By Emma H. Peterson
Guthrie and Frey Water Conditioning is seeing one of its best years. Since we last spoke to owner Rob Frey in October of 2020, the company’s growth has shot to new heights. With nearly double the employees and three locations now in addition to its headquarters and well pump division, Guthrie and Frey has become considerably large for an independent dealer. “We operate in a unique spot in terms of size and scope,” Frey said. “We’re big enough to have a presence in a lot of different markets but small enough that we’re not corporate.”
Guthrie and Frey serves both commercial and residential clients, primarily dealing with iron/odor treatment, water softening, drinking water systems, and occasionally ultraviolet system installation. “There’s a synergistic relationship that generates a lot of referral business and brand
recognition,” Frey said previously. “The most rewarding part of the business is that it is always interesting.” The company operates on two vital divisions, one being the well pump side and the other focused on the water filtration and conditioning side.
Frey has been thrilled with where the business is lately. He believes its biggest move in the last two years has been the acquisition of a primary competitor. This opened up opportunities for additional coverage areas, with a new culture and playing defense. “If we didn’t do it, someone else would have,” he said.
Building Employee Skills
A growing team has meant formulating new practices to give employees the skills they need to be successful at Guthrie and Frey. “We have at least one, but up to three licensed plumbers in the office available at all times,” Frey said. To make this possible, the company puts emphasis on its tech support for both clients and the team’s in-house training.
Team members at Guthrie and Frey must have a restricted appliance plumbing license but are generally not accustomed to the test taking required to receive it. “The work ethic is there, but when you put them in front of a written test… it’s not great,” Frey said. “We brought in a guy that sits one-on-one with each one of these guys, and he helps them practice for the test.” In addition, Frey’s son, Scott, constructed a study guide template that has returned huge success rates on the test.
Frey believes facilitating people to get proper licensing will help them get on the right career path. He admits that it hasn’t been easy to find great associates since the mid-2000s, when he noticed trades were losing their “polish” with college students, but he feels lucky to be a part of such a tight-knit team where family is first.
Frey’s wife, Sue, is still the company’s co-owner and advertising representative. Frey’s father, who started Guthrie and Frey as a well pump business in 1974, is mostly involved in the business over the summer, as he lives his best snowbird life. While the possibility of retirement looms within the next decade, Rob and Sue Frey both plan to always be productive members of the team while maintaining flexibility and being able to travel with the grandkids.
Scott works on the plumbing side of things and has been at Guthrie and Frey full time for two years, but he has been involved in the family business since he was 17. “There’s husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, and they’ll refer their family and friends to us too,” Sue said. There are even two little furry team members, Bella and Vinny, who are ready to greet those at the door. Other fun facts about the team can be found on Guthrie and Frey’s website.
A Competitive Advantage
The Freys believe they have an edge in the industry. The teamwork and communication that come with having a great big family working together is unmatched. Frey said relationships with customers and prompt returning of phone calls are priorities. “There’s still a level of customer care that I think is different in the industry,” he said. Some of the team members have been with the company for decades. Everyone has a specialization and a reputation for thoughtfulness.
Guthrie and Frey is more than just a water softener company. The company is involved with multiple local organizations, both financially or through volunteering. The team is always interested in new ways to reach the community and new organizations to support.
By design, Guthrie and Frey’s future shows only upward mobility. “There’s places to go at our size,” Frey said. He believes the company is in a better place now for growth than it has been in the last 10 years.
The Freys are always asking themselves how they can make any situation positive for both their team members and clients. They ensure the attitude of the workspace is light and uplifting and that their clientele is always satisfied. Frey said he loves watching the team’s development and feeling the pride that circulates through everyone. “We are inventors trying to do the right thing, for the right price, for everyone involved,” he said.
About the author
Emma H. Peterson, is a student at the University of Arizona, majoring in journalism, with a minor in natural resources. Throughout her college experience, she has developed a following for her photography and photojournalism endeavors. After graduation, Peterson intends to broadly expand her creative/ feature writing and photography prospects, as well as pursue her personal interests in skiing and rock climbing.