Thoughts from a trade show

The South Atlantic Jubilee was held a few weeks ago in Myrtle Beach. Like most trade shows in recent years, attendance was down and the usual theories were passed around as to why. These included: the economy in general, the sad state of the housing industry, and at the other end, “it’s so dry that everyone is out busy working.” I also heard that between the state shows, distributor open houses, and national shows, contractors are just simply weary of trade shows in general. However, the most interesting comment came from an attendee who said, “I used to come here to gather the latest product literature, but I don’t think I need to anymore. You guys have it all on the web”. True enough, but that got me thinking of all the other reasons to attend a trade show.

To begin with, if you’re there to look at product, there’s no better place. The web is terrific, but there’s nothing like looking at new products in person and interacting with the manufacturer’s personnel. You can touch and feel, ask questions, and then perhaps, wander over to their competitor’s booth to compare their products and talk to their people. The web just doesn’t provide that opportunity.

Of course, most states require some type of annual continuing education. There’s generally no better place to get that than at a trade show. It’s 1-stop shopping. This year, the South Atlantic Jubilee offered over 2 days of non-stop classes. And, the feedback that is collected every year on these came in at an all-time high.

Finally, trade shows are a chance to get away from the daily routine for a while and interact with the many other professionals in our industry. And, when you get home, the web is still there, with all the literature.

See you in Las Vegas at the NGWA Ground Water Expo.

A true story: why you’re important

If someone ever asks me the importance of water systems contractors, I tell this story.

Years ago, I visited a big box retail hardware store (you know them) and proceeded to their pump section. I asked for their most experienced salesperson on water pumps (“I need an expert on this”). He soon arrived quite eager to help. Then, I told a fib … I explained that I was building a new home in the country and after my well was drilled, I wanted to install the well pump myself. I explained that I had never been the owner of a water well, but had heard there wasn’t much to installing one of these pumps. I asked, “What do you think?”, then proceeded to stand back and listen.

He assured me there wasn’t; I looked like someone who could do it. I politely asked a lot more questions to see where this would go. I just couldn’t help myself. Of all the bad answers, there was one that stood out and summarized it all. Looking at the store’s product display, the submersible pump had 3 wires coming out of the motor (2-wire + ground). I asked about cable and sure enough, “Right over here is our submersible cable; how much do you think you need?” Now, I had already noticed that the cable was 4-wire. That is, this outlet carried the odd combination of 2-wire motors and 3-wire submersible cable. So, my question was, “I am going to have an extra wire here; what do I do with that?” In my mind, I really thought I had him stumped, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Without missing a beat, he said, “Oh, that’s for a double ground. A lot of your better pump contractors around here use a double ground, so that’s what we recommend.” I was at a loss for words.

By the way, I still patronize this outlet and they are generally helpful and knowledgeable. But, I know a little bit about submersible pumps, and if I ever have a well (and I hope I do someday), I’m calling my professional contractor for the installation. One of the truly better ones … one who doesn’t use a double ground.

Set yourself apart

There’s a lot of talk in our industry about becoming certified, and there are lots of different options: state certifications, sales certifications, industry certifications, even company certifications. While some of these may be necessary for doing business in a particular area, most are optional. With all you’ve got to juggle in your business, why bother with all this certification ballyhoo? Can it really make a difference?

I think it can. 

As a groundwater contractor, you do work that most people don’t think about. The general public doesn’t have an understanding of what you do from day to day, or what makes you good at it. In fact, most people probably don’t care until they’re out of water and need a service call. At that point, they probably head to the Yellow Pages and start dialing.

If you’ve got certification credentials, advertise them. Put them in your Yellow Pages listing. Have them printed on your business cards. Emblazon them on your service vehicles. Why? Because they make you different from everyone else; they help you stand out among your competitors. If the general public doesn’t know much about the water systems business, any additional information you give them to help make a decision about whom to call will be much appreciated. Continue reading

12 AWG, 12 gauge, and #12

To many contractors, the AWG nomenclature used to specify wire gauge must be one of the more confusing things out there. It starts with the somewhat peculiar abbreviation, AWG, which stands for American Wire Gauge. This numbering scheme was established way back in 1857, and today, remains the standard in North America that specifies the cross-sectional area of a conductor, and therefore its current carrying capability.

The confusion continues with all the ways AWG can be abbreviated. For example, you or I might say or jot down that a conductor is “12 gauge”. But, that can also be expressed as 12 AWG, #12, No. 12, No. 12 AWG, or 12 ga. They all mean the same thing and are used interchangeably.

But, the confusion really sets in when we realize that the heavier the wire, the smaller the AWG designation. So, 10 AWG is far heavier than 12 AWG. That leads to the question of, “what happens when we hit zero?”  Well, we just start adding zeros. For example, 0 AWG, 00 AWG, 000 AWG … Not to be outdone, 000 AWG can also be expressed as 3/0 and #000. These are commonly pronounced (but not written) as “aught”. So, “00” is “2 aught” and “0000” is “4 aught”.

This next confusion factor is less obvious. The AWG numbers are not linear. That is, the difference in size between 12 gauge and 10 gauge isn’t the same as the difference between 14 gauge and 12 gauge. But, here’s a rule of thumb: For every 3 changes in AWG size, the cross-sectional of the wire doubles. So, #9 is twice as heavy in terms of cross-sectional area as #12. The cross-sectional area of 0 AWG is half of 0000 AWG. Continue reading