When brothers Andy and Tim Peacock took over Peacock Water in Ohio, the company had already been around for three generations. In 1906, Andy and Tim’s great grandfather cofounded Peacock Brothers Plumbing with his brother. In 1953 the brothers decided to delve into the water conditioning business, and the company was renamed Servicesoft. Tim and Andy’s grandfather took over the business in 1962, renaming it Neldon Peacock and Sons Inc., and in 1971, after serving in Vietnam, Tim and Andy’s father, Tim Peacock, Sr., returned to help his parents run the company and prepare for their retirement.
During Tim Sr.’s tenure at Peacock Water, Andy and Tim were regulars at the business, working there during summers in high school and college. “We spent a lot of our youth running service calls with our dad and going on salt deliveries,” Andy recalled, so transitioning into the business after college was a natural progression for both men.
This preparation, along with 15 years of fulltime work with their father, prepared them to take over the business when their father passed away in 2011. “After finding out that dad was sick with cancer, we had about a year with him before he passed away. So, he spent a lot of time getting affairs in order and we worked a lot,” said Tim.
A Little Bit of Everything
Today, Peacock Water has assisted approximately 30,000 customers in a service area that spans an estimated 100 miles east to west. The company boasts six offices in Kenton, Upper Sandusky, Bucyrus, Lima and Norwalk, Ohio, and has 52 employees.
Peacock Water’s customer base is made up of about 75% residential customers and 25% commercial customers, and the company offers a broad range of services in a geographical area that experiences high sulfur, extremely high hardness and significant amounts of iron in its water. Some of the services offered include bottled water and salt sales, and installation, service and rental of water softeners, a practice that originated with Andy and Tim’s father and has proven to be successful.
“When my dad first started, exchange tanks are what they were dealing with. So that sort of monthly income idea was always deeply ingrained in him,” Andy said. And although both Andy and Tim ran across many dealers that scoffed at rentals, saying that it was an old style of business, Andy said that the income from rentals is partly responsible for carrying the company through tough economic times.
The Importance of Association Membership
Another beneficial practice important to both brothers is association membership. Peacock Water belongs to the Water Quality Assn. (WQA) and the Ohio Water Well Assn. “We don’t drill wells, but we think it’s important to have memberships in those types of organizations that are affiliated with us in a way,” said Tim, who serves as the current president of the Ohio Water Quality Assn.
Tim cited two particular benefits of association membership: It standardizes the industry and it offers great training. “It takes us to the level that’s a little bit higher, and says that not only can we put in a water softener, but we belong to a national association that continually works to establish best practices for sales, service and installation of water treatment equipment in general,” he said.
He added that the focus on water treatment in preparation for tests and certification helps water dealers to be pertinent and legitimate. Andy agreed, adding that association membership provides water dealers with the contacts they need when the going gets tough. “It’s not unusual to run across a water problem that is really unusual in your area, and you will have a huge network of people that you can reach out to, including your vendors, but also other members of the Water Quality Assn. who can help you through that,” Andy said.
Through the generations, the Peacocks have seen many changes in the water industry. While his father saw a switch from the use of exchange tanks to the use of automatic softeners, Andy has personally witnessed an increase in point-of-use for drinking water. “Point-of-use is growing hugely now in terms of drinking water, and our reverse osmosis sales have gone up substantially,” he said.
Andy credits this increase to dealers and customers being more aware of drinking water and trying to avoid contaminants as much as possible in their food and water. “We used to have long meetings about trying to figure out ways to explain to people how important drinking water was, but that change really sort of seemed to happen organically,” he said.
Another change that Peacock Water has encountered is the change in marketing tactics. The brothers recognize the importance of the Internet in marketing and advertising. The company has a website and a Facebook page, where it interacts with visitors as much as possible. “I see that as being a huge part of the future,” Andy said. “The payback’s been huge. We get a lot of business because of the website and directly through the website.
While the industry continues to change, there are a few things that have remained tried and true. Despite social media efforts, the majority of marketing is still done through the company’s direct mail flyer program. “I really think that all of these things rely on the word of mouth at their base,” Andy said. “I don’t think we can build a reputation with a website. I don’t think we can build it with Facebook. We can add to it, but we really rely on our good work and good name..”
Despite the changes, Andy said that the water industry is in a good place and that he is proud to be a part of it. “I think there was a time when it was a very sales-dominated industry, and things like product knowledge and service to the customer sort of took a back seat to sales technique and sales numbers,” he said. But he has seen that the industry is getting better at putting customer service first - an idea that his father spoke highly of. “That was really important to him. It could be the smallest customer service issue and he would be right on it,” Tim said.
This customer service approach has become engrained in the fabric of the business. “It’s funny to think about this, but we have to train people that join with us that we drive a bottle of water 40 miles if somebody is out of water,” Tim said. “It’s such a part of our structure that you don’t realize until you have to tell a person. It’s just what we do.”
Tim and Andy Peacock carry on the legacy of water service in Ohio