By Kaitlyn Longstaff
Founded in 1963 by Glenn Gruett, Water-Right, once a humble business, is dedicated to bringing clean, safe water to every home and is driven by an unrelenting passion for creating water treatment products that help homeowners and contractors. In 1985, Water-Right purchased and relocated a zeolite crystal plant to Kansas and formed Mineral-Right. The company continued to grow, and in 1988, it added the first chlorine generator for problem water treatment applications. In 2008, the Sanitizer Plus series water conditioner was introduced to the market. Today, Water-Right is known as a problem water solutions provider with new markets extending into city water applications and beyond.
Water-Right is part of A.O. Smith North American Water Treatment, primarily servicing the North American market. Mike Heatwole, regional sales manager for Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky, services, trains, and supports the wholesale staff and customers in the field. Heatwole’s goal and mission is “to help train the next generation of water professionals to continue the journey of providing safe and useable water for all customers’ needs.” He added, “I aim to share my years of making mistakes and learning so the new professionals do not have to make those same mistakes.”
Heatwole got his start in the plumbing wholesale business in 1982. “I was playing cards with some high school friends whose father owned [plumbing and water-system materials provider] May Supply,” Heatwole said. “They were looking for an outside salesman, so I took the job and worked my way up to sales manager and partner.”
While serving customers in the field, he continued to run into people who needed help addressing water-quality problems. Heatwole explained that he “found a rep by the name of Bob Stevens, who took me under his wing and taught me the ropes of dealing with problem iron jobs.” As his experience progressed, Heatwole developed more extensive testing options on his own. As a result, he started a state-certified lab for water testing, offering training and dealer support.
“When my partners started aging out and wanted to sell the business, I decided it was time for a change,” Heatwole said. “I approached Water-Right, and they hired me to be the first territory sales manager. Now I am a regional sales manager with responsibility for Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky,” he continued.
Coming from a background in wells, pumps, plumbing, and wastewater gives Heatwole a unique perspective when looking for and identifying problems. “I love to share what I have learned and often speak at state, regional, and national Water Well Association and Water Quality Association meetings,” Heatwole said. He has served on the Virginia Water Well Association’s board of directors for many years. He works with engineers and the Virginia Department of Health Office of Drinking Water, serves as a consultant to Virginia Tech’s Virginia Household Water Quality Program, and is involved with the Water Quality Association (WQA).
Heatwole explained, “[The WQA has] given me the opportunity to learn through their professional certification program, but also [provides] the opportunities to meet and know the best minds in the industry that I can call friends.”
The Water-Right Promise
Water-Right products differ from other companies by solving problems to make water clean and safe to use. The Mineral-Right Min 100 and Min 200 provide unique solutions to treating problem water. The company’s customer service is an added benefit—as Heatwole said, “We make it, we sell it, and we know where it works.” He explained, “Our patented Inch Worm feature on our air systems, combined with our ozone generator technology, provide excellent solutions others wish they had.”
Water-Right offers dealer support through its marketing department. It has also created a “water university” where contractors can learn from experts 24/7. Contractor rewards and a dealer locator program are also offered if the contractor purchases Water-Right equipment. “There is so much built into the program we offer,” said Heatwole.
Room for Growth
“Water-Right has a tremendous opportunity for growth in the future,” Heatwole said. The company continues to grow by offering top-notch solutions for water treatment and by providing training with its sales and support staff. Water-Right’s three-day schools and field training are recognized as some of the best offered in the water-treatment industry today. “I am very proud to be a part of such a great team,” said Heatwole.
Water-Right has new products in the works and is always working to improve upon its existing products. The company continues to grow the business by adding more “feet on the street” to better serve customers. One of the many benefits of working for the company is its dedication to providing staff with opportunities to give back to their communities and to support many areas of need around the world.
“Water-Right continues to grow, expand, and add quality dealers,” Heatwole said. For Water Right, meeting and exceeding its goals and plans is a team effort. Heatwole explained, “There has never been a better time to either get into or expand within the world of water treatment; it is so exciting to be involved in such a helpful and needed industry.”
Working Through Challenges
“We face many of the same challenges all companies are facing now,” Heatwole said. Labor shortages are a struggle for Water Right and its customers, as contractors’ inability to find help can slow the ability to expand sales.
Government regulations serve as both a challenge and an opportunity for growth. Heatwole explained, “A.O. Smith is involved in the Water Quality Association and other industries in keeping up with and leading the charge for improved regulations for our industry.” A.O. Smith was instrumental in helping to draft the Healthy Drinking Water Affordability Act (Healthy H2O Act), a bill that helps low-income, rural families on private wells receive funding to test and treat their drinking water. The measure is currently working its way through Congress.
The Future Is Bright
Heatwole sees a bright future ahead. It is a golden time to be in the water-quality improvement industry, as the consumer is more aware and better educated than ever. The need for safe and reliable drinking water is greater than ever, technology is better than it has ever been, the press is aiding the industry like never before, and the industry is stronger. “My only regret is that I am older and will not get to enjoy the ride, but this is what keeps me young,” said Heatwole.
“Water treatment to me is not a job but a calling. I do it to help others. I derive tremendous gratification from helping others, and that makes me feel good,” Heatwole said.
He encourages others to participate in the opportunities within the water-treatment industry and enjoy the benefits of being a water-treatment professional.
About the author
Kaitlyn R. Longstaff is associate editor at Water Conditioning & Purification International Magazine. She studied English at Southern New Hampshire University and publishing at The George Washington University. She can be reached at [email protected].