Stepping to the helm of a business is always an exciting challenge – but doing it on the eve of the biggest recession the U.S. has experienced in decades makes the challenge that much more arduous.
That is the situation Jessica and Ben Larson, owners of Indianapolis Soft Water Service Inc., faced when they purchased the business from Jessica’s father in 2006. Despite the challenges, the couple has successfully steered the business through the tough economic times while also staying true to their commitment to environmental responsibility.
Indianapolis Soft Water Service has been in business since 1964, and Jessica’s father purchased the business in 1996. Jessica and Ben worked with him for a few years before opting to buy the business.
“We took leadership shortly before one of the greatest recessions our country has seen,” Jessica said. “I think it forced some changes in increasing efficiency, tighter cost control [and] higher levels of customer service.”
Up to the Challenge
Today the company boasts six employees working out of its Indianapolis office, serving the areas of Carmel, Fishers, Greenwood, Indianapolis, Noblesville, Westfield and Zionsville. It offers water softeners and filtration systems, including a softener rental program, and services a multitude of brand names, for a primarily residential customer base. According to Jessica, the company is introducing a commercial cooler line in hopes of increasing the proportion of commercial customers.
Although the economy is improving, it remains a challenge for the business. According to Jessica, the company has maintained success by increasing efficiency and adding bottle-free filtration services to its repertoire. “So far this has been a good combination for us,” she said.
Big-box stores are another cause for concern, Jessica added, because they drive down the prices of equipment. “It is very challenging to educate customers on why your product is superior to something they can purchase themselves,” she said. “It is a challenge we accept and it helps form our business model – most of our work is by referral – [by] creating that customer service that leaves a good lasting impression.”
Part of that customer service is ensuring that they are providing customers with high-quality products, a crucial aspect to gaining customers’ trust. According to Jessica, this is one of the most important practices of the business. “Ben has one of [those] engineering-style brains and [he] is extremely particular about the products we bring on to promote,” she said. “This is the best start – having a product that you have total confidence in.”
Environmentally Friendly Service
In addition to excellent customer service, Indianapolis Soft Water Service is known for its dedication to the environment.
“I think what makes us unique is that we are truly local and we are probably the most environmentally concerned company in our market area,” Jessica said. “All of our products reduce waste in some way, we re-appropriate whenever possible and [we] just operate with an overall respect for the environment.”
In addition to offering eco-friendly products, such as high-efficiency softeners and zero-waste filtration systems, Jessica and Ben have implemented business practices with a mind to reducing waste – not only aiding the environment, but also helping the business run more smoothly. “We are in the process of going paperless, and really everything we do at this point is electronic, from messages to banking,” Jessica said. “It has streamlined things tremendously for us.”
Looking toward the future, Jessica is excited about the company’s new line of bottle-free coolers. “We are really enjoying [that] aspect of our business and hope to see that continue to propel [it] over the next few years,” she said. Recently, the company introduced a new van touting the product line and promoting the Bottle Free Indy division of the company.
As Indianapolis Soft Water Service moves forward, it will continue its dedication to the environment, and Jessica believes that this issue will only continue to become more important to the water treatment industry. “I think we will see more and more water conservation in areas where it has not been an issue in the past, and I think it will be exciting to see how we can continue to improve water quality without wasting water,” she said. “At least that is what I am hoping to see.”