Douglas Water Conditioning
Waterford: (248) 363-8383
Fenton: (810) 629-6000
Traverse City: (231) 947-7560
[email protected]

The qualities that make for a great lifelong friend are often the same ones consumers seek from the professionals they let into their homes: camaraderie, empathy, familiarity, and trust.

In the nearly 60 years it has been in business in southeastern Michigan, Douglas Water Conditioning has served the region’s diverse communities with those traits in mind. Over the years, the company has fostered connections that have spanned generations.

Past (top photo) and present of Douglas Water Conditioning.

From Competitors to Colleagues

Douglas Water Conditioning started in 1968 as Douglas Lanni’s salt delivery service. Eventually those salt granules added up to a water-treatment business that formally opened as Douglas Water Conditioning in Waterford, Michigan, in 1973.

Lanni had just one problem, though: Jerry Tiefenback. Tiefenback was a licensed master plumber who worked locally in Waterford before turning his sights to water treatment. He soon excelled as a representative for the water systems treatment company Culligan and emerged as a major business rival for Lanni.

Lanni couldn’t beat Tiefenback, so he did the next best thing: He hired him. Tiefenback successfully doubled Lanni’s sales within a year, and the two went on to become partners in the operation, along with Steve Wolfe.

The trio successfully leveraged their collective skills to grow the company’s size and service area. Douglas Water Conditioning now operates widely in Michigan and has established a physical presence in Waterford, Fenton, and Traverse City, as well as Ann Arbor.

With its tenure and history, Douglas Water Conditioning has become a fixture, an enduring staple, as one of southeastern Michigan’s most well-respected local water-treatment operations.

Jason Tiefenback

The Next Generation

Now, Douglas Water Conditioning is run by a new group of leaders, some with names that are familiar (and familial) to the company: Mike Lanni, Scott Shepherd, Matt Long, and Jason Tiefenback. While Mike and Jason are the sons of Douglas and Jerry, respectively, Scott Shepherd has been with the company for 35 years and started as a teenager helping with salt deliveries.

In his teenage years, Jason Tiefenback worked the cash register after school and helped with salt deliveries during the summer. But after graduating from Michigan State University in 2002 with a degree in package engineering, he worked with Campbell Soup Company in Camden, New Jersey. While there, he became program manager, earned awards, and contributed to several filed patents.

In 2012, as Jerry began his retirement, Jason took up his mantle, bringing his skills and acumen to his new position at Douglas. Jason recalled the leap into the family business and the variety of ways that his skill set could be integrated into Douglas Water. Choosing which corporate lessons to bring with him and which to leave behind, however, was no simple task.

“I found a blend of what I could bring over that really worked for me,” he said, “and things we should stay away from because that’s just not who we are.”

Jason was deliberate in his effort to blend his high-level corporate experiences into Douglas Water Conditioning, ensuring that he never compromised the Douglas identity in the process.

Another point of pride that Jason highlighted is the company’s dedication to ensuring its customers are provided with the highest level of service and education possible. Education and customer care have always been at the core of the business. Several Douglas staff members are Water Quality Association certified water specialists, and this certification has been pivotal to ensuring that clients trust Douglas employees’ expertise.

Balancing Work and Play

Having multiple leaders at the helm has also allowed the Douglas team to balance positivity and productivity in a business setting.

“We balance each other out,” Jason said. “I think the employees see that it’s okay to let your guard down and have fun from time to time.”

In a video that was posted to the company’s social media account, advertising and media coordinator Jasmine Lindamood can be seen speaking with two employees, quizzing them on Douglas Water history in a “best of three” challenge, in which the winner is given a free pie and the loser receives a free pie directly in the face.

No winner for this challenge. Pie in the face of Douglas employees.

Jason Tiefenback spoke with nothing but high praise and appreciation for his accomplished team, which he considers a Douglas cornerstone. He takes pride in hearing about the positive interactions between his staff and their clientele.

“Without the team, we wouldn’t be able to service our customers, and without the customers, we wouldn’t have a business,” he said.

And while most days are not filled with pies and trivia challenges, Jason spoke about the importance of fostering and nurturing an environment for accountability and growth. When there are business challenges and obstacles to overcome, the Douglas team approaches them as opportunities to coach, educate, and prove their dedication to providing great service.

Likewise, Douglas’s commitment to the community manifests itself in, among other provisions, generous service warranties for its products, to make sure customers are as protected as possible. Through free in-home water analyses, complimentary phone services, and numerous financing options, Douglas has kept its promise to help keep Michigan water safe for all.

The Douglas team also routinely engages in canned-food drives and the seasonal Toys for Tots program, giving back to the communities it serves in any way it can.

Adapting to a Changing World

Even as Douglas utilizes effective methods of reaching its audience through print advertising and the distribution of physical coupons, it still doesn’t shy away from new opportunities the digital space provides. The company routinely explores new digital-marketing strategies and emerging trends. It also works closely with WJR radio and the Inside Outside Guys, a home service segment followed by over 25,000 residents online.

“You don’t want to fall behind,” Jason explained. “[Our outreach is] a mix of old school and new, and it’s just about finding that balance.”

Strategic Growth

When any business grows, it needs to be sure it is doing so in measured and meaningful ways. Rather than move directly into unfamiliar territory, where public trust may be hard to gain, Douglas has decided to open a new location in Clarkston, an area with longtime Douglas customers and a new pool of potential business relations. This addition makes servicing customers in a further location much easier and allows the company to establish a physical presence.

Tiefenback explained how crucial brick-and-mortar locations are for building community trust through a direct presence in the community. As this expansion comes on the heels of a recent business acquisition with jug-filling capabilities (Water Depot Clarkston), this new location will now allow Douglas consumers to self-fill at stations equipped with alkaline, mineral, purified, and artisanal water.

About the author

Keller O’Leary is managing editor at Water Conditioning & Purification International Magazine.


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