Reinventing your business

The other day, a colleague passed along a comment he had heard from a well-known groundwater insider. This is a dying industry, the insider said.

I wisely bit back the initial protest that rose from my gut to give myself a chance to think. When the fog of my indignance cleared, I could see the point. The groundwater industry certainly doesn’t look like it did a decade ago. Contractors are drilling fewer wells, forcing them to sustain their business with service work. Where work was once plentiful, people are selling their rigs and fighting over house calls.

Even so, that doesn’t mean the industry is dying. It certainly means the industry is changing. This isn’t a new situation; it happens all the time. A business, a market, an industry hums happily along for a period of time. People know what to do and they do it. Then they move to the next job and do it again. Eventually, though, something shifts. It doesn’t matter if it’s the economy, the introduction of a new technology, or market saturation. Something alters the universe and the world as we know it starts fraying at the edges, threatening to unravel.

So what can we do about it? We adapt.

In the groundwater—or any—industry, that means

  • Differentiating yourself from your competition. Although this appears to help YOU more than the industry itself, I would argue that anything that raises the bar ends up producing a better product/service and ultimately helps us all.
  • Looking at the industry from a different perspective. Instead of taking the approach that you “just” drill wells or install pumps, realize that you design, install, troubleshoot, and repair water systems. Your job is to keep your customers supplied with water in a way that keeps them comfortable and happy. How can I improve this customer’s water experience? When you look at it this way, you’ll start to see possibilities far beyond drilling wells and setting pumps.
  • Expanding your focus to find new ways to apply your skills and/or equipment. You have a lot of groundwater knowledge that you’ve picked up along the way. You don’t have to confine that to pump installation and service. And if you have a horizontal drill or cable tool, you already know that they have broader uses than just for water wells.
  • Finding new ways to add value. Use new technologies and products to improve performance and extend the life of the systems you install, earning you customers for life.

These are some pretty broad observations, but I’ll bet you can use them as springboards to identify opportunities specific to your business. Sure, things may look different today than they did yesterday, but this industry will only die if we let it.

Note: Tammy Davis, Director of Corporate Communications at Franklin Electric, provided this week’s post as a guest blogger while Mark Reeder is on vacation.

Inspiring confidence

Here’s a great way to build your professional reputation by inspiring confidence in your work among your customers. For each and every installation, whether it’s a new one or a service call, complete a Franklin Electric 2207 Form – Submersible Motor Installation Record. Then, hand your customer a copy of it with your business card attached.

A completed 2207 contains all the details of a submersible installation. In an instant, you’ve demonstrated that you haven’t just replaced or installed something, but that you’ve taken the time to analyze and understand his water system needs and which products are best suited for it. Granted, your customer may not understand everything on the form, but it doesn’t matter. The point is that it conveys your competence and professionalism. Besides, you can always take the time to explain it more, further highlighting your expertise.

There are other benefits to a completed 2207, as well. On some Franklin products, if a warranty is later required, Franklin Electric will ask for a copy of the installation’s 2207. But even if a warranty isn’t ever involved, you still have a permanent record of that installation’s specifics. So, if the customer calls with an issue 5 years later, you already know most of the details. Now you can focus on what changed in the installation.

There’s a 2207 in every Franklin Electric AIM Manual. It’s near the middle, and it’s perfectly okay to make and use as many copies of that as you need. For an electronic copy, go to the Franklin website, where you can download a PDF version. That PDF is “interactive”. That is, you can either print out a blank copy or actually complete the 2207 on your  computer. Continue reading

Constant pressure by the numbers

Over the last several posts, I’ve detailed several niche applications for variable speed, constant pressure systems that had nothing to do with constant pressure.

This week, I want to step back and talk about the overall financial opportunity presented by constant pressure systems. I’m going to make a few assumptions here, but I think my point will remain the same.

Of course, there are a lot of factors that determine how long a submersible system will last before some type of service is required. Tanks need replaced, pressure switches fail, and the generally accepted longevity of a submersible pump/motor is 10 – 20 years. Let’s assume that on average, a submersible installation needs some type of service every 15 years. Now let’s figure that into the 15 million homes in the United States that are on private water systems. If there are 15 million systems that need service every 15 years, that means there are about 1 million service calls made each year in our industry.

One million service calls mean 1 million opportunities to offer and sell your customer improvements to his existing system. With Franklin Electric and a couple of other manufacturers offering variable speed, constant pressure systems that can be retrofitted without pulling the existing pump and motor, that means you have more to offer than ever before. For just about every service call, there’s a potential for a constant pressure system. Just need a new tank? Offer a smaller tank that comes with a constant pressure system and put the savings towards constant pressure. Pump or motor need replacement? If you have to pull and replace, then the benefit versus the incremental cost of adding a constant pressure controller may be very compelling to the homeowner. As one contractor told me awhile back, “Even if it’s just the pressure switch that needs replacing, I’m explaining and offering constant pressure.”

Of course, you’re not going to sell a constant pressure system each time you make a service call. But, let’s say it’s 1 in 10. That 1 in 10 could have significant impact on your business. Even if you don’t sell the homeowner a constant pressure system right then and there, you’ve at least planted a seed that may bear fruit down the road.

Quibble with my numbers if you want, but the logic still applies. Think it about for the geographical area where you do business. How many service calls are you doing each year, and how many of those deserve to have a premium water system? There’s something in it for everyone. For the homeowner, it offers the benefits of constant pressure at every tap regardless of usage, faster fill rates for appliances, more utility space by replacing the large tank with a small one, water delivery that matches demand, and built-in system protection. For you, it means the chance to not only increase your incremental revenue per service call, but also to build a following of satisfied customers. But, you can’t sell what you don’t offer; why limit yourself?

Solving problems

For the past three weeks, I’ve been writing about variable speed drives (VFDs) and the benefits they offer beyond constant pressure. While delivering constant water pressure is still the most recognized benefit of these systems, their potential far exceeds that one application. This week’s examples are more regional in nature, but hopefully they will help you start thinking about other ways VFDs can solve problems.

In many parts of the western US, wells are frequently pumped faster than they can recharge, making some type of dry run protection necessary. As a result, these installations have Pumptec or a similar type of dry run (underload) protection. However, VFDs already have this protection built into them. In addition, not only do they have protection by design against underload, most also have overload (bound pump) protection built in, as well as undervoltage and overvoltage protection. In cases where you know that an installation may face challenging conditions, for a small incremental cost—remember, besides a Pumptec, you also need control box in a conventional system—you can use a VFD such as SubDrive for even better protection of the pump and motor.

Another niche application for variable speed systems is operating installations where fire codes are in effect. Particularly in dry areas of the country, local fire codes dictate the minimum size pump required for fire protection. In the majority of cases, the GPM the pump is required to deliver in case of fire far exceeds the output required for regular daily residential usage. Continue reading