I spoke to one of my new coaching clients at length recently about how she felt about losing the battle against cheaper-priced competitors, locally and online. She lamented that she “just needed to shave another hundred bucks” off of the cost of her systems to ensure more sales.

This style of thinking contributes to the ‘race to the bottom’ so common with many water treatment practitioners who mistakenly believe the only thing consumers look for when considering a treatment solution is price. Market research continues to indicate that price is only a significant consideration when the client can find nothing else to differentiate your offering from your competitors

When I first entered the industry two decades ago, nobody asked complicated questions, clients believed what the salesperson said and, apart from the Yellow Pages, consumers had few places to turn when looking for information, education or alternative options. A new employee could learn a few basics from more experienced salespeople, or a quick manufacturer’s training class, then navigate the residential treatment industry with relative ease.

Things certainly have changed since those days. Water quality awareness is significantly higher, climate fluctuations and population growth have changed the availability of cheap raw water, users are more informed and educated and the regulatory environment is stricter and more onerous than it has ever been.

We evaluated my client’s equipment offerings and it was plain to see that she had already been cutting corners on quality in an effort to shave costs. Talking to her staff, it was quickly evident that the biggest problem was that neither she nor her team were presenting intelligent, effective water quality improvement solutions to prospective clients, but rather trying to sell a me-too appliance. The solution was to switch to better (incidentally more expensive) products and to properly train staff in the art and science of water quality improvement. When she applied the recommended changes, things started turning around at her dealership; she and her team have hopefully embarked on a path of lifelong learning and improvement.

To survive in the water industry, you absolutely must join the WQA and regional water quality associations and earn the appropriate educational credentials. Today’s more savvy customers can easily do their own research and take advantage of tools we didn’t have in the earlier decades. You can’t bully your way through and get those sales using old tactics because consumers want you to be open, honest, well-informed and credible and can find out if you are falling short of their goals. You also need to continue learning for life, to ensure that you progress in the industry and stay current for your clients. Once you stop learning, that hard-earned knowledge will stagnate and you will certainly find yourself racing to the bottom again.

As a business owner, ignorance is your worst enemy. Ignorance leads to lost business opportunities, the inability to hire the best employees and of course, an inevitable loss of income and profitability. As the leader of your organization, you need to stay focused on continuously improving your technical, business and leadership skills. As soon as you think you know it all, or even that you know enough, you’ve begun your descent to business failure and industry obscurity.

If you’re not a business owner and you’re reading this article, then you are one of the truly smart ones. You know that as an employee, you’re only really worth what you can deliver to the organization that employs you. Learning new skills and improving existing ones help you to earn a valuable set of transferable skills that will help you wherever you work; nobody can ever take that skillset, experience and knowledge away from you. The best way to stay marketable and increase earning potential is to improve your knowledge base and industry connections.

The WQA Modular Education Program (MEP) has been designed to help you raise your competitive advantage.

The pathway to certification is pretty straightforward:

  • Select the core certification title to pursue. There are now accelerated paths available for experienced personnel.
  • Complete the appropriate course work for the core certification selected. This includes all the courses for the Basics and Fundamentals certificates in the MEP and the courses for one of the Core certificate.
  • Pass the appropriate certification exam for the core certification title selected.

Whether you aim for certification as a Water Treatment Representative, Certified Installer, Certified Service Technician, or Certified Water Specialist, the MEP is the easiest way to get there while acquiring useful, current, practical knowledge.

Orlando spells opportunity

The week of March 28 will bring some of the greatest minds in the international water quality management industry together in Orlando, Florida for the Annual WQA Convention and Exposition. Attendees and exhibitors at this convention represent every segment of the industry worldwide. One of my favorite parts of the convention is the educational opportunities. Whether teaching a session, or learning from others, I always leave a WQA convention with more than I had when I arrived. Here’s a brief overview of the learning opportunities available to you at this year’s convention:

The Water Treatment Basics track is aimed at those new to the world of water treatment or in need of a tune-up. You will learn about common contaminants that can be found in water, new and exciting technologies, equipment sizing and selection, and the installation and maintenance of equipment according to industry best practices and prevailing code.

The Commercial Applications track will teach you all about the commercial water treatment market, including how to prepare for commercial work, industry best practices in the field and even specialized training on beverage service, agricultural and car wash applications to name just a few.

The Business Operations & Management track offers the information and techniques to truly help you improve your work performance and grow your business to the next level. There will be a number of important classes and panel discussions covering marketing, management, sales and ethics.

The will also be a number of informative technical classes and panel discussions covering subjects like corrosion control chemistry, water treatment and the Internet of Things (IoT),  Legionella and other microbiological issues, fluoride treatment and complicating factors and a host of others.

Here’s the convention schedule:

  • Educational Sessions: Tuesday, March 28 – Friday, March 31
  • Exposition: Wednesday, March 29 – Thursday, March 30
  • Professional Certification Exams: Wednesday, March 29 and Friday, March 31

Go to Orlando in March, attend great classes, meet new people, do some business and rise above the competition. And have fun while you are learning and growing!