By Denise M. Roberts
Quality Life Solutions, LLC
1857 Building B Chapin Road
Chapin, SC 29036
Toll–free: (888) 320-4H20 (320-4420)
Local: (803) 932-4426
Fax: (803) 932-4427
Randy Shuler got his start in residential water treatment sales in 1983. Over the next 21 years, he progressed to sales and upper management. Yet, he always wanted to own his own dealership. “I got into the water treatment industry by answering a newspaper ad and have remained in it because of the service it provides our customer. I do not believe there is anything a person could invest in that they will use or benefit from more than water treatment, “ Shuler said. “Help enough people get what they want and you will get what you want. It’s a win-win business.”
Shuler realized his dream in February 2004 when he formed Quality Life Solutions, LLC. Rapid progress and expansion soon followed. March 2006 brought a UV equipment distributorship agreement with Trojan Technologies for the South Carolina region. In January 2006, the company purchased another dealer’s full inventory of water vending units and the product molds. Quality Life Solutions received South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s approval of their redesigned vending unit just a year and a half later; the water-vending units are now sold nationally. The firm is state certified as a Bottled Water Operator. Shuler and Service Technician Rob Sewrey, CI, hold individual certifications as well.
A team of eight, including Shuler’s mother Glenna (bookkeeping services) and daughter Katherine (manufacturing, lead generation and product fulfillment), serves all of South Carolina, with water-vending service alone covering six counties. The company uses several generic service vehicles that will feature its logo and other art in the near future to capture the business recognition factor. In-house training is offered to all employees with the future goal of everyone becoming certified sales representatives and installers. One thing we know is H20 is more than a company motto to Shuler. It’s the heart and soul of his business.
In addition to water vending and UV equipment, the dealer-manufacturer offers residential (RO and whole-house) water treatment sales and service, lake water filtrations systems (lake water is pumped into the home and after undergoing multiple filtration steps, is used throughout) and food service filtration equipment. The goal is to have a minimum of 50 vending units placed on the vending route throughout the Columbia area within five years and make it a one-stop shop for all water treatment needs that can capture customers from all markets.
A big challenge for the company, getting leads without telephone solicitation due to the Do Not Call List, has been offset by successfully using the vending side of the business as a primary source of leads for food service and residential sales. “Our customers are our number one asset, providing referrals that translate into a large source of new customers. We are reminded of this from customer letters and calls, thanking us for all the benefits and outstanding service they receive.”
To maintain a competitive edge and move forward in tough times, Shuler offered this advice: “Stay open minded, be willing to change. You may need to work a little harder, stay focused more on company goals and be willing to put forth more effort. Hard work never killed anyone but the thought has driven many to failure.”
“We approach our business completely different today than just six years ago,” Shuler continued. “Our best training efforts used to be expended on sales; now those efforts are geared to lead generation and sales creation with products we did not market a few years ago. I realized that to move forward, especially in the midst of an economic downturn, we had to change direction by finding a viable option to expand on our existing business plan,” he added. “By adding the vending service, we were able to capitalize on an extensive source for lead generation, which proved very successful. Bulk bottle water, rental units, food service, residential sales, vending routes, vending equipment sales and service are our new focus. ”
Shuler believes consumers today are better educated and their broader access to the Internet has forced companies to become more creative and diverse. That and customer service are keys to future successes. “If you take care of your customers, they will take care of you,” he offered.