Volume 44 Number 8
Getting an Education Up North: Water Wizards of Lindsay, Ontario, has the Midas Touch
For someone who began working in a multi-level marketing capacity at a paint store before embarking on his present profession, Steve Scott places great emphasis on education in conversations and to customers of his water treatment dealership -- Water Wizards, of Lindsay, Ontario. In fact, Scott recalls an early discussion he had with a friend who later became his mentor. At the time, Scott was contemplating a career move into water treatment.
?He had a chemical engineering degree and had been in the water treatment industry for about eight years. His advice to me was perfect, ?Join the Water Quality Association (WQA), get an education in it and you?ll eclipse your competitors,?? Scott says. That was all he needed to hear. After promptly quitting his job as manager of a Benjamin & Moore paint store (his father owned the business), Scott began his first day as Water Wizards owner on April 10, 1989.
As for WQA involvement, Scott joined the association in 1991 and became a certified installer in 1993. He?s also a certified water specialist (CWS-I).
Finding the right one
?With the filters, I very quickly had people asking me, ?Do you do this out in the country? I?ve got a friend out there with sulfur and high iron, and can you take care of that??? he says. ?It started to get much more complex than I thought it would ever become.? Scott, 53, still sells Ametek carbon block filters, but it?s only a small part of his business offerings.
Aside from Ametek, Scott uses equipment from other manufacturers such as G.H. Stenner, Clean World Waters (reverse osmosis units), Structural Fibers (retention tanks), Calgon Carbon and Autotrol. He sells softeners, carbon filters (point-of-use and whole house) and RO within the city limits. Outside of Lindsay (pop. 17,000), Scott relies on hydrogen peroxide injection, especially since 1993.
Back at the farm
With lakes so prominent in the area, Scott faces the issues of sulfur, all five forms of iron, methane, limestone and saltwater. ?If you drill down deep enough, you?ll find 225 grains hardness and a total dissolved solids count of 40,000, which is basically untreatable water,? he says. For sulfur and high iron, he relies heavily on hydrogen peroxide and adequate retention. In addition, tannins are rarely found less than 1.5 parts per million due to high iron/sulfur readings. Also, surface water combined with the warmer temperatures in the summer make faucet-mount filters almost obsolete. This accounts for more public contact in the form of service calls as well as business for him.
With municipal water, he encounters aesthetic issues, a ?swampy? taste and trihalomethanes (THMs). He uses coconut shell carbons for THMs, which also proves effective against total organic compounds.
Inevitably, Scott gets back to the importance of education in his industry.
Dealer as teacher
Scott continues, ?What I tell customers is, ?If you have a question and take it to three different barbers, three different plumbers, three different architects or three different chefs, you will get three answers that are very similar. But if you go to three different water treatment dealers, you?re going to get three different answers that are so far off the wall you won?t know what?s going on.? I hear this from almost every single customer I talk to. They are very confused and it?s a problem because water treatment never came up as a guild. It?s only been around for 60 years or so.?
In an attempt to pass some of his knowledge down to his customers and other concerned parties, Scott came up with an idea to educate via the Internet. His brother, who is a ?computer whiz,? has offered his services in helping to design www.waterhelp.ca. Unlike other commercial-type ventures, the website ?will be a listing of potential water problems and water solutions. You will be able to email me for help or advice. This is the initial plan, but I am not sure how it will evolve,? he says. By Aug. 1, Scott expected there would be 20 pages of information available to visitors.
Still, he predicts the number of his employees (currently three) will rise over the next five years. For Scott, though, it invariably comes back to educating the public about water treatment matters. ?The industry will do nothing but grow,? he says. ?We are able to test water about a 1,000 times more accurately than we did 10 years ago. I see the industry as public educators.?
Owner: Steve Scott
Founded: April 10, 1989
Staff: 3 part-time employees (all installers, one is WQA certified)
Sales: $130,000 in 2001; too early to tell for this year
Quotable: "(Awareness) has increased greatly. People are more willing now to do something about their water problems. It's rare that I run into the mythical rich guy who says, 'I have a problem and I want to throw money at it and I don't want to think about it anymore.'"
-- Steve Scott