Finding the Right Fit
Florida water professional finds his niche in the water industry
In his early 20s, Bill Certain, president of Certain Water Service Inc. in Port Charlotte, Fla., was captivated by the water industry while working for a dairy supply company in Okeechobee, Fla. “My employer sent me to a school in Illinois to train on their supplies, and we spent most of the time on the importance of soft water and how much soap and supplies the dairy industry could save. I was sold from that point,” he said.
Certain eventually left his home state for northern Indiana, where he worked in plumbing, heating and air conditioning, but water was where he found his passion. “I really enjoyed the challenge of working with water treatment and all the different aspects that you have to deal with, whether it was working on well water with lots of iron [and] hydrogen sulfide, or city water with lots of chlorine,” he said.
In 2005, after 21 years, Certain returned to Florida with plans of “spending a little more time playing and a lot less time working.” However, he became disillusioned with the state of the industry, where he found that good customer service and honesty were lacking. After working with several different companies and never finding the right fit for his particular set of skills, starting his own company seemed to be his best option. “I expressed to my wife, Chris, that, with the right plan - good customer service and honesty - I think we can make a go of this endeavor,” he said. “I remember her giving me that 'are you kidding?' look, and I can’t say I blame her.”
In the midst of a major economic crash, and while living in one of the hardest hit areas of the country, Certain pushed forward with his plan, and Certain Water Service Inc. was founded. As the sole employee, Certain began his career with light well service work, staying busy about one day a week and grossing $20,000 his first year.
Doing It Our Way
Certain Water Service, which now has four employees, remains primarily a well service company primarily servicing the residential market. The major water concerns that the company faces in its service areas of Port Charlotte, North Port, Punta Gorda, Arcadia and surrounding areas are sulfur-reducing bacteria, hydrogen sulfide and saltwater intrusion into wells.
To combat high salinity levels, the company has relied on whole-house reverse osmosis (RO) systems in an area where approximately 90% of homes have aeration tanks with softeners. However, the use of RO systems has proven beneficial. “In most cases around here, the salinity levels are high enough that a softener is so inefficient, or sometimes they don’t work at all, because it is always in regeneration,” Certain said. With RO systems, he has found that as long as the flux is at an acceptable level, it will not scale the membrane. This provides a longer life for equipment, explained Certain, who is a Hague Water Quality dealer.
He also noted that he strives not to use chemicals such as chlorine, peroxide, potassium, permanganate and other oxidants commonly used when oxidation is necessary, although these chemicals do work. “I prefer to use ozone as an oxidant,” he said. “There are no residuals to remove and it is about 1.5 times stronger than any of the oxidants mentioned.”
Certain expects the water industry to explode in Port Charlotte over the next 10 years, and he has big goals for the company. “I plan on being one of the biggest companies around,” he said. He notes that he would like to top $1 million in revenue within in the next five years. And, from the outside looking in, Certain Water Service is making all of the right moves to ensure that it reaches its goals.
The company is taking full advantage of the expansion of Internet marketing through its well-developed website and sites like Google, Twitter and Facebook. “I think the day of the Yellow Pages is gone — or almost, anyway. Social networks are where it is at for me,” he said.
These sites, along with his website, help him stay connected to customers. “My whole marketing budget goes into my website and marketing in the Internet,” he said. And although he hopes to diversify this in the future, it has been a successful strategy. “I have a company that is constantly working on its Web presence, and that keeps me in the top ranking on all of the search engines,” he added.
Certain also invests in his own education and the education of his employees. He is studying to get his Certified Water Specialist certification, and, as a member of the Water Quality Assn. (WQA) and one of the directors of the Florida Water Quality Assn. (FWQA), he expects the same for his staff in the future. His employees attend every seminar or educational event that is within reach in order to stay informed on developments within the industry. He said that his participation within the WQA and FWQA also has greatly aided in his education and growth as a water quality professional. “If I run into something new, finding out has been just a few phone calls away,” he said. “The wealth of knowledge that is at your finger tips is absolutely priceless.”