Kurt C. Peterson, Publisher
It’s a simple question, probably asked many times over by water treatment businesses. What haven’t you tried to bring things back on even keel? Diversified operations might have been the answer for some while branching out into larger application markets worked for others. How about just hanging on and hoping for the best? Do you see yourself in one of these groups?
Just as one clan of economists touted the marginal improvements in the economy over the past six months as proof positive things are getting better, Mother Nature presented us with massive natural disasters that wiped out profits without a backward glance. That helped to give the other side of the economic guru mouthpiece a chance to hammer home the point that marginal improvement isn’t a sign things are getting better when other indications point to a double-dip recession.
That could be the gotcha point everyone has been watching so carefully. Why else would phones go silent, emails remain unanswered, research stagnate and new products fail to materialize? Being overcareful is just as bad as being overzealous. There’s a middle ground somewhere between the extremes but the constant battering may leave most wondering what will happen next. In spite of the numerous attempts to prevail against the odds, few stories are bright and positive. And that needs to change. Hiding and hoping will not turn things around.
Change only takes place when there is a reason and the will to make something happen, no matter how bad things look. Saying something is better doesn’t make it so, but there’s a place for optimism, if you study past and future trends. Business, like weather, is cyclic. Sometimes the stretch of successful ventures looks like it will go on uninterrupted and hope reigns supreme. At least until the next monkey wrench knocks the struts out from under us. This often leads to reminiscing about the good ole days, when a deal was sealed with a handshake instead of a signed contract. Maybe looking back is the answer. More often than not, people complain about the lack of community, the feeling they are being duped, that ethics is something trotted out in press releases but not often practiced.
What was it about the early days, the most successful years, that made brave young salespeople into millionaires? Simply put, they connected with their targeted audience in a way that made their customers feel like they were the most important people in the world. It wasn’t just the handshake, it was the realization that the bond between businessman and client was about more than the bottom line. It was the feeling that you could count on the business, the service, the product and the warranty without resorting to legal means. It was the pleasant voice on the other end of the phone, the technician who showed up on time, the company head who called to verify everything was handled properly. These were cornerstone policies that grew businesses and client bases. Where are they now?
Nostalgia aside, the question for the water industry is more related to what is being done rather than what could be done. Waiting out the storm, battening down the hatches and hoping for better returns will only happen if the most important people in your business, the customers, feel they can depend and rely on every person in the process, not just the most persuasive salesperson. In our disconnected but ultra-connected and fast-paced world, there is a need for the personal touch, to reassure clients that it’s not just about the money. When people feel important again, whether a client or an employee, they will try that much harder to make their world right again. It’s got to start somewhere, soon, before we miss the lessons that will make a difference now and in the future.
Here’s to you, the ones who make the jump from being in business to being successful in business! We’d like to hear about what you’ve done to make the difference, what makes things go right instead of wrong and what is the next big thing for the water treatment industry. We’re listening!