By Denise M. Roberts
As companies focus on realigning them selves with modern technologies, the importance of websites, social media and other venues are having an impact on how business is being done. Well-rounded, tech-savvy businesses, like Fresh Water Systems, Inc., are now finding a broader audience and more lucrative prospects on the Internet.
Steve Norvell, CEO and owner of the family-owned company, originally started the firm with his previous partner, Brian Folk, in San Diego, CA in 1989, leasing POU water coolers to offices. Fresh Water Systems also installed water conditioning equipment, including RO, distillation, UV and DI systems for residential and commercial customers. The bottled water market grew exponentially, water filtration systems,” said Norvell. “We also provide filtration solutions for the food service industry and offer a full line of filters from 3M Water Filtration, Everpure and Selecto Scientific. Our commercial/industrial customers can also find supplies for various systems, including Harmsco and RO systems used in manufacturing plants. We have many corporate customers who come to us for pointing to the need consumers have for clean, safe water. Fresh Water Systems wanted to offer more eco-friendly solutions, minimizing the amount of plastic being discarded in the nation’s landfills and reducing the carbon footprint by a more efficient delivery system, while still providing safe, clean water. With the advent of the Internet in the early 90s, the company launched a comprehensive website to sell water purification products and educate its customers about drinking water systems.
But in 2004, wanting to be closer to his family, Norvell moved the business to South Carolina. In 2008, Norvell bought out his partner’s share of the company, becoming the sole owner. Fresh Water Systems, now located in Greenville, has customers around the world, with the majority of its clients located in the US, serving both the residential and commercial markets. “Every day we fulfill many customer orders from replacement water filters to larger whole-house water filtration systems,” said Norvell. “We also provide filtration solutions for the food service industry and offer a full line of filters from 3M Water Filtration, Everpure and Selecto Scientific. Our commercial/industrial customers can also find supplies for various systems, including Harmsco and RO systems used in manufacturing plants. We have many corporate customers who come to us for their water filtration needs, including Disney, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Whole Foods, American Airlines, Walgreens, Wal-Mart, Albertsons and Subway. We experience a wide range of water treatment issues, from providing better tasting drinking water by reducing the amount of chlorine and chloramines to disinfecting the water with UV systems. Customers can find everything to fit their needs, from a small John Guest fitting to a large, multi-stage filtration system.”
New technology and constant improvement has kept Fresh Water Systems a thriving company. Fresh Water Systems is continually seeking water professionals to add to their team and offers an industry-leading compensation and benefits package, including a 401(k) plan, medical and dental benefits and life insurance.
To maintain their competitive edge and sense of personal development, employees can take advantage of a biweekly training program covering basic water treatment knowledge. This program also reviews all of the company’s products, including how to install and maintain various parts and systems. “With this training, our Customer Service Associates will be especially knowledgeable in answering customer concerns and questions,” said Norvell. “This training program is designed and operated by several of our Certified Water Specialists. Currently, we have eight on staff, ranging from CWS-I to CWS-VI levels and we are continuously adding more.”
Jeremy Biller, CIO at Fresh Water Systems, explained the company’s answer to a changing marketplace: “More and more competitors are entering the e-commerce marketplace, saturating what is already a competitive market. We have made significant investments in information technology and automation in order to stay ahead of the growth of technology itself. Customers have become savvier when shopping on the Internet, where there is no loyalty. We must earn their business each time they replace water filters or purchase a new system.”
“We have found a tremendous amount of satisfaction in assisting our customers with great-tasting drinking water, while offering the latest technologies available from RO, ultrafiltration, UV disinfection and water distillers. Our website now offers hundreds of products, along with the technical support needed for each product. We are now able to help our customers with wideranging water concerns by providing high quality images, tutorial videos and colorful PDF documents. Our major challenge as an e-commerce company is in economically shipping these products both domestically to rural areas and overseas for customers who cannot find a local dealer for their filter system. We have partnered with FedEx as well as our suppliers like Pentair, Watts, Viqua and others to quickly get solutions for our customers.”
Fresh Water Systems offers filters made from sustainable materials, including the innovative Swift Green refrigerator filters made of sustainable coconut-shell carbon that has 50-percent more micropores than any other carbon, giving it the unique ability to capture and hold contaminants. “Our inventory is always growing with products that are manufactured responsibly,” Norvell said. “In an effort to extend our recycling program, we also reuse packing materials. Anyone who has seen the inside of a warehouse knows that the most common material is cardboard! We try to reuse some of that cardboard instead of just throwing it away. Our customers are also encouraged to participate in recycling programs when disposing of filters, which will in turn minimize our carbon footprint. Because we work with water, one of Earth’s most precious natural resources, we are continuously looking for ways that our products and our company can be more eco-friendly. As we seek to meet our growing customer demand, Fresh Water Systems will begin construction of a new headquarters in Greenville with three times the amount of office and warehouse space. This state-of-the-art building will allow us to continue to grow and give our employees a comfortable place to work. As new technology develops, we will continue to update the website with new products.”
For many years, companies have been encouraged to define and enhance their brand through Internet exposure. Websites, search-engine optimization and social media have, for many, made it possible to reach ever further for new client prospects that foster positive results. Moving away from the standard brick-and-mortar operation may not be the right option for some companies but it certainly has proved very successful for Fresh Water Systems.