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Each decade, the water treatment industry seems to take another turn with the introduction of new technology or the use of existing technology in new ways. Increasingly, water treatment dealers must adapt to new trends, and Sean Kidwell, owner of All American Purification in Venice, Fla., said his business continues to shift with the changing marketplace.
Made in America
Kidwell’s grandfather, Eugene Anderson, saw a need for bottled water delivery in south Florida, so he founded the company in 1991, as he was retiring from the construction industry.
“He wanted to have a residual type of business going into his retirement years—something that could be pretty simplified,” Kidwell said. “So he started one customer at a time in Sarasota County.”
The original bottling plant, located in Ocala, Fla., was called Silver Springs Bottled Water. About a year after it opened, Anderson fell ill, and Kidwell sought an honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy so he could help keep the business going.
“I did a couple tours in the Mediterranean,” Kidwell said. “Our whole family being a very strong American family was the big push [for our brand]. Of course, having the American flag on the truck when he started in 1991, and continuing that whole feeling … We try to really stick to as [many] local-based products [as] we can buy, as [many] American-made products as we can buy.”
After five or six years, Kidwell bought the bottled water company, but eventually sold it when he recognized the water treatment needs of the area. Customers were looking for filtration and purification systems for their homes rather than an ongoing purchase of bottled water.
All American Purification jumped into the water treatment industry in the early 2000s.
Long-Term Clients in Varied Locales
Water quality in south Florida communities can vary greatly due to geography—Kidwell describes it as “aggressive hard water.” Some of All American Purification’s customers reside on islands where wells are common. Those wells, he said, can be inundated by saltwater, which makes treatment more difficult.
On the mainland, hardness varies by region, but water commonly contains high iron, total dissolved solids and sulfur levels. “So, obviously, with all those variables in water, water treatment becomes huge,” Kidwell said, noting his customers get their water from diverse sources—about half use water wells while the other half use a municipal source. The demand for ultraviolet disinfection, water softeners and reverse osmosis (RO) systems has grown with increased population. Softeners and RO, Kidwell noted, are now among his most popular items, but that was not always the case.
Technology has made large strides since the early 2000s, particularly when it comes to energy efficiency and sustainability, a quality customers now actively seek. Customer needs drive Kidwell’s business philosophy.
“I have never hired salesmen on commission. We’ve always had technicians in the field. We’re really, really aggressive in the sense of making sure our customers are happy first,” Kidwell said. “My philosophy to my guys has always been building that relationship—a bridge between us and them—to maintain that long-term residual, to maintain that long-term relationship. You’re not selling them just once. You’re selling them down the road again as their needs change in their families.”
Maintaining a consistent customer base helps when new sales are declining. They provide recurring revenue through tough times, but more importantly, they market the business by word-of-mouth.
“It’s way more valuable for recurring revenues having them talk to their friends,” Kidwell said. “They know they can call on us. They know it’s not just a computer they’re calling.”
Fluidity of the Digital Age
In 1996, Kidwell impressed upon his grandfather the importance of moving toward better office technology.
“I went to my grandfather and said, ‘This is ridiculous. We need to get some technology going,’” Kidwell said. The business began using a routing service and adopted new technologies through the early 2000s and 2010s. Mobile devices have become an integral part of customer service. “We have history of all of our clients in the field,” Kidwell said. “Every driver has access to pull them up on their handhelds. It keeps us [up to date] with our route tracking, keeps us [up to date] with our route locations.”
For a business that prides itself on customer service and word-of-mouth marketing, social media also has played a growing role, and with easy access to information, Kidwell said he and his technicians field more detailed questions from clients than ever. As has been the case throughout its growth, All American Purification is ready to adapt to that, too.