Building a Team
One Iowa dealer aims to be a one-stop shop for its nearly 4,000 customers
Blue Ribbon Pelham Waters has been a part of the Fort Dodge, Iowa, community for decades, but not as one business - as two. In May 2010, Steve Pederson, owner of Blue Ribbon Water for approximately 10 years, purchased Pelham Waters, which had been in business since 1949.
The team of Steve Pederson, primary owner; Brian Pederson, his son and logistics manager; John Miles, sales manager; and their staff of 11 created Blue Ribbon Pelham Waters — Your Total Water Store.
“Not only can you buy everything from a 10-oz bottle of water to a 55-gal drum of water, but also we’ll come to your house and purify your drinking water so you have bottled-water-quality water from your tap,” Miles said.
Word of Mouth
Referrals bring in the majority of business for Blue Ribbon Pelham Waters, and the most important part of getting good recommendations is focusing on customer service, according to Miles.
“I approach it from a standpoint that at the end of the day, I don’t care how much money I bring in dollar-wise, but customer satisfaction is first,” he said.
The company currently installs 30 to 40 water softeners per month, and Miles attributes this large amount of new customers to that shift in mindset.
Having a presence in the community also helps get the word out about the business.
“Steve Pederson is probably the most community-committed person I know,” Miles said. “We can deliver your water, we can fix your water, but one of the most unique things about us is the way Steve donates water to the community when it’s needed.”
Whether it’s the high school, the football team or another organization, Blue Ribbon Pelham Waters is willing to help.
Since Miles joined the industry full-time in 2000, a lot has changed. Although he admitted to hating change, the business has succeeded because of just that.
“I fought Facebook for probably two years, and now I’m a firm believer in it and a good website,” Miles said. “You have to showcase your products and services. No one even looks at a phone book; I’m the only one in our office who has a phone book. Everybody just pops online.”
Along with branching out online, Blue Ribbon Pelham Waters started to branch out to other organizations and industry professionals.
“I never used to pay attention to WQA [the Water Quality Assn.]. Everything I did was trial and error,” Miles said. “But if you utilize those organizations that have many members who have tried things and failed, and if you learn from other people’s experiences, that helps a lot.”
Education, however, does not just come from outside professionals. The team at Blue Ribbon Pelham Waters learns from each other.
“We teach our staff everything we know, so they have the same knowledge and access we do, whether it’s a particular tool or a particular part of the truck,” Miles said.
One driver has been delivering bottled water and salt for more than 10 years, and he hops in and makes sure to answer any questions the new guys have, according to Miles.
This team atmosphere has led to communication throughout the company.
“Steve has an open-door policy, and it’s really unique,” Miles said. “He never shuts his office door, even if he’s meeting with an employee, so if there’s ever an issue or something doesn’t seem right, he’s right there.”
At the end of the day, the staff gets together to make sure the business is ready for the next day.
“If there’s a piece of trash that needs to be picked up, a place that needs to be swept, a vehicle that needs to be washed, everyone from Steve Pederson all the way down to one of the guys whose only job is to load water makes sure our lot is picked up and our alley is swept,” Miles said. “It’s really cool at the end of the day to see everyone pitch in and help.”
Fixing the Problems
In Fort Dodge and the surrounding area, water problems range from hard water to truly undrinkable problem water.
“When you get into water treatment, it’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all deal,” Miles said. “I’d go out on a limb and say probably 70% of my business is private wells, and we’ve yet to find one we can’t fix.”
Miles has found one of the most challenging things for the industry is staying ahead of the curve, so as soon as something else is discovered in the water, they have something to remove it.
“One thing Steve and I agree on is the water is not going to get any better. It’s just not,” Miles said. “They’re finding things in water every day from pharmaceuticals to radon and more.”
The future looks bright for Blue Ribbon Pelham Waters as it continues to address these concerns and find ways to remove what people do not want to drink.
“That’s why I’m so passionate about our industry,” Miles said. “We change people’s quality of life with what we do to their water.”
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John Miles, Steve Pederson and Brian Pederson of Blue Ribbon Pelham Waters
A Blue Ribbon Pelham Waters truck