Soft water specialist provides customers with personal service in Washington state
Although Matthew Mahany has worked in the industry for almost 15 years, the water industry was not always in his plans. His original plan was to work in the aviation industry, but when opportunities proved scarce, Mahany found himself working for a good friend at a manufacturing research and development (R&D) OEM in Utah — and liking it. “I was planning on going into the aviation industry, but as that didn't work out, I caught the water bug,” he said.
Setting the Foundation
While working for the OEM, Mahany learned about the water industry and developed relationships that would help him once he started his own business. “I got extremely lucky and met some really great people at that company, one of whom went on to a bigger and better company. He does R&D and provides water treatment equipment for many people across the world,” he said. “I have a great connection with him as a mentor, as support and a provider of the best water equipment for my area.”
The knowledge and connections Mahany gained during his early years in the water industry greatly benefitted his company, Soft Water Specialists LLC in Richland, Wash., where he works as a salesman and water technician. “Our unique niche is using what we know and the manufacturers we know to provide the best water quality for the best price,” he said.
The small company of just three additional employees — two plumbers and a bookkeeper — treats a host of regional water concerns, including iron, nitrates, hydrogen, sulfide and the occasional bacteria problem. “We try to be specific and specialize in equipment and problem-solving for the water quality issues that we have in this area, versus just a few select water systems,” Mahany said.
While the bulk of the company’s business comes from residential water softeners and filtration systems, Soft Water Specialists LLC also has done business with commercial buildings, local grocery stores and wineries.
Customers & Competition
One characteristic that differentiates Soft Water Specialists from other dealers is the company’s view of both its customers and competition. “I consider all my clients my friends, and I really enjoy improving their lifestyles by improving their water,” Mahany said of the company’s clientele.
Mahany lends this friendly disposition to his competition in the surrounding area as well. “We have great competitors here in the Tri-City area, including some big franchises,” he said. “We are glad to say that we get along with our competitors.” Mahany credits his ability to maintain a good relationship with his competitors partly to the company’s focus on catering to a specific niche. “We have our special niche of solutions and benefits that are best for our clientele,” he added.
A Little Bit of Everything
To reach this clientele, Soft Water Specialists has invested in a variety of techniques. “Our marketing consists of radio, a little bit of TV and mostly word-of-mouth, including business network meetings and Chamber of Commerce,” Mahany said. The company is also on the board of directors at the local Home Builders Assn.
And while Mahany said that the water industry has not changed much in the time that he has been a part of it, he mentioned that there is a newer trend toward customers finding information on the Web. “It seems like it is much more common for people to go to websites to find companies versus the phone book,” he said. The company is working with Townsquare Media, an SEO and website developer, in order to maximize the benefits of having a good website and online presence.
In addition to its website and expanding social media presence, the company also is employing other types of technologies to make everyday business run more smoothly. “To make life easier, we have switched our invoicing to using the iPad, having a portable printer or e-mailing our customers their invoices,” Mahany said. “This has saved us a lot of time. Also, we are able to communicate with our clientele through e-mail and setting appointments through our website.”
Keeping Ahead of the Industry
As a Certified Water Specialist, Mahany said that he is a strong believer in the Water Quality Assn. (WQA), which offers continued education, research and development, giving water quality professionals access to the latest and best technologies. “We believe in using new and exciting, proven technologies such as twin-tank sensory systems and systems with fractional brining,” he said. The company is currently working to have all of its employees WQA certified.
Mahany himself continues to learn and keep ahead of the industry through various WQA resources. “While I was at the Aquatech WQA show in Florida this year, I learned a lot of great technologies that are soon to be out. We are most excited about Hydronovation or hybrid DI systems,” he said. “As soon as they become more economical and proven in other markets — we do not believe in testing equipment on our customers — we will take them on as one of our solutions.”
Reputation of Quality & Integrity
While knowledge of techniques and technologies is important to Mahany, he really focuses on integrity and quality. As he looks to expand the company in the future, these will be qualities he searches for. “When we are looking for employees, we strive for integrity, respect and a great attitude. When you have the right employees and you train them well, the company goes the best direction possible,” he said.