By Denise M. Roberts
There aren’t a lot of water businesses born in the back of a Ford LTD, let alone where everyone..absolutely everyone, is certified. Robert A. Rhoades earned degrees in administration and agricultural engineering and he already knew how to grow a business. With true entrepreneurial spirit and the support of his wife Nancy, Rhoades began selling and installing filter systems from the trunk of that Ford. His warm smile, genuine honesty and soft-sell approach were a hit with homeowners and word spread quickly. Thus began Water Doctor and its deep commitment to customer service.
Son Robb joined the company to help with service and installations, followed by daughter Wendy (Geppert) (CWS-III, CSR) who became Office Manager. Wendy’s husband Carl (CWS-VI, CI) and her brother-in-law Ted (CWS_VI, CI, Small Systems Contractual Operator) joined the company in 1985. Water Doctor welcomed Master Plumber and Gas Fitter Russell Mellinger (CSR) in 2004. The Well Pump Division, headed by Licensed Pump Installer Robert Bateman, was added the next year.
“Our success has been made possible by our competent staff,” said Sales and Marketing Coordinator Vicky Burtis (CWS-IV, CSR), a 20-year company veteran. “Each employee gives their best and continues to meet the challenges of a service business with hard work and diligence. They are also willing and eager to participate in certification and on-going education.”
All company employees are WQA certified. In fact, Water Doctor employs more Certified Water Specialists than any company in the state and its technicians are also licensed and bonded by Maryland’s Department of the Environment. In addition, the Geppert brothers hold Maryland State Class 3 Water Treatment Plant Operator and Journeyman Plumber licenses and Backflow Prevention Certifications. Together they formed a team of professionals with a formidable global reputation for excellence.
In the early 1980s, Water Doctor introduced the Iron Guard Series, a chemical-free iron removal system designed to treat acidic water with high iron/sulphur levels using aeration and natural minerals. The system became so popular that other water treatment dealers wanted to buy the equipment. Happy customers told their neighbors, family and friends, which helped to quickly increase the firm’s client base. In 1997, Air Pump Water Solutions was formed as a wholesale company offering individual components and turnkey systems to Mom-and-Pop dealers and large distributors worldwide.
Many area residents face well water contamination from buried oil tanks, chemical spills, industry run-off and decay of rock and minerals drive the need for quality water. Regionally, specific issues are arsenic, cadmium, radium and radon. “We are pleased to see the new technologies offered for contaminants like arsenic,” Burtis said. “Working with area labs, county and state health authorities and these new technologies, we can continue to meet the constantly changing issues.”
Water Doctor has a fleet of eight vehicles and 12 employees to serve approximately 6,000 active residential customers in nine Maryland counties. Technicians service systems once or twice yearly. Expansion allows the company to offer well pump installation and repair; pressure tanks and boosters, hot water heaters, back flow prevention, gas hook-ups and more. Ted Geppert continues to grow the Commercial Division, which offers treatment solutions for small communities, office parks, restaurants, churches and state well water contracts. “Our services now reach from the pump to the tap,” said Burtis. “We maintain a solid market share in a region filled with a vast number of competitors.” To keep its competitive edge and meet changing markets, the staff actively engages in new product design. Each system is custom-engineered to treat well water conditions based on water analysis and flow rate and to offer high quality water with little homeowner involvement.
“We realize our clientele is our most valuable resource,” noted Burtis. “In fact, approximately 70 percent of our revenue comes from our existing clients and their referrals. Part of the joy of our job is the personal relationships we have with our clients. We share births, successes and family losses. We have many families who repeatedly choose us as their provider, despite moving multiple times. We respect our customers and their property and take the extra time to find and train trustworthy employees who accept the challenges of education, certification and excellence in service. We will continue to cherish these relationships and care for our customers as if they are our family.”
Meanwhile, Bob Rhoades is happily working his way into retirement.