By Denise M. Roberts
Throughout the history of the water treatment industry, the need for technology has steadily grown in proportion to the need for safe water. This has been an ongoing process to ensure that products are top of the line, incorporating advancements that research and science have fostered. Many stories WC&P International has published about manufacturers and dealers have traced that progress, from modest beginnings in the basement or garage to the production facility. In the past decade or two, though, the emphasis on post-high school education has become a pivotal argument for success.
Somewhere in the transition from acceptable to necessary levels of education, traditional blue-collar positions in manufacturing, which have usually been seen as a path to the American Dream, have suffered their greatest losses. A prevailing attitude that working with one’s hands (the traditional mainstay of building the American economy) has been replaced by one that views ‘brain work’ as more valuable. As a reflection of this changed attitude, vocational education, that venerable training ground for a wide spectrum of industry, has all but ceased to exist. But today’s manufacturers and dealers must be at the top of their game to compete and without a properly trained workforce, their chances for success and longevity are compromised. The hardest aspect of business ownership has been noted by many as the ability to find qualified employees.
It should come as no surprise that there are still many companies that started with an ‘Ah ha!’ moment, reaffirming that the creative bent of entrepreneurs is still flowing magnificently. As technology continues to create more advanced water treatment methods, the key to innovation and success lies in knowing more about the science of water than ever before. High school science is no longer adequate to the task of generating water treatment specialists of the caliber needed to ensure safe water resources and supplies on a global scale. And in the US, while there is no universal regulatory standard for those who treat water, several states do have requirements for certain types of licensing for specific aspects of treating water, such as contractor license requirements in some states for installing water treatment equipment or plumber licensing for anyone who does anything that involves water treatment. In addition, the necessity of dealing with savvier consumers, who can readily do their own research via the Internet, means today’s dealer cannot just learn from hands-on training. The push to increase the knowledge base for sales people and installers alike has eclipsed the norm of the early days of water treatment, when knowledge of the product was what mattered most. Times have definitely changed!
Product manufacturers are invested in this educational process, offering training to their own staffs as well as those of their distributors and clients. These training sessions don’t just focus on the product, but encompass the broader need to understand when and how to install them. If a client doesn’t understand why a product is best for a particular situation (i.e., what needs to be treated), there is a greater likelihood the treatment option may fail, leading to customer dissatisfaction and a loss of business. To produce and deploy the best products, manufacturers have a greater stake in creating a knowledgeable force that will help further their goals. The Water Quality Association’s educational program is another venue to help create a better, more informed workforce, as well as earn certification to higher standards of performance of both staff and product. The benefits extend like a ripple effect, as consumers are looking for companies that go the extra mile to achieve certification and are members of bonafide organizations such as the Better Business Bureau, WQA and others. What a company invests in itself will pay multiple dividends: customer loyalty and satisfaction, referrals, positive feedback and more importantly, public praise through testimonials.
The cost of doing business should include the cost of training, whether in-house or external. But many companies fail to take advantage of what is available to help train employees to do their jobs properly. Being in the trenches means being the expert, the go-to guy or gal, and without the proper credentials, the uninformed or poorly trained will cost the company more than the training itself! As our world advances into an ever more technical one, business owners must find better, more creative ways to promote their wares and their reputations, just as manufacturers must keep up with the science that helps to create those advances. As competition from beyond our national borders intrudes on traditional markets, he who proves his worth to the consumer becomes king of sales. Our society places a high value on education and although there isn’t a requirement for a college degree to be a professional water treatment dealer, customers will more readily gravitate to those who can produce evidence of higher learning, either through advanced schooling or training, or both.
Self-training, traditional advanced schooling, association education programs, even online programs, all take time and effort to achieve a specific goal: to be the most well-educated owner, employee, installer, sales or administrative person. It takes self-discipline and hard work, two of the most important qualities of a well-rounded and valued employee. Businesses that seek to raise their level of commitment to customers by providing additional training and education to staff are building a stronger foundation for future success. “We want the best and we’re willing to pay for it” is what you want your customers to say because you have earned their trust and loyalty.
Learning the ropes at your mentor’s side is only the first step to becoming a successful water treatment dealer. Enhancing that hands-on experience with continued training and education places dealers another rung higher on the ladder of success.