By Denise M. Roberts

The Aquasource Group, Inc.
8960 Main Street
Honeoye, NY 14471
Telephone: (585) 229-2500
Website: www.nicewater.com
Email: stever@nicewater.com
Employees: 13
Service vehicles: 10

Steven L Richards, principle owner of The Aquasource Group, Inc., says the best decision in his career was to join the Water Quality Association. He took advantage of its invaluable resources, started earning his certifications and went to a national convention. “That was it. I was hooked on the industry and have been for 20 years.” Richards is now a Level VI Certified Water Specialist, Certified Installer, Certified Sales Rep and Small Systems Contractual Operator. Just recently, Joe Harrison appointed him to WQA’s Septic Issues Task Force.

Aquasource developed its reputation for expertise in handling tough water quality issues in the pristine Finger Lakes area, a geologically diverse part of New York. Richards and a part-time helper started the company in 1987, successfully growing to become the largest water conditioning and treatment firm in a six-county region of western New York State. They started out repairing orphaned water equipment and grew the enterprise into a full-service business. “I quickly realized there were tons of companies in our area selling conditioning equipment with little or no follow-up service,” Richards noted.

The strongest sales are generated from small and midsize commercial winery operations, residential lakeside homes, cottages and resorts and country retreats served by wells and lakes. In addition, Aquasource serves thousands of private well owners and lakeside homes with water treatment and conditioning, pumping and plumbing services, though the best market is orphaned equipment. Three employees are New York state Licensed Water Plant Operators, which enables the company to contractually operate small community water systems such as those at campgrounds, school campuses, mobile home parks, truck stops, etc. A fleet of approximately 10 vehicles (vans, pickups and the ‘WaterBug’) meets the diversity of customers’ needs. Additionally, the company owns several excavators, loaders, a BobCat® trencher, a service boat for lake intake systems and inspections and a custom water well service truck for specialized projects. “We do it all and covering all of the bases sometimes requires me to wear every hat in the business, from installer to service tech, sales and marketing, system design to scuba diving to fix or install a lake intake pump, you name it,” says Richards.

Although no relatives are involved in the business, Richards says he is looking at drawing key personnel into stock ownership positions. Employees and management already consider themselves to be part of the Aquasource family. “Shortly after purchasing and renovating a new 5,000-square foot showroom and warehouse, I was involved in pretty serious car accident that had me in and out of hospitals and treatment for about a year,” said Richards. “Then, at a time of tremendous growth, my very first employee passed away suddenly. I wasn’t really ready to return to a full schedule but all of the staff pulled together to manage the business needs. That was a true testament to how important good employees are to the health and success of our business.”

Richards views the future of the industry as one of opportunity, although there are areas that need to be addressed. “This is a very technical field, often reduced to being portrayed as a marketing industry. It needs to be recognized that without dedicated dealers to sell, install, service and, most importantly, properly maintain water systems, we might as well sell plywood and nails like a big box. The notion that bigger is better is a huge mistake and I see the pendulum swinging back the other way. Also, more efficient, effective and dependable products need to be developed. A tremendous opportunity exists for the water quality industry if it gets serious about technical training and adopts a strong code and mission statement.”

Looking ahead, Richards expects the firm to continue its slow, steady growth by leveraging the company’s reputation and brand presence, thereby providing its existing customer base with more services. “We’ve diversified into complimentary areas: septic and onsite wastewater treatment, plumbing services and alternative and high efficiency heating systems.” Still a plumber at heart, Richards enjoys working on pumps and wells. “A plumber’s number-one job is to protect the health and welfare of the nation’s water,” he says. “The water conditioning dealer provides high quality water for drinking, food processing, livestock, industry, washing, bathing, energy savings and plumbing protection, just to name a few. That’s pretty important stuff!”

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