For more than 60 years, the family-owned Automatic Water Conditioning Co. has served central New Jersey with the mindset of providing customers outstanding service and customized solutions. That attitude is what has helped the company stay strong throughout the years, said managing partner Bill Simmons.
The story begins after World War II. Bernardsville, N.J., native John Madden was repulsed by the quality of the drinking water he encountered while serving in the South Pacific, and in 1948 he started Automatic Water Conditioning Co. Over the years, Madden took on more employees, and the company grew into a key supplier of custom water solutions in central New Jersey, building its own systems with components from major suppliers. Madden’s sons soon came onboard, with the oldest branching out into a new location while the youngest took over the Bernardsville business.
Automatic Water Conditioning was eventually sold to Simmons’ family in 2011. “[Madden’s] son, Glenn Madden, said his father was pleased that another father-and-son team would continue the traditions he started into the next generation,” Simmons said. Simmons’ own son, Aaron, now runs the business as general manager
Much has changed since John Madden first began the business in the 1940s, but Simmons said the basics of the industry remain the same. “Our chemist says water treatment today is not much different than it was in the mid-1970s,” he said. “The equipment is more efficient and more reliable, but the treatment technologies are similar.”
Today, the challenges for Automatic Water Conditioning include keeping up with the rapid growth of the Bernardsville community. “The company faced rapid growth from 1990 to 2005, straining facilities and staff, as the local area grew rapidly,” Simmons said. “The challenge we face today is serving our large customer base in a timely and economically effective way. Customers are better informed about what they want than in the past.”
Some of the information those customers continue to receive includes regional water contaminants that could pose drinking water concerns, and Simmons said it is important to tailor solutions to customer needs. “The most common issue with wells is the water hardness and acidity. We often run into the troublesome trio of iron, sulfur and manganese,” he said. “There are no ‘canned’ solutions for most of our customers. A good analysis or the untreated water is the starting point in designing a system to meet their needs.”
And despite the economic woes of recent years, Simmons adds that the company’s solid customer base, which is mostly residential, has largely kept the business unaffected. “It was down slightly in 2010 and 2011,” he said. “We have a large customer base that insulates us from the problems individual customers face. Our response has been to be price competitive and to provide outstanding service.”
In an affluent area such as Bernardsville, Simmons said it is important to provide outstanding, quality service. “Our customers want their systems to work without any issues. We focus on delivering that expectation,” he said.
Today, business is equally divided between new system sales and service. This year, Simmons said, Automatic Water Conditioning has been working on helping people get on a computerized service schedule, complete with reminder cards, “to drive service sales and to keep our customers’ systems trouble-free.”
And while the cheapest of water solutions may be what customers want, Simmons advises other dealers to provide the solution that solves the problem. “Customers whose only focus is price are not likely to be long-term customers anyway,” he said.
With more than 60 years under its belt, Automatic Water Conditioning continues to look toward the future with its customer-driven service and belief in providing custom solutions that work. “I think the future is bright,” Simmons said. “The demand for water treatment services and products will be steady.”