By Donna Kreutz
For the last 70 years, family-owned Chester Paul Company has remained constant in its unwavering commitment to customers, employees and vendors. Attentive appreciation of people and relationships has been the company’s hallmark, from the time Chester Paul Caughron opened his doors in Glendale, CA in 1948.
Caughron started the business with a handshake, selling one product in southern California. He taught his employees how to value service and with that ideal the company was able to evolve into what it is today: a multi-faceted business selling more than 50 products around the world. The company started out as an industrial component distributor selling pneumatic and hydraulic components, then branched into soft-drink beverage companies, just in time for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. That lucrative part of the business was sold in 1998. Since then, the primary focus has been providing a complete line for the water filtration market, specifically the RO sector. Caughron sold the company to his son Robert, who has since passed the torch on to his son, Sean.
“For three generations, this company has always been for the customer, the employee and the vendor. We really want to drive that point home. We’re here because of them. And we don’t intend to change any of that—that’s our motto,” Sean said.
Robert was known for asking employees, “Who signs your paycheck?” No, not him. “The customer signs your check. That’s what our company’s about,” he would say. “We realize we’re here for the customer and if we don’t treat our customers right, we won’t be here.” Looking ahead, Sean said, “My plan is to maintain a personal relationship with our customers, vendors and employees, and continue to drive business without taking away the personal by utilizing technology.”
Even that follows company tradition. In 1979, John Heurkins started with the Chester Paul Company. He was asked by Robert to run the business in 1984 and has stayed ever since. He recalls a time when the go-to technology was the fax machine. They grew international business by sending faxes “from like four in the afternoon until 10 at night. It worked. We got a lot of business that way.” Today Sean estimates that 25 to 30 percent of their business is international. About 85 percent of the total business is residential and 15 percent is industrial.
As a child, Sean grew up sweeping floors, pulling weeds and playing at the company, then eventually working there on his summer breaks from school. After college, he initially started down a career path of art and photography projects. He quickly realized, however, that his real passion was for people and his family, which led him back to Chester Paul. Sean mentioned that to his father, who said, “Go talk to Heurkins,” then-President of the company. Seeing Sean’s potential, Heurkins quickly put Sean to work in sales. That was 22 years ago. Later, Sean was named Sales Manager with the responsibility of growing the water filtration business.
Back then, the Internet was not the go-to tool of the day, so they used basic marketing practices, Sean said. “We were just growing organically with sales people and trade shows. It just happened over time by being in the right place at the right time with the right product. Our brand was already strong, but not in water filtration.” Now the leading Sales Manager, Sean knew it was his responsibility for growing the water filtration business, and that he did!
Later, the Internet would significantly impact their growth. In 2011, Chester Paul Company put its entire product catalog online “to provide a high degree of convenience for our customers. CPC customers can browse products, access pricing and place orders 24/7,” Sean said. “We want to be the distributor everyone calls first for products, ideas, alternatives and information. It is our daily objective to give our customers what they want, when they want it, while treating everyone in a warm and friendly manner. We aim to be a one-stop shop for water professionals.”
Another online advancement is an all-new website that should be completed this month. “We spent a lot of time and money on this website. We’re using technology to make it easier to grow business without losing the personal relationships,” he said. “Service is our business. Our customers are supported by us through large inventories, competitive pricing, experienced staff, same-day shipping, product alternatives, marketing innovations and a ‘will-do’ attitude,” Sean said.
“Our goal is to provide the community with the best water purification solutions. We’re very involved in increasing the efficiency of residential RO. We are globally recognized for our service and leadership in the industry. As members of WQA and PWQA, we not only care deeply about the water purification industry but are a part of the conversation. It’s our responsibility to provide products that support clean water efforts.”
The Chester Paul Company remains small and tightly knit, with just 30 employees. They still work in the original 1948 building, which was refreshed last year and includes a family picture wall with not only photos of people, but also their dogs, cats and other pets. “We are very family-focused and oriented. That’s what we want to be. Nobody ever leaves. We value our employees just like we do our customers and our vendors. We’re all the same, all essential, all part of the family.”