Water Quality Products speaks to many water dealers who have chosen their line of work to continue the family business or have been in the industry for years and hope to start their own family business.
Marc McGraw, president of Alpha Water Solutions, Inc., Miramichi, NB, Canada, presents a different scenario. In 2005, after being employed in the paper industry for 17 years, McGraw felt a change coming on.
Marc McGraw, president of Alpha Water Solutions, Inc.
“You get to the point in your life when you are seeking other challenges,” McGraw said, when asked why he decided to go into the water business. He said he faced a steep learning curve when starting out, gaining knowledge about water chemistry and treatment.
“I didn’t realize it was so demanding—the knowledge part,” McGraw said. “With my background experience, the mechanical and electronic part is something I’m comfortable with. But not the aspect of the chemistry of water—it depends on what you want to achieve, if you want to use the water for food processing, irrigation, etc.”
Educating the Public
The biggest challenge McGraw now faces is education. “People don’t know what water is all about,” he said. “I try to educate [the public] one person at a time, but it is hard today because everybody is bombarded by so many things.” It almost seems as if a catastrophic event needs to occur in order to make people aware, he said.
“Ontario is going through a lot of evolvement in the water industry,” McGraw said. “Many people are doing well there because people are aware that their water is not as good, and they are more curious to find out about their water.”
Education is also a goal McGraw encourages other dealers to pursue. “If you don’t know what’s out there, you can’t help anybody. There’s no one scenario that fits everybody. If you are well educated, it makes your life easier when it comes to helping people.”
Although the declining housing market has not affected his business as much as his peers in the U.S., McGraw has noticed a ripple effect due to the overall decline in purchasing. “Because of what is going on there, people hold back on this end,” he said.
“[The U.S.] is almost like a crystal ball for me,” he said. “You have to prepare and know what’s going to be available when people ask.”
For example, while bottled water has been a major industry in the U.S. for about 30 years, it only entered McGraw’s life 10 years ago, he said.
While keeping an eye on the industry, McGraw also uses technology to streamline his business. He uses a database to follow what products customers are using and when they will need more, and he contacts them to follow up.
Despite economic threats, McGraw still holds an optimistic perspective for the future of the industry. “I think it will be a really prosperous field,” he said. “If we look elsewhere, not everybody is fortunate to have good water.”