Canadian water treatment dealership never backs away from a challenge
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What makes Ecowater Nova Scotia Ltd. (CA) unique?
“My own personal input into it,” Gary Slater, president and owner for Ecowater Nova Scotia said. “I really want to make sure that before something goes out the door everything is touched upon and tested. I think that personal piece that I put into it [makes the business unique].”
Prior to starting his own business in 2000, Slater had experience in other sectors of the water industry. He worked for the Halifax Regional Water Commision as an operator for five years, received his certification in public drinking water systems and worked with the Department of National Defense in water/wastewater management and swimming pool treatment, before shifting his focus to residential/commercial water treatment. After working for another local dealership, Slater then moved on to open his own company and launched Ecowater Nova Scotia. From there, the business really took off.
“The company grew and grew from $100,000 to a million dollars a year, or very close,” Slater said. “There were only three people at that time. We cover a large territory and all the problems of Nova Scotia.”
Tackling a Wide Service Territory
Slater said his background with the Department of Natural Defense and Halifax Water Commission has helped inform his current work, and he is able to take some of that previous knowledge and apply it on a smaller scale. Ecowater Nova Scotia covers a large service territory, and approximately 80% of the business serves residential customers while 20% serves commercial customers, Slater estimated.
The business is no stranger to diverse water problems, as well, and Slater and his team never back away from a challenge. Because the service territory is so large, the business encounters a variety of contaminants and variables, including extreme arsenic, iron, manganese and tannin bacteria. Slater has worked on several high-profile projects with extreme contaminant removal, he said, including water treatment for the world-famous Cabot Links Golf Course located in Inverness, NS, CA.
“Right now, my guys left in the wee hours of this morning and they are 300-plus kilometers away,” Slater said of the business’s large service area, which covers all of Nova Scotia.
While Ecowater Nova Scotia faces a diverse array of contaminants, Slater is known for his ability to treat extreme arsenic, he said.
“I’ve been called the ‘arsenic guru,’” Slater said. “I’m just not afraid to dive into something. We’ve got levels up to 1,300 micrograms.”
Slater uses a problem solving approach that prioritizes customer trust to achieve these goals. The business also strives to use natural treatment methods when possible while minimizing chemical treatment, recently experimenting with ozonation and other new technology opportunities.
“So basically the approach is before we go into the house with multiple systems, I’ll actually hook from the outside garden tap into that particular unit,” Slater said of his strategy when approaching a new water quality challenge. “So doing a little pilot filtration first before we actually bring the equipment in the home. It gives [the homeowner] the reassurance that we’re not just going to install everything and hope for the best.”
An Evolving Industry
Slater has now been in the residential/commercial water treatment industry for more than 20 years. He pointed to several ways this facet of the water industry has been more rewarding than other facets he has worked in the past, including the challenge of solving problem water and the satisfaction of working with customers.
“Within the first year, the difference in satisfaction as years went on, being able to deal and treat difficult water—I really like the challenge,” Slater said regarding the residential/commercial water industry. “What I enjoy most is the satisfaction of a happy customer and to be able to meet them at a grocery store—well at a distance now—and doing follow-ups with them and see how things are going.”
Developing personal relationships with customers and prioritizing integrity when communicating with customers has always been a priority for Ecowater Nova Scotia, and that remains vital amid the COVID-19 global pandemic. The business has actually been busier during the pandemic due to customers staying at home and focusing on their water problems more, Slater said. While he did notice an initial dip in sales at the onset of the pandemic, that quickly shifted. The business prioritized advertising on the largest radio station available to reassure the public they were available and implementing safety measures. Slater even recalled one occasion in the midst of the pandemic when he brought face masks to elderly customers to ensure they were comfortable.
Beyond the pandemic, Slater and his business have seen quite a bit of change in the water quality industry over time. He pointed to a heavily saturated market and stressed the importance of continuing to educate consumers on care for softeners and equipment.
Staying Ahead of the Curve
In addition to word of mouth advertising, employing marketing tactics help Ecowater Nova Scotia maintain a steady stream of business. In fact, “I stopped doing home shows years ago and haven’t done one in forever,” Slater said. In particular, boosting ads on Facebook from Ecowater Nova Scotia’s company page has helped drive new business. Slater makes sure to respond to consumer comments on social media within 24 hours and even cites customer testimonials in the ad comments as beneficial for growth.
Regarding other areas of company growth, Slater and Ecowater Nova Scotia are members of the Canadian Water Quality Association (CWQA). Slater hopes that communication between members will be increasingly utilized in the future, he said, and that industry members can continue to share their wealth of knowledge amongst one another.
His parting words of wisdom for other dealers and water treatment specialists boils down to honesty.
“I think advice to others is to just try to be more personal with your clientele and let them know that you’re there to help them,” Slater said. “Just be true. Don’t ever sell something to someone just to make a dollar, tell them what they need and nothing more. Don’t feed on their fear and oversell them.”