By Carlos David Mogollón, WC&P Executive Editor
Mike Gottlieb likes to joke that one day he’ll be as smart as a Culligan dealer—a tribute to entrepreneurial ingenuity of those who built the point-of-use/point-of-entry water treatment industry flagship on the dedication of multiple generations.
With sons Larry and Jeffrey, his company, ResinTech Inc., now has two generations of Gottliebs. He’s as proud of the aptitude they’ve shown in the business as of the team he’s assembled over the past 15 years, since leaving the safe harbor of Sybron Chemical where he was ion exchange marketing vice president. A number of names you’ll be familiar with because they also write technical articles for trade journals: Peter Meyers, Frank DeSilva, Dick Chmielewski…
That exhibition of technical expertise is important to ResinTech as a smaller, niche player in one of the most competitive segments of the water treatment industry. Gottlieb calls it “consultational service,” where you aren’t just selling a commodity but knowledge of the best way to apply resin and system configuration to solve a customer’s problem. Honing his reputation as an ion exchange authority at Sybron, Crystal Labs, Betz and Permutit, he said, by the mid-’80s, he felt somewhat stifled by corporate environments. With agreements with overseas manufacturers to make resin to his specifications, he set out on his own as a one-man show.
“It’s funny. Some people thought I was crazy. I really just wanted to be able to express my creativity. I didn’t do it for money. Money’s just the scorecard. You go to a show and people ask how you’re doing. You say, ‘I just want to be creative.’ They say, ‘What a putz.’ That’s the motivation to make money. In the end, though, you’ve got to have the freedom to be creative,” Gottlieb said.
His style of leadership, he says, is to offer that freedom to his staff, which translates to steady growth. It added activated carbon to its product offerings a few years back “by accident,” he notes. And it’s also made four acquisitions in 1-½ years:
- December 1999—two business lines from Osmonics Inc., its Vaponics Aries DI Loop and related disposable cartridges.
- October 2000—Hydro Components, a cartridge division of Electro Pure Inc., in Laguna Hills, CA
- April 2001—Chicago’s Ion Exchange Products, a cartridge maker for hospitals, pharmaceuticals, laboratories and other specialty high purity water applications.
ResinTech consolidated those as the Aries Division at its Cherry Hill, N.J., headquarters near Philadelphia where the company has two buildings totaling nearly 30,000 square feet. A move is in the works this summer to a 50,000-square-foot-plus facility in West Berlin, N.J.—almost doubling current space. In January 2001, it also bought out a PEDI regeneration facility it was a part owner of for five years—ACM Co.—and moved it from Wilmington, Del., to Forest Hills, Md.
For the full interview with Gottlieb and more on competition among ion exchange resin players, market commodification, increased softener efficiency pressure and other trends, go to www.wcponline.com and click on the “Executive Q&A” button.
Management: Michael Gottlieb, president
Frank DeSilva, domestic sales manager
Joe Avilla, international sales manager
Peter Meyers, technical manager
Jeffrey Gottlieb, business manager
Larry Gottlieb, cartridge manager
Revenue: $10-to-25 million; annual growth of at least 20 percent a year