directors. Cantel is a provider of infection prevention and control products, specialized medical device reprocessing systems, water treatment systems, sterilants, diagnostic imaging and therapeutic medical equipment primarily focused on endoscopy, hollow fiber membrane filtration and separation technologies.

Minn. pioneer leaves legacy
A pioneer in the Minnesota water softening industry died on Jan. 17. John Commers Sr., a Minneapolis policeman who founded Commers’ Conditioned Water Co., of Blaine, Minn., in 1947, based on a crude steel tank he built in his home, was 85. Commers built a business out of selling water softening units door to door at night. When he retired from the police force in 1964, he devoted his attention to his namesake business full time. Today, the company logs nearly $10 million in annual sales and serves 100,000 customers in the Twin Cities area and three counties in Wisconsin. The Commers company is still family-owned. Commers’ son John is now CEO and other family employees include his daughter-in-law Pat, four grandsons and two granddaughters-in-law (see WC&P’s profile of the dealership at: www.wcp.net/archive/oct99dealer.htm). The memorial service was held at the Church of St. Charles-Borromeo in Minneapolis.

Ask the Expert

Saturday, April 24th, 2004

Pump replacements

Question: I had a Red Jacket pump installed
July 2001 at my residence. The pump stopped working in January 2002 and was replaced by one from another company—as I did not want another Red Jacket pump. I didn’t think I should risk replacing a pump biannually with the same brand, as the warranty covers only the pump, not the labor (a couple hundred dollars, right there). The plumbing company that installed it said it was using 20 amps, which was why I got 1 minute flow and 1 minute of no flow. ITT Industries customer service said they would issue a credit, but I would have to take it back to the plumber. I did this in the first week of February and the plumber called the distributor in Salina, Kan. They have yet to pick it up.

When I called them today, the guy who answered the phone said they were not in a hurry to pick it up since I did not use the warranty. I called the Nebraska office and they said they would not give me a credit, just a replacement pump. I asked why he would do that when the customer service person at ITT Industries told me they no longer gave replacements anyway and would issue a credit. The guy in Nebraska said he wanted the name of that person and he would set her straight.

Any recommendations for resolving this situation and who I can take this matter to? Thanks.

Patricia Stein
Manhattan, Kan.

Answer: It sounds to me as if your problem is one related to business ethics or a matter of miscommunication. I would suggest you contact the Better Business Bureau (BBB) in your area. It is generally very good about resolving issues such as this. The Water Quality Association does offer an ethics course to its members, but it sounds as if the plumber you’re referring to is not a WQA member. Your other options are to try and get someone at ITT to press the issue with the plumber or distributor. Regardless, record all names, titles, phone numbers, emails, and time and date of contacts with all parties concerned for future references for the BBB, a local consumer protection agency or the state attorney general. If it’s an email, print it out and save it. Also, save any written correspondence you may receive on the topic. Hopefully, you kept your original receipt or invoice for the pump and its replacement. As a last resort, you can pursue the matter through small claims court.

Treating humidifier water

Question: I am looking for an in-home water
treatment system to be used for medical equipment (sleep apnea humidifer). I am considering RO with UV, but I am not knowledgeable enough to evaluate the manufacturer claims. Can you recommend a cost effective system for that purpose? Thanks.

Bob Childress

Answer: To pretreat water for a humidifier, normally, all that’s required is reverse osmosis. To get a list of reputable manufacturers, I suggest you contact the Water Quality Association at (630) 505-0160 or check its website which includes a “Member Locator” function that will allow you to find a local dealer by zip code. You probably only require a point-of-use RO unit, and should have no problem finding one that meets your requirements. We hope that helps.

Global Spotlight

Saturday, April 24th, 2004

Teledyne Technologies Inc., of Los Angeles, said that Teledyne Tekmar Co., of Hudson, N.H., has acquired assets of Leeman Labs Inc., for $8 million. Leeman Labs had sales of $8.6 million for its fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2003. It will be operated as Teledyne Leeman Labs. 💧

An AWWA technical handbook for drinking water professionals earned two awards from the Society for Technical Communication’s Lone Star Chapter. “Filter Evaluation Procedures for Granular Media,” written by Daniel Nix and John Scott Taylor, is used primarily by drinking water engineers and operators. 💧

Clean Water Technologies Inc., of Tarpon Springs, Fla., has signed a letter of intent to merge with a Chinese pharmaceutical company in an attempt to enhance shareholder value. The name of the company was undisclosed at press time. 💧

Randolph, Vt.-based Vermont Pure Holdings acquired the home and office distribution assets of the Saratoga Spring Water Co., of Saratoga, N.Y. The transaction will add 1,500 residential and business customers to Vermont Pure’s customer base in the Saratoga area. 💧

CUNO Inc., of Meriden, Conn., reported record first quarter results for the period ended Jan. 31. Sales were $75.4 million, up 14 percent vs. the same period in 2003. Net income for the first quarter increased by 30 percent to $7 million from $5.4 million reported in the same period last year. 💧

USFilter Operating Services Inc. is now Veolia Water North America Operating Services Inc., adopting the name of its parent company. The name change results from a September announcement by USFilter’s parent company, Veolia Environnement, of its intention to sell select USFilter equipment and consumer businesses. 💧

ASCE Press, a book publishing branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers, announced the release of Water Resources Engineering: Handbook of Essential Methods and Design. The volume presents practical methods to solve problems commonly encountered by practicing water resources engineers. 💧

The ion exchange resin business unit of Dow Liquid Separations, of Midland, Mich., has successfully obtained global ISO 9001:2000 certification. It is also raising prices worldwide for DOWEX ion exchange resins by 5 percent by April 15. 💧

Underground Solutions Inc., of Pittsburgh, said its three newly introduced piping products are now listed by NSF International under ANSI/NSF Standard 61—Drinking Water System Components. Fusible C900, Fusible C905 and Fusible PVC allow PVC piping systems to be connected using the company’s butt-fusion techniques. 💧

West Palm Beach, Fla.-based Jacuzzi Brands Inc.’s net sales for the first quarter of fiscal 2004 increased 14.3 percent to $303.8 million from $265.9 million in the same period last year. The company is a manufacturer and distributor of branded bath and plumbing products for the residential, commercial and institutional markets. 💧

Layne Christensen Co., of Mission Woods, Kan., announced its water treatment division has entered into a technology licensing agreement with Rohm and Haas Co., of Philadelphia. The licensing agreement grants Layne certain exclusive U.S. marketing and manufacturing rights to Rohm and Haas’ municipal technology. 💧

President Bush’s 2005 budget calls for $21 million in “Water 2025” funds to help western communities develop conservation, efficiency and water-marketing projects, and avoid future water supply crises, an initiative of the U.S. Department of Interior. 💧


Water bank makes its debut
Water industry investment advisor Steve Hoffmann announced formation of WaterTech Capital, a merchant bank focused exclusively on the water industry. The Dallas-based firm provides traditional investment banking activities such as raising capital and direct investment as well as merchant banking activities that include strategic alliances, new business development and the identification of distribution, product or manufacturing strategies. The company is in the process of identifying investment opportunities and is seeking a limited number of merchant banking clients for introduction to the investment community. For more details, contact Hoffmann at steve@watertechcapital.com or website: www.watertechcapital.com

Purolite sues law firm
Purolite, a Bala Cynwyd, Pa., water purification specialty resin manufacturer, filed a $40 million civil legal malpractice and gross misconduct lawsuit in mid-February against its former law firm—Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP—in state court in Pennsylvania. Purolite alleges the firm was grossly negligent in rendering legal advice to the company; violated its ethical and professional obligations to the company by permitting a conflict of interest, and acted in bad faith by surreptitiously attempting to obtain a release of liability from Purolite. The company argues that as a result of the law firm’s irresponsible counsel, Purolite and its two principals were criminally indicted and, in May 2002, convicted by a jury regarding violations of the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba. Purolite alleges that—after seeking advice from the law firm on legality of contracts by the company’s foreign subsidiaries with entities affiliated with Cuba—Morgan Lewis improperly advised Purolite not only that such trade was legal, but also counseled it and its executives they were prohibited under applicable foreign laws from acting to stop such trade.

Ohio reviews water rules
In a recent news posting on the Ohio Water Quality Association (OWQA) website, www.owqa.org, Rebecca Petty of the Ohio Department of Health reports that the agency has begun its mandatory five-year review of the Private Water System Rules. Petty will be present at David Martin’s seminar—”Integrated Marketing: Building and Capturing Leads on a Budget”—at the next OWQA meeting on April 23, and will provide an update during the lunch break.

Watts enjoys healthy jump
Watts Water Technologies Inc., of North Andover, Mass., announced results for the year and quarter period ended Dec. 31, 2003. For the quarter, sales were $190.94 million, a 19 percent jump from the prior quarter. Sales for the year were up 15 percent to $705.65 million. On Jan. 5, Watts acquired Flowmatic Systems Inc., of Dunnellon, Fla., for approximately $16.5 million. Flowmatic designs and distributes high quality reverse osmosis (RO) components and filtration equipment. Its product line includes stainless steel and plastic housings, filter cartridges, storage tanks, control valves as well as complete RO systems for residential and commercial applications. Watts designs, manufactures, and sells an extensive line of valves and other products to the water quality and water regulation and control markets. In the POU/POE market, it also owns Watts Premier, of Phoenix.

USFilter settles lawsuit
Met-Pro Corp., of Harleysville, Pa., announced in late February that it reached an agreement, subject to court approval, to settle certain patent litigation brought by USFilter Corp. involving a small number of odor control installations sold by Met-Pro’s Duall Division. Met-Pro had denied it infringed USFilter’s patent and had further asserted USFilter’s patents were invalid. During the litigation, USFilter dropped all infringement allegations against one of the two patents included in the lawsuit and major portions of its claims under the second patent. The settlement allows Duall to make, use and sell its current line of odor control products and technology. To terminate the lawsuit, Met-Pro agreed to pay USFilter an undisclosed sum.

Alamo, Aqua Finance sign deal
A unique equipment rental program targeting independent water treatment products vendors and their customers nationwide was launched as the result of an alliance between San Antonio-based Alamo Water Refiners Inc. and Aqua Finance Inc., of Wausau, Wis. Here’s how the program works:

  • Aqua Finance provides the independent dealer with credit to purchase water treatment units for water softener or reverse osmosis/water purifier systems from Alamo Water,
  • The dealer/vendor agrees to provide service for units that they install under the rental program (the monthly rental price is set by the dealer),
  • The dealer signs a customer to an 18-month, non-cancelable, rental agreement,
  • During the 18 months, the dealer shares the rental revenue with Aqua Finance and Alamo Water, and
  • After 18 months, the dealer keeps 100 percent of any further rental revenue.

Aqua Finance provides financing and account servicing for the water treatment industry with clients in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

Calgon, Shell fight MTBE
Calgon Carbon Corp., of Pittsburgh, and Shell Global Solutions Inc., of Houston, have completed a licensing agreement that will allow Calgon Carbon to use Shell’s BioRemedy microbes in a line of products developed by Calgon Carbon specifically for groundwater remediation of MTBE and TBA—tert-butyl alcohol. In other news, Calgon Carbon’s sales for the fourth quarter 2003 ended Dec. 31 were $69.6 million, an increase of 11.1 percent vs. the same period in 2002.

TWQA upgrades its site
The Texas Water Quality Association (TWQA) has promised changes to its new-look website (Ed. note: See WC&P review of the TWQA site in the May 2002 issue). The TWQA says the new site will now be updated monthly for news and other statewide developments relevant to its membership. For the time being, the TWQA reports that it’s working with the town of Pfluger-ville regarding a stop-work order issued to Ultrapure and Industrial Services, of Austin, Texas. Meanwhile, Florida WQA and Eastern WQA announced they’re developing initial websites to be unveiled by mid-year.

ResinTech picks up L.A. firm
The Aries Division of West Berlin, N.J.-based ResinTech Inc., acquired American FilterWorks (AFW) of Los Angeles. The company’s products will be integrated into the Aries product line and the entire division will be renamed Aries Filterworks. David Nasrin, former AFW president, joins Aries as sales director for point-of-use/point-of-entry business. AFW was founded in 1992 and offers four unique series of media cartridges to meet a wide range of filtration needs. This includes a complete line of replacement cartridges, private label programs, custom injection molding, custom cartridge design and turnkey assembly options. ResinTech will combine AFW operations into its existing facility in Los Angeles.  

Judges rule on best water
Tap water from Desert Hot Springs, Calif., was ruled the best in the world in February by judges who sipped samples from around the globe. Five countries, 25 states and the District of Columbia were represented at the 14th annual Berkeley Springs (W. Va.) International Water Tasting. Ice Mist bottled water from Morarp, Sweden, also took a top prize. Each sample is weighed on six points—appearance, odor, flavor, mouth feel, aftertaste and overall impression. All the water is sipped at room temperature. Bosec, of Harghita County, Romania, took first place for carbonated bottled water and Pure StoneClear Springs, of Vanleer, Tenn., won for purified drinking water. In addition, fourth place in the non-cabonated bottled water category went to Fountain Natural Spring Water, of Keyser, W. Va., whose owner, Clinton Taylor, represented the host state of the contest very well.

Ionics spends $338M on firm
Ionics Inc., of Watertown, Mass., has completed the acquisition of Ecolochem Inc. and its affiliated companies for approximately $219 million and 4.65 million shares of Ionics common stock, valuing the deal at $338 million. Ecolochem, of Norfolk, Va., is a provider of emergency, short and long-term mobile water treatment services to the power, petrochemical and other industries. In related news, Ionics obtained a $255 million banking facility arranged by UBS Securities LLC, Fleet Securities Inc. and Banc of America Securities LLC. Included is a $175 million secured senior loan and an $80 million revolving credit facility. And Lyman Dickerson, former president of Ecolochem, has joined Ionics as vice president of Ionics’ Water Systems division. Following the closing of the transaction, Dickerson and Frederick Stant became directors of Ionics.

Hydroflo undergoes change
The board of directors of Raleigh, N.C.-based HydroFlo Inc. agreed to undertake changes in its business strategy designed to raise capital and expand the reach of its wastewater treatment systems into new markets. Key elements include plans to install a majority independent board of directors, the expansion of operations into additional global markets, and working closely with an appropriate funding partner. Hydro- Flo provides aeration equipment used for the pre-treatment of wastewater.

Mesa Water launches site
Mesa Water, of Dallas, has launched an official website (www.mesawater. com) containing detailed information about its ability to supply groundwater from the Ogallala Aquifer in the northeast Texas Panhandle to the Dallas-Fort Worth or San Antonio regions. The website provides Mesa Water history and discusses present and future use of the Ogallala Aquifer and its hydrology. It also includes an illustrated description of possible modes of groundwater transportation to major Texas metropolitan centers including routes for a high-pressure pipeline and use of the bed and banks of the Brazos River. The population of Texas is expected to double in the next 50 years, creating a critical need for new water supplies. Mesa Water was formed in 1999 to develop and market groundwater from Roberts County, Texas. 

GE opens China plant
General Electric’s first China-based water treatment factory went on-stream in late February in Wuxi City, a part of eastern China’s Jiangsu province. GE Betz Water & Process Chemicals (Wuxi) Co. Ltd., funded with an investment of $10.5 million, will supply specialty chemicals for water treatment for China and other Asian countries. The newly established company, covering an area of 98,400 square feet, has an annual output of 30,000 tons of reagent used for water and wastewater treatment including water purification and fluid filtration. GE has opened water treatment-related businesses in 20 of China’s provinces and municipalities.

Pall enters Canada via pact
Pall Corp., of East Hills, N.Y., and Haemonetics Corp., of Braintree, Mass., announced they’ve entered into an exclusive agreement for Pall to distribute Haemonetics blood donor and laboratory processing equipment and disposables in Canada. The companies didn’t disclose terms of the agreement. Haemonetics is a leading supplier of automated blood processing systems used in the collection of platelets, plasma and red cells. Pall sells blood bags and filters used in manual blood processing to blood centers and hospitals around the world.

Lodi calls on Trojan’s UV
Canadian-based Trojan Technologies Inc. won an order for advanced ultraviolet (UV) water treatment solutions for a wastewater reuse facility in Lodi, Calif. The systems, valued at $2.4 million, are to be installed at the Lodi White Slough Water Pollution Control Facility later this year. The system was validated through third-party bioassay testing and received acceptance from the California Department of Health Services to meet National Water Research Institute guidelines for wastewater reuse applications.

Legionella claims 7 French lives
A petrochemicals factory possibly linked to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that killed seven people detected bacteria in October but didn’t take necessary measures. In January, authorities ordered the Noroxo factory, owned by Exxon Mobil, in northern France to close temporarily for disinfection after tests showed some victims were made sick by the same bacteria that was found in the plant’s cooling system. Seven people died and 59 were infected with the disease, a form of pneumonia caused by bacteria in water droplets that broke out in northern France in November.

Hanovia wins UV contract
Ultraviolet (UV) manufacturer Hanovia Ltd., of Berkshire, United Kingdom, has won a contract to supply two medium-pressure UV systems to the Roodeplaat/Temba Water Supply Project in South Africa. The UV systems will be delivered and installed by Hanovia’s South African distributor, Patterson Candy International SA (Pty) Ltd. The combined capacity of the UV plant will be over 197,000 ft3/day. The Roodeplaat/Temba project is set up by the city of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality to eradicate delivery backlogs and enhance water supply capacities.

Letters

Saturday, April 24th, 2004

Banking on ‘Water Stores’

Dear Editor:
My husband and I are preparing to open a “water store” here in Topeka, Kan., and have come up against some challenges with attaining financing due to the overwhelming and skeptical responses from the banks that we have approached with our business plan.  

We moved here from Arizona six years ago and are very familiar with the water store concept and success.  We’ve spent the last eight months researching our area as well as the national statistics relating to the purified water business; however, this information is not specific enough to the water store concept itself. Since this is a new concept for Topeka and generally the Midwest, the conservative minds of the bankers here cannot grasp the overwhelming success that this business has shown in virtually every area where it exists. Every bank, so far, has had nothing but praise for our business plan—but they just can’t get past the idea that this is a brand new concept and they treat it as pure speculation.
We’re back at the drawing board, determined to find the facts that will help us prove to them that our vision is well founded and not just speculative, which is why we are writing to you.  
What we are looking for is well- founded documentation, published articles, lists and names of existing water stores by state, if available, and any other supporting facts relating to the success of “Water Stores” and their prominence in the market.   We are hoping that you might be able to direct us to some sources of information.

We would be so grateful for any assistance or advice you can give.

Sandra Sanders
Straight Water, Inc.
Topeka, Kan.

The editor responds: Mostly a sun-belt state phenomenon, I don’t know that there are any associations specifically for water stores other than one that existed in California that I haven’t heard anything from in a few years. Water stores are one of those niches that get lost between water treatment equipment and bottled water, similar to water vending. Often both are categorized as bottled water, since while they’re usually self-filling operations, they do involve use of a bottle or other container that can be taken home by the consumer.

Water vending machine manufacturers and operators have somewhat found their home to date as part of the National Automated Merchandising Association (see: vending.org). But water stores have remained orphans, for the most part bouncing between the Water Quality Association and the International Bottled Water Association.

As far as statewide listings, the only one we know of that is available is from the California Department of Health Services, which includes it as a separate business category. You may find the definition of a water store blurred in other states, which may make it more difficult to separate it from government tabulations for residential water dealerships, health food stores, etc.

You can find a number of articles on water stores in our archives at www. wcponline.com (if any are listed but not posted, just let us know and we’ll fax them to you). Likewise, you’ll find more online such as this one from The Business Journal in Minneapolis/St. Paul — “Water Venture Aims to Flood Markets” (see: www.biz journals.com/twincities/stories/2002/06/10/smallb1.html). And Entrepreneur Magazine had an article touting water stores as the next franchising opportunity in its January 1997 issue (see: www.entrepreneur.com/mag/article/0,1539,226850,00.html).

We hope that helps.

Waterborne infections

Dear Editor:
In your July 2003 article titled “Nosocomial? Waterborne Routes of Hospital-Acquired Infections” (“On Tap” column, WC&P, p. 94), the recommendation from the author is to replace showering and general bathing with “Sponge Baths.” That’s great, however, sponge baths use the same tap water hospitals should avoid and sponge baths use a bacterial reservoir to bath, the basin, which in itself is a HUGE reservoir for bacterial colonization. This basin usually sits in the hospital room for days without being sterilized or changed and is often used as a vehicle for vomit. I would like to question Dr. Reynolds on her recommendations.

Kevin Kenney
kenney35@mchsi.com

The author responds: Feel free to pass the message along to the reader that “sterile” sponge baths are recommended for the severely immunocompromised. Thus, there is no basin as the reader suggested as a source of contamination. Even so, there’s still potential for cross-contamination from one site on the body to others.


Clarification: Sybron’s Mike Keller, author of “Water Conditioners: Maximizing Water Softener Efficiencies” (WC&P, March 2004), said he omitted a statistic from Figure 1 of his article. The optimum brine concentration capacity curve was performed at 8 pounds per cubic foot (lbs/cf or lbs/ft3). The same kind of curve is generated at any given brine concentration. For more information, contact your resin manufacturer. This is corrected in the online version of the article. He thanked Rayne president Bob Denny for pointing out the discrepancy.

Viewpoint

Saturday, April 24th, 2004

By Carlos David Mogollón, WC&P Executive Editor

Getting the Lead Out
At this writing, lead once again took center stage in the nation’s water consciousness with a plethora of articles on the poor quality of drinking water in our nation’s capital, i.e., Washington, D.C. About 4,000 of 6,000 households tested dramatically exceeded federal lead in drinking water limits last summer, which wasn’t fully revealed until early 2004. D.C. water officials say lead problems are linked to 20 percent of 130,000 water service lines feeding residential customers there today. USEPA officials, reporting to Congress in March, said drastic action needs be taken to resolve the issue, including providing bottled water for 23,000 homes in the interim. Day care centers were provided with 300 water filters with another 5,000 on order. WQA technical director Joe Harrison said making matters worse may be increased use of chloramine as a disinfectant in warmer months to discourage DBP formation. Seems it also encourages resolubilization of lead and other contaminants.

Still, WQA public affairs consultant Carlyn Meyer, who tracks legislative and regulatory issues for the association, said she hasn’t seen lead rise on her radar. Before the WQA Convention last month, she said issues she’s dealt with haven’t changed much in the past year: septic tanks, California and state product certification. A task force in Baltimore was to report on how to handle ongoing septic tank discharge restrictions across the country. Another was to offer an update on WQA’s response to efforts to restrict water softeners in California. And Meyer’s working to get changes made to the California Department of Health Services approval process for drinking water treatment units (DWTUs) codified. These would eliminate duplicate requirements for submission of testing data for devices already certified to NSF/ANSI DWTU standards, with similar harmonization efforts in Wisconsin and Iowa.

“California sent out a guidance document that accepted ANSI laboratory certification in lieu of going through the entire data collection and submission process, but they have not put that in the regulations,” Meyer said. “With Wisconsin, there’s no problem with this; but in California and Iowa, the device programs are just not high priority. So, it takes a long time to get changes in them because it takes so long to get them to focus on it. It’s like watching paint dry.”

On another note, the WQA found out March 19 it had won an unprecedented seat at the table in efforts toward European harmonization of DWTU standards. Ballots were due at the CEN on March 12, polling regulatory agencies there whether to grant the WQA liaison status to Task Committee 164 and Working Group 13, which are overseeing these efforts. TC164 and WG13 are made up largely of members of Aqua Europa, a European federation of water treatment associations the WQA helped found in 1978. In supporting documents, it’s pointed out over 60 percent of the European residential water treatment market is supplied by companies with U.S. parents (which would rise starkly if Culligan is bought by a U.S. owner). Word is the French objected, but Slovakia swung the vote in the WQA’s favor—8-7. Meanwhile, the British and Belgian delegation dropped objections to Germany’s Dr. Ivo Wagner, of DVGW, serving as head of WG13 in exchange for having a CEN representative observe all WG13 meetings. See links to this column online for related documents.

We also note, in March, that Tom Philp, associate editor of the Sacramento Bee, won first place for editorial writing in the National Headliner Awards for “The Water Barons,” an editorial series looking at “a pervasive culture of self-dealing and self-enrichment among water district officials” in California (see: www.acwanet.com/mediazone/acwa_in_the_news.asp). He wrote 30 editorials on the topic in 2002 and 2003, leading to adoption of new ethics guidelines by the state association of water agencies and legislative hearings on the need for new laws governing them.  Nice job.

Lastly, fans of WC&P’s “Water Matters” and “On Tap” columns can now gain access to those columns back through 1999 via our website, www.wcponline.com. We plan on posting additional archive material as time permits. We’d also like to point out you can gain access to nearly 2,100 archived WC&P editorial items through the WQA Water Information Library at www.wqa.org. WC&P has the most number of articles listed through that tool of any publication.

 

PipeLines

Saturday, April 24th, 2004

By Ronald Y. Pérez, WC&P Managing Editor

Meanwhile, back at the ranch… Fillmore, Calif., is considering several options once the city’s chloride study report is completed, which was expected to be as soon as last month, reported the Pacific Water Quality Association (PWQA). One option is to impose a special fee on owners of self regenerating water softeners (SRWS) within city limits up to an additional $180 per month on their sewer bills. This has local residents forming a grassroots organization to rally against this initiative. The homegrown effort has produced a website, www.saveour softeners.com, which is providing background information gathered by the organization on this issue. The city is currently performing the required chloride study as required by AB 334. Depending on results of the study, the city will have to examine all sources of chlorides and the options to control these chlorides including the banning of SRWS.

In other news, the PWQA has moved its offices to a new location in Buena Park, Calif. The offices are located at 6902 Aragon Circle. The new mailing address is PMB 266, 17300 17th Street #J-266, Tustin, CA 92780-7918. The association says the move is designed to put the offices in a more central location to the core of PWQA membership. The PWQA office had previously been located in San Marcos, Calif., in a space provided by Nimbus Water Systems. The current PWQA phone number—(760) 644-7348—will remain the same, and a new 714 area code number will be added soon. The new fax number is (714) 242-7715, and email can still be sent to info@pwqa.org

The Water Quality Association of Wisconsin (WQAW) Legislative Team is tracking various bills and proposed legislation that could affect the water quality improvement industry. Among the bills and issues being watched are:

  • AJR 6 and AJR 17, which would require a majority vote by the legislature to pass a bill to broaden the base or increase the sales tax rate or any rates on income or franchise tax. The WQAW supports this proposal.
  • AB 81 would require the state to issue a statement of the economic impact of any proposed rules or bills on the private sector. The WQAW supports this proposal, as this would allow industry to know the fiscal impact of any bills prior to their passage.
  • AB 30 would allow the DNR Board to appoint the DNR Secretary. This bill has been referred to the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources and is opposed by the WQAW.
  • SB 100/AB 267 includes several provi-sions to cut red tape for businesses. It includes a website for new rules and regulations as well as a small business board that would receive proposals from agencies required to submit proposed rules that would have an economic impact on small businesses. State agencies would be required to review all rules during the next five years to determine if the rules place an undo burden upon small businesses. The WQAW supports the bill.
  • AB 191 seeks to set standards for high capacity wells. The WQAW opposes this bill and is actively monitoring its progress.
  • SB 244 involves well drilling legislation that would require DNR approval before instal-ling a water treatment device on water intended for human consumption. The legislative team worked with Sen. Neal Kedzie to remove any language that would require a permit by anyone who treats water. For more information, call Brandon Scholz or Michelle Kussow, of The Capitol Group LLC, at (608) 255-7477.

To submit an item for this column, contact WC&P managing editor Ron Pérez: (520) 323-6144 or email: ryperez@wcponline.com

Consumer Water Filtration: Emerging Trends and Developments

Saturday, April 24th, 2004

By Evan E. Koslow, PhD

Summary: Consumer water filter products evolved rapidly in the 1990s with the expansion of activated carbon block technology and the creation of new markets and products. Small specialized markets exist for undersink and countertop filtration systems as well as systems to deal with less common water quality problems.


While the North American consumer water filtration market has certainly grown during the past decade, the situation in Europe remains stagnant in many categories and opportunities in Asia are far more dynamic. Regardless of local market conditions, the struggle to grow these markets is an ongoing effort by a variety of companies specializing in various technologies to accomplish the primary goal—improving the quality of drinking water available to consumers.

Off-shore designs
One example of where consumer water filtration has faced an uphill battle is in Europe. The market hasn’t evolved very rapidly for such products on the continent, where it continues to be dominated by point-of-use (POU) water coolers and gravity-flow carafes. Alternatively, demand is large and growing rapidly in Asia and less-developed regions, where sales of reverse osmosis (RO) systems can sometimes be quite large, i.e., Taiwan and Korea. To fully address the markets in Asia, products need to achieve greatly reduced cost and expanded health claims such as arsenic reduction (India and Bangladesh) and microbiological interception and disinfection. Latin American markets have been impacted by continued economic problems even though the need for water filtration is often compelling. Filters with high dirt capacity and capable of operating at low pressure are a necessity when selling south of the border.

Domestic approach
Published market studies have estimated that the U.S. domestic market for consumer water treatment systems is approximately $1 billion. These studies, however, often exclude large and rapidly growing categories. We believe the actual market is perhaps $1.25 billion when such systems as refrigerator filtration are included.

General merchandise retail: Traditional low-cost and high-volume retail water treatment systems consist of gravity-flow carafe and faucet-mounted filter systems, predominantly sold by Brita (Clorox) and Proctor & Gamble (PUR Division). A carafe filter system (see Figure 1) consists of an upper reservoir and a lower “clean water” reservoir separated by a filter. Such filters usually consist of a mixed bed of cation exchange resin and granular activated carbon, but may include a pleated microglass filter for reduction of protozoan cysts. The faucet-mounted filters (see Figure 2) easily attach to the faucet and are almost entirely carbon block-based devices with health claims for the reduction of contaminants such as lead, mercury, asbestos, cysts, chlorine, and a host of organic chemicals. The key here is that both carafe and faucet-mounted systems are of low cost and have minimal maintenance or installation complexities.

Do-It-Yourself (DIY) and hardware: In the United States, a separate retail category is the DIY or hardware segment. Here, products that might involve some significant installation or maintenance complexity are sold to the consumer or contractor. These stores—dominated by Sears, Home Depot, Lowes, Ace Hardware and similar outlets—sell a different kind of product often consisting of higher-priced systems that are installed under the sink or for point-of-entry (POE) applications. These systems, which often include RO, softeners, and heavy duty water filtration systems (see Figure 3) are frequently of higher price, handle higher flow rates, or provide much longer life than the mass-market carafe and faucet-mounted systems. The suppliers to this market include Sta-Rite Industries, General Electric – Smartwater Division, Ecowater, Watts Water Technologies and Culligan. This market is the source of the larger and more bulky “10-inch standard” filter. Such filters, often arranged in a series of industrial-size plastic housings containing pre-filters, RO membranes and post filters, are still a mainstay of the DIY market. Pleated, string-wound, melt-blown, granular activated carbon (GAC), carbon block, and spiral-wound carbon impregnated filters continue to be sold in high volume and are designed to fit into these housings.

Refrigerator filtration: In 1996, a side-by-side refrigerator was introduced by Electrolux Home Products (formerly Frigidaire) that provided high performance filtration for both the ice maker and water dispenser built into the front door of the unit (see Figure 4). Within a few years, other refrigerator manufacturers (GE Appliance, Whirlpool, Amana and Maytag) responded with similar systems and today roughly 30 percent of all refrigerators sold in North America have such a water filtration system. These systems, numbering perhaps 2.8 million in 2003, have an equivalent retail value of perhaps $175 million and their number is increasing each year. Refrigerator filters have performance and life intermediate between the low-cost faucet-mounted device and a heavier under-sink system. While replacement filter sales have been disappointing as a result of limited after-sale marketing by these manufacturers, it should be assumed that, eventually, highly purified water from the refrigerator will become a major element of the consumer market. Even now, the sale of these devices is nearly the equivalent of the market for faucet-mount filtration devices.

Dealers, plumbing wholesale and distribution: In the 1980s, the consumer water filtration industry was dominated by the local dealer who handled the installation and maintenance of home water treatment systems. These systems were predominantly water softeners, RO systems, and activated carbon units, and remain so. With evolution and growth of “big box” retailers, though, there has been a steady erosion of the local plumbing and water treatment dealer’s position. The major dealer networks of Culligan, Rainsoft, Kinetico, Ecowater and similar franchises now operate in a much more complex retailing environment with significant pressure from large organizations such as GE working in coordination with retailers such as Home Depot. This has forced these organizations to respond to pressure through greater emphasis on direct retail programs such as Ecowater’s support of Sears Kenmore and Culligan/USFilter’s direct sale of products to consumers while bypassing the dealer. It’s likely the traditional water treatment dealer will continue to operate under duress.

Retail games & opportunities
There’s an element of “ambulance chasing” in the consumer water treatment market. If a new health threat or environmental contaminant emerges, the water treatment industry then responds to this new threat or consumer concern.

Arsenic: For the United States, the latest threat is arsenic. As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has reduced the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for arsenic from 50 parts per billion (ppb) to 10 ppb, the means to achieve this higher degree of control is often expensive and complex to install at the municipal level. Arsenic can occur in chemically complex and difficult to remediate forms and this represents both an opportunity and a problem. Arsenic occurrence often is regional and highly specific to the water source. While a market is now developing to bring water into compliance for arsenic, the consumer hasn’t been highly motivated yet to spend the money and endure the maintenance issues of these generally more costly and complex systems.

Games people play: To differentiate products, consumer water filtration companies often engage in a process that’s called “claim jumping” and “chasing nines.” Claim jumping is the process of adding innumerable additional health claims to an existing product so that the list of chemicals controlled by the product—and that can be certified under NSF standards—constantly increases. It often doesn’t matter if these chemicals don’t occur in household water (for example, how often is mercury found in a consumer’s water?). The chemicals are often selected because of the response evoked in focus groups to the chemical name.

Meanwhile, chasing nines involves using ever more sensitive analytical methods to certify reduction of a chemical. For example, a traditional analytical tool may only be able to certify chemical reduction of 95 percent while an enhanced analytical method may certify to 99 percent. To further escalate, analytical methods are then brought forward to certify to 99.5 percent and then 99.9 percent. The consumer is unaware that none of these claims are significant or even realistic because the means to continuously certify such performance during production doesn’t exist. This is a huge challenge for a manufacturer of consumer products.

Microbiological claims: Another future market opportunity expected to emerge during the next several years is microbiological purifier claims for consumer products. This involves the addition of claims for the comprehensive control of microbiological threats (viral, bacterial and cyst) and incorporating such claims into a broad spectrum of current consumer products. Patents for such devices are currently emerging and products are expected to reach the market this year that will achieve >99.99 percent reduction of virus, >99.9999 percent reduction of bacteria, and >99.95 percent reduction of oocysts (meeting the USEPA Guide Standard for Water Purifiers). Focus groups carried out by several manufacturers indicate a strong interest in consumer water treatment units that can continue to deliver their current capabilities, but are amended with such a microbiological capability. The implications of such technology for sales in less-developed nations are enormous if costs can be very low, and distribution arranged within regions where distribution of products is often problematic.

Problems with development
The consumer water filtration market is small and highly fragmented. This severely restricts R&D investment to a small group of players with modest resources or a modest willingness to invest in the development of major new technologies. While Brita and Procter & Gamble spend heavily on advertising (>$65 million in 2002), the remainder of the industry doesn’t have such resources, and it appears that this degree of advertising hasn’t really stimulated growth in such categories as carafe filtration where there has been essentially zero growth for several years. Both firms are diverting advertising into the faucet-mount arena where growth continues, but the products designed for installation at the faucet face a steady trend of “wand-type” faucets that cannot accept such installation, or refrigerator filters that dispense chilled and purified water from the door. Eventually, faucet-mount devices will face various problems that will severely restrict long-term growth.

Margins for almost all sectors of the industry are under pressure and both new technology and more effective marketing are going to be required. It’s unlikely refrigerator companies will be the source of such marketing as they continue to consider the after-market sale of water filters to be a distraction from their primary focus of selling refrigerators. Meanwhile, organizations such as GE Smartwater have not yet been able to change or improve marketing of products at retail or inspire a major upsurge in consumer excitement within the category.

Conclusion
The evolution of the industry will, therefore, depend upon the introduction of devices well outside the current spectrum of products serving the market that will inspire renewed interest. Otherwise, the industry will need to cash in on “event risk” involving terrorist threats to the water supply or a breakdown in water quality. It doesn’t bode well, though, when you’re hoping for a disaster to save your industry. Some—including NSF International and the WQA—have been positioning for a proactive response to such threats.

On the other hand, the steady stream of news on water-related contaminants—MTBE, perchlorate, radium/radon, arsenic, endocrine disrupters and pharmaceuticals, mold, etc.—may simply continue to raise public awareness and water filter sales on a more gradual basis. Industry’s ability to reduce contaminants in drinking water has improved perhaps tenfold in the past several years while advances in manufacturing processes have made high-performance products more affordable. The consumer can now get a better value for his investment that will promote sales, if the consumer can be educated about the benefits.

Acknowledgment
This is modified from material originally presented at Filtration 2003, Nov. 18-20, 2003, in Chicago. Copyright held by INDA: Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, P.O. Box 1288, Cary, NC 27512-1288 USA. Tel: (919) 233-1210, Fax: (919) 233-1282, website: www.inda.org

About the author
Dr. Evan E. Koslow is chief executive officer of KX Industries of Orange, Conn., and a member of the WC&P Technical Review Committee. He’s written over 100 articles and papers and holds over 35 patents. Koslow can be reached at (203) 799-9000, (203) 799-7000 (fax), email: ceo@kxindustries.com or website: www.kxindustries.com

 

Leveraging a Brand with Myron L’s Robinson

Wednesday, April 14th, 2004

By Carlos David Mogollón, WC&P Executive Editor

Myron L Company
6115 Corte del Cedro
Carlsbad, CA 92009 -1516 USA
(760) 438-2021; Fax: (760) 931-9189
Email: info@myronl.com
Web: www.myronl.com
Founded: 1957
Employees: 70
Management: Gary Robinson, President; Jerry Adams, Vice President; Kathy Robinson, Sales and Marketing Director; Dana Wregglesworth, National Sales Manager
Operations: Leading manufacturer of high quality, simple-to-operate, low-cost conductivity and pH instrumentation—inline and handheld—for residential, municipal, commercial and industrial water quality control, chemical concentration testing and process control.

Although she’s only worked there for three years, Kathy Robinson has been married to the Myron L Company for as long as she’s known her husband, Gary, its president and the son of its namesake founder Myron Lee Robinson. She and her husband were wed in 1969—12 years after the company was founded—and have three grown sons. She worked in sales and marketing for a variety of industries before joining Myron L in 2001.

“Before, I traveled with Gary to several trade shows in Europe. In the booth, I would talk to people when he and the others were busy with someone, just to keep the customers occupied until Gary or John Berg, who was our vice president of sales and marketing at the time, were free,” she said. “(When John) retired, Gary wanted me to help out a little bit more, so, I joined the company.”

At that same time, Myron L decided the down economy would be a good time to reposition the company for future expansion. While it continued to enjoy double-digit growth, Myron L saw ongoing changes in the market and increasing globalization as an opportunity to leverage its brand name better than ever before.

“Many companies turn turtle and become ultraconservative in their approach to the marketplace,” Robinson said. “In other words, they decide they want to survive. In Myron L’s case, very deliberately, we made the decision to thrive and… capitalize on the strengths of the company. Again, we’re a very well known, well-respected brand name. And, as such, we’ve begun to capitalize on our history. It has really borne fruit for us.”

The company, she noted, started out in research and development, producing irradiation chambers, spectrometers, electron microscopes and a wide range of products. With so many peaks and valleys in that, though, Myron Robinson turned to water monitoring technology to level out its income.

“At the time, he was using an instrument called a wheat-stone bridge, an electrical circuit which was very difficult and time-consuming to work with. He went home one night and basically invented this little black box, which was our PDS Series, or DS Series originally, for dissolved solids. And everybody wanted one of those black boxes. That’s how we started producing them on a commercial scale in 1963.”

Today, Myron L’s products are used in much more than water treatment, which accounts for only about 5-10 percent of sales. It does work in over 150 niche markets, including petrochemicals, nuclear power and defense, as well as laboratory analyses for a variety of industrial processes. Still, water treatment will always be viewed as a mainstay to its business, she added.

Current capabilities involve hand-held and inline process control and instrumentation that measures pH, conductivity, resistivity, total dissolved solids (TDS), oxidation reduction potential (ORP) and temperature. This year, it will introduce several new instruments covering additional parameters. It’s also in the process of moving into a new 46,000-square-foot facility in Carlsbad, Calif., nearly doubling available space.

 

 

 

Thriving on Competition: How One Dealership Beat the Odds and Restacked Them in its Favor

Wednesday, April 14th, 2004

By Don Line

In 1959, Lou Petty started the business that has evolved into Aqua Systems after a salesman came to his door and sold him a water softener. Forty-five years later, the company he founded not only survives, but thrives at a $14-million annual sales level in the extremely competitive central Indiana market that’s full of big-box retailers, and has a couple of very strong national brand dealers.

Rivals in a growing market
The metropolitan statistical area, which revolves around Indianapolis, has a population of nearly 1.7 million people—up over 15 percent since 1992 (see Figure 1), according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The competition in this market was recently tested when in 2000, American Water Service (AWS), the largest publicly traded U.S. municipal water treatment company, tested its own roll-out of point-of-use/point-of-entry (POU/POE) water treatment equipment for its customer base. AWS soon found out just how tough of a market Indianapolis is, and pulled the plug on this venture. This has ended, for now, industry chatter about municipal water suppliers’ potential to dominate the water treatment market.

“The key to staying competitive in today’s turbulent times is to constantly challenge yourself to offer what customers are seeking,” says Bret Petty, who ran the company his father founded from the early ’80s until late 2003, and led it through its gradual evolution from a traditional in-home sales dealership to its current more customer-friendly retail store model. “Today, most customers know they need our products, and they have more choices as to where to buy them. They demand information and resist the friction of a long-winded, high-pressure sales pitch. So, the goal for us has been to offer them value, and to make it easy for them to do business with us.”

A new dealer model
There has been much talk around the industry that the dealer is a dying breed, and many suppliers have shifted their commitments away from the dealer channel. Couple this with the entrance of cheap overseas product in the market and privacy laws such as the new no-call lists, and some would think you have a very difficult environment. But, with change comes opportunity, and at Aqua Systems business is stronger than it ever has been.

“People are very busy today, and they don’t want their personal time wasted on being sold a water softener. We have found that people actually prefer to come shop at our stores,” says Petty. By adjusting its model, Aqua Systems sells far more equipment out of its four company-owned stores today, than it did when chasing sales house-by-house. In fact, by making the buying process easier for its customers, Aqua Systems completes many transactions over the phone, on the first call.

Embracing wants & needs
Aqua Systems’ retail store model has been developed by trying to understand what consumers dislike about purchasing water treatment equipment, and then providing an environment that does just the opposite. For example, many people today don’t want to set an in-home appointment, but they do like shopping at a store when it’s convenient to them. They also know that there are many options available to them, so instead of having a very narrow product line, Aqua Systems’ offers customers a wide variety of softeners, reverse osmosis (RO) systems, water coolers, bottled water and salt. Because customers don’t want to go out of their way to shop, Aqua Systems’ stores are located in free-standing retail buildings in highly traveled areas. The stores also have a very clean and open, professionally merchandised showroom with knowledgeable people ready to assist. This helps ensure that the customer experience is always very informational and pressure-free. Also, by offering everything from assistance in choosing equipment, to professional installation and service, Aqua Systems really sets itself apart from the big-box market. From the manufacturer down to the contracted service rep, a home-improvement store can have as many as five different companies involved in the product delivery chain. Aqua cuts that chain to one, once again removing friction.

Aqua Systems’ Avon, Ind. location has even had a new Lowe’s home-improvement store move in right next door. It has actually helped business. First of all, customers tend to now shop both places, and Aqua is able to clearly demonstrate more value. Secondly, many times customers need more information than a Lowe’s clerk is able to provide, so some clerks will actually give up and send customers right over to Aqua Systems.

Aqua’s entire approach to “lead-generation” has also changed dramatically. Leads aren’t even talked about. The concept of a lead infers a sale needs to be chased and sold. Now, Aqua Systems tries hard to advertise and promote the value it offers to increase foot traffic and phone calls into its stores. This is done through a combination of radio, print and direct mail. Aqua then measures the number of customers talked to and units written, i.e., sold. The difference in approach is even noticeable when exhibition and trade shows are done. There’s no box that people are encouraged to drop their name in to win a free TV, but the retail showroom, complete with all pricing information, is brought right to the show floor. With this approach, many deals are closed right on the spot.

A premium for service
According to Petty, offering better value isn’t all about being the cheapest. In fact, he feels the issue of customers now comparing prices with the do-it-yourself (DIY) stores is an opportunity to justify a higher price. “Again, because they’re busy, most people will gladly pay more to have you handle everything, and to know that you’ll be around to help them in the future,” Petty said.

This reinforces the recurring theme to Aqua Systems’ model—removing friction, or making it easy to do business with it. Much of this has to do with the sales process itself, which is why Aqua stacks up very well against the traditional higher-priced, big-brand dealers. Part of customers’ demand for information manifests itself in a desire to look at other options. This is a natural part of the way people shop, but it’s counter to everything the commissioned “sales closer” believes. They don’t want to lose the prospective customer. They want the sale now. Consequently, Aqua Systems has non-commissioned sales people on staff who actually encourage consumers to shop around, which makes customers very comfortable. The direct sales commission structure pushes the big brand dealers’ price tag way beyond that of Aqua’s. There’s no way that the commissioned salesperson trying to close a deal, at the highest price, wants his prospect to check out other options, so he or she has to press to confirm the sale on the spot. According to Aqua Systems philosophy, however, if you can feel comfortable with consumers shopping around after talking to you, then you’re probably doing a good job offering value.

Positioned for growth
In 1997, Aqua Systems teamed up with Cardinal Ventures, an Indianapolis-based private equity firm. This association has helped with capital for expansion, and added professional management assistance. Since 1997, sales have more than doubled, and Aqua Systems is prepared for more.

Not only has Aqua Systems’ new approach allowed it tremendous growth in its company-owned stores, it’s also allowed the business to help other dealers convert their own businesses to be more prepared for today’s challenges. Under the leadership of Pat Miller, national sales director, Aqua Systems now serves over 100 independent dealers. And, a growing number of licensed Aqua Systems brand dealers are using its entire turnkey business model, primarily in the states of Indiana and Florida.

Conclusion
When Petty is asked how he sees the future for the dealer, he says: “I’m extremely optimistic. Our products are not plug and play, so there will always be a large group of customers that are willing to pay for expertise and quality service. But, they will know that they have lower-priced options—so, we will have to challenge ourselves to offer the most value possible, and to make it very easy for customers to find and do business with us.”

It also avoids potential negative reactions to hard-charging salespeople that might hurt chances later for selling additional equipment and supplies to your customers as their needs change. In this sense, a more customer-friendly approach offers opportunities for higher returns and better consumer satisfaction in the long run.

Acknowledgments
The author wishes to thank Bret Petty, past president of Aqua Systems, who is now in charge of business development, and Pat Miller, Aqua Systems’ national sales director.

About the author
Don Line currently serves as president of Aqua Systems, a water treatment dealership and equipment assembler operating three water stores in the Indianapolis area and one in Fort Wayne, Ind. Line can be reached at (317) 272-3000 or email: dline@aquasys.biz

 

From the Minors to the Big Leagues: Turning Your Sales Team into Superstars

Wednesday, April 14th, 2004

By William Blades

Most 40-to-50-year-old salespeople think and act the same way they did at age 25 and 30. Depressing news? It shouldn’t be. For employers, it means you have a wonderful opportunity to more effectively recruit, select, train and motivate younger salespeople for success. Even better, you don’t have to coach these new recruits through un-learning undesirable skills and habits due to their minute amount of time in the profession.

As we enter the baseball season, major league teams take advantage of this fact of human nature every year. They send their rookies to instructional leagues so they can get the fundamentals in place. Can you imagine a team that just finished the season playing .500 ball and then announcing, “We’ve decided to cut back on our coaching staff, reduce practice, reduce scouting efforts and eliminate incentives. We hope these moves will strengthen us.” It wouldn’t make sense for them, just as it wouldn’t make sense for you or your company.

Whether you have one rookie onboard or an entire new team, you need to quickly develop them to perform at their peak. The following guidelines will help you devise a winning training and development outline that produces results.

Lead by example
Leadership is the key, and a great sales manager builds a great team. If your sales managers are not “10s” (on a 1 to 10 scale), get them a top-notch coach so they’re equipped to develop into 10s. Having 10s at the top results in 10s at the bottom. It’s a simple equation, but most companies have more 5s than 10s at the top. The less money you spend designing your company’s future, the fewer profits in everyone’s pockets.

Mentoring is a more targeted approach than classroom training. Effective one-on-one coaching enables you to invest necessary time and effort to help each individual rookie. This is important because each person’s wants and needs are different than the rest of the team. Yes, it takes time but the rewards are great. Focus on individuals weekly.

Provide incentives
Incentives work extremely well for almost everyone. If some of your players don’t get excited about incentives, move them to another department. Money is a yardstick for salespeople, and most rookies need it for their first new house or first new car. Older folks like making more money, too, because it helps them sustain the lifestyle they want to enjoy. Whether it’s commissions, bonuses, trips to the Caribbean, an extra week of vacation, stereos, etc., find out what pulls the younger reps’ trigger. Then, help them achieve it so they get their first taste of recognition.

In addition to money, employee development programs enable you to recruit and retain great players. For example, the SITE Foundation conducted a survey last year and found that almost three-quarters of the respondents stated that “professional growth and development” motivated them. Additionally, Jill Harrington, a performance improvement consultant, wrote in Incentive Magazine (July 2003) of a study where “participants indicated that 0 percent of managers actually provided coaching and encouragement.” That’s 0, as in zero! While the results are alarming, they’re also great news for you. Since your competitors aren’t fully developing people, when you decide to be great at coaching, you’ll dominate the marketplace.

Sending your rookies away for an internship is a great way to quickly broaden their perspectives. For example, one distribution company owner sent his newest recruit (his son) to work elsewhere as an intern for one year. He arrived at his intern position as a spoiled brat and departed as a mature self-starter. He very quickly rose through the sales ranks in his early 20s. Now in his late 20s, he serves as a regional sales manager and excels at getting modest performers to all-time highs. Without the internship, he would still be a mediocre salesperson. An internship with a “skills-building” company enables rookies to earn the privilege of joining you and ensures they’ll be equipped to hit the streets quickly.

If you aren’t able to send your rookies away for an internship, invest in an in-house program. Arrange for an outside resource to assist with field training and one-on-one coaching. Choose the resource carefully. A poor choice will cost you money; a great choice will result in millions in new revenues. The other choice is to do nothing and have a bunch of rookies forever.

Provide field training
You can’t expect your rookies to conduct good sales visits when they don’t know how. New people will not know the products well enough for a period of time, and they need the training from a more experienced salesperson. That’s where field training with a sales manager or a top producer comes into play.

If your rookies are as green as toads, plan on four consecutive weeks of field training before you let them run loose. Then, leave them alone for two weeks, but monitor their efforts/results in person or by telephone daily. Next, get back out there with them for two to three days and then vacate the premises for another two weeks. Any sales manager who won’t follow this regimen needs to re-evaluate whether he or she should really be managing, because developing rookies into star performers requires time, guidance and some TLC (tender loving care).

Plan and manage time
The average salesperson loses 3-½ hours daily. That tabulates to over 20 weeks of lost time annually! The prime cause for lost productivity is investing too much time with smaller clients. You need to teach your rookies to invest major time with major clients and minor time with minor clients. Then, they need to learn to never make an unplanned call. Help them plan the purpose of the sales visit including what to ask, what to say, and what support materials to bring with them.

Also, review their weekly itinerary. Catch them before the week starts and ask questions such as “Why are you going there?” and “What do you plan on accomplishing?” Give your advice on what must be added to the client agenda such as “Be sure to ask this…” and “Share this….” Doing so teaches them to think and plan for success.

Encourage self-education
As the leader, you must demand your rookies engage in self-education. Make sure they subscribe to the daily newspaper(s), as most young salespeople don’t read enough. Get them a subscription to every trade magazine. Buy them a few well-chosen books on sales, and get feedback on what they learned. They need to read about the industry and their profession to become experts in their trade. Also, provide them with audiocassettes about the sales profession. This enables them to turn their car into a university on wheels. The majority of clients want a savvy representative calling on them. Younger reps will not be very savvy unless they become serious students, and serious students get serious results.

Your future depends heavily on your rookies, and they’ll depend on you for the nurturing they need. Rather than squirm at the thought of training and development, look at it as a responsibility that can be very fulfilling. If, after all the training, your rookies don’t drink the water you led them to, remove or reassign them. Some youngsters are trying the sales profession for the first time and find it to be harder and not as glamorous as they imagined.

Conclusion
Bill Veeck, a great baseball man and former team owner, once traded 24 mediocre players in the off-season. A reporter said, “Mr. Veeck, that’s just about the whole team.” Veeck replied, “Yep. I figured the more of these players I got on other teams, the better chance we would have.” Develop the dedicated rookies and bench the others. Stay with the game plan and you’ll have your superstars ready to play ball by the first pitch.

About the author
Bill Blades, CMC, CPS is a sales and leadership specialist and author of “Top Gun Selling.” Blades can be reached at (480) 563-5355, email: bill@williamblades.com or website: www.williamblades.com

 

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