This article originally appeared in the 2020 Faces of the Industry issue as "Wonder Started it All"
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Founded in 1949 by Milt Hauser, Hausers Water Systems began as a Culligan franchise and remained so until Charlie Hauser, Milt’s son, took over the business in 1972. Hausers Water Systems now has three locations in Iowa in Manchester, Dyersville and North Liberty, and is a WaterCare dealer.
Four Generations of Family
When Milt was delivering bread from the Wonder Bread Bakery Co. in Waterloo out towards Manchester, one of his stops was a small mom-and-pop grocery store. This grocery store happened to own the Culligan franchise in Manchester.
During a delivery to this grocery store, one of the owners mentioned that he wanted to sell the water softener portion of what he owned, offering it to Milt, who was struck by the prospect of such an opportunity. The rest is history.
The current president and owner of the business is Sean Hauser, who took the business over from his father Charlie in the late ‘90s. Chad Hauser, Sean’s brother, is vice president of the company.
Hausers Water Systems currently houses 13 employees, 11 of which work full-time and two that work part-time. Sean’s daughter is also a key member of the business, running the office smoothly to create a lucrative work environment for the tight-knit team, which is truly like one big, happy family.
Although running a family business may be overwhelming at times, Sean believes it is worth it and a strong point. In fact, the past year was one of the business’ best; Sean attributes this growth to the closeness and dedication of his team.
“I enjoy being a multi-generational business a lot, but there are some struggles. It’s hard to find a balance between family and work,” Sean said. “It takes a lot of work and patience, and we work through it. We talk about things, go on, and fortunately, we’ve been very successful.”
When his grandfather started the business, Hausers Water Systems was initially an exchange tank only water softening company, starting out with about 50 customers. Over time, the business began to expand its services and reach, however.
Ryan Hauser, Sean’s son, leads the residential side of the business, which serves all of eastern and southern Iowa. Sean and Chad focus on commercial, municipal and industrial projects, which take place across the U.S.
Being in a farm community, Hausers Water Systems tends to see a lot of nitrate and bacteria issues. Hausers Water Systems has also pursued projects at a major meat processing plant, a correctional facility and schools in the state. Bottled water is currently the business’ strong point, according to Sean.
“We would come in and exchange the water softening tank once a month. But now, bottled water is a huge part of our business,” Sean said. “We have an excess of 5,000 rental water softeners; home-owned water softeners are a huge part of our business, and quite frankly, commercial and industrial applications are a major part of our business as well.”
Each year, Hausers Water Systems delivers more than 1 million gallons of water to homes and businesses, using a seven-step filtration process, instead of a standard two-step process. The business uses a reverse osmosis (RO) drinking water system to reduce unwanted contaminants in drinking water, as well.
From bottled water to heavy industrial, municipal systems, Hausers Water Systems is a full line company with dreams of further growth. The business is also implementing different deionization (DI) regeneration practices, as well as better tracking for DI commercial and industrial uses.
The Evolution of Technology
To keep up with such growth and advancement of technology, the company’s marketing tactics have shifted to cater to the demands of the online world.
Hausers Water Systems has scaled back phone book advertising and is now focused on reaching a wider range of people through the internet, especially younger generations. Internet marketing on the company website and radio advertising are primarily how the business stays connected with the community.
Ryan Hauser, Sean’s son, leads internet marketing tactics at the business as the business’ customer demographics are changing. The business is active and engaged with its community on Facebook, frequently advertising its bottled water, salt and filter delivery services.
Historically, Hausers Water Systems’ market place has catered to an older population.
“We’re starting to focus on the younger generations,” Sean said. “Our marketplace has primarily reached older demographics, but this is definitely transforming, we’ve definitely seen a shift in the past couple of years.”
Adapting to such change is no simple feat, but the team is devoted to showcasing the intricacies of the water industry to a multitude of audiences. Above all, making access to knowledge about water and water treatment applications readily available and easy to understand is a key component of the business.
Staying Consistent & Continuing the Legacy
This commitment to education and growth is not just exclusive to customers, however.
Hausers Water Systems recently shifted over to all hand-held billing, which has cut down on a lot of paperwork and streamlined the process. The staff also attends the Water-Right Sales Bootcamp to understand its products, proper applications and water treatment in general.
The business’ overarching goal is to continue to expand and grow on a short-term and long-term basis. Maintaining the succession of the ownership is also a top priority for Sean and part of this dream. His son Ryan does expect to take over the business someday, but when exactly the torch will be passed is up in the air.
“I’m proud of the fact that we are a multi-generational company,” Sean said. “That’s a major enjoyment in my life. But, how are we going to fit all of the family members that we have into roles? That’s a struggle sometimes.”
Hausers Water Systems does not want to become complacent in the marketplace by any means. Along with purchasing three competitors, Hausers Water Systems has expanded its commercial/industrial business applications considerably over the past 20 years. In fact, another goal of the business is to keep tapping into the residential market. Its website features a variety of commercial, industrial, municipal and residential projects.
Hauser credits the continued growth to the company’s small, tight-knit team.
“We have excellent, long-term employees,” Sean said. “I could not imagine going to work every day without the employees that we have; they are phenomenal. I give all of our success to our employees. “They’re top shelf.”
2019 marked the business’ 70th year of operation, and Sean, along with his team, anticipates that Hausers Water Systems will only continue to run smoothly for years to come.