By Nate F. Searing, WC&P Managing Editor
Maher Water Corporation had its humble beginnings inside a home on Main Street in Stevens Point, Wisc., in 1950. Inside, Paul and Lydia Maher built their fledgling business from a customer base of 100 people that they had purchased from another dealer who was leaving for the manufacturing side of the business. That same year, their son Bill Maher was born and as he grew, so did the small business.
Twenty-two years later, Bill returned home after attending college. The dining room still served as an office and the garage still held exchange tanks stored before being recharged. He began working for his parents and together the Maher family has expanded their company into a regional powerhouse, an independent dealership that serves more than 6,000 homes and businesses with an automatic water conditioner, water softening systems, filters and replacements services, reverse osmosis systems, demineralization, disinfection and salt delivery.
“I think we’re in a good position to be successful,” current owner Bill Maher says. “The same way that I’ve grown up with the family business, a lot of our customers have grown up with Maher Water. It’s about trust and reputation.”
Maintaining high standards
With 21 employees at two offices in Wisconsin, Maher says the key to retaining the company’s position as the premier service provider in the region is its commitment to the Water Quality Association’s Certified Water Quality Specialist program. Each of Maher’s employees is required to be certified before the end of their second year with the company. He also retains master plumbers and other technical specialists to guarantee the high quality installation and repair work.
“We really are a small company and everyone answers the phone at some point in the day,” Maher says. “I want everyone to be able to answer our customers questions thoroughly. It seems like a small thing, but it shows.”
Maher has served previously on the association’s board of directors and a variety of other high level positions, and is currently on the Member Services Committee.
The result is a dealership that has service second to none, Maher says, and has seen a unusually high return rate for customers moving from rental units to purchasing from Maher.
While his business is evenly split between rental and sale of water conditioning units, Maher said because customers are so overwhelming impressed with their rental units, that they typically buy them after six months of use.
“At times it gives the appearance that we are losing rental customers, but the big picture shows that they like our products and our service so much, that they want to buy one and feel comfortable with their purchase.”
A recipe for success
As Maher Water has grown throughout the past five decades, it has developed a unique strategy for attracting new customers. In addition to the reputation of a family-owned, long-standing company with a history of quality work, Maher Water utilizes an aggressive television, direct mailing and Yellow Pages advertising campaign that has made Bill Maher a familiar face throughout Wisconsin. Also, the company has a presence at nearly a dozen regional home shows each year and seven fairs, as well as providing free water testing.
He currently has two hubs of service, their primary office in Stevens Point and one in Minocqua. Maher is now eyeing the markets in the 95 miles between the two, and believes that he could double the size of the company within the next five years.
Already positioned firmly as one of Wisconsin’s top water conditioner and softener dealers and poised for significant growth in the coming decade, Maher Water Corporation has rooted its success in family tradition. While they’ve outgrown the family garage, a handful of the company’s employees have a very familiar name. Two of Maher’s daughters do work for the company, including the firm’s Website design. Maher’s father, who passed away earlier this year, continued to provide advice to his son about the business until his death at age 90. Maher says he hopes to pass along the company to his daughter, Danielle Maher-Baron and her husband, Sam, upon retirement towards the end of the decade.
It’s a passing of the torch akin to his own acceptance of the business in 1980. And though his father retired 25 years ago, leaving his son in charge, he never lost interest in the direction of the company. Maher says that like his father, he hopes to continue to take an active role in the company and industry, returning to do more work with local and national water quality associations so as to represent the interests of family-run dealerships like his.
And like his father, Bill Maher says he hopes to always have the ear of his daughter after retirement, carrying on the legacy of the family company and continuing to be driving force in the industry.
Maher Water Corporation
2901 Hoover Road
Stevens Point, WI 54481
Phone: (888) 796-2437
Founded: 1950 by Paul and Lydia Maher
President: Bill Maher (owner since 1980)
Quotable: I think we’re in a good position to be successful. The same way that I’ve grown up with the family business, a lot of our customers have grown up with Maher Water. It’s about trust and reputation.”