As an automotive mechanic growing tired with the industry in the 1980’s, Jamie Kirlin knew he needed a change. He didn’t, however, necessarily think the water treatment industry would be the direction he would head, but it turned out to be the best path.
“I saw that things were changing in the [automotive] industry and I wanted to get into a different industry,” Kirlin, president and owner of Advanced Water Resources, said. “My father-in-law was actually a water treatment dealer, so there was always a little bit of interest there.”
Kirlin moved to northeastern Pennsylvania after getting out of the auto industry, and in 1990 he purchased part of his father-in-law’s corporation, Advanced Water Resources, Inc. Located in Temple, Pa., Advanced Water Resources is an independent water treatment facility dating as far back as 1953.
Kirlin quickly discovered that the water treatment industry was a lot different than working with automobiles, but it was a good fit for him. “Water treatment was perfect because it was hands on and it was something new, so it gave me a bit of a challenge,” he said.
As Kirlin began to get his feet wet in the industry, he realized there were things that needed to be done differently.
“There was a lot of telemarketing going on,” Kirlin said. “[My father-in-law] didn’t really spend any money on advertising, so we started marketing and advertising and less telemarketing.”
One of the greatest challenges, according to Kirlin, was developing sales leads. In an industry such as water treatment, most business is generated through referrals and word of mouth. Kirlin was able to find success with advertisements on a local talk radio station and by participating in home shows and fairs.
After getting settled in the business, Kirlin soon learned that the water in northeastern Pennsylvania had a specific problem that he made it his mission to solve.
“There’s a lot of different types of iron in the area,” Kirlin said. “For a long time it didn’t seem like there was anyone who really figured out how to treat it properly, so I made it my goal to figure that out.”
Kirlin found himself a niche market working with the different types of iron in the area. His business predominately serves the residential market, and has recently begun to serve the commercial side of the industry.
“As my business grew, I added more staff. I have people now that take care of the residential sales, and I’ve been doing more commercial sales,” said Kirlin. “It’s a good goal for me to grow that [part of my business].”
Advanced Water Resources has grown its staff from just Kirlin himself to seven employees, and has found that the key to such growth and success is customer service. Kirlin expressed that something as simple as an annual phone call or periodic mailings will keep a customer coming back.
“A lot of times, if you don’t follow up with a customer they won’t even remember you,” Kirlin said. “I found that out the hard way.”
Enjoying the Industry
In the future, Kirlin said he hopes to get into other water-related products such as tankless water heaters, instant hot units for under the sink and hot water recirculation for showers.
Now far removed from his days in the automotive industry, Kirlin has yet to grow tired of the ever-changing challenges he is faced with in the water treatment industry. “Every time you test the water, you never seem to find the same water chemistry twice,” he said.
Kirlin also enjoys the reliability of the industry, and the fact that he is always helping people. “I can feel good about what I am doing because I’m always helping someone and improving the quality of their life,” he said. “There’s a lot of facets to it and it seems like you’re never doing the same thing twice; it’s a new challenge everyday.”