Emphasizing Education

Vermont Water Inc. thrives due to its special emphasis on water treatment education and training

Vermont Water Inc. has just three employees, however, the company is currently experiencing the benefits of robust economy with a lot of business. Company President John Beauchamp credits this success to an abundance of business that has come through word of mouth.

“Doing quality work, treating our customers fairly and being responsive to their needs seem to be the techniques that have stood the test of time,” he said about Vermont Water’s ability to prosper even in the midst of economic downturn.

Beauchamp began working at Vermont Water, then known as Vermont Water Treatment Co., in 1987 under the leadership of then-owner Charles Ogg, a former municipal and industrial water treatment sales engineer. After Ogg’s sudden death in 1992, Beauchamp took over day-to-day operation of the business and completed purchase of the company in 1996.

Continuing Search for Knowledge

Throughout Beauchamp’s history at Vermont Water, he has placed great emphasis on the technical knowledge of water treatment and certification of individuals over certification of products.

“I have been a Certified Water Specialist Level VI since the early '90s, and I really feel that education and training have been instrumental in my success as a dealer,” he said. “A specialized knowledge framework combined with a base of experience is essential in this field. “

As members of the Water Quality Assn. (WQA) since 1988, and more recently the Eastern Water Quality Assn., it is the company’s policy to provide WQA-based training and certification to all employees. According to Beauchamp, WQA is an invaluable resource that provides a multitude of benefits, including research, government and consumer outreach, and an annual convention where members can learn about new products and get training.

Due to Beauchamp’s continuing training and education, in 2009 he was asked to participate in the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation Technical Advisory Committee for Water and Wastewater. His participation has allowed him to help shape some of the policies that relate to water quality and wastewater in Vermont, and to help keep him in touch with people from other related fields.

“I have had the privilege to help develop the testing protocol for private well owners in Vermont and provide input on the treatment of those contaminants to be exempt from permitting on well water supplies serving private residences,” he said.

Securing the Workforce

When it comes to expanding his workforce, Beauchamp’s high regard for continuing education in water treatment also has brought some difficulties.

“One of the largest challenges for the business has been finding high-quality employees with the ability and willingness to learn something new that requires time and effort: the field of water treatment,” he said.

He recalled asking a former WQA member how other dealers were able to grow their businesses ethically given the lack of qualified, trained individuals available for hire. “He told me what he saw was dealers taking the approach of growing their own superstars slowly over time and using the WQA training programs combined with real world experience to get them there,” Beauchamp said.

And while he is invested in this approach, Beauchamp noted that it takes a lot of patience, time and financial investment on the part of the business.

Varying Water Quality

Although the process of securing another quality employee has been difficult, Beauchamp’s emphasis on education is quite necessary due to the diverse water quality issues that Vermont Water addresses. According to Beauchamp, water quality greatly varies in Vermont, with naturally occurring hardness as low as 1 grain per gal (gpg) and as high as 210 gpg, and pH values ranging from 5 to 9.5. Vermont also has some water with total dissolved solids less than 25 mg/L and other wells with up to 5500 mg/L.

Vermont Water deals primarily with well water, and most of its customers receive their water from shallow wells or directly from a lake. The company also has recently seen increasing interest from people who consume municipal water, but want a filter to reduce chlorine, chloramines and other potential contaminants.

Other water quality issues that Vermont Water has dealt with include health-related contaminants such as coliform, arsenic, radium, uranium, nitrate/nitrite, naturally occurring fluoride, iron and manganese.

Providing Effective Solutions

In order to combat these water quality issues, Vermont Water utilizes its knowledgeable water quality professionals to help educate consumers about the choices they have available to them to improve their water quality.

“There has been a gradual awakening amongst consumers of the importance of good drinking water,” Beauchamp said. The company generally assembles its own filters and softeners to be able to provide customized installation and system design.

The company also designed a database containing all of its customer information, including the equipment customers have installed and their water quality history.

“This took many years to develop, but [it] really helps us provide timely maintenance, and when customers call, we can easily see what kind of system they have and address their needs,” Beauchamp said.

Continuing Education

As Beauchamp looks to the future, education and training will continue to be his focus. He plans on keeping himself educated on the latest developments and technologies in the industry and monitor their progress. “New technologies can be great, but sometimes the kinks need to be worked out first before taking on a new offering in the business,” he said. “I try to balance what is right for my business and employees as well as my customers. I have to charge enough to be in business over the long haul to serve my customers well and provide employees with the wages and benefits they deserve.”

 

Williette Nyanue is assistant editor for Water Quality Products. Nyanue can be reached at wnyanue@sgcmail.com.

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