By Denise M. Roberts
At WQA Aquatech 2010, I was fortunate to meet Thomas H. ‘Tom’ and Joseph ‘Joe’ Huemann, two water treatment specialists with a very long family history in the industry. After a short time talking about their business, I had hoped the opportunity to tell this story would come sooner, but as they say, good things are worth waiting for. With the help of Tim Hiller, Marketing Manager for Huemann Water Conditioning, the chance to tell WC&P readers the Huemann history was finally realized.
The clock must first be turned back to the beginning of the 20th century to 1902, when Joseph H. Huemann started a well drilling business, Joseph H. Huemann & Sons, in northern Illinois. Sons Joseph G. and Fredrick followed in their father’s footsteps in 1939. Joseph G’s son, Tom, also invested himself in the water treatment industry. In 1963, he began his own family water treatment business in his garage. At 16, Tom’s son Joe joined the business, learning every aspect of water treatment, including home water softener salt delivery, in-home sales calls, servicing equipment, plumbing calls and more. He was born for the business and knew by the age of 13 that he would someday take over the family business. Originally, Huemann Water Conditioning sold and serviced Bruner water softeners but changed to Kinetico products in 1975.
The original company, also known as Huemann Well Drilling, is still a thriving business, run by John Huemann. Yet another water-related firm in the family, headed by Thomas Jr., is Arbortech Corp. Joe Huemann put it most succinctly, “Water is in our blood.” Today, Tom is ‘actively’ retired but still on hand occasionally to offer advice or even answer the phone. Joe, who took over as President in 1995 and is the company spokesman, is a dynamo, still involved in every aspect of the business and constantly in motion. Joe’s sister, Kim Husby, is the Office Manager and a host of Huemann children can claim credit for working in the family business at some time in their life. Huemann is known for his dedication, not only to the company, but to his employees as well and treats them all with great respect. Boundless energy emanates from every corner of this company, largely due to Huemann’s example of hard work, long hours and always wanting to do more. He never asks an employee to do something he has never done and is the first person to volunteer to help them out. Huemann is a family man and community minded person and is involved in many outside organizations as well.
The company maintains both longevity and integrity through its highly trained staff. It offers employee training, which can be a two- to four-week process, depending on the position. Huemann, a previous WQA board member, places strong emphasis on employees achieving WQA certification. Of the 19 employees, 12 are Certified Installers and three are Certified Water Specialists. The roster also includes four licensed plumbers and two apprentice plumbers for Illinois and Wisconsin. The company serves McHenry and Lake counties in Illinois and Kenosha County in Wisconsin, offering Kinetico products, water softeners and drinking water systems to both residential and commercial clients. Sulphur is one of only a few water quality issues the company deals with every day. Primarily, hardness, iron and sulfur problems are the most prevalent.
When asked what is the highest point of being in the industry, Huemann says, “The most rewarding aspect of our business is solving a customer’s water problems and having them recommend us to other people as a company to use for producing good results. The best experience is having our customers call and say ‘I love my water!’” On the other hand, the worst is “dealing with the onslaught of information or misinformation available to the customer. Meeting their expectations and trying to solve the problems the correct way doesn’t always mean the same thing to them as it does to us.”
On the subject of information availability, Huemann notes that the Internet has provided benefits as well. “In the form of advertising, social media has become a big part of our advertising and the way we communicate with our customers. With the likes of Facebook and Twitter, it is a different avenue of communicating with our customers and promoting to them in a completely different way. The traditional forms of advertising are still needed but the flight to social media and the constant need to stay in the face of the customer is very important. Needs for high-efficiency water equipment throughout the country is a topic we have discussed at length at our company and the different forms of treating your water versus the tried and true methods.”
Staying the course for nearly five decades requires the ability to adapt to changing technology, economics and regulations. Huemann Water Conditioning consistently rises to the multitude of challenges it encounters and remains steadfast in its goals. “Our five- year plan is to stay profitable and have steady growth in this tough economy,” says Huemann. “We want to connect with our current customer base so when the need arises to replace equipment, we are fresh in their minds. The best advertising we have done is to our current clients. They know who we are and what we are able to offer them.” It sounds like a recipe for success that’s been simmering for more than a century.