Rural Rewards, Commercial Growth
Mast Water Technology focuses on solving water problems in areas of Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa
“Be honest, be fair, and be knowledgeable.” That has been Travis Mast’s motto since he took over the day-to-day operations of Mast Water Technology in Platteville, Wis., 11 years ago. Travis, vice president and general manager, works with guidance from his father and owner Alan Mast. Both men have a long history in the industry.
“It’s always been in the family,” Alan said. “All the way since I’d been four years old, I’d been working on and off in the shop tinkering with things.”
The family’s history in the water treatment industry dates back to the early 1950s, when Alan’s father and grandfather, both engineers, started manufacturing water treatment equipment for dealers. It wasn’t until 1980 that Alan and his wife, Joanne, decided to go a different direction and bought two dealerships in southwest Wisconsin.
These purchases merged into what is now known as Mast Water Technology, a fourth-generation, family-owned dealership serving parts of Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa.
Can’t Do It Alone
Alan and Travis have seen many changes throughout decades of business, from new selling tactics to new equipment technology. One thing that has kept Mast Water Technology successful and up-to-date through it all is working with others.
“With today’s innovations, you can’t do it by yourself,” Alan said. “You need to partner with somebody who can help you with the things you’re not necessarily the best at.”
One unique partnership Mast Water Technology has maintained since 1999 is with Hellenbrand Inc. Alan works on Hellenbrand’s engineering team, and this dual position not only provides the latest equipment, but also training.
“A lot of our employees have years of experience previous to this, but a lot of the newer technologies are something everybody has to learn,” Travis said. “Hellenbrand puts on great training seminars and it’s really about getting your hands on everything and working with it; that’s the best way to teach people.”
Combined with field tests and Wisconsin Water Quality Assn. seminars, Mast Water Technology’s 10 employees are constantly maintaining their high level of knowledge.
One of the business’s greatest challenges is simply location, according to Travis.
“We cover a huge geographic area just because the population center isn’t there,” he said. “Some days we have as much as a 50- to 60-mile stretch of area we cover trying to get to smaller, local towns that may only have a couple hundred people in them.”
High fuel costs and harsh Wisconsin winters sometimes make servicing small areas out of one central location seem nearly impossible.
Some of the advantages, however, outweigh the challenges, according to Travis.
“We deal with customers who are farmers or rural townspeople and they’re fair and honest people, so we don’t have many hassles,” he said. “If you’re selling something worth the money, people are usually pretty open to it.”
Travis also finds it challenging to determine what advertising or marketing is actually reaching potential customers. For Mast Water Technology, its website has become a main focus.
“The website is key. I think that’s the first point of contact anymore,” Travis said. “Even if somebody calls you, they are probably on their computer looking at your website as they talk to you.”
This, however, does not mean the business has abandoned spots on TV or radio.
“We have a large customer base of an older audience, and I still think those traditional media types do reach people,” Travis said. “If nothing else, you’ll get your name constantly being seen or heard, which is helpful.”
Mast Water Technology’s customer base has evolved throughout the years, starting solely as residential but now including more factory and commercial systems.
About 25% of the business is now commercial. This includes some of the large industries in the area such as cheese factories, and also what were traditionally considered residential accounts.
“Now, honestly, the dairy farms are getting to the point or the size that you’re looking at them being more commercial entities than our small, local dairy farmer,” Travis said. “As the farms combine into larger farms, you’re starting to see a lot of larger equipment needed for water treatment.”
With a growing commercial sector and the ongoing troubles of three area water concerns, business is strong right now for Mast Water Technology.
“Iron, hardness and nitrates are probably our big three issues we deal with,” Travis said.
Heavy pockets of iron — upwards of 50 to 80 ppm in some places — make iron treatment key, while nitrates have always been an issue with farming, so the company installs a lot of reverse osmosis systems.
“A lot of the older, shallow wells show up with nitrates, and then the newer, deeper wells show up with iron in them,” Travis said. “Being in business for over 50 years now, we’ve pretty much seen all the problems you’re going to encounter.”
Mast Water Technology makes sure customers can rely on them to provide the most honest answer and do things right the first time. And with Travis’ background in hydrogeology, finding the perfect solution to remove contaminants is right up his alley.
“With a family business people know you, and people can call in and ask for you specifically,” Travis said. “We design our systems specifically for each case, each person’s type of water. We’re not just going to go with a standard solution for everything.”
Both Alan and Travis have found this customized approach, an economy that’s back on track, an experienced staff and great customers to be the perfect recipe for Mast Water Technology’s continued growth.
The Mast Water Technology team back in 1980 when retail business began
"Commercial Demand Flow" installation