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Marriage is a team effort, and many times so is business. It’s not often that both of these come together, but such is the case for Mark and Terri Kinder.
After being involved in the water treatment industry for five years, Mark Kinder started his own business, Affordable Water, in 1989. In 1991, Kinder’s wife, Terri, joined him in business. The husband-and-wife team has since grown its staff to 15 employees.
Located in Jacksonville, Fla., Affordable Water is a full-service water treatment company that offers installation and sales for residential systems and commercial applications. Over the past decade and a half, Affordable Water has acquired the business of 12 other water treatment companies in northeastern Florida that have either gone out of business or had an owner go into retirement.
What makes Affordable Water unique from other water treatment dealerships, according to Kinder, is the service his team provides along with the quality of the product they offer. By delivering a good product and building strong relations with customers, Affordable Water has developed a regular customer base over the years.
“We have people moving [and relocating] so much that some of them have gotten systems five different times from us,” Kinder said.
The bulk of Kinder’s business is residential, about 80%, and the rest is commercial. “Because we took over the services of a lot of other companies, we also do a lot of service work on equipment that isn’t ours,” he said.
The Right People
Over the years, Affordable Water has faced the challenges that many small businesses face early in its development. The key to expanding a company is to grow its staff —which is not always the easiest thing to do.
“Probably the biggest challenge [we have faced] would be keeping good people [on staff],” Kinder said. “The challenge is to find the right people for the dealership, and right now I can say that we’re blessed; everything is doing fine.”
Affordable Water has been able to grow and maintain its staff by offering its employees some nice incentives for working. “We pay our employees above the going rate for their job descriptions,” said Terri Kinder. “We pay 100% of employee health insurance, and we provide breakfast every Friday.”
The Kinders also offer their employees paid vacations and paid holidays, and every Christmas they have a sit-down dinner with their staff.
Another unique aspect of Affordable Water is the fact that the dealership has more installation and service people than sales people. “There are only two sales people that go out in the field and my wife is here in the office,” said Kinder. “I’m one of the sales people, but owner and sales person is normally not the norm — I don’t think.”
By treating their staff like family, the Kinders have developed an enjoyable work environment and a business that is entirely focused on the needs of its customers.