In response to requests from Plumbing Manufacturers Intl. (PMI) and its members, as well as from other supporters of the U.S....
Art Friedrich touts the power of an honest day’s work, and promotes equally trustworthy sales
For Art Friedrich, CWS III, CI, Butler Water Systems LLC isn’t just a business that he owns. It’s his passion.
“I tear up,” he said. “I embarrass myself sometimes. I go out and teach my residential salespeople and, when giving the presentation, I start tearing up.”
Friedrich, president of the company, is not only excited about treating water; he knows what he is doing—Friedrich has owned the company for 37 years.
“My brother-in-law worked for Water Refining Co. and said there’s an opportunity in this area,” he said. “I like sales, and I was a pipe fitter in construction. I thought, this is interesting, so I jumped with both feet.”
Butler Water Systems is located in Fairfield, Ohio, and serves residential, commercial and industrial customers. The company sells and rents water softeners, reverse osmosis systems and bottled water. The company services all makes and models including water-refining equipment.
“[What sets us apart is] service. Service with a smile…We have a database that alerts customers when they need service,” Friedrich said. “All of our drinking water customers are called to say, ‘It’s time to change filters; you need to do this; or, our customers on city water with UV lights, it’s time to change that bulb if you want quality water.’ That’s part of the education of my employees and also educating my customers. They need to maintain their system if it’s going to work properly for them.”
On the business side, Friedrich said he has learned a lot from decades in the industry.
“I learned that there are a lot of bird dogs out there, in other words, people that will help you if you help them,” he said. “So I got involved helping chemical salesmen and people like Ecolab get into restaurants and businesses and in turn I ended up getting a lot of business from them and Ecolab. I took over all their water softener accounts and with that we kept growing and we got our name out there. We have literally hundreds of restaurants now that have our systems in there.”
Need, Like, Cost
Friedrich said the recent economic downturn negatively impacted his business, but he is starting to feel the recovery.
“Our commercial industrial business has been great,” he said. “In fact, this has been the situation where one of my bird dogs—a chemical salesman—called me two days ago saying, ‘There is this company had all kinds of trouble; they’re not getting the service they need from the other company that they’re getting their water softeners from. I’m going to let them know about you, Art.’
Friedrich sees the residential market picking up a bit, noting exciting new things like the Battelle research reports. “The whole industry has to get that spark and enthusiasm going again,” he said. “Nothing happens until something is sold. That’s why it counts on the salesperson to go out and do it—I'm not talking the boiler room situation, or the twisting of the arm high-pressure sales. I’m talking about just letting people know.”
Friedrich stays active in industry associations like the Water Quality Assn. (WQA) in order to keep his learning continuous, and said he attends several shows a year—some in a virtual sense, with webinars. He said his employees—many of them WQA certified—are a source of pride, and he finds it very important to keep them knowledgeable. As for the future, he plans to explore new applications and promote UV more heavily in residential.
“I pride myself with going to all of the WQA annual conventions, just because I want to see what the newest technology is out there,” he said. “I find it extremely beneficial to go.”
The most important key to remaining successful is to stay persistent, Friedrich said. Reflecting on his years of “taking the extra step,” he advises other dealers to keep their “nose to the grindstone.”
“[I remember] my wife dropping me off in a subdivision when I was doing the residential, and…hours later she wouldn’t come back,” he said. “So I was stuck there. I had to find some business, otherwise I was going to sit on that corner. And it worked. It pushed me a little bit extra to do that, and that’s what I try and instill on all my employees.
“Need, like and cost: You create the need, like the product and justify the cost; and you’ve got an order.”