“How did we live without ________?”

Wouldn’t it be cool if someone made a washing machine and dryer that was one unit? A single appliance with a single door that you put your dirty laundry into and when the cycle was complete, the clothes were clean AND dry. I read recently that the appliance companies have been looking at this for years and in the not too distant future, an integrated washer and dryer may be a reality. Whenever that happens and we all have those, we may look back and think about how ridiculous it was to have to move a pile of wet laundry froFrigidaire-Affinity-Laund08-lgm the washing machine to the dryer. But until then, we just accept the way things are and never give it a second thought.

Looking in the other direction, there are tons of examples already in our lives today. Who knew we needed smart phones, microwave ovens, or cruise control on our cars? But in every case, up until we had those products, we didn’t know the difference.

What about our industry? I would suggest that variable-speed, constant pressure systems fall squarely into this category. I know this because if you ask a homeowner that has upgraded to constant pressure, they will tell you that they will never go back to a conventional system. But for them to get there, their water systems contractor had to lead them there. Not a single one of those homeowners woke up in the middle of the night thinking, “Boy, I wish someone made a water system that got rid of that large tank and gave me better, more consistent pressure.” They just assumed that for all the advantages of being on a private water system, these were just things they had to live with. They didn’t know there was a better way until they got to experience it for themselves.

Not everyone has a smartphone and likewise, you won’t sell an upgraded, constant pressure system to all of your customers. But to those customers that you do, they won’t be able to imagine going back to their old system ever again.

In the meantime, I think it’s time to go move my laundry from the washer to the dryer.

It pays to pay attention

One of our Hotline Engineers at Franklin Electric came very close to being on the receiving end of this accident earlier this week. The driver of this vehicle pulled into her parking spot too quickly and hit the curb hard enough to jump it. At that point, the driver panicked, hitting the accelerator instead of the brake, and resulting mayhem ensued. Thankfully, this wasn’t a serious accident and no one was hurt.

Right up until the moment of impact, my colleague was enjoying lunch at a table directly on the other side of that window. He could have been hurt, or at the very least covered in glass, but he was long gone by the time the car came through the window. That’s because he saw the whole thing unfold from the beginning, anticipated what might happen, and was already out of the way when the car arrived.

467551_4957447183034_91358143_oReflecting on it later he said, “You know, ever since I can remember, I’ve always been really aware of my surroundings and what was going on around me. That made a difference here.”

There’s a repeated point to be made about safety here. Safety has lots of components – proper equipment and training and good habits to name a few. But all the training and equipment in the world is no substitute for simply paying attention to what’s going on around us. Are there power lines overhead? Is the power really locked out? Who’s in the area? How tall is that overpass? Will it clear my rig? Is that the neighbor’s kid coming to check out my rig while it’s running?

Paying attention is hard to teach but you never know when it will pay huge dividends. Just ask my colleague.

Ten things I wish the public knew: the final four

IMG_1599We’ve finally arrived at the third and final installment of my short series on the Ten things I wish the public knew about our industry. The last two posts covered one through six (Ten things #1,  Ten things #2). So current sporting activities notwithstanding, here are my final four:

7. Most well owners love their water systems.

Ask most private water systems owners what they think of their well water and they will tell you “I love it!” They like the taste, especially as opposed to chemically-treated public water, they like being in control of their water system, and they like the feeling of not being tied to the whims (and invoices) of a water authority. To many, a private water system symbolizes independence and self-sufficiency–and good, clean water.

8. That bottle of spring water you’re drinking? … It’s well water.

You know those bottles of water you buy at the store  labeled natural spring water? That label makes for good marketing, but the truth is that is spring water is simply groundwater, and there’s a good chance that water came from a well. Private well owners get all the natural spring water they want virtually for free–straight from their well. Of course, labeling a bottle well water just wouldn’t have the same ring to it.

9. Even where groundwater isn’t perfect, we can usually fix it.

In certain regions, the groundwater may naturally contain high amounts of iron, sulfur, or other minerals, making it less appealing for drinking and household use. In these cases, there are plenty of safe, effective, affordable technologies out there to address and remove these components, leaving the homeowner with a high quality source of water. These technologies don’t have to involve chemicals, either (e.g. reverse osmosis, filtering systems, etc.).

10. Well water makes environmental sense.

One might believe that having a common water infrastructure in the form of public water would be a more efficient delivery system than lots of private water wells. The fact is that it’s not, and there are two big reasons. First, it takes a lot of energy to move water through all those miles of pipes–pipelines that in many cases don’t exist today. Second, pipes have lots of leaks. It’s estimated that literally millions of gallons of water are wasted each year due to the aging infrastructure of public water. Pumping groundwater right from a well at the source is far more efficient and, well, greener.

There you have it. It may evolve or expand over time, but that’s my current list of the ten things I wish the public knew and understood about groundwater and our industry. I’d love to hear your commentary.

The fab five

Even though 2013 is already well underway, I thought we would take one more “over the shoulder” glance back at Franklin in the Field in 2012. There were 51 new posts, and the blog received 6,300 visits from 84 countries. But what’s really interesting is go back and take a look at the five posts that got the most attention (clicks) in 2012.

Coming in at #5 was Every team has an MVP, where I highlighted Franklin Electric’s Charlie Utley on receiving our Most Valuable Player Award at Franklin Electric’s annual sales and training conference.

At #4, We’re not selling pumps was probably my personal favorite. It highlighted how our industry provides so much more than just pumps.

Number 3 was contributed by Franklin’s Tammy Davis. In The real reason she makes a great case for attending that next trade show.

Number 2, Credit where credit is due was posted way back in January and congratulated Keith Hall on his 43 years with Franklin Electric. By the way, Keith is still providing outstanding training at our monthly Franklin Tech sessions in Wilburton, Oklahoma.

Finally, coming in at #1 was 12 AWG, 12 gauge, and #12, a post about wire gauging nomenclature. No, I can’t explain why this one came in at #1 either, but it had 440 views. Apparently there’s a lot more interest in wire sizing that I realized.

There you have it. The five most clicked Franklin in the Field posts from 2012 out of our library of 86. I can’t wait to see what 2013 brings.

7 billion and counting

“Your aquifer is the only part of your well system that you can’t replace.”

CaptureThat was the opening line at a lecture I attended last week at the NGWA Ground Water Expo in Las Vegas. The speaker, John Jansen, is the 2013 McEllhiney lecturer for the National Ground Water Research and Education Foundation (NGWREF), and he holds a PhD in Geological Sciences. His presentation is titled Keeping the Pumped Primed – Aquifer Sustainability.

John opened the presentation with a sobering look at the world population over the last 10,000 years. For most of that time the human population grew very slowly, taking until the industrial revolution to reach 1 billion people. It took another 100 years to get to 2 billion in 1927. But by 1960, there were 3 billion on the planet. In 1974 we hit 4 billion, 5 billion in 1987, 6 billion in 1999, and 7 billion just last year. Estimates are that even with controls, the world’s population will be 10 billion by 2100.

That’s a lot of people who will need water. Here’s where John’s presentation got even more interesting. There are 332 million cubic miles of water on earth, but 97.5% of that is in the oceans. That leaves 2.5% as freshwater, but 69% of that is tied up near the poles in glaciers. The vast majority of that is groundwater, and surface water comprises less than 0.4% of freshwater. You’ve no doubt heard some of these numbers before, but John presents them better graphically than I’ve ever seen. The message is clear: we simply cannot survive without sustaining the groundwater in our aquifers. It’s not only the future of our industry and your business, but it’s the future for much of human society.

All of that was in the first ten minutes of John’s presentation, but John’s perspective is not one of gloom and doom. From there, he moved into the details of how to sustain an aquifer for the very long term–not from an academic viewpoint, but from his real world experience in balancing local economic and political realities with environmental needs, as well as the steps needed for successful aquifer management.

The NGWREF McEllhiney Lecture Series gets stronger every year, and 2013 will be no exception. John will be presenting his lecture throughout the coming year, very likely at a state convention or event you are attending. I highly encourage you to attend. It will be time well-spent.

The McEllhiney Lecture Series in Water Well Technology is made possible by a grant from Franklin Electric.

The real reason

As the drilling season winds down for the winter months, a different season always follows in its footsteps: trade show season. Conventional wisdom around the water systems industry for the past few years has been that trade shows are on the decline, and some of our best and brightest minds have been struggling with what to do about that. I’ve had conversations with lots of smart people at state and national associations, on trade show advisory boards, from industry publications, and on show management committees. We’ve talked about beefing up educational offerings. We’ve discussed marketing campaigns. We’ve considered social media opportunities. The central question is this:

How do we attract more people?

To me, the answer is as simple as its execution is complicated: we have to give them a reason to go to the show.

Clearly, the reasons people used to come to trade shows aren’t as important anymore. Product information is available at anyone’s fingertips through email and the internet. Sales reps are more accessible than ever via email and smart phone. CEUs can be garnered from a variety of sources. Our easy-access world has diminished the importance of the trade show as a primary vehicle for information. All the reasons that once drew people to the show floor have lost some of their luster. Simply offering more (of the same) or changing a campaign or communicating in different ways won’t do the trick. We have to give them a reason to go to the show.

Here’s that reason: the people.

The water systems industry isn’t particularly sexy. We’re not making smart phones with unbelievable functionality or talking about the future in black mock-tees or making cars that plug into electrical outlets or wowing people with our newest storefront. As much as people need what we have to offer, they don’t pay a lot of attention to us. That means that it’s not always easy to find someone with whom we can share ideas or hammer out problems. Even for those who participate, there aren’t many online opportunities for learning best practices or identifying challenge areas. We can’t always boot up the computer and find the answers we need.

And that, my friends, is why we should consider trade shows in our industry as a huge opportunity. Nowhere else do we have so many people with shared interests in the same place at the same time. We should attend for the chance to learn from others, test our own ideas, and get a feel for what’s happening in our industry beyond our own sphere of influence. These events give us a chance to have conversations with people facing the same challenges and opportunities; what an incredible resource pool! That’s the message we should be sharing.

With many state and regional shows–as well as the National Ground Water Expo–looming on the calendar, I encourage you to consider them in this light. What can you learn from your peers? What can they learn from you? How well do you understand the pulse of the water systems industry beyond your own service area? Are you good at marketing? If so, share your successful practices. Do you need help connecting with customers? Bring your questions. Can’t figure out where a particular product should be applied? See where others are using it. Make a point to talk to five new people and keep track of what you learn; I challenge you to find a better place to get your hands on so much relevant information at once.

Come for the people. It’s that simple.

Note: Tammy Davis, Director of Corporate Communications at Franklin Electric, provided this week’s post as a guest blogger.

Have a conversation…

Let’s face it. The term “sales” in many circles has a reputation for trying to sell us things we don’t need or even want. But, truly successful sales people will tell you that’s not how they do business. They’ll tell you that what’s made them successful is a relentless focus on helping their customers get the products and solutions they need. They see themselves as educators and consultants, guiding their customers through a decision-making process and providing options.

There’s no area where that’s more true than with the professional water systems contractor. Most don’t like to think of themselves as sales people. But, a huge part of job is just that. You are our industry’s educators and representatives to the rest of the world.

What makes this especially true in our industry is that water systems are far more reliable and have a greater lifespan than most of the appliances in our lives. As a result, most homeowners will only need a new water system or something repaired every 10 years or so. That means that you will only get the chance to stand in front of your customer once every decade or so. So, we need to make the most of that opportunity.

In many cases, the homeowner is out of water and is literally desperate to get it back. Nothing highlights the critical nature and value of water more than not having it. As a result, the conversation becomes a one-way, two-part question of “how soon and how much?”. Try to slow things down. Have a conversation. A few minutes goes a long way. Show them how their water system works. What does that tank do anyway? Explain why they are out of water. How has their home and lifestyle changed since someone last looked at their water system? Have you always had that garden? Continue reading