Everyone in Kalamazoo, Mich., knows the Canney family. Spend a few minutes talking to any member of the family and you’ll understand why. They are as fun loving as they are hard working. It doesn’t hurt that the Canney family has owned and operated a water treatment dealership in town for more than 35 years. In fact, the Canney name is synonymous with water treatment in Kalamazoo. This fun, energetic family is now in its third-generation of water treatment sales and service. Their dealership improves the quality of residential and commercial water throughout southwestern Michigan.
Bernard Canney started his family in water treatment more than 65 years ago, assembling water softeners in his basement and selling them door-to-door. Bernard’s son, the late Lewis Canney, became involved in the water treatment business in 1940. Wanda Plotner, a native of Battle Creek, Mich., married Lewis in 1950. In addition to running a successful business, Lewis and Wanda Canney also found time to raise seven children. The Canney’s purchased their dealership in 1969. And, after Lewis’ untimely death in 1984, Wanda and her children decided to continue running the family business. Wanda took over as president and the kids pitched in to help her run the dealership.
When friends wondered how Wanda was going to manage to run the family business, the spunky family matriarch said, “If I can raise seven children, I can certainly run a business.” Today, four of the family’s seven children still are involved in running their Kalamazoo EcoWater Systems dealership. At 72 years of age, Wanda, still the president of the family dealership, is reportedly the first person in the office in the morning and the last to leave in the evening. Brian Canney heads up the company’s commercial division; Ann Canney-DeVisser manages the company’s finances; Sean Canney is managing sales in a new Battle Creek, Mich., location; and Kevin Canney heads up sales and marketing for the Kalamazoo dealership. There also are another 22 people working in sales, service and support at the dealership. “They are our extended family,” Wanda says.
In January of 2003, the Canney family opted to discontinue their relationship with another company and became an authorized dealer of EcoWater Systems products. EcoWater Systems, Inc., headquartered in St. Paul, Minn., is a manufacturer of residential water treatment and filtration equipment. The company’s self-branded line of products is available exclusively through its network of independent dealers.
“Product quality is important to us,” explains Kevin Canney, who, like his brothers and sister, grew up working in the shop at the family business. “And we believe that the EcoWater Systems products we sell are the most advanced water treatment products on the market.”
At first, the thought of changing to another manufacturer was a daunting one, but the more the family considered the change, the more it seemed to line up with their goals to offer advanced products and services and expand their business. The family’s comfort level with EcoWater Systems increased when they visited the company’s manufacturing facility in St. Paul in December of 2002.
“When we visited St. Paul, we met EcoWater’s president, Don Brockley, and several other members of the management team,” Brian Canney says. “We were able to ask all of our questions, and we liked the answers. We were impressed by the positive attitude from the top down.”
“We liked the people, we liked the products and we liked the programs,” Ann says of their first trip to St. Paul. “We also like the fact that EcoWater Systems is owned and operated in the United States.” After the meeting, she says things just fell into place.
“EcoWater Systems has welcomed our family with open arms,” says Wanda. “The staff has been extremely supportive throughout the transition and has helped us expand our business.” According to Kevin Canney, the dealership’s sales increased by 10 percent in 2003, and it is off to a strong start in 2004. At EcoWater Systems’ International Dealer Convention, the Canney’s dealership was named to the company’s Winners’ Circle.
“The Winners’ Circle recognizes not just our biggest, but our best dealerships,” Brockley said. According to company guidelines, a dealership must not only exhibit exceptional sales but also have an exemplary reputation for service and best-in-class business practices to qualify for this elite group.
“The Canney’s ability to achieve Winners’ Circle status in their first year as an EcoWater Systems dealership is a true testament to their enthusiasm and commitment to the water treatment business,” says Bobbie Fischer, EcoWater’s vice president of dealer sales.
“It’s great to be an EcoWater dealer,” says a reflective Wanda. “EcoWater Systems is responsive to our needs and stands behind its products. We enjoy an open and honest relationship with our manufacturer. It is a joy to come to work every morning.”
So what are the Canney’s plans for the future? Needless to say, plans involve providing industry-leading water treatment equipment for their customers in southwestern Michigan.
“Years ago, water softeners were considered a luxury,” Kevin says. “Now they are considered a necessity. Consumer demand for higher quality water has never been greater.” Fortunately, the water conditions in southwestern Michigan are ideal for selling water treatment equipment.
And the Canney’s would know. All of their homes feature water treatment and filtration equipment, and a fourth generation of Canney’s is growing up understanding the need for quality water. Thanks to Wanda, they also are well aware of the business opportunity that it represents.
Dealer Family Finds a Home With New Authorized Dealer Partnership