Volume 43 Number 6
The Fast Track to Success: Racing and Winning in the Buckeye State -- Norsoft Water Conditioning of Cleveland
Norwid is president of Norsoft Water Conditioning, of Cleveland, and he is also the owner/driver of a drag racing car. He enters it into 12 to 15 annual events on the National Hot Rod Association circuit, which is seasonal.
Most of the events he enters take place on the weekends so it doesn't cut into his time spent at Norsoft. He travels up and down the East Coast and has gone as far west as Texas. He has a crew of six people and four of them work at his shop. "The car supports itself with winnings and the business itself," he says. He has never crashed -- a good thing, since a motor and transmission can run $30,000.
Born to tinker
Norwid, 45, says, "We used to argue and fight and I would get fired. [But,] I always had something to fall back on… I've done the water treatment thing all my life."
Tom adds that between 1974 -- when he began building professional streetcars and manufacturing chassis -- to 1994, he was fired on a half dozen occasions.
"It never got to the point where my father and I never spoke," he says. "It took several years for him to acknowledge that racing was going to be a part of my life, and that I was making money doing it."
A Cleveland tradition
In 1987, Tom's father had open-heart surgery and doctors prescribed plenty of relaxation. As a result, Tom took over material ordering for assembly, shipping and some sales duties. His father still handled the financial aspects of the business.
So, the natural question becomes -- How has Norsoft done since Norwid took over the reins? It hasn't suffered. Revenues have increased 60 percent since 1994. Last year, Norsoft saw an increase of 22 percent over 1999. This year, projections call for a 20 percent jump over 2000. Norsoft makes 60 to 70 service calls per week.
A wide service area
He says, "My dad started out in the service business, and he found out he could build a better product than people were selling. That's what my dad started out with and that's possibly what we'll end up with, and that's service." That knowledge has paid off in a big way. Norsoft services 54 brands of water softeners, 11 counties and a 90-mile radius around the Cleveland area. In all, Norsoft serves 55,000 customers and around 5,000 customer accounts.
Norwid says 70 percent of Norsoft's business comes from the residential side with the remainder from commercial/industrial jobs. He sees Norsoft becoming more competitive in the latter market. The business deals mostly with water softeners, filters, RO, some well work and pump replacement pressure tanks. Norwid is a certified plumber and welder as well as licensed for water treatment in Ohio.
Rating the city's water
Entering the outskirts of Cleveland, you run into more private water and thus more obstacles. To the east, mountains dominate the landscape. In the west, flat farmlands have many nitrates. If space is available, chlorination is Norwid's first water treatment option for hydrogen sulfide, another common problem. Down south in the Medina County area carries a great deal of sodium. In addition, he runs into wide variances in well water.
As with every dealer, reliable equipment to treat such problems is extremely important. Norwid recalls a recent call from a customer who needed their first service done on their system. It had been installed in 1967.
Norwid's father had a longstanding relationship with Fleck control valves since the 1950s. His son continues using the valves to this day. If requested, he'll turn to Autotrol. He utilizes Clack Corp. for media and Matt-Son for his distributors.
The Internet has also become a viable source of revenue for Norwid. In its first week of operation nine months ago, the company's website received 2,200 hits. It doesn't hurt that he offers 15 percent off the regular price when customers order off the site.
Norsoft Water Conditioning