By Denise M. Roberts
“Believe it or not, I got into water treatment due in part to being a cancer survivor and felt I could help people to achieve better health through having safe, great clean water,” said Founder and owner Dan Cote, CWS-IV. “We’re not sales people, we’re certified water treatment professionals. We stay in business because I love the challenges it brings, satisfying about 98 percent of our customers that appreciate good, clean water and educating customers about water.” He and his wife, Brenda, operate the family-owned dealership with seven employees. Wayne Bates, CWS-II handles the operation when they are absent or on vacation and is a future partner in the business. Aqua-Max techs and sales personnel are factory-trained and Cote wants them all to be WQA certified as well.
The Cotes started in 1994 with Water Vending in Maine, along with selling POU RO systems, and have done it all, sales, technical and installation. “We built it without help from banks and government, utilizing our own money and investing in ourselves,” said Dan. “The challenges of solving water issues and seeing smiles rather than frowns, it gets you acting like Sherlock Holmes and finding what and where there issues are coming from. We work throughout Maine, primarily residential and some commercial work, along with water cooler rentals. In Maine we are faced with many issues, such as iron, manganese, hardness, radon, arsenic, uranium, tannins and colloidal iron. We utilize Hague Quality Water Max equipment along with Hellenbrand equipment. Both have certain qualities that can resolve the issues that our clients face.”
Many of those issues are more challenging than they first appear. “Having to deal with multiple problems with iron, manganese and hardness, in addition to removing major contaminants such as uranium and radon, all in one setting, can be exasperating,” said Cote. “It can be done, however, with a lot of patience and good research.” Another challenge that Cote noted is one that dealers across the country have encountered. “The worst has to be the lack of ethics amongst some dealers and sometimes, suppliers. The best part of this business is when you get lucky, as I have, and meet good local dealers who will actually help you solve a problem that has stumped you. Notable for their assistance are Kevin Kaserman of Dunbar Pumps and Eric Wilson with the Water Doctor. Most notable is the availability of a local independent laboratory, which is WQA certified for micro-testing. A&L Laboratory is instrumental in identifying hidden water problems. John Dyer, who has owned and operated this lab for 35 years, often tells me that we seem to be the one company who comes up with weird problems. He calls this Dan’s World. We seek to fix problems not band-aid them. Our customers feel so much more secure knowing that we use an independent lab.”
Another lament from Cote is the lack of qualified people to do the job. “Employment has been a major issue, finding and keeping people that want to work in sales or the technical field,” said Cote. “Most applicants want so many perks that I’d want to find a job like it myself. I don’t know what happened to today’s work force, but there’s certainly a lack of drive to succeed in most people that apply.”
Taking the long view, Cote offered his opinion on what must be done to sustain the industry and maintain its viability. “I surely would like to see more certifications among all states, with strict enforcement of ethics amongst dealers,” he said. “I’d also like to see certification programs that can be taught at local tech schools, sponsored by WQA. There needs to be more emphasis on public awareness regarding the benefits of water treatment. The industry is growing at a fast pace, especially in regard to new types of treatment equipment. We need more equipment that can take care of multiple problems with one unit. I also think consolidation is harmful in that it eliminates entrepreneurship and results in less satisfactory customer service. I’m sure most dealers feel the same way as I when you can’t get good tech support from a consolidated company. I can certainly thank my lucky stars for the great support I do get from companies such as Hague Quality Water and Hellenbrand, along with suppliers such as Charger and ResinTech.”
Those problems notwithstanding, Dan and Brenda Cote see a bright future for Aqua-Max. “We keep moving it forward. We want to double our size and be able to offer more services to the homeowner, as well as expand into the commercial arena. We have recently added well pump service and sales to our service line-up.” Positive attitudes can be catching and will afford dealerships large and small with a better avenue to success.