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Many water dealers struggle for years with the twists and turns of a fickle water market, and some eventually decide to move on to other ventures. This is not so for Michael Glaser, owner of Aqua Solutions, LLC, a dealership based in Lakewood, N.J. For more than two decades, Glaser has toughed it out to enjoy the success he has today.
Glaser has been teaching himself everything about the water treatment industry since the early 1980s. In the beginning, Glaser worked alone. Until 1997, when business really started to take off, Glaser said, “It was me, myself and I, and believe me, all three of us worked very hard.”
Because of his dedication to learning, Glaser has gained the confidence of customers who are put at ease by his expertise. He strives to live up to his own demanding standards in all aspects of business: the quality of his products, the competence of his staff and the relationships he builds with customers. It is all paying off.
“Every year we grow. Last year we had 30% growth from the year before, and our growth actually has seemed to come more and more in the last decade, since 1997,” Glaser said.
Aqua Solutions now has nine other full-time employees, but Glaser continues to work just as hard as he used to, making sure his customers are completely satisfied with his business. Customer satisfaction is paramount to Glaser, even before profitability. He believes this is one of the keys to his success.
“A lot of dealers worry about money first, and when you do that there is no incentive to put together a package for the customer that’s really going to perfect their water,” Glaser said. “I worry about water first, and the money flows in anyway.”
To perfect his customers’ water, Glaser offers a range of products and services. Aqua Solutions covers territory in three New Jersey counties, mostly dealing with well water that is “very high in certain contaminants,” according to Glaser. To provide his customers with products that will meet the demand, he turned to Nelsen Corp., an Ohio-based water system distributor. Glaser says his relationship with Nelsen has proven invaluable.
“Because of their huge knowledge base, Nelsen can represent product manufacturers to me better than the representatives of those manufacturers themselves,” he said. “Knowledge and experience are key.”
Glaser knows that even with the right products, a business needs excellent customer service to stay on top. This starts with hiring the right people and training them well. Glaser accompanies all salespeople and service technicians on the road for months before he is comfortable enough to let them represent the business on their own. Even then, he frequently rides along on service calls with veteran employees to make sure they are performing to his demanding specifications.
It is also important for Glaser to make customers feel important. In this he differs from those who put profits before personality.
“When a customer spends $8,500 with Aqua Solutions, it’s not a matter of taking the money and running,” he said. “You have to take care of your customers on an ongoing basis. You want to keep a customer for life, not just for a quick sale.”
He added, “My customers become my friends, because they know they can count on me and my standards.”
To keep customers happy, Glaser makes sure to follow up with them once he has installed a system. Though he says he rarely encounters problems with his systems, this allows Glaser to catch any before they become serious.
Glaser also believes that financing is important for his customers and claims this option has helped him close deals. He offers several in-house financing plans rather than going through a financing company. He prefers to offer his own financing because this adds to Aqua Solutions’ personal touch.
“I do my own financing because I have a good read on people, and if they’ve fallen into some personal problems with money, I can be more understanding,” Glaser said.
When Glaser started his business, he had to teach himself about contaminants, treatment methods, product manufacturers and all other aspects of the water industry. This personal research has continued as Glaser has grown more successful, and today he reads everything he can and attends conferences nationwide to stay updated.
“It’s always ongoing. If you don’t read the publications, you’re going to be ignorant. One of the things that makes me successful is that I don’t think I know it all.”
This constant search for knowledge has allowed Glaser to branch out into other areas. In addition to his booming water business, Glaser performs forensics investigations in water-related fraud and liability cases, occasionally giving expert testimony in court.
Glaser’s high standards and large knowledge base led him to develop his own Annihilator Water System, which combines ion exchange, multimedia and various meters to treat water without any harmful chemical byproducts. He believes this system provides reliable odor control for his customers’ water, another reason they keep coming back.
Though Glaser is successful among water dealers in New Jersey, his ambition goes beyond state borders. He hopes to soon bring Aqua Solutions to the national level, greatly improving his customer base.
“I’ve been planning this for five years now, but it’s got to be the right time,” Glaser said. “You have to crawl before you can walk and walk before you can run. We’ve been crawling and walking, and now we want to run.”
If he puts his mind to it, Michael Glaser can probably run as far as