Amy McIntosh is former managing editor of WQP. For more information, email [email protected].
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“Educate, educate, educate.”
That is the mantra by which Cindy Killer, president of Atlantic Water Solutions in Alfred, Maine, operates.
Killer, who comes from a family of well drillers, started the business 15 years ago after her son’s health issues prompted her to leave her family’s business and start her own.
As a licensed well driller in New Hampshire, a master pump installer in Maine and New Hampshire, and a very small water systems operator, Killer uses her background to further diversify Atlantic Water Solutions’ offerings. Killer estimates the business is approximately 60% water filtration and 40% pump service, to a market that is 90% residential and 10% commercial.
“We’re just always looking for ways to innovate and keep up with new technology,” she said. “We’re always trying to add new value and more services to what we already do.”
In the last eight months, Killer has added water radon remediation to her repertoire, and currently is looking into purchasing a frac truck to begin hydrofracturing wells.
The dealership’s service area, which covers cities in southern Maine and parts of New Hampshire, sees high arsenic, uranium and radon in its water.
“As different contaminants are found it becomes fun to create new ways of removing them and just keeping up with technology and what’s available and figuring out the best way to help people,” Killer said.
Out of Office
Aside from Killer, Atlantic Water Solutions has three other employees, all of whom feel like family, she said. When a new employee starts, he or she begins working one-on-one with Killer, getting a bulk of his or her training in the field.
“We always try to work good as a team so nobody’s out there feeling like they’re on their own or they can’t ask questions,” Killer said. “We’re very much a team unit. If someone has a question they can call any one of the other people and we’ll try to get them whatever they need to accomplish what their task is.”
Killer also brings her staff to the Water Quality Assn. (WQA) Convention & Exposition and encourages them to attend classes, walk the show floor and network with exhibitors.
“I try to really show them that you can ask questions and look at new products,” she said. “It’s a great learning platform. You can network with other people that are doing the same thing, maybe in a different area, and see how they go about doing things, so you can just learn from each other. It’s a neat platform for sure.”
At the 2018 show, Killer attended WQA’s Business Operations Boot Camp, which renewed her enthusiasm for her business and the industry. She plans to attend the 2019 event, as well.
“I thought for the business element that was unbelievable,” she said. “I got so revved up while I was there. As small business people, we have to wear so many hats that sometimes that burnout feeling hits. Then you go to that [event] and they do such a great job to just get you fired back up about the industry and what you do and how you can grow and different ways to do things.”
Killer and her team also attend the New England Water Well Expo, and because the business uses several Water-Right products, the team attends manufacturer trainings to learn more about the products and even dabble in sales.
“We try to all wear different hats, so if you’re going to do an annual service and someone has a bad pressure tank you can say, ‘Hey, just trying to let you know this is bad too.’”
Front & Center
When it comes to advertising, Killer has tried many different approaches. The business has been able to generate leads by working with HomeAdvisor and Angie’s List, and Killer has purchased lists of new homebuyers in the area for a direct mail campaign—a technique she picked up from the WQA. Atlantic Water Solutions also has an updated website and Facebook page.
Killer has tried her hand at television advertising, which “paid for itself,” she said, but she still is unsure whether she would repeat it. She currently is exploring ways to market to millennials, and that campaign might include a television ad with a different approach.
“I met with a lady at the WQA show who taught a class on [marketing to millennials] and I talked to her after her afterwards and actually read her book,” Killer said. “I just learned different strategies to appeal to that type of consumer. I haven’t done the actual implementation just yet. I’m just trying to piece it together.”
All systems have labels with the dealership’s contact information on them, so that if the current customer were to move and leave their water system behind, the new homeowner could easily reach out for training and service.
Ultimately, the Atlantic Water Solutions team aims to be a fixture in their customers’ lives. They do this through diverse training opportunities, as well as continually updating their list of services.
“By being versatile, you can answer questions intelligently and can kind of have that one-stop feeling for a customer so they can feel they can call us for anything,” Killer said. “We really try to develop that relationship with our customers. It’s not just, go and install a filter and leave and never come back.”
Killer is optimistic about the future of both the business and the water industry as a whole.
“The media thankfully has done an excellent job of making people very conscious of what they’re drinking, so that has helped our field tremendously,” she said.
Even if a recession hits in the next few years, Killer thinks the water treatment industry is safe.
“[Homeowners] may put off remodeling their bathroom or something, but they’re not going to not have good water to drink for their family,” she said.